The decision to go to medical school is a very important one and requires a good deal of thought and research on the student’s part. Medical school is neither easy nor cheap, so students should take their preparation very seriously. TJC offers students the necessary coursework they need and can prepare them for the medical admission process.
Becoming a Physician
Physicians care for healthy people and for those who are ill or injured. They perform physical examinations and diagnose and treat illnesses, injuries, and other disorders. They prescribe and administer medications and treatments, provide immunization services, care for pregnant women and deliver babies, perform surgery, and conduct research to aid in disease control or the development of new treatments. The practice of medicine is evolving as the health care system changes. There is an increased demand for primary care physicians, those who provide most health care needs for patients and refer them to specialists as needed.
Physicians must train for several years before they are qualified to practice medicine. Most individuals complete a four-year bachelor's degree before entering medical school. Prospective medical students may major in any subject area as long as they successfully complete the required courses in math and science. After the required science courses have been completed, applicants are ready to take the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT); most students do this around the time of their junior year. Since admission to medical school is highly competitive, with more applicants than there are class positions, interested students should have high grade point averages and high MCAT scores. The state average for students admitted to medical school in 2010 was a GPA of 3.7 and an MCAT score of 30.
Medical schools are looking for applicants who demonstrate high intellectual ability, have a strong record of academic achievement, communicate well with people, and are compassionate, motivated, and mature with a high degree of personal integrity. Good grades and participation in school organizations and volunteer work demonstrate the ability to manage time and set priorities, traits medical schools look for in applicants.
Medical school lasts four years. It consists of two years of basic medical science study (anatomy, biochemistry, microbiology, physiology, ethics, and law). Students also learn how to communicate with patients, take medical histories, perform physical exams, and recognize symptoms of illness. During the last two years of medical school, students apply their classroom knowledge to the art of patient care. They rotate through medical specialties and may take electives in areas of special interest.
To be licensed for practice in Texas, medical school graduates must serve a minimum one-year internship beyond medical school and successfully complete the exam given by the National Board of Medical Examiners, parts I and II. Afterwards, most medical graduates elect to pursue specialty training in residency programs. Residencies last from three to seven years beyond medical school, depending upon the amount of training needed. Residency training programs are available in many areas, for example, anesthesiology, dermatology, emergency medicine, internal medicine, neurology, obstetrics and gynecology, ophthalmology, orthopedics, pediatrics, psychiatry, surgery and many others. After completing the residency program and passing the specialty board exam, the physician may enter practice as a board-certified member of the medical specialty.
Physicians hold one of two degrees: the doctor of medicine (M.D.) or doctor of osteopathic medicine (D.O.). M.D.s and D.O.s both use accepted and approved methods to diagnose and treat disease, but osteopathy emphasizes the musculoskeletal system and manipulative therapy in treatment, when appropriate. Students of allopathic and osteopathic medicine receive the same basic educational training, and must meet the same Texas State Board of Medical Examiners licensing requirements.
According to the Texas Workforce Commission, the average annual salary for Family Practitioners and General Practitioners is around $180,000.
Though specific science and mathematics requirements for each medical school may vary slightly, completion of the required courses below will satisfy minimum admission requirements to all of the Texas medical schools. All science courses should be courses which will satisfy the requirements for a major in one of the basic sciences. To be competitive with other students who take more than the required sciences, pre-med students should plan to do further work in science at a four-year college or university, especially upper-division hours in biology.
The following is a list of courses required by the medical schools in Texas. All of these are available at TJC. [Some of the medical schools also require biochemistry, an upper-division course which must be taken at a four-year institution.]
- BIOL 1406/1407 - Majors Biology I and II
- Additional 6 semester hrs. of biology (BIOL 2416 Genetics recommended)
- CHEM 1411/1412 General Chemistry I and II
- CHEM 2423/2425 Organic Chemistry I and II
- MATH 1342 Statistics OR MATH 2413 Calculus
- PHYS 1401/1402 College Physics I and II OR PHYS 2425/2426 University Physics I and II
- ENGL 1301/1302 Composition I and II
Please use the links at the bottom of the page for the Texas medical schools to obtain the most current information. See the section for "Admissions" on each school's website.
There is no such thing as a degree in pre-med! While obtaining the prerequisite courses for medical school, students are also completing the requirements of their majors. Although many students earn a bachelor’s in biology because they have completed so much of the coursework for that degree, medical schools do not recommend any one particular major. Instead of asking "What should I major in?" the better question is "What are professional schools looking for in an applicant?" Professional programs seek intelligent, highly motivated, well-rounded and articulate students who can demonstrate academic success in the prerequisite science courses and in their majors. Typically students will have greater success doing something they truly enjoy. Trying to force yourself into a certain academic major that you don’t like will probably result in a low GPA, one that essentially prevents you from being a competitive applicant. The choice of a major should also be made with a sense of opportunity. Rarely do individuals have the opportunity to learn more about the world and the people around them than when they are undergraduates. Students should take advantage of the opportunity to broaden their horizons and their intellect. This might also enhance a student’s uniqueness and diversity to admissions committees. Another practical question that must be asked is "What would you do if you didn't get into medical school?". This is not an uncommon question in a professional school interview. Typically, the interviewer is seeking insight into your level of maturity to see if you have alternate plans for your life or if you have put all your eggs in one basket. It just makes sense for all students to prepare a "plan B". A college degree is far too difficult and expensive to earn to go unused. So the best major is one you enjoy, one that sharpens your critical thinking skills, one that broadens your perspective and one that may help you have a great career should medicine not be possible.
Medical School Application Schedule
The application process typically begins in the junior year of college with taking the MCAT (Medical School Admissions Test). Starting in May and continuing through the summer, candidates submit their application materials, the earlier the better. The application process for Texas public medical, dental and veterinary schools starts online through the Texas Medical and Dental Schools Application Service (TMDSAS). Candidates applying out of state may also be required to use the American Medical College Application Service (AMCAS). In addition, most schools require a separate supplemental application. Candidates may be notified of interviews to one or more of the medical schools as early as August and interviews occur throughout the fall. Successful candidates are notified of acceptance by medical schools in early February.
Medical school admission committees will not just look at a student's academic record. (i.e., MCAT scores, GPA, the rigor of courses). They want to see participation in meaningful extra-curricular activities that enhance concepts of service and leadership. Even more important is evidence that an applicant understands the work of a physician. Working or volunteering in a clinic, hospital or other health-related institution is a good experience for students to have and it demonstrates an interest in medicine. Students can also contact a physician and get permission to shadow. Medical schools admissions committees are also looking for a degree of professionalism and a passion for helping people and your resume should demonstrate these qualities.
- Texas Medical and Dental Schools Application Service (TMDSAS) - THE portal for applying to Texas medicals schools, also contains important information on the requirements for entry
- American Association of Medical Colleges (AAMC) - contains valuable information on the MCAT and applications to medical schools outside Texas
Links to Texas Medical Schools
- Texas College of Osteopathic Medicine-Fort Worth
- Texas Tech University Foster School of Medicine-El Paso
- Texas Tech University School of Medicine-Lubbock
- Texas A&M School of Medicine-Bryan
- University of Texas at Austin Dell Medical School
- University of Texas at San Antonio School of Medicine
- University of Texas Medical Branch-Galveston
- Baylor College of Medicine-Houston
- UT Southwestern School of Medicine-Dallas
- UT Health Science Center in Houston