Choosing a Major

At most undergraduate colleges, including UMBC, “PreMedical,” “PreDental,” “PreOptometry,” “PrePodiatry,” and or “PreVeterinary” are not majors, they are career interest areas. There is no official interest-area declaration action nor paperwork that is required for a person to pursue pre-health career interest areas.

Students can decide to choose a pre-health pathway at any point in their career at UMBC – including after they’ve completed their UMBC degree. However, the prerequisite coursework for pre-health preparation includes multiple courses sequences in the sciences, so students who decide to pursue a career in the health professions later in their time at UMBC should be prepared to plan extra time to degree, or to incorporate post-baccalaureate coursework in their plan.  Having a break between graduating from UMBC and entering professional school is not unusual for our students – last year, 71% of the UMBC matriculants to medical school had already graduated from UMBC before they applied to medical school – so taking extra time after graduation to fully prepare for the application process does not put a student at a disadvantage.

Degree-seeking students at UMBC must complete a major in order to fulfill their graduation requirements, so pre-health students will need to select a major to pursue.  Any major is acceptable for the pre-health areas that fall under The PreMedical and PreDental Advising Office (pre-medical, dental, optometry, podiatry, veterinary). Students should follow their individual passions while aligning their choices with their academic strengths and abilities.  Many pre-health students naturally are attracted to the sciences and decide to major in one of those fields accordingly, but majoring in the sciences is not required for entry to medical, dental, optometry, or veterinary school. Maintaining an excellent academic record is crucial – our accepted students average 3.7 overall GPAs and 3.7 science GPAs – so we encourage students to choose a major that will challenge them intellectually, but will also give them an opportunity to demonstrate academic excellence. Students may also wish to take their “Parallel Pathway” into account when choosing a major.

The UMBC Career Center offers counseling and resources on the ‘choice of major’ issue. Be sure to check out their, “What Can I Do with My Major” sheets and other resources which help students to explore their options.  Follow the career decision making process and seek out valuable resources along your major-choice and career-decision journey.

Students can try to align their choice of major with the economic forecasts of future workforce opportunities by using tools such as the career-related research conducted by Indeed.com on the best college majors for jobs of the future.

Generally speaking, about 75% of UMBC pre-medical, pre-dental, pre-optometry, and pre-veterinary students have Biological Sciences listed as a primary or secondary major, followed by 20% Biochemistry & Molecular Biology majors, while the rest fall in a variety of majors, including (but not limited to) Bioinformatics & Computational Biological, Chemical Engineering, Individualized Study, Mathematics, Philosophy, Psychology and Public Health.

In addition to choice of major, students may have further degree options within a particular program. For example, in the College of Natural and Mathematical Sciences, the majors in Biological Sciences, Chemistry, and Mathematics each give students the option of earning either a Bachelor of Arts degree or a Bachelor of Science degree in that field. Either degree type is acceptable for pre-health students.

Besides the choice of major, another issue which is often on the minds of prospective undergraduates/high school students is acceptance rates.  The national acceptance rate for medical school is typically between 42-44%.  Last year, UMBC’s medical school acceptance rate was 54%.