Pre-Health and Pre-Graduate as a Biology Major

Pre-Health Professions School

Students often ask advisors “What is the best major for getting into medical school?”

The answer? There is no “best major;” you should choose a major that is challenging enough to prepare you for medical school, but more importantly, one that you have a deep interest and passion for. There are also many factors outside of coursework—do you have volunteer or shadowing hours? Are you in a leadership position for an organization? Have you participated in some form of undergraduate research? Most students accepted into medical school can answer yes to these questions.

When looking nationwide at medical school matriculation (students accepted and then enrolled at a medical school), there are many different undergraduate degrees and fields of study.  But one thing is remains the same: Biology majors consistently make up nearly 55% of all medical students nationwide.  There are numerous routes to getting into medical school, but for many students across the country, Biology was the degree of choice.

When expanding beyond medical school and looking at all pre-health* students at Butler University, despite having less than 4% of the student body, Biology students make up a massive percentage of students that end up going on to attend a health professional school after graduating from Butler University. 

* “Health Professional School” is defined as allopathic medicine (MD), osteopathic medicine (DO), dentistry (DDS), optometry (OD), podiatry (DPM), physical therapy (DPT), physician assistant (PA), or veterinary (DVM or VMD), and data is based on the available central application service data of pre-health students at Butler University from 2016-2021.

Would you like to know where our students attended pre-professional schooling? 

Please visit our Alumni Spotlight and Careers page.

Why do so many pre-health students choose Biology as their undergraduate major? Yes, students have an opportunity to take courses that are directly related to their future pre-health field, but they also get a chance to expand beyond courses that have a narrow focus on just human health. Many medicines come from plants (botany), many microbes are quite beneficial for us (microbial ecology), and many diseases follow specific inheritance patterns (transmission genetics). Additionally, students develop the critical thinking skills they will need to not only navigate their post-graduate schooling, but skills they will continue to use on a daily basis throughout their careers. Many alumni have praised Butler for how well their Biology degree prepared them for the rigors of coursework in professional school and for the careers they have in their respective medical fields.

Pre-Graduate School

Why a Ph.D.?

Intellectual Curiosity: If you have a passion for a topic in any part of biology, a Ph.D. is the best way to explore that topic in depth. You will be able to go beyond information in textbooks and potentially answer questions that have never been answered before.

Self-motivated: If you like to find out things on your own, then a Ph.D. is a great way to explore a topic the way you want to. Ph.D. dissertations are conducted with the help of an adviser, but ultimately, you get to choose the topic, direction, and pathway for the project.

Opens many career doors: A Ph.D. will allow you to work in many different areas as a recognized expert in a field. A Ph.D. can help you with a career in business, industry research, consulting, non-profits, or the public sector. Less than half of Ph.D. graduates pursue careers in academics.

Ph.D. programs are usually paid for: Unlike most other graduate and professional programs, most Ph.D. programs will earn free tuition and a living stipend. Because you contribute to the university through research and teaching assistantships you will get the chance to get paid while you pursue your Ph.D.

Biology majors interested in post-graduate study in biology are strongly encouraged to participate in some form of undergraduate research with an advisor in the Biology Department.  While not a requirement for graduate school, many admissions boards look favorably upon the design, development, and execution of a research project.  Additionally, you can gain invaluable experience that will be beneficial when navigating a post-graduate degree.

Interested? Visit our page on Undergraduate Research

While many students may have a specific field of study in mind for graduate school, Biology majors are encouraged to pursue studying a wide breadth of topics.  This will not only expose you to a number of fields you may not be aware of, but it will help make you a more well-rounded and complete biologist.  But as you will ultimately be developing your own schedule, the choice is yours whether or not to focus on one track or take a variety of course offerings.

Link to Course Offerings

Suggested Biology Courses

This is an accumulation of suggested Biology courses to take should you have a pre-health or pre-graduate focus; these are not the only prerequisites for professional schools.  If If you are interested in these paths, it is strongly encouraged that you visit the Pre-Health Advising pages and attend pre-health meetings, as well as talk with your academic advisor.  The information below is meant simply as guidance, but understand that each professional school will have its own specific requirements; it is important to know that information before applying to the school.