Medicine Degrees

If you enjoy helping others and human health interests you, then you might want to consider pursuing a medical education. Medical students learn the ins and outs of human anatomy and physiology, including the nervous, circulatory, digestive, skeletal, muscular, and reproductive systems. They also study human diseases and disorders in depth, and learn how to diagnose illnesses and injuries based on patient symptoms, perform diagnostic tests, and develop effective treatment plans.

Through clinical rotations required in medical school, students gain an understanding of the incredible variety of medical conditions a patient brings into a doctor’s office, hospital, clinic, or long-term care center. These clinical rotations expose students to various core areas of medicine, such as pediatrics, obstetrics, internal medicine, and emergency medicine. Medical students practice hands-on patient care and build skills in interacting with patients, cultivating a “bedside manner.” After medical school, graduates pursue internships and residencies, in which they may choose to remain a generalist or specialize in an specific area, such as cardiology or oncology.

Classes and Assignments of a Medicine Major

While medicine is not a major in the traditional sense, undergraduate students have the option to select a pre-medical track at universities that includes prerequisite courses for medical school. These prerequisites generally include biology, physics, general chemistry, organic chemistry, mathematics, and English. Because medical schools require applicants to have completed so many prerequisites in the hard sciences, many pre-med students choose to major in one of the physical, natural, or life sciences. However, pre-med students can pursue any major they want — from history to psychology to engineering — provided they also take the necessary prerequisites for medical school.

In medical school, students take courses in anatomy and physiology, biochemistry, pharmacology, microbiology, pathology, psychology and behavioral medicine, microbiology, genetics, and medical law and ethics. On top of core courses, students can choose from a variety of electives that explore various issues in medicine, such as public health or addiction. Medical students will attend lectures, study for rigorous exams, read medical texts, and do extensive lab work. They must also participate in clinical rotations in a variety of core medical areas in real clinical settings.

Degree Levels for a Medicine Major

  • Associate. While there are no online associate medicine degrees, many students do choose to complete an Associate of Science in a pre-medical track to accumulate credits that they can later transfer to a four-year university. Those who wish to only complete an associate degree may pursue studies in a related area, such as paramedic emergency medicine, so they can enter careers as EMTs and paramedics.
  • Bachelor’s. While there are no online bachelors medicine degrees, students can choose from a wide variety of majors while at the pre-med level. Even though majors in the hard sciences such as biology, physics, and chemistry are widely considered the most useful college degrees for pre-med students, individuals can major in areas as diverse as philosophy, political science, or economics and be accepted into medical school, provided they maintain a satisfactory GPA and complete the necessary undergraduate prerequisites. Those who wish to only complete a bachelor’s degree might consider majoring in related areas, such as nursing, emergency medical services, medical technology, or alternative medicine.
  • Master’s. Students may enroll in pre-professional online masters medicine degrees (sometimes called a medical master’s) to strengthen their academic credentials for medical school if they have a bachelor’s degree, but haven’t yet been accepted into medical school. Less common master’s programs in medicine are those that are designed to expose Ph.D. candidates in the sciences to clinical medicine and medical research. Such degrees are aimed at graduate students who want to conduct translational research in areas like cancer, stem cell biology, or regenerative medicine, but are not interested in becoming clinicians.
  • Doctoral. The Doctor of Medicine, or MD, is a professional doctorate offered by accredited medical schools. Students build up their knowledge of science as it applies to medicine and learn about the human body, body systems, diseases and disorders, medical procedures, medical specialties, and best practices for patient care. Students with an MD and state licensure are qualified to work as general physicians. With board certification, physicians can become medical specialists and surgeons.
  • MD/Ph.D. Programs Many schools of medicine, in conjunction with other graduate schools, offer dual degree programs that lead to both the MD and Ph.D. These programs are designed to produce medical scholars and medical scientists who are capable of producing publishable, independent research and teaching at the college level. The Ph.D. associated with a dual program like this could be in areas like anatomy, biochemistry, genetics, pharmacology, or biophysics.

A Future as an Medicine Major

The most common career path for students who earn an MD is becoming physicians and surgeons. With the proper residency training and a medical license, qualified individuals can become general and family physicians, general internists, anesthesiologists, obstetricians and gynecologists (OB/GYNs), and surgeons. Physicians may choose to become board certified in a specialty like dermatology or emergency medicine and pursue that specialty as a career. They may also choose to pursue a medical career in which they work with certain populations, such as pediatric patients, gerontology patients, or cancer patients. Finally, those with advanced degrees in medicine and related sciences may choose to pursue careers in medical research or teach at medical schools.