Does it take longer to graduate premed as an English major?

Hi, I am a current high school senior from California.

I really want to be a doctor, but I don’t know if I should major in biology.

I plan on applying to CSU Fresno, CSU Stanislaus, UC Merced, UC Davis, UC Berkeley, and University of the Pacific as a bio major and chemistry alternate.

I know you can have any major and apply to med school, but I’m afraid I won’t be able to graduate on time in 4 years if I’m trying to satisfy both English major requirements and premed requirements.

That’s why I am deciding on bio, because it will best align with premed requirements and I can hopefully graduate in 4 years.

At one point, I wanted to double major in bio and English, but the issue of grad time came up again.

Also, I’m afraid if I don’t get into med school, what could I do with a bio degree? I feel like I’ll be stuck. **

What would you do with an English degree?

My kid did a double major and graduated in four years…took all the premed prerequisite courses as part of one major.

Thank you so much, this is very helpful! Also wow, kudos to your kid! You must be proud!

I don’t really know what I’d do with an English degree, but at least it would be something I loved.

I guess with either major, Bio or English, I could pursue graduate study/ PhD and potentially teach at the university level.

Major in English if you love English. Check your program for electives and take the premed courses as electives. There are plenty of doctors who majored in things unrelated to medicine as undergrads and did this.

Best of luck to you.


Based on a semester system and 32 classes in total, an English major automatically will fulfill two of the courses recommended for students interested in pursuing medical school (since one year of English is a premed requirement/recommendation). The remaining courses required or recommended by medical schools (in physics, chemistry, biology, biochemistry, math/statistics, psychology and sociology) might occupy you for another 13 classes, which you would need to complete in addition to the requirements for an English major. This schedule would not be regarded as unusual for a premed student planning to graduate within four years.

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Thanks so much for this information and advice!

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Biology would automatically cover most of the typical pre-med course requirements, so it is “convenient” for pre-meds. However, most other liberal arts majors, even with minimal or no pre-med course overlap like English, can be done with the pre-med courses alongside without needing more than 8 semesters (or 12 quarters) of normal course loads, if you schedule carefully. It may be somewhat more difficult if the college has substantial general education requirements that are not fulfilled by either your major or pre-med courses outside of your major.

Be aware that getting a tenure-track faculty job is extremely competitive, since faculty at research universities supervise far more graduate students to PhD completion than are need to replace them when they retire. Many colleges and universities are also increasing the used of adjunct faculty who are hired by the course taught – not exactly the most desirable kind of faculty job for those wanting to be career faculty (as opposed to an adjunct who is from industry teaching a specialty course where an industry perspective is useful).


Major in what you love. It will help you enjoy your time while doing the work to get the grades you need. English majors probably have an easier time getting jobs than Bio majors. There are plenty of companies out there that still need written communication even if it’s online. Some English majors I know take “basics” from other employees who aren’t as good at writing and present something written that’s useful for the masses. With the additional pre-med classes I could see you having useful skills to market if med school didn’t pan out for you.

ps I also know an English major who is a very good doctor. :smiley: Best wishes to you.


No matter what you major in- you need to be proactive in working with your adviser and checking the university’s requirements. EVERY SINGLE SEMESTER. Kids who graduate late generally do so because they either took time off (financial issues, health issues) OR because they missed the fine print on what it takes to graduate. I’ve known kids who took the “wrong” statistics course for their major, who took an introductory class in a subject that they’d already gotten AP credit for (either you get the AP credit or the class- not both). Or took a remedial level course because it worked for their schedule- not realizing that it’s not a full credit class.

Major in English, major in Psych, major in whatever. But there is no magical moment senior year when someone waves a wand over you and declares you a college graduate. You need to fulfill the university’s requirements for getting a degree, AND departmental requirements for your major.


About this, students should generally prioritize prerequisites and requirements before electives early on, in order to give schedule flexibility for the rest of their semesters. If the plan to graduation depends on taking several critical prerequisites or requirements at the last possible semester they can be taken, then any inability to do so (class full, class not offered that semester, class time conflicts with some other critical requirement or prerequisite) will set graduation back a semester. However, if the plan to graduating has critical prerequisites and requirements earlier than the last possible semester that they can be taken, then missing one for any reason just means having to take it next semester.


There’s absolutely no reason not to be a premed English major if that’s what you love. The major requirements will leave more than enough time to do your med school prereqs (which may add up to a bio minor plus a few additional classes).

Sure, a bio major has the most “overlap” with the med school requirements, but if the upper-division bio classes that aren’t needed for med school are not what you love, why spend your energy on them when you could be doing a major you love? The medical profession needs people with strong writing skills and a broad, humanistic perspective. And if you don’t end up going to med school, a bachelors in bio won’t make you any more employable than a BA in English.

Think about what aspect of English most interests you. Comparative literature? Creative writing? Persuasive writing and rhetoric? Look for a program that maximizes the aspect that is most important to you. As others have said, stay on top of the planning and knock out requirements as early as you can. But as long as you are proactive, there should be no issue with having enough time to complete any academic major you like, along with the premed courses. (Music majors, for example, are statistically very successful as med school applicants, even though that major has even less overlap with med school requirements and is arguably more demanding time-wise than English.)


Yep. There is a glut of PhD’s in the country (take a few minutes to look it up) so it bubbles down the job ladder in terms of opportunity. With just a BS people often end up in low-paying lab jobs with little room for advancement.

To answer your original question, it is not that difficult for most liberal-arts students to fit in the dozen or so classes required to apply to med school. Take the UCLA requirements at Requirements – Department of English UCLA Even if you only started taking the premed classes when you were a junior you’d have 10 non-english premed classes to take. The major takes 10 classes, as an upper-division student you earn 90 units (22 classes) so there is room. In reality you’d be taking the premed classes over all 4 years of school, or in the 1st 3 if you want to apply to med school senior year.

However since this is an advice forum, I wonder if you are rushing things here? Have you been volunteering or have other exposure to medicine that let’s you know it’s really right for you? And even if a health career is right, why become a doctor? Other options include physical therapists, radiology techs, speech pathologists, physician assistants, nurse practitioners, to name but just a few as shown on Careers that take less than 11+ years of education and training and the immense debt that comes with a M.D. And if you don’t have exposure to medicine yet then I suggest considering it as just one option among many and working with the career center at college right from the start to find out what’s a fit for you.