Is Chemistry a good major for pre med?

I’m a high school junior looking to go into pre med. I’ve known for a while that I wanted to go into the medical field but I never really gave thought to my undergraduate major so now because you can major in basically anything I am confused about what I should major in lol

I know I don’t want to do biology. I was thinking chemistry instead? What about neuroscience?

Also just keep in mind that none of my extracurriculars shape interests in chem/neuro they just are science related. I have a bunch of AP science classes though I’m not sure if I can get into these majors with them.

What majors do you think are best for pre meds? Is chemistry one of them?

Pretty much anything is good for pre-med, so pick something you like because you’re going to do the best in something you enjoy. Your GPA matters. If you want to adjust a little, consider what your Plan B is if you don’t get into med school since approx 60% of those who apply lately don’t. Every Pre-Med needs a Plan B. If you never need it, great.

What makes you think you wouldn’t make it in to X major? Colleges don’t need you to have done a ton to make it into a major (except for art/music, etc). You just need a solid high school foundation and “a bunch of AP science classes” should be fine if you did well in them.

What colleges are you looking at?


My son is a rising senior Neuroscience and Philosophy double major with a Chem minor. He loves all 3 and wanted to triple major but also wanted to graduate on time so he did the Chem minor.

To answer your question Chemistry is always a good pre-med major but so are a ton of other majors, including non-science as long as you take the heavy Chem courses, Org Chem 1 and 2, Biochem etc.

Best advice is to study what you love even if you change your mind about med school. There are plenty of careers in research in Neuro and Chem.

Of the about 15 semester-length courses that are required or recommended for admission to medical school, about 7 will be met automatically through a major in chemistry. For this reason, chemistry represents an especially compatible major for premed students.

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You will need to take the med school prereqs, so the overlap between those and your major requirements is one factor, but not a huge one because there’s plenty of time to get everything done in four years even if you chose a major with minimal overlap. Chemistry is great if you actually want to major in chem, but you needn’t choose it just because it’s the second-most-overlapping option. What would you do if you didn’t go to med school? If you’d consider veering toward engineering, then physics could be your best choice. Math is a great premed major with lots of good alternative career paths - particularly applied math & stats, which can prepare you for valued analytical roles on research teams. Interdisciplinary majors like cognitive science can be good - you get a psychology/neuroscience foundation but also exposure to computer science, linguistics, philosophy, and design. Public health, global health, or sociology can be excellent in terms of putting medical practice into more of a population context. There are lots of options and you should consider what fits you best - there is no objectively-best choice.


Pre-med courses that overlap with typical chemistry major courses:

  • General chemistry (2 semesters)
  • Organic chemistry (2 semesters)
  • Physics (2 semesters)
  • Calculus (will likely need for the major more than the 1 semester that pre-med sometimes requires)
  • English composition (2 semesters)

Note: at some colleges, the physics, calculus, and/or chemistry sequences for chemistry majors may be more intensive or difficult ones than the ones for biology majors that are acceptable for pre-meds.

The following typical pre-med courses would not be overlapping:

  • General biology (2 semesters)
  • Statistics
  • Upper level biochemistry
  • Upper level genetics
  • Introductory psychology and sociology (but could be used for general education requirements)

Chemistry is one of the “typical” pre-med majors because there is a large overlap with the courses required for pre-med and the courses required for a chem major.

Pre-med is an intention, not any particular major. You can major in just about anything and still be a pre-med. You just need to be sure that you complete the coursework required for admission to med school. In my daughters’ med school classes, there were students with majors that ranged from forestry to music composition to theology to business to Italian to physics, math, BME, as well as the usual bio, chem biochem and neuroscience majors.

Most med schools require:

2 semesters intro bio w/ labs
2 semesters gen chem w/labs**
2 semesters ochem w/ labs**
2 semesters intro physics w/ labs**
2 semesters of writing skills or writing intensive courses
2 semesters of college level math** (one semester needs to be stats or biostats)
1 semester biochem
1 semester intro psych
1 semester intro sociology

Courses with ** are required for a chem major. Also required for most bio, biochem, and neuroscience majors as well.

Chemistry is more math intensive than bio or neuroscience. Chem majors typically need to take 3 semesters of calculus and often differential equations as well. Chem majors are also usually required to take a calculus-based physics sequence, instead of the algebra-based physics classes that bio (and neuroscience) majors usually take.

Neuroscience requirements vary a lot by program. At some colleges, neuroscience is a interdisciplinary program that includes both biology and psychology coursework. At other colleges, neuroscience is mostly biology-based with some computer learning mixed in.

One of my daughters was a double major in neuroscience and mathematics. At her college, neuroscience was largely contained within the biology department, with a few cognitive science classes mixed in. My D also took 2 comp sci classes (as electives) to help her with her neuroscience research. Her area of research was math cognition and learning. This daughter later went to med school and now is a physician in a field that has absolutely NOTHING to do with neuroscience.

So choose major because you like it and because it will help you find a job after college just in case you don’t go to med school.

As far as post graduation job opportunities go–chemistry has better job prospects than biology or neuroscience.


Yeah I’m definitely looking into majoring in something that has a good backup incase I don’t immediately get into med school. I know about the “there was no plan B for me” determination mentality but it probably won’t work for me and I want to think a bit more practically along with my med school dreams.

Applied math was something I did look into a little while ago, but not physics. I’ll look into both of those. Probably I would do engineering if I didn’t get in in X cycles LOL so defo going to look into those two. Thank you!


Just some other perspectives from a biochemistry major and an organic chemistry researcher here. Are you aiming for doing a gap year? And are you aiming to do some research? Most post-bac medical-related research is more molecular and synthetic biology or biochemistry based, I am now having a hard time finding a post-bac research position due to my lack of experience in these areas.

Chemistry is hard on the GPA; let’s say you DID NOT get into med school: pure-chemistry research requires much more in-depth knowledge on average and most are graduate-level or post-doc positions. And if you go into industry post-bac you will likely get paid $15-17 per hour for entry-level, the only way to be paid well is to go into management or administration thus less research-orientated and for these you MUST go to graduate school and then post-doc which takes YEARS. In a post-doc position, you will get paid around $45,000-60,000, whereas professors get paid >$100,000 and ~$80,000 for faculty. All post-doc I know regretted it because of the abundance of graduate and post-doc personnel in comparison to opened job positions; this will only get worse and worse over time.

Much better if you do neuroscience or biochemistry tho, they can earn big bucks.

I knew I was going into organic chemistry since sixth grade, I used to not believe what others said about jobs, just had a reality check tho for real. But if this is your passion, go for it!

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I know it’s been a while but I had another question about the majors, specifically the cognitive science one you were talking about. If I were to major in cognitive science on the pre med track but then hop off the track, are there any good career options for a major in that category?

Also do you have any other information or things I should know or be wary of when wanting to be a cognitive science major?

And would you happen to know of any schools that have “good” cognitive science and pre med programs? ’

I know the above was a lot but if you could please let me know that would be SO helpful. Thank you!

For cognitive science, you may want to look into Vassar, which, I believe, established the nation’s first defined undergraduate cognitive science program.

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If you were to hop off the prep-med track, cog science leads in three basic directions:

  1. teaching and health-related fields --SLP, special education, various therapeutic & educational positions
  2. software design, data analysis, linguist analysis for software design
  3. HR positions

Plenty of programs have good cognitive science undergrad programs (and pre-med is available just about everywhere). Many cognitive science programs are housed at universities that also are either strong in comp sci or are strong in linguistics/foreign languages. You probably want to take at look at any college under consideration and see which way the department leans.

Some strong programs at places you may not have considered: Mississippi State, U Georgia, Lehigh, Carleton, Indiana, Marquette, Loyola New Orleans, Cal State Fresno, Richmond, Vassar, Occidental, Hendrix, Susquehanna, Tufts, Lehigh. RPI.

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