Scheduling: Focus on Medical Careers

doctors

There are several common questions that are asked of many teachers by students and parents every year:

“What classes should I take next year?”
“What classes should my kid take if they want to go into medicine?”

Here at Teacher Tip Offs we’ve decided to begin doing a series of quick articles explaining what would be good choices for classes based upon what you would like to do for a career.  The first career field we are going to focus on is anything medical related.  The past few years student interest in this career field has skyrocketed due to increased demand and the relating publicity for a wide range of jobs in the medical field.  Many students see it as a path to a very high paying, prestigious job that carries with it great respect if they are considering becoming a doctor or a pharmacist.  Other students see it as a path to a reliable job that pays well and is in demand if they are considering many of the different skilled tech or nursing careers that are available in medicine today.  Others see it as a means to gain employment quickly after high school in a job that pays well and is available compared to other jobs requiring similar education.

No matter what their focus, there are certain classes they should be taking in high school to be successful and prepared for college if they want to succeed in the medical field.  It is our hope that this will help students be aware of that when they begin scheduling and picking classes.  Parents, please share this with your kids if they are considering one of the following careers.  This post focus on Doctor, Nurse, Pharmacist, Physicians Assistant, Nurse Practitioner, etc.  Future posts will cover skilled tech course suggestions and vocational medical career suggestions.

Career Track: Doctor, Nurse, Pharmacist, Physicians Assistant, Nurse Practitioner, etc.

If you are thinking about being a doctor or a nurse then your choice of classes should hopefully be rather obvious and straightforward.  Your goal should be to take the most challenging and advanced science classes that are available to you in your school.  In addition, you should be focused on taking other challenging classes in English and Math as well.  Colleges look favorably at students who challenged themselves in high school when they consider admissions criteria for students.  In addition, it will help to prepare you for the challenges you will face in a rigorous college education that prepares you to either go on to medical school or begin your career as a nurse.

Courses you absolutely should take if available:

Biology
Chemistry
AP Chemistry
AP Biology

These four courses should be the major focus of your education during your junior and senior year in high school if you are serious about being a doctor, nurse, or pharmacist.  They pave the way towards better understanding in college, better preparation for the MCAT, GRE, etc, and a better chance at getting into a prestigious college or university.  They also provide a window into what your life will be like for the next, at minimum, 4 years.  If you don’t like AP Chemistry or AP Biology then you may seriously want to reconsider your career choice because you will be taking a lot more chemistry and biology in college.

Very Important Non Science Classes:

AP Language and Composition
AP Literature
AP Calculus
AP Statistics
Any advanced English class
Any advanced Math class
Basic English
Basic Math

Taking the most advanced Math and English classes available will pay serious dividends for you eventually on your path towards a difficult and rewarding career in medicine.  Writing is at the core of all human communication so the better you are at it the better chance you will have at succeeding in whatever you do.  Doctors et al. probably write things far more than you have ever imagined.  Being able to write coherently and properly will carry you a long way towards success in college as well.  Most classes require writing, even your science and math classes will.  The better you are at it, the better you will do.

Math obviously is incredibly important in science and in life so the most advanced math classes shouldn’t be ignored either by prospective medical students in high school.  Most pre-med, pre-pharm, etc programs require students to take calculus at the minimum in college and many require a statistics class as well.  Getting a head start on these will go a long way towards your success in these classes in college.

Other Good Science Classes:

Physics
Anatomy and Physiology Classes
Other AP Science Classes available such as physics

These classes fall slightly lower on the priority list for medical careers in high school.  Obviously anatomy and physiology becomes a major cornerstone of your education later but in high school it is rarely as valuable to your education as an AP chemistry or biology would be.  Other Advanced Placement classes, such as Physics, can be very beneficial to you as well when it comes to college success as all major pre-med programs require a year of physics due to most medical schools making that a prerequisite for admission recently.

Classes to avoid

Dual enrollment (Unless they allow you to take courses at a quality university or college)
Vocational Medical Programs
Classes that would be considered by colleges to be “Blow-offs”

Schools are pushing dual enrollment more and more now as a way to get their kids ready for college.  In many cases it can be quite beneficial to certain students.  They are able to get exposure to college early, perhaps have classes paid for by the school, etc.  However, in many cases this dual enrollment is done with the local community college or otherwise local small college.  From my experience I can say that in most cases a well done, rigorous AP program in high school will prepare students far better than the corresponding freshmen level college class.  I would struggle to think of many counter arguments that could be made against this idea.  The only exception would be if your high school allows you to dual enroll at a major college or university where the subject matter is rigorous and challenging at the level of an AP class.  In addition, colleges would more than likely prefer to see AP classes on your transcript as they know what is taught in those.  Major college X has no idea what was taught in Bio 101 at your local community college but they know the exact amount of rigor and challenge you went through in AP Biology.

Vocational programs for medical careers can be of great benefit to certain students.  However, if you are considering one of the more advanced and difficult careers listed at the start of this article your time is probably spent better off taking more challenging classes.  If you want to be a doctor, nurse, pharmacist, PA, NP, etc. then you probably will not benefit much from the medical tech class that takes up 3 hours of your schedule everyday for a year.  In fact, you’ll be wasting seriously valuable time that could be better spent preparing you for the challenge of college and graduate school.  The college or university you are applying to will see it that way as well.  They don’t want to see that you wasted half of your day doing vocational work that has little applicable transfer to what you want to study for a career.

Summary
If you are serious about an advanced medical career then you then to push yourself in high school.  You are expected by colleges to challenge yourself and take classes that are not easy.  If you do so you will be better prepared to succeed when you move onto college and graduate school.  You will also have a solid idea of whether you will enjoy your college experience based on your classes.  Taking the hard classes in high school makes the hard classes in college much easier.

If you think this is good advice, feel free to share it with your friends, children, or parents.

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