Course Selection in Preparation for Graduate Work in the Health Professions

The specific courses you select to meet the requirements of a Health Professions program will depend on your major, your aptitude and your interests. Although you do not need to major in Biology, Chemistry or Cell Biology/Biochemistry, you do need to excel (B+/A- average or better for MD programs) in the mathematics, biology, chemistry and physics courses you take. If you do NOT major in a science, you should plan to take one or two upper-level biology or chemistry courses to demonstrate your ability to handle graduate work in the sciences.

Bucknell options for meeting course requirements:

  • Mathematics. Two courses in mathematics are required for most medical, veterinary, and dental schools. For most of these programs either two courses in calculus (MATH 201 and MATH 202) OR one calculus course and one course in statistics (MATH 216, MGMT 242, or PSYC 215). A few require two courses in calculus. The BS in Chemistry and the BS in Cell Biology/Biochemistry requires both MATH 201 and MATH 202; the BS in Biology requires MATH 201 and MATH 216.

  • Two courses in biology are required by most schools.

    Approximately two-thirds of medical students obtained an undergraduate degree with a major in biology. Although only two courses are required, it is advisable to take more. Three of the four core courses required for biology majors, BIOL205 (Molecules and Cells), BIOL206 (Organismal), and BIOL207 (Genetics) are recommended for students with a strong science background.

    The two course sequence of BIOL 121-122 (General Biology) is designed for non-majors. BIOL 221, Human Physiology, BIOL 220 Human Anatomy are also courses designed for non-majors but are required for Physical Therapy and Physician Assistant schools.. Non-science majors preparing for medical schools may also wish to consider BIOL 221 and 222 if they wish more biology background.

  • Four courses in chemistry are required by medical, veterinary and dental schools.

    • Two courses in physics are required. PHYS 211 and 212 have calculus as a prerequisite and are required for most BS degrees. Neither medical schools nor other health professional schools require that the physics courses be calculus based. However, Bucknell students who do not wish to take a calculus-based physics will need to do so elsewhere (summer school, for example). 

    • Some schools require one or two courses in English. Most accept our W1, W2 sequences, although some prefer a W2 course in humanities.

The bottom line is that 12-13 courses are required over 6-8 semesters. As you plan your schedule, consider your strengths and interests. If your background in mathematics and science is moderate (less than 580-600 on the Mathematics part of the SAT, for example), you may wish to start more slowly than would be required to complete all of these courses in 6 semesters. This will delay potential entry into medical school by one year, but may increase your chances of doing well enough in your mathematics and science courses, and subsequent MCAT exams, to be competitive for medical school. Alternatively, you may wish to consider taking two of these courses in summer school following your 1st and 2nd year.

Taking courses elsewhere, summer school
If you wish to take required courses in summer school, or abroad, you need to consider the following issues.

  • Where will you take it: Any accredited 4-year college or university is acceptable, as long as Bucknell will accept the credits as transfer credits. It is recommended that you NOT take the science courses at a community college.

  • Why you take it elsewhere: Some admissions officers will wonder why you chose not to take the courses at Bucknell. There are many good reasons for this (desire to go abroad, desire to take additional coursework, etc.). There are some neutral reasons for this (preference for a non-calculus based physics course, preference for general chemistry before organic chemistry). There is one BAD reason to do this (Anticipation of an easy A).

  • How will it transfer to Bucknell: If required, get prior approval for the course from the relevant department. If the course is required for your major (for example, PHYS 211 is required for a BS in Biology) then the course must be approved as equivalent to the required course. If your major does not require PHYS 211, or CHEM 221, or BIOL 205, etc., then the course needs to be approved as an acceptable course, perhaps as a 100 level course in the discipline.


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