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Biochemistry Specialization in Pre-Medicine at Iowa State

I'm Pre-Med—What Major Should I Choose?

We commend you on your goal of serving others through a career in human medicine! Iowa State has pre-medicine programming, clubs, advising, and specializations within several majors that can help you reach your goals.

Special Considerations for Iowa State Pre-Med Visitors and Applicants

When you create an admissions account at Iowa State, it may look like you can select "Pre-Med" as a major, but pre-medicine is not an actual major at Iowa State. Rather, "Pre-Med" is a professional interest designation that helps Iowa State admissions staff find the best advising and resources for you to prepare for entrance to medical school. Thus, when selecting your major at the time of admissions, you should consider what major suits your interests and strengths and will still allow you to complete pre-medicine course admissions requirements. You would then indicate that major in addition to the "Pre-Med" professional interest designation.

As a pre-med applicant to Iowa State, you might feel unsure about what major to select. 

  • If you are not ready to choose a major at the time you visit or apply to admissions at Iowa State, one strategy is to select one of your top choices, even if it may change. By selecting a major at the time of admissions, you will be directly connected with the advisors, faculty, and staff that administer that program. They can provide you specific guidance about that major as well as closely aligned majors (for example, biochemistry, biology, genetics, and microbiology all have fairly similar first-year coursework and it is not uncommon to switch majors between these choices the first year; see the table below for an illustration). You can always change majors at a later time. Additionally, during your campus visit, it may be possible to meet with a second potential major; just let your admissions counselor know so they can schedule with the second department of interest. 
  • Another approach as a pre-med applicant to Iowa State is to select "Open Option" in the "major" field and be sure to also add the "Pre-Medicine" professional interest designation. This will allow you to meet with advisors who can speak to a broad range of potential majors—from biology to sociology, music to psychology—and you will pick a major later.

With enough preparation, any major at Iowa State could facilitate successful admission to medical school. Some majors' core curriculum will have more overlap with pre-med admissions requirements than others. It is up to you to determine which major is best for you as a pre-med student, and Iowa State faculty and staff are here to help provide the information you need to make a good decision.

Biochemistry: A Smart Pre-Med Major at Iowa State

Pre-Med Iowa State students may choose any major that suits their interests and goals while allowing them to complete pre-med admissions requirements. Biochemistry is one of the top pre-med majors reported by physicians. The biochemistry major with Pre-Medicine specialization allows for successful completion of typical medical school admissions course requirements within the major's 4-year plan. As a Pre-Medicine biochemistry major, you'll receive advising and coursework specifically designed to support your goal of becoming a physician. The Pre-Medicine specialization may also be customized for allied health careers such as Pre-Dental, Pre-Pharmacy, and Pre-Vet students.

Other Common Pre-Med Majors at Iowa State

While most (60%) successful applicants to medical school major in the biological sciences (source: AMA)—such a biochemistry, biology, genetics, or microbiology—many other majors may lead you to an M.D. The Iowa State majors that have most commonly led to successful acceptance to medical school are below (source):

  • Biology
  • Microbiology
  • Chemistry
  • Biochemistry
  • Biomedical Engineering
  • Kinesiology and Health
  • Genetics
  • Nursing
  • Psychology
  • Athletic training
  • Chemical Engineering
  • Mechanical Engineering
  • Economics
  • English
  • History
  • Music

Your major is only part of successful preparation for medical school. You also need to make time to study for the MCAT, and gain relevant experience beyond the classroom, and complete any pre-med coursework that might not be included in your core major, all while maintaining a competitive GPA. Thus, it is important that you select a major that meets your individual academic strengths and goals.

To read more about pre-medicine at Iowa State, visit these sites:

Choosing Between Biological Sciences Pre-Med Majors at Iowa State

The most similar potential pre-med biological sciences majors at Iowa State are biochemistry, biology, chemistry, genetics, and microbiology. These majors all build a foundation of biology, chemistry, math, and physics, and they have significant overlap in coursework, especially in the first two years. It is not uncommon for students to switch between these majors during the first or even second year at Iowa State, or for students to add a minor, double major, or even second degree in another one of these majors. It is also not uncommon for students to switch majors between biochemistry and chemical engineering within the first year.

For this reason, we provide a summary of these majors' typical coursework in the first year:

Typical first-year Biology, Chemistry, and Math courses in common biological sciences pre-med majors at Iowa State University
This table is a provided as a courtesy to pre-medicine students choosing between similar biological sciences majors at Iowa State who anticipate the possibility of switching majors within the first year. Please refer to the course catalog and each major's departmental website, materials, and faculty/staff for the most up-to-date information.
Major and linked 4-year planTypical Year 1
Biology courses
Typical Year 1
Chemistry courses
Typical Year 1
Math courses
Biochemistry (Pre-Medicine specialization)Biol 2110 + L; 2120+L(Chem 1770+L and 1780+L) OR Chem 2010+LMath 1650 (Calc I); Math 1660 (Calc II)
Biology (Biol-CALS; Biol-LAS)Biol 2110 + L; 2120+LChem 1630+L OR (Chem 1770+L and 1780+L) Choices between Math 1600, 1650, 1660 and/or Stat 1010, 1040, 3010 to meet College/major reqs
Chemical Engineering--Chem 1770+L and 1780+LMath 1650 (Calc I); Math 1660 (Calc II)
Chemistry--(Chem 1770+L and 1780+L) OR Chem 2010+LMath 1650 (Calc I); Math 1660 (Calc II)
Genetics (Gen-CALS; Gen-LAS)Biol 2110 + L; 2120+LChem 1770+L and 1780+LMath 1600 or 1650; additional Math (1660) or Stat (1010 or 1040) choice
MicrobiologyBiol 2110 + L; 2120+LChem 1770+L and 1780Stat 1040
  • Source: 4-year plans of each major as provided on https://catalog.iastate.edu/. Major-specific Catalog pages are linked above in lefthand column. Please refer to the course catalog and each major's departmental website, materials, and faculty/staff for the most up-to-date information.
  • Please note that the majors of Biochemistry, Biology, and Genetics are offered in both CALS and LAS.