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Biology/Chemistry Classmates: Mostly Pre-Med?

  1. May 11, 2008 #1

    I was wondering, at a typical university, how many people are taking biology or chemistry because they like the subject and want to have a field in it?

    For the most part, what I found out is that most people in my Biology or Chemistry classes (small university) had this mindset: "I need to keep my GPA up so I can get to Medical School" or "What kind of research can I do to better my chances of getting to Med School" or "I wonder how I can get my professor to recommend me for Med School." Does this continue on to grad school?

    Sadly, I can't think of too many student in the entire department who's trying for a Bio/Chem degree because they want to be scientists. The nice thing though is that the professors seem eager to talk when you start asking deep thought provoking questions.
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  3. May 11, 2008 #2


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    I think there's a strong interest in medical school across the board, regardless of the school - especially among students in their initial years. There's lots of reasons for it. MDs generally have nice paychecks for one. But also, I think its an "academic-ish" career that the public are familiar with. Coming out of high school, you know what a doctor is and does. "Scientist" has a more vague career path, and a more ambiguous function in society.

    As most people go through undergrad they begin to understand more about the fields they are interesting in and pursue their strengths. I'd say there's less interest in medicine among 4th year students than 1st years.

    I can't talk too much about bio-chem types in grad school, but if your interest is simply to get good marks to boost your application potential, there's easier ways of doing it than completing a master's thesis.

    Personally I think there's a very strong financial motivation behind it.
  4. May 11, 2008 #3
    I'd say your right on the money. You will find very few chemists in it for the chemistry. Ever fewer biologists. Mostly backups incase med doesn't work out.
  5. May 11, 2008 #4
    I agree that not many in first year chemistry and biology courses are taking the courses to study those fields (separately). However, those classes are required for molecular biology & biochemistry, and that seems to be a pretty hot major which bridges the two fields of study.

    In addition, although a lot of students do the courses with the aim of med school, there are a number of people who are interested in other programs, such as pharmacy & dentistry. Unfortunately (IMO), the motivation factor always seems to be money!
  6. May 12, 2008 #5


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    A lot of students start out pre-med because that's what they know about when they enter college, but have chosen to be pre-med because they really enjoy the sciences and just aren't sure what else they can do with their chosen major yet. Many will change their minds along the way. The truly annoying ones who are only focused on doing well enough to get into med school without really learning the science will be in for a rude awakening when they either don't get into med school, or do get in and find that the basic sciences faculty at med schools expect them to know much more about the science than their undergrad courses did...and that we are quite immune to their attempts at whining for grades.

    Yes, the annoying whiny ones stand out and make it obvious they're pre-med, but there are others in your classes who just knuckle down and do the work and enjoy the subject and also aspire to go to med school, and are getting good enough grades that they don't need to whine for points.

    You also have to realize that the introductory courses are required by a lot of majors, and even the students who aren't science majors who wish to go to med school have to take them. So, you will have a lot of students in those classes who are taking them as required courses for some other major. Once you get into the more advanced classes, the class size will get substantially smaller and you'll mostly only have others interested in that specific major in your class.
  7. May 12, 2008 #6
    The ACS publishes statistics on the topic. On page 12 of this document:

    http://portal.acs.org/portal/fileFetch/C/CTP_004017/pdf/CTP_004017.pdf [Broken]

    It shows that among the graduating chemistry majors surveyed, 17.9% planned on going into Medicine, Dentistry, or Pharmacy. It is probably much higher for freshman courses...

    For a similar case, I refer you to this graph:

    Last edited by a moderator: May 3, 2017
  8. May 12, 2008 #7
    I just finished first year university, and out of my whole class I met only a few people who actually wanted to do research and not med-school (I met around 5 people only from a class of almost 600; although I assume there is a bit more).

    LifeLongLearner, I agree though that most Professors can see those people who really do want to do research. It just makes me a bit sad to not have hardly anyone to talk to about science. All my friends are either in a. social sciences, b. pre-med. So all I ever hear out of the pre-meds is how hard its going to be to get in, and how boring the science courses are and all.

    and like moonbear said, none of them tends to know that they actually are required to know all of that stuff for med school.

    I just hope that I can find someone who actually shares my passion for research and science like I do before I enter grad school or my third and fourth year.
  9. May 15, 2008 #8
    Dentistry can be clumped into pre-med imo. Biochem is hot because its "the" pre-med route.

    All the chemists in my physical chem are premed/prepharm too! They're everywhere. Its all I hear. Even at one point when asked what I'm doing I said "Ohh.. well maybe med down the road". Then on the bus I thought "Wait... what???!"

    Probably 90% of all students in first year, regardless of major, are pre-med. That falls down to about 20% by second. Then in 5% intervals after that. [Source: my imagination]
  10. May 15, 2008 #9


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    They're the ones who won't stay pre-med for much longer. If they're already bored, they'll be changing majors and finding another career path fairly soon, all depending on how long they remain in denial about how far they'll get without actually liking science.

    As for the percentage of students who are bound for research careers, be glad there aren't so many. There aren't that many positions for grad students, so if your classes were filled with students planning to go to grad school, most of you wouldn't get in at all.
  11. May 15, 2008 #10
    That is very true moonbear :)!
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