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Engineering for a premed student

  1. Jan 12, 2009 #1
    So I'll be attending the university of Pittsburgh or Penn State this fall, and I plan on going to medical school after college.

    I also can't decide on a major. Mostly because of the chance that if I don't get into medical school, I don't want to have a degree that won't provide many job opportunities that interest me. I understand that most premed students major in Biology, and although I find Biology interesting, it just doesn't have enough math for me.

    So then I looked into a physics or a chemistry major. But I don't know what I could do with a degree in either of those. (Some advice on this would also be appreciated)

    Now, I'm thinking about engineering, because I hear it pays well (can someone confirm this), and it of course involves math.

    This all leads to my main question, which branch of engineering would be most appropriate for a pre-med student. Also please describe what kind of jobs i could get if i don't get into medical school.

    P.S. Awesome forum, and thanks for your answers.
    Last edited: Jan 13, 2009
  2. jcsd
  3. Jan 13, 2009 #2
    Bio majors have one of the worst acceptance rates for med school. I think physics, math, and english majors have the best acceptance rates. If you can get an engineering degree while taking all the premed courses, you'll be in good shape.

    Which discipline? Do the one that interests you most. You might be thinking, "Which one will help me be a doctor?" None of them. Unless you're going to Johns Hopkins and can get a degree in biomedical engineering. But fortunately, medical school will help you be a doctor, so that's taken care of.
  4. Jan 13, 2009 #3
    I've known folks who did undergraduate degrees in electrical and mechanical engineering prior to med school. The rigor of an engineering program is good prep as are the math and basic engineering courses. Whether you will actually use the specific information depends on which specialty you pursue in medicine. I can think of two mech engineers who went to medical school (at Pitt). One went into orthopaedics where the engineering helped (among other things, he can do beautifully clear free body diagrams of bones and tendons); the other guy went into gynegology where I don't think the engineering helped at all.

    Pitt has an excellent bioengineering department and you might check that out. Go on a visit and talk to the faculty.
  5. Mar 17, 2009 #4
    I'm currently a sophomore bioengineer and pre-med student at Pitt. I was/am in the same boat you are, with not wanting a major I could not use in case medical school did not work out.

    Bioengineering is an expanding field that will always be needed since there will always be the need for improvements in medical technology, so it's a solid major to fall back on. You will get physics, biology, chemistry and math all in one major. Bioengineers go in many many many fields, like artificial organs, prosthetic limbs, sterilization, medical devices, just to name a few.

    Pitt is highly highly ranked for bioengineering and there is an abundant amount of research opportunities for undergraduates available on campus, which medical schools want you to have, as well as 10 hospitals (5 on or close to campus) associated with the University where you can volunteer, shadow, or get a job. Pitt also has a highly ranked medical school, which is right on campus. The resources are here for you to be an excellent medical school applicant.

    All that being said, bioengineering is one of the HARDEST undergraduate majors. Trust me, it’s ridiculous the amount of work you have to do. And on top of all that, medical schools want extracurriculars not associated with engineering like hospital volunteering, which you will have to fit in with all school work. What’s does this mean? A (probable) below average GPA compared to other medical school applicants, less time for extra activities and a large amount of stress that can’t be healthy for you. It’s true that medical school like engineers since they know engineers can handle a large amount of work. However, how low of a GPA is still acceptable for an engineer compared to the near perfect GPA of a Biology major applying to the same school? Like someone else said, engineering could help you in your field of medical study or be useless, so everything I’m learning now could have absolutely no point in my future career.

    My other pre-med friends are in arts and science majors, have really high GPAs and lead a relative stress free life compared to my average GPA and stress filled life. I think engineering as a whole teaches you to look at problems and solve them in a quick, efficient way with the information given, something that is invaulable in any situation.

    E-mail me if you have any questions about anything: ako8@pitt.edu
  6. Mar 18, 2009 #5


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    I teach in a med school. The answer to your question is that it doesn't matter. Just make sure you take all the required courses for medical school admission, and if you have time, fit in an extra biochemistry course (that's the subject most bio majors come in well-versed in and that is overwhelming for those who have no prior experience in it...all the rest, even a lot of the bio majors have never seen before). It's a good strategy to have a back-up plan, since there never are guarantees you'll even still want to go to med school by the time you get around to the time to apply, let alone get an acceptance.

    The challenge of an engineering major while doing your pre-med coursework is that most engineering majors, like most other science majors, are pretty jam-packed to the gills with required courses already, so fitting in a series of non-major courses to fulfill pre-med requirements along with the required major courses is a lot to juggle. On the plus side, if you can handle it all and still get good grades, you will have certainly demonstrated you have the study skills and worth ethic to handle the intensity of medical school coursework.
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