Pre-Health Professions

The University of Dallas has a long and successful history of providing academically superior pre-health programs. Our success rate with students obtaining acceptance into medical and health-related professional schools is well-documented and places our institution at or near the top of all universities in the state. An excellent student-to-faculty ratio allows for personalized advising and ensures a meaningful recommendation letter when the time comes. Our balanced liberal arts and science education is in tune with the modern emphasis on the well-rounded and versatile student.

Overview and Academic Requirements of the Health Professions

Modern health care is incredibly diverse — a walk through a hospital or clinic can demonstrate just how many different kinds of professionals are involved in promoting, maintaining and restoring the health of the individual. There are many career paths available in the health professions, depending on the area of specialization, amount of training required and amount of patient interaction that occurs. All of these fields may require several years beyond the initial degree to train for a particular specialization or subfield.

Academic Requirements for the Health Professions

The basic academic requirements include the completion of certain prerequisite courses and an above-average GPA, and these should be much of your focus while preparing for a health professions program.

Prerequisites and Major

To gain admission into a health professions program, you are not required to be a science major, although a major in the sciences does allow overlap between your prerequisites and your major requirements. Each year we have successful applicants from business and the humanities who have met the basic prerequisites. A list of the minimum number of credit hours required for the various health professions is shown below. Because some programs are highly variable, it is up to you to plan your course schedules in order to meet the particular admission requirements of your graduate or professional schools of interest.

Medicine (M.D., D.O.)

A physician may include a Doctor of Medicine (M.D.) or a Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (D.O.) who is dedicated to the study, diagnosis and treatment of disease or injury. Among the fields available to physicians are primary care and general practice or, with further training, medical specialization in fields such as internal medicine, obstetrics and gynecology, psychiatry or surgery. Both the M.D. and D.O. degrees require at least four years of medical school, followed by a three-to-five-year residency.

Prerequisites

Course Minimum Credit Hours Required
General Biology 8
Upper-Division Biology 6
Physics 8
General Chemistry 8
Organic Chemistry 8
Biochemistry 3*
Statistics 3
Calculus 4

*Biochemistry is required at UT-San Antonio Medical School, UT-Houston Medical School and Baylor College of Dentistry.

Dentistry (D.D.S., D.M.D.)

The medical practice of dentistry deals directly with the conditions of the oral cavity and how they affect human health. A dentist may work within general practice or obtain further training in dental specialties such as endodontics (treatment of the roots of teeth), orthodontics (teeth straightening), periodontics (treating areas surrounding the teeth, such as the gums) or pediatric dentistry. Becoming a dentist requires four years of dental school working toward a Doctor of Dental Surgery (D.D.S.) or Doctor of Dental Medicine (D.M.D.).

Prerequisites

Course Minimum Credit Hours Required
General Biology 8
Upper-Division Biology 4
Physics 8
General Chemistry 8
Organic Chemistry 8
Biochemistry 3*
Calculus 4

*Biochemistry is required at UT-San Antonio Medical School, UT-Houston Medical School and Baylor College of Dentistry.

Nursing (B.S.N., M.S.N.)*

In a health care setting, nurses assist in the treatment and recovery of patients and work closely with physicians, patients and their families to help them manage injury and illness and improve their overall health. Some programs grant a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (B.S.N.), and students who already have a bachelor’s degree can enroll in an accelerated 12-to-18-month program after graduation. Other programs grant a master’s degree (M.S.N.) that requires two years in addition to undergraduate science coursework and may require a nursing license (RN) prior to enrollment.

Prerequisites

Course Minimum Credit Hours Required
General Biology 8
Anatomy 4
Physiology 4
Nutrition 3
General Chemistry 4
Statistics 3
Psychology and/or Sociology 3

*Nursing programs in Texas require the RN prior to entering the master’s program and entail enrollment in a B.S.N. program after graduation and sitting for the RN boards (except for UT-Austin’s alternate-entry M.S. nursing program).

Physical Therapy (D.P.T.)*

The physical therapist helps maintain and restore function to the body and the musculoskeletal system. Many physical therapists are involved in helping patients adjust their activity and movement to prevent injury, treat existing injuries or rehabilitate back to their original healthy state. The terminal degree in physical therapy is the Doctor of Physical Therapy (D.P.T.), which requires two and a half years in a physical therapy program, with possible additional education for a specialization in orthopedics, pediatrics or geriatric physical therapy.

Prerequisites

Course Minimum Credit Hours Required
General Biology 8
Anatomy 4
Physiology 4
Physics 8
General Chemistry 8
Statistics 3
College Algebra or above 3
Psychology and/or Sociology 3-6

*Admissions requirements vary significantly among schools. Students should contact specific schools of interest to determine complete requirements.

Veterinary (D.V.M.)*

In veterinary medicine, the interest is in applying medical, diagnostic and surgical principles to animals. The Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (D.V.M.) requires at least four years in a veterinary medical program and involves learning specialized techniques and a diverse group of patients — from dogs and cats to livestock, exotic pets or wildlife. The veterinary field can be highly competitive but rewarding, and can include specialized techniques also used to study and enhance human health.

Prerequisites

Course Minimum Credit Hours Required
General Biology 8
Upper-Division Biology 4
Microbiology 4
Genetics 3
Nutrition 3
Physics 8
General Chemistry 8
Organic Chemistry 8
Biochemistry 5
Statistics 3
Calculus 4
Speech/Communication 3

*Admissions requirements vary significantly among schools. Students should contact specific schools of interest to determine complete requirements.

Physician Assistant (PA)*

Under the supervision of a licensed physician, a physician assistant (PA) provides health care services such as physical exams, diagnosis, surgical care and testing. The PA requires three to four years of education, but unlike the physician, the PA is not required to complete a residency. Physician assistants are a valuable part of the health care team, filling a vital role in areas underserved by physicians.

Prerequisites

Course Minimum Credit Hours Required
General Biology 8
Upper-Division Biology 4
Anatomy 4
Physiology 4
Microbiology 4
Genetics 3
General Chemistry 8
Organic Chemistry 4
Statistics 3
College Algebra or above 3
Psychology and/or Sociology 3-6

*Admissions requirements vary significantly among schools. Students should contact specific schools of interest to determine complete requirements.

Chiropractic (D.C.)

The Doctor of Chiropractic (D.C.) specializes in the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of disorders of the musculoskeletal system and requires approximately four years of chiropractic education. Chiropractic may include manipulation of the spine, joints and soft tissues, as well as patient exercises. A Doctor of Chiropractic places strong emphasis on wellness and enhancing the body’s natural ability to heal itself.

Prerequisites

Course Minimum Credit Hours Required
General Biology 8
Physics 8
General Chemistry 8
Organic Chemistry 8
College Algebra or above 3
Psychology and/or Sociology 3
Speech/Communication 3

 

Podiatry (D.P.M.)

In medicine, podiatry focuses on the disorders of the foot, ankle and lower leg and involves the study, diagnosis and treatment of problems with the lower extremity. A podiatrist is required to undertake a four-year program toward the Doctor of Podiatric Medicine (D.P.M.). Many podiatrists work in primary care, while others may specialize in surgery, sports medicine or orthopedics.

Prerequisites

Course Minimum Credit Hours Required
General Biology 8
Upper-Division Biology 4
Physics 8
General Chemistry 8
Organic Chemistry 8

 

Pharmacy (Pharm.D.)*

The pharmacist connects health science and chemistry through pharmaceutical drugs and other treatments and is an expert on the use of medications to enhance human health. Pharmacy requires four years of basic study for the Doctor of Pharmacy (Pharm.D.), and students can go on into the familiar area of dispensing medications or even nuclear pharmacy, which involves preparing radioactive materials for tests and treating diseases.

Prerequisites

Course Minimum Credit Hours Required
General Biology 8
Anatomy 4
Physiology 4
Microbiology 4
Physics 4
General Chemistry 8
Organic Chemistry 8
Statistics 3
Calculus 4
Psychology and/or Sociology 3

*Admissions requirements vary significantly among schools. Students should contact specific schools of interest to determine complete requirements.

Optometry (O.D.)

Optometrists emphasize vision care and the study of the eyes and related structures. An optometrist may work in conjunction with ophthalmologists (M.D.s with advanced training in eye problems) and opticians (who design and fit corrective lenses). In general, training in optometry requires a four-year program toward the Doctor of Optometry (O.D.).

Prerequisites

Course Minimum Credit Hours Required
General Biology 8
Anatomy 4
Physiology 4
Microbiology 4
Physics 8
General Chemistry 8
Organic Chemistry 4
Biochemistry 4
Statistics 3
Calculus 4
Psychology and/or Sociology 3

 

Allied Health Professions

Nearly 60 percent of the health workforce works within the allied health professions. The field of allied health requires two to three years of training to learn patient care through diagnosis, therapeutic care and support. The numerous disciplines within the allied health professions include first responders, technicians, occupational/speech therapists, nutritionists and health care administrators.

Prerequisites

Course Minimum Credit Hours Required
General Biology 8
Anatomy 4
Physiology 4
Physics 4
Statistics 3
Psychology and/or Sociology 12

 

Combined Advanced Degrees

For students with multiple interests, there are many programs offering combined degrees in the health professions. Dual degrees may include a Ph.D. (for someone interested in health research), a J.D. (for the study of health care and the law) or an MBA (for health care administration and management). While these programs require more time, they can be excellent options for students with interests across multiple fields.

GPA

Admission to health professions programs is universally competitive, and the reality is that your GPA may make or break you in the early stages of the selection process. Although students have been admitted with a lower GPA, to be competitive for admission we recommend maintaining a GPA of 3.5 or better.

Other Requirements for the Health Professions

Experience is an important part of your development as a pre-health student. Without some direct experience in the health professions, you cannot communicate your goals and interests in an informed way or know for certain that this path is right for you.

Volunteering and Internships

If you truly desire to be in the health professions and you want to demonstrate your interest, the best way to do that is by getting clinical experience. You can find many different kinds of opportunities in a doctor’s office, hospital or clinic. Shadowing is a good start and entails spending time in a clinic observing the day-to-day experiences. For hands-on experience, you can volunteer in a clinic and interact with patients, and, in some circumstances, you can be hired into a paid position during the semester or over the summer.

If you make the arrangements for this experience early, you may be able to apply your experiences toward receiving academic credit in an internship. The pre-health advisers have a resource list of hospitals, clinics and physicians that are available to have you shadow or volunteer. You can also apply for an internship with the Student Health Center at the University of Dallas.

Research

Whether research experience is helpful depends on the specific orientation of the program. The activities of health professionals are very different from those of the researcher, so if you have little or no clinical experience, research will not be a substitute. If you plan a career in academic medicine or want to apply to a combined program (such as the M.D./Ph.D.), however, research is a must.

Extracurricular Activities

What you do in your extracurricular activities says a lot about who you are. Hobbies, club memberships, sports and work with your church or faith community are opportunities to demonstrate that you are deeply interested in other aspects of your character beyond just studying and making good grades. Extracurricular activities can show your passion and intent to enrich your life and the lives of those with whom you interact.

Rather than trying to impress with a long list of activities, it is much better to spend meaningful time in a few activities that are important to you, with particular consideration given to those activities that involve leadership and responsibility. Be able to talk about your experiences in an informed way in your personal statement and/or interview.

You are strongly encouraged to become active in the Pre-Health Professions Society, a student organization dedicated to providing opportunities for students interested in health care to meet, discuss the field and learn more about the options available in health care. The Pre-Health Society annually hosts speakers, clinic tours and visits, including the chance to meet key decision-makers from medical, physical therapy and nursing schools to learn what they are looking for in an applicant.