Pre-health Professions

Is your goal a career in medicine, pharmacy, dentistry, optometry, podiatry or veterinary medicine? These careers require advanced study at a professional school. You can get a strong start to your dream career at NIU. You'll follow a pre-health professions pathway to prepare you for professional school after graduation.

Pre-professional programs are areas of interest, not majors. You’ll prepare for admission to a professional school by completing required math and science courses in a degree area such as biology, chemistry, psychology or a related program. You’re also expected to take an examination, such as the MCAT for medicine, when applying to professional schools.

Our events and resources will assist you in preparing for and applying to professional schools. The director will help you explore careers and majors, develop skills, and navigate testing and admissions processes.

Getting Started

Once you begin taking courses at NIU, schedule an appointment with the pre-professional program director, Tracy Ash, Ed.D. at You’ll continue to meet with your specific college and/or departmental advisor based on your major to help you stay on track to graduate. 

A core of math-dependent science courses fulfills most of the undergraduate requirements for these programs. These courses also prepare you for the required entrance exams. The completion of a baccalaureate degree, in a major field of your choice, is required to gain entry into professional schools.

Recent statistics show that 63% of students admitted to U.S. medical schools were biology majors; 15% were in chemistry or physics; 11% in social sciences; 4% in health sciences; 1% math; and 6% scattered through a large number of other majors.

Core Biomedical/Pre-professional Science Courses

Course NIU Department and Number Credit Hours Corequisite (CRG) or Prerequisite (PRQ)
Fundamentals of Cellular Biology and lab BIOS 208 and 210 4 CRQ: CHEM 210 and CHEM 212 and BIOS 210
Fundamentals of Organismal Biology and lab BIOS 209 and 211 4 PRQ: BIOS 208 and 210 or BIOS 103 and 105
Cell Biology BIOS 302 3 PRQ: BIOS 208, 209, 210, 211; CHEM 211 and 213
Molecular Biology BIOS 303 3 PRQ: BIOS 208, 209, 210, 211; CHEM 211 and 213
Genetics BIOS 308 5 PRQ: BIOS 208, 209, 210, 211; CHEM 211 and 213 CRQ: BIOS 209 and 211
Microbiology BIOS 313 4 PRQ: BIOS 208, 209, 210, 211; CHEM 211 and 213
Human Physiology BIOS 355 4 PRQ: BIOS 208, 209, 210, 211; CHEM 211 and 213 CRQ: PHYS 211 or PHYS 273
General Chemistry I and lab CHEM 210 and 212 4 PRQ: MATH 110, 155 or 229 or satisfactory performance on math placement test; CHEM 110 or satisfactory performance on chemistry placement test
General Chemistry II and lab CHEM 211 and 213 4 PRQ: CHEM 210 and 212
General Organic Chemistry I and lab OR Organic Chemistry I and lab CHEM 330 and 332 OR CHEM 336 and 338 4 PRQ: CHEM 211 and 213
General Organic Chemistry II and lab OR Organic Chemistry II and lab CHEM 331 and 333 OR CHEM 337 and 339 4 PRQ: CHEM 330
General Biological Chemistry or Biological Chemistry I CHEM 470/BIOS 470X OR CHEM 472 3 PRQ: CHEM 331 or 337
General Physics I or Fundamentals of Physics I: Mechanics PHYS 210 OR PHYS 253 4 PRQ: MATH 155 or equivalent CRQ: MATH 229
General Physics II or Fundamentals of Physics II: Electromagnetism PHYS 211 OR PHYS 273 4 PRQ: PHYS 210 or 253
Calculus I (plus any prerequisites) MATH 229 0-10 PRQ: MATH 155 with grade of C or better or satisfactory performance on the mathematics placement examination
Statistics STAT 200 PRQ: MATH 206, MATH 201, MATH 211 or MATH 229
Sociology and Psychology (100-level courses); other options include Brain and Behavior (PSYC 300) Developmental Psychology (PSYC 324) Cognitive Psychology (PSYC 345) 4 courses 12

Additional Recommended Courses

Different professional programs can have slightly different course requirements. Courses such as Functional Human Anatomy (BIOS 311) and Cellular Physiology (BIOS 465), as well as undergraduate research, have proven to be relevant and useful additions to the core scientific curriculum.

  • Dental schools usually require psychology courses such as Introduction to Psychology (PSYC 102) and Lifespan Development: Childhood Through Adulthood (PSYC 225).
  • Medical schools recommend psychology and sociology courses (along with the traditional sciences) since those topics are found on the MCAT.
  • Optometry schools require Calculus I (MATH 229), Elementary Statistics (STAT 200), Microbiology (BIOS 313) and Introduction to Psychology (PSYC 102).
  • Pharmacy schools require Calculus I (MATH 229), Principles of Microeconomics (ECON 260) or Principles of Macroeconomics (ECON 261), and Functional Human Anatomy (BIOS 311) or Human Anatomy (BIOS 355).
  • Veterinary schools usually require a Biochemistry class (CHEM 470) and Elementary Statistics (STAT 200).
  • Physician's assistant schools usually require Elementary Statistics (STAT 200), Medical Terminology (HSCI 318), 3000-plus patient contact hours (equivalent to one year of part-time employment).

Freshman and Sophomore Years

Start reading regularly. Students who perform well on the reading comprehension part of the MCAT are usually active recreational readers.

  • Maintain regular contact with your pre-professional health advisor in the Academic Advising Center. Due to the range of choices, it is important to discuss options and plans with your pre-professional advisor. 
  • Consider joining the Pre-Professional Association, which meets regularly throughout the year.
  • Consider shadowing or internships with health sciences organizations.
  • Participate in Research Rookies and other research opportunities to present your work.
  • Start reading health-related articles at or, as well as journals related to your program, such as The New England Journal of Medicine, Health Affairs or JAMA: The Journal of the American Medical Association.

Junior/Pre-application Year

  • Give yourself four months to study for the MCAT. The Association of American Medical Colleges can help you build an MCAT study plan.
  • Do not take the MCAT until you have completed courses that cover the exam material.
  • MCAT registration is available online. Space is limited, so register early.
  • Take the professional school entrance exam (MCAT, DAT, PCAT, etc.) in the late spring or early summer in the year before you expect to gain admission to a professional program.
  • Schedule a mock interview with the pre-professional health advisor.
  • Begin online research to familiarize yourself with the application process.

Senior/Application Year

  • Draft your personal statement and vita. Include honors, extracurricular activities, service (volunteering, shadowing, internships, etc.) and research.
  • Begin contacting your professional references for letters of recommendation. One reference should be from a doctor of the medical profession to which you are seeking entrance. Another letter should come from your research mentor. Your third reference should be from an instructor from a class in which you did exceptionally well. Make sure you receive their letters before the end of May.
  • Apply to professional schools over the summer.
  • Complete any secondary applications within two weeks of the date you receive them.

Contact Us

Tracy Ash, Ed.D.
Director, Pre-Health Professions
Wirtz Hall, room 227E

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