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If I want to become a psychiatrist, should I major in biology in college with the pre-med track or psychology with the pre-med track?

I want to become either a clinical psychologist or a psychiatrist. I know that to become a clinical psychologist you don't have to go to medical school but to become a psychiatrist you do have to attend medical school. Is it better for me to major in psychology or biology if I want to get into medical school to study psychiatry? #doctor #medicine #clinical-psychology #psychiatry #psychiatrists


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Richard’s Answer

Pick a major that interests you because you will spend countless hours studying this subject. You will need to get good grades in college in order to apply for medical school. At the medical school I attended, the average GPA is reported to be 3.85, so even one or two B's can hurt your chances of acceptance.

Aside from this, either major is acceptable as long as you complete the prerequisite courses.

Typical medical school prerequisites include:
Biology: Lecture – 4 semesters; Lab – 1 semester
General Chemistry: Lecture – 2 semesters; Lab – 1 semester
Organic Chemistry: Lecture – 2 semesters; Lab – 1 semester
Biochemistry: Lecture – 1 semester
General Physics: Lecture – 2 semesters; Lab – 1 semester
Math: Statistics – 1 semester
English: Rhetoric (Composition) and Literature – 2 semesters

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BluJean Casey, M.A.,’s Answer

Hi Jian!
You've got some great questions here. I wonder what it is about being a psychologist or psychiatrist you think you'd like? Are you already taking science courses and love them? Or maybe you've taken an introductory psychology class and love the theories and experiments you read about? First, ask yourself what it is about these professions that interests you and what you think working in these fields would be like. Are you interested because you want to help people, or are you more interested in the science portion of things and would want to do research? These answers may help you to narrow down which field interests you more.


As far a major's go, I've know psychiatrists who first majored in Psychology, while I've known other psychiatrists who majored in Kinesiology and was a coach during his first career! I've also known physicians who majored in Dance or English. Medical schools are interested in well-rounded candidates, and as long as you have all the pre-requisite courses (Biology, Chemistry, Organic Chemistry, etc) then your actual major is just a bonus. If you are wanting to get your Ph.D. in psychology (to be a psychologist) you will definitely need all the core psychology classes (Intro, perception, cognition, quantitative methods, etc) and you can get these with a psychology major, or even a minor. While getting into medical school is competitive, clinical psychology programs are even more competitive. If you decide on a Ph.D., make sure you are interested in doing research, as this is a large portion of obtaining a Ph.D., and then get into research very early be becoming a psychology research assistant and then doing an undergraduate thesis.


You don't have to have it all figured out right now. Try to further explore the mental health field by interviewing or shadowing a psychiatrist and ask her about her job. You could also volunteer at a mental health organization to get an 'insider's' understanding of what these careers are like. Good luck!


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Estelle’s Answer

One of the most valuable things to know about applying for medical school is that it does not matter what you major in, and this is great news because it means you should earn your undergrad degree in whatever you like best! An important thing to know is that you simply need to complete the premed requirements to apply for medical school, but that can be done with any degree. Richard's answer outlines some basics for that ver well. For example, you could major in biology, business or even music and still apply for medical school. Once you are in medical school, it does not matter what your undergrad degree is in, so you can go into any field of medicine after that.

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Susan Delphine’s Answer

Major in neuroscience! Take lots of biology and psychology courses, too. But major in neuroscience.

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Rachel’s Answer

Hi Jian, I would say major in whatever field interests you and will allow you to maintain an excellent GPA. I majored in Spanish literature and had no trouble with my med school applications. However, you must get A's (maybe one or two B's) in all of your premed classes and score well on the MCAT.

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