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Humanities Major? Don’t Rule Out Medical School!


The premedical path is often seen as belonging only to students with a burning passion for STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics). If you’re a current or recent undergrad who majored in a field like literature, philosophy, or history who’s also interested in medicine, you may feel as though a career in medicine is out of reach or incompatible with your academic background. However, this couldn’t be further from the truth. In fact, a humanities education can provide a unique set of advantages for you on your path to becoming a physician.

According to the American Medical Association (AMA), 60% of students who took the MCAT in 2021 were science majors. That means 40% of students came from other backgrounds. So, it’s not at all impossible to get into medical school as a humanities major. 

In fact, the skills cultivated through studying the humanities offer their own advantages. Here are some compelling reasons why humanities or social science majors like you shouldn’t abandon the idea of pursuing a medical career.

Humanities Majors Have Strong Communication Skills

Majoring in the humanities usually involves honing your verbal and written communication skills. We don’t just mean you have a firm grasp of grammar or a nice writing style—we mean you’re often challenged to engage with complex texts or concepts and then craft persuasive arguments to describe your understanding of them. 

These communication skills are invaluable in patient interactions, where effective communication can make all the difference in understanding a patient’s concerns, conveying information clearly, and building trust.

Critical Thinking and Problem-Solving Are Essential in the Humanities—and Medicine

Humanities majors are trained to think critically, analyze information, and solve complex problems. These skills are highly transferable to the medical field, where physicians must often navigate uncertain situations, make quick decisions, and adapt to new information.

Humanities majors often bring a different perspective to patient interactions than STEM majors. A 2020 article published on the AMA’s website quoted a medical school dean as saying that humanities majors “come into medical school with different perspective and life experiences. [Studying the humanities] really gives students an opportunity to assess the human condition through a different lens, and to realize that folks are more than just the symptoms they present.” 

Ethics, Empathy, and Cultural Competence

The humanities encourage extensive reflection on ethical dilemmas and moral questions, preparing you to navigate challenging ethical decisions and advocate for your patients’ best interests. Studying fields like literature, history, and philosophy can also help you gain an understanding of diverse perspectives—and understanding is the first step toward empathy, which matters so much in quality healthcare.

Finally, as a humanities or social science major, you may have the opportunity to experience other cultures or develop your foreign language skills. In a diversifying country, being capable of understanding social cues from different cultures—or being able to help someone who doesn’t speak English—can mean being capable of caring for a patient whose needs might otherwise go unmet. 

Planning Your Medical School Journey

Your pathway toward medical school may look different than a biology or biochemistry major’s. This is because your opportunities to take prerequisite classes or pursue specific extracurricular opportunities may be circumscribed by what’s available to students in your department. Consider whether:

  • You’ll be able to take the science and mathematics prerequisites medical schools require (including biology, chemistry, physics, mathematics, and sometimes statistics) while also fulfilling all the requirements for your major
  • You can pursue extracurricular activities that fit your major and your pre-med goals, such as volunteering with a health education program or carrying out interviews as part of public health research
  • You’ll have time to study for the Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT), an intensive preparation period that usually requires 20+ hours of study per week on top of regular classes

It’s possible to do these things, but it may be a bigger lift for you. However, if you can’t get it all done before graduation, don’t despair. You are basically the kind of student pre-medical post-baccalaureate certificate programs are made for. 

In as little as one year, depending on the program you choose, you can make up any prerequisites you missed, receive support for taking the MCAT, and get specialized advice on how to approach the medical school application process. Find a pre-med post-bacc program that fits your needs in our database!

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