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medical school

What should I major in if I want to go to medical school?

If you’re interested in becoming a physician, your first thought may be: Where’s the pre-med major? Most colleges, however, don’t offer one — at least, not one by that name. In fact, medical and veterinary schools welcome students from any major, so long as you take all the prerequisite classes you need before enrolling.

illustration of a transparent male torso and arms showing a glowing red heartAt The University of Tulsa, our pre-health professions program ensures you’ll take all the right steps to get into med school. Through a combination of intensive guidance from faculty and advisers, and the opportunity to conduct research that makes admissions committees sit up and take notice, TU’s pre-health track gives you the best path to medical school. (And it works: 85% of TU students who applied to medical school last fall got in. And that number has been rising steadily.)

You’ll work with advisers from your first day on campus to ensure you’re taking the right classes to meet your goals. If you want to go to med school, the road map you need to follow is pretty clear: You’ll need to enroll in a full slate of science classes, including biology, chemistry and physics, as well as classes in sociology, psychology and statistics. Some programs require advanced math; others, none.

But admissions committees want to see more than the bare minimum. One way to set yourself apart is through research, and at TU, you’ll have numerous opportunities to get in the lab and work on meaningful projects with faculty. You may even end up as a co-author on a manuscript published in a scientific journal.

“There’s a big difference between taking a lab and actually conducting original research,” said Mark Buchheim, chair of TU’s Department of Biological Science. “Med schools know it, too. When students come to them with that kind of experience, they know they’ve already acquired skills they can’t acquire any other way. And it sets TU students apart.”

Faculty here are involved in a broad spectrum of research — ecology (including disease ecology) and population biology, microbiology and virology, organic chemistry, molecular biology and biochemistry, neuroscience, bioinformatics and more. “A lot of students are surprised to learn they can work on projects like these as undergrads,” Buchheim said. “Our goal is to provide research experience to any student that wants it.”

If one of your goals is to serve the community through medicine, you might consider applying to TU’s Early Careers in Community Medicine (ECCM) program. Open to a select few — just five freshmen a year — this program puts you on a fast track to the University of Oklahoma College of Medicine. As long as you meet MCAT and GPA standards, you can gain acceptance without an interview. You’ll also have the opportunity to work in the field with OU med students, gain access to scholarships and participate in honors advising that will give you insight not just into the rigors of the field, but also hot topics that may spark your interest.

You’ll also work with a career coach who specializes in the health professions. Even if you know exactly the major you want, there are countless other steps you’ll have to make on your journey. Your coach can help you find an internship, complete the personal statement you’ll need for a med school application, and write your résumé.

When the time comes to apply to med schools, we’ll be right by your side. Our pre-health professions evaluations committee, comprised of faculty from several departments, will assess your chances in the competitive med school arena — and be sure that the application you submit gives you the best chance to get in.

“There’s nothing easy about med school, or getting into med school,” Buchheim said. “But you don’t have to go down that road alone. Everybody at TU — your faculty, your advisers, your career coach — are going to do everything possible to see you reach your goal.”






Biological science as a gateway to STEM

Why should I get a degree in biological science? 

Jobs in STEM—science, technology, engineering and mathematics—are hot. Of the 10 jobs expected to grow the fastest by 2029, all 10 are in STEM-related fields.  

A lot of majors will lead you to one of these careers, but biological science is the most versatile way to go. Here’s what a degree in biology can do for you. 

What will I study?  

As a student at The University of Tulsa, you’ll study the fundamental processes that govern all life — human, animal and plant. But you’ll also take courses in chemistry, genetics, math, ecology and evolution, and other topics that provide a gateway to a wide variety of STEM careers. 

woman looking through a microscope in a laboratoryYou can enroll in two basic types of biology degree at TU: a bachelor of arts (BA) or a bachelor of science (BS). A BA degree gives you more room to take classes in the arts and humanities, while a BS degree drills in deeply on science and math. 

Majoring in biology gives you an advantage when applying to medical or veterinary school. The biological science curriculum includes all the classes you’ll need to impress admission committees. As a student in the pre-med track, you’ll work closely with advisers to be sure your courses and grades are dialed in before applying. (You’re joining an elite group of students: In 2020, med schools accepted 85% of TU students who applied.) 

What career paths does a biological science degree lead to?  

  • Animal behavior. As an animal behaviorist, you’ll study the relationship of animals to their environment and other animals. Most animal behaviorists work in academia, but you might also work in a zoo to improve the health of the animals there. Some are employed by drug companies to study the effects of certain pharmaceuticals on behavior. Or you may work with pet owners to understand why their pets are acting a certain way. 
  • Development and evolution. How did life originate on Earth? What factors influenced it? By understanding how organisms and microorganisms developed, you’ll gain deeper insight into biology itself — and put those lessons to work as we study disease, protect species against climate change and more. 
  • Ecology. Ecologists study the complex relationships between organisms and their environment. Some ecologists work in universities, but others address environmental problems such as pollution and climate change while employed by state or federal agencies. If you want to become a conservationist to help protect habitats and biodiversity, ecology is a career you’ll want to consider. 
  • Population and reproductive genetics. As a geneticist, you may try to identify why certain populations are more or less susceptible to particular diseases. Or you may work with parents-to-be to help them understand hereditary risks their children may face. 
  • Microbiology. Bacteria, viruses, fungi, algae — these microorganisms are literally everywhere. Even though they can’t be seen by the naked eye, they influence the food we eat, our health and the environment. 
  • Virology. In the age of COVID-19, the importance of studying viruses is obvious. Viruses pose countless other threats to animals and plants alike, however, as HIV, Ebola, influenza and even the common cold are infectious pathogens that cause human suffering and death. 
  • Plant biology. To say “plant scientists study plants” doesn’t do justice to the far-reaching influence of their work. Some plant scientists study how plants can be used as medicine. Others study how climate change affects plant life. In agriculture, plant scientists identify crops that resist the effects of drought, disease and pests.  
  • Sensory biology/sensory ecology. Organisms rely on a mind-bending amount of information to respond to the world around them. Sharks, for example, can sense fluctuations in electrical fields. Other creatures can detect pain. By understanding these inputs, scientists can get deeper insight into animal behavior. And they can also develop conservation strategies that reduce the impact of certain human behavior may inadvertently cause. 

Study biological science at The University of Tulsa 

At The University of Tulsa, biological science courses will introduce you to a lot of these topics. And extensive research opportunities in field sites such as the Tall Grass Prairie Preserve, the Oklahoma Cross Timbers, the Ozark Mountains and La Selva Biological Station in Costa Rica will give you experience to build on.