"To find health should be the object of the doctor. Anyone can find disease."  —Andrew T. Still, MD, DO

"As a family physician, my job is listening to people's stories."
—Jon S. Hallberg, MD


Career Info

For motivated individuals, the field of medicine offers a challenging, yet rewarding career. Due to the number of specialties, it is a diverse and complicated profession. There are two types of medical degrees which lead to the role of a physician: allopathic, who hold an MD degree (Doctor of Medicine), and osteopathic, who hold a DO degree (Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine).  Both degrees offer the opportunity to be fully qualified to practice medicine in the United States. Both allopathic and osteopathic doctors attend 4 years of medical school, 3-8 years of residency, and must pass multiple licensing exams. According to the American Osteopathic Association, “osteopathic medicine is a parallel branch of medicine with a distinct philosophy and approach to patient care which focuses on holistic patient care, the unity of all body parts, the body’s ability to heal itself and preventive medicine.”

Physicians are well compensated for their work, with a median annual wage of $239,200 in 2023. The job outlook is strong, as the United States looks to combat the projected physician shortage in the coming years. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts a 3% growth rate for the field by 2032.

For more information

Outlook: https://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/physicians-and-surgeons.htm

Education and Training

 Medical school programs are four years in length. The first two years entail learning the basic sciences essential to medicine. The second two years include a series of required & elective clinical rotations, lasting 4-12 weeks each. During the fourth year of medical school, students apply to graduate medical education training programs (known as residencies). Residencies last 3-8 years, depending on the specialty. Medicine offers an opportunity to provide primary care or specialized medicine. Primary care residencies are in pediatrics, internal and general medicine, and OBGYN. Specialties can be in a variety of areas including surgery, dermatology, radiology, oncology, psychiatry, etc. Medical students must pass a series of national board exams during medical school, residency, and prior to licensure.

Applying to medical school is a competitive process, so students need to strive for high academic achievement and perform well on the Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT) exam which covers content from all the general prerequisite courses listed below. To learn more about the MCAT, visit the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) website.

Community service, leadership skills, research, health-related experience, a personal statement and strong letters of recommendation are also needed. Since the application process is highly competitive, students are encouraged to see a Pre-Health Professions Peer Advisor in their freshman/sophomore years in order to plan properly. In their third/fourth years, they should meet with a Pre-Health Professions Staff Advisor for application planning. The national average GPA for entrance to allopathic medical schools in 2020 was 3.73 overall and 3.66 in the sciences, with an average MCAT of 511. For osteopathic medical schools in 2019, the average accepted GPA was 3.57 overall and 3.51 in the sciences, with an average MCAT of 504.

Additionally, many allopathic and osteopathic medical schools are now requiring situational judgment tests via either the CASPer or PREview exam. Each exam presents the examinee with ethical scenarios in which they are testing a student's interpersonal core competencies and non-cognitive skills. Please review the following links to learn more about these respective exams.

AAMC PREview Exam

CASPer Exam

Course Requirements

Note:  Admission prerequisites vary by institution.  Some schools will not accept AP credit for prerequisites.  Check requirements carefully!

See below for an example of admission course prerequisites that may be required at CA programs. Please research professional programs for the specific admission requirements. If you need guidance on how to search for schools, please see the Peer Advisors during drop-in hours. 

General Biology: Bio 161, 162, & Mcro 221 or Mcro 224
  • Note:
    • Bio, Mcro, Bchm, and Msci majors should enroll in Mcro 224
    • Biology requirements vary widely between programs. Check individual program requirements closely. 
General Chemistry: Chem 127, 128, 129 
  • Note: Engineering & Physical Science majors should enroll in Chem 124, 125, 126
Organic Chemistry: Chem 216, 217/220, 218/223 
  • Note: Biochemistry & Chemistry majors should enroll in Chem 216, 217/221, 218/324
Biochemistry: Chem 314 (previously known as Chem 313) or Chem 369 (previously known as Chem 371)
  • Note: Please see a pre-health peer advisor with any questions on the best preparation for you based on your major and time remaining at Cal Poly

Physics: Phys 121, 122, 123 or Phys 141, 142, 143


Highly Recommended Coursework

Histology: Hist 410 

Social and Behavioral Sciences:
Psy 201/202 (E) and Ant 201 (D2) or Soc 110 (D2) 

English: 2-3 quarters, to include English composition courses

Mathematics: Stat 217 or 218; Stat 313
  • Note: Math requirements vary widely between programs. Check individual program requirements closely. 


Suggested Preparation

Histology: Bio 410
Cell Bio: Bio 452
Genetics: Bio 351 or Bio 303 or Bio 302 (Upper-Div B)
Embryology: Bio 405
Immunology: Bio 426
Anat/Physio: Bio 231, 232 (for all majors except Bio) or Bio 361, 406-409, & 426
Molecular Biology: Bio/Chem 475

Social Sciences:
: Ant 344 (Upper-Div D), Ant 345 (Upper-Div D), Ant 360 (Upper-Div D), Ant 401
Psychology: Psy 311 (Upper-Div D), Psy 318 (Upper-Div D), Psy 310, Psy 320, Psy 330, Psy 340
Sociology: Soc 326 (Upper-Div D)

Bus 207, 212
Econ 201 or 222 (D2)

Biomedical Ethics: Phil 339 (Upper-Div C)

Foreign Language

Mathematics: 1-2 quarters of introductory calculus, Math 118-119; Math 141-143 or 161-162

Physics: Phys 125* 

*In order to be put on the waitlist for this course, please email prehealth@calpoly.edu with your name, major, health profession of interest, and Cal Poly email address. Permission numbers will be given out based on time of graduation. Due to the rise in competency-based admissions, many medical schools will not require this 1 unit lab in addition to your other physics coursework. However, we highly recommend you contact each school directly to be sure. If you have any questions or concerns, feel free to email prehealth@calpoly.edu or to come see us in the CSM Student Services Center.

Last updated: 09/07/2022.

Professional Association Links

For more information on allopathic medicine, visit the Association of American Medical Colleges website at: www.aamc.org. For osteopathic medicine, visit the Association of American Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine at: www.aacom.org

Cal Poly American Medical Student Association (AMSA)

To get involved with the Cal Poly American Medical Student Association (AMSA) chapter, contact calpolyamsa@calpoly.edu, visit their website (calpolyamsa.wixsite.com/website), or follow them on Instagram (@calpolyamsa).

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