pre-med - College of Engineering & Natural Sciences


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.”






What are pre-med and pre-health professions?

So, you want to be a physician.  

Or a nurse. Or an epidemiologist. Or a veterinarian. Or a physical therapist. 

You can get into these careers, and many others, through the pre-health professions program at the University of Tulsa. 

What can I do with a pre-med degree? 

Now is an ideal time to consider a health care career. Employment in health care-related professions is expected to grow by 15% through 2029, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.  

close-up shot of three people in hospital scrubs with arms crossedAnd while “physician” may be the first thing that comes to mind when you think of a medical career and a pre-med program, there’s a lot more to health care than being a doctor. If you love working with patients, but aren’t up for four years of med school on top of four years of college (and then residency to boot), you can pursue dozens of avenues that can be just as fulfilling. 

As a student on a pre-health track, your pre-health advisor will work with you to ensure you’re taking the classes you need to reach whatever career you’re interested in. With your degree, you can go on to be a pharmacist, physician assistant, public health worker, dentist, optometrist or many more different health professions. 

Before we go on, let’s clear one thing up: If “doctor” is your dream job, you may be wondering about getting a pre-med major. But at most colleges, there’s no such thing. In fact, whether you want to be a doctor or go into another health profession, you can major in whatever you want as long as you take all the prerequisite courses you need to qualify. Because so many of those courses are science-related, students on a pre-health track often find science degrees attractive. 

If you wanted, though, you could major in accounting or chemical engineering and apply to med school. You simply need to work with your advisors to ensure you meet your degree requirements and the prerequisites for admission to your target health professions school. 

As part of the pre-med program, we’ll start advising you in your freshman year about what courses you’ll need to take. If you do want to go to medical school, our health professions committee will look at your grades to give you an idea whether you’re likely to be a good candidate. Medical schools are notoriously selective; fortunately for you, TU students have had a lot of success getting in. On average, 70% of TU students who apply to med school are accepted. 

A pre-health degree gives you a wide array of options. Some require further education; for some, you can find job opportunities right out of college.  

If you’re on a pre-health track at TU, we recommend you take: 

  • One year of chemistry 
  • One year of organic chemistry 
  • One year of physics 
  • One year of biology (Intro to Molecular and Cellular Biology, then Introduction to Organismal and Evolutionary Biology) 

If med school is your goal, you should also take classes in biochemistry, psychology and sociology; if you’re headed to a professional school, a class in genetics may also be required. Certain programs need a year of calculus. Ethics and sociology classes may also be a good idea. 

We know that’s a lot. Yet, in this competitive field, you may want to go even further. Admissions committees love to see students who really got into their work, either by taking as many relevant classes as possible, or by working on a student research project.  

Student research at TU 

At TU, you’ll get the chance to do real, meaningful work in the lab. Undergraduate research is a hallmark of our program. In the past, TU students have won Goldwater and National Science Foundation scholarships and awards. And the experience has served countless students who have gone on to grad schools and beyond. 

Some of these opportunities include: 

Experiences like these do more than round out a résumé. They lead to even bigger opportunities down the road, and give you a head start on finding the health science career that fits your goals.