Your heart is set on becoming a surgeon and you're anxiously awaiting the day you scrub in and step into the operating room all on your own. But before you can put on your scrubs and call yourself a doctor, you'll undergo years of education and training to prepare you for this occupation. Your path toward becoming a surgeon will begin in an undergraduate program where you'll build up many skills and experiences to prepare you for your future career endeavors.
Majors and Courses
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, or BLS, there is no required major for medical school acceptance. However, most medical schools require applicants to have a strong background in biology, physics, chemistry and English. Common majors for aspiring surgeons include biology and pre-medical studies, as they include all of the required coursework. Alternatively, you may prefer to choose a major that reflects your interests and passions, which is fine -- so long as you take plenty of science and English electives to satisfy the requirements. Medical school admissions boards also like to see applicants who have taken courses in calculus, psychology and sociology. No matter which major you choose, devote yourself to your studies and keep your grade point average as high as possible. According to StudentDoc.com, an online resource for aspiring physicians and surgeons, most medical schools prefer candidates with a 3.5 GPA or higher.
A high GPA isn't enough to help you stand out from other applicants; volunteering is one way to give yourself a competitive edge when applying to medical school. The Association of American Medical Colleges, AAMC, and the BLS both note that volunteering is an excellent way for aspiring surgeons to gain relevant experience and increase their chances of acceptance. Volunteering in a healthcare setting -- a hospital, nursing home or clinic -- will help you gain experience working with patients and develop strong communication and leadership skills, as well as empathy and compassion.
The AAMC and BLS both highly recommend that aspiring surgeons pursue extracurricular activities during their undergraduate years, so this is the perfect time to join any clubs or activities that interest you. Whether you're interested in being part of a sorority, honors society, foreign language club or the school newspaper, dedicating yourself to extracurricular activities will not only help you stand out to admissions boards, it will also help you meet other students and take full advantage of the college experience.
During your junior year, you'll take the Medical College Admission Test, or MCAT, a required exam that will put your knowledge of biology and chemistry and your verbal reasoning skills to the test. Medical schools weigh these scores pretty heavily when deciding who to admit -- and who to reject -- so it's essential that you prepare as much as possible before you schedule your exam. If you feel overwhelmed and don't know where to start studying, take an MCAT prep course. StudentDoc.com reports that 70 to 80 percent of applicants participate in these courses.
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: How to Become a Physician or Surgeon
- Association of American Medical Colleges: MCAT FAQ
- Association of American Medical Colleges: How Do I Find Health Care-related Volunteer Opportunities?
- Association of American Medical Colleges: The Road to Becoming a Doctor
- StudentDoc: Medical School Requirements