Prerequisites For Health Professions Schools

While there is no required major for entrance into a health professions school, there are many skills, abilities, and values you can develop during your undergraduate years to help you succeed. Among them are:

  • Mastery of basic scientific principles
  • Demonstration of a broad exposure to the humanities and social sciences
  • Mastery of life-long learning skills
  • An understanding of the physician-patient relationship
  • Demonstration of desired personal traits such as maturity, integrity, compassion, empathy, and leadership
  • Establishment of relationships with faculty members
  • Demonstration of caring for fellow human beings
  • Demonstration of an understanding of the health care profession of choice
  • Demonstration of a commitment to public service

Pre-Medical/Pre-Health Coursework

In addition to the courses that fulfill departmental major and university degree requirements, pre-medical and pre-health students at Johns Hopkins are advised to take courses necessary for MCAT preparation. These courses also fulfill the curricular admission requirements of the majority of medical/dental schools in the U.S. However, it is your responsibility to research individual program requirements to ensure the coursework you plan to complete is sufficient and appropriate.

We strongly recommend that Johns Hopkins students complete the following coursework (or the equivalent of):

  • 2 courses in general (inorganic) chemistry with associated labs
  • 2 courses in organic chemistry with associated lab (at JHU, the lab requirement is fulfilled by one 3-credit organic chemistry lab)
  • 2 courses in biology with associated labs
  • 1 course in biochemistry (no associated lab necessary unless lab is required for your major)
  • 2 courses in general physics with associated labs (Calculus I and II are co-requisites for General Physics I & II at JHU)
  • 2 courses in mathematics (one of the courses should be an introductory-level course in statistics)
  • 2 courses that emphasize English and/or writing
  • 2 courses that emphasize social and behavioral sciences principles (There are numerous introductory courses in psychology, sociology, and related disciplines that will provide a foundation for the MCAT).

Note: Courses in the areas of ethics, philosophy, cross-cultural studies, and population health are recommended, regardless of the discipline. Not only will the pursuit of such academic areas impact performance on the MCAT, but will also provide a broad and relevant foundation for medical/health professions school.

The Pre-Med/Pre-Health Biology Requirement

To fulfill the prerequisites for health professions schools, it is recommended that all Johns Hopkins pre-health students complete a minimum of two courses in biology + labs. Students who have earned AP biology credit (and who plan to keep that credit on their transcripts) are also strongly encouraged to complete two biology courses + labs at JHU. The following JHU coursework will satisfy the pre-medical biology requirement; however, please note that prerequisites vary across medical schools, so students should research the requirements of the medical schools where they plan to apply to ensure they have completed all course requirements.

Johns Hopkins University Courses that Fulfill Pre-Medical Biology Requirement

020.151 General Biology I
020.153 General Biology Laboratory I
NOTE: 151 (01) is for sophomores, juniors and seniors only; 020.151 (02) is for freshmen only

020.152 General Biology II
020.154 General Biology Laboratory II

020.303 Genetics
020.340 Developmental Genetics Lab—Biology majors only

020.303 Genetics
250.253 Protein Engineering Biochemistry Lab (PEBL)
* NEW approved pairing as of spring 2019
020.303 Genetics
020.315 Biochemistry Project Lab
* NEW approved pairing as of spring 2019

020.306 Cell Biology
020.316 Cell Biology Lab

020.374 Comparative Physiology
020.377 Comparative Physiology Lab

080.306 Neuroscience: Cellular and Systems II
080.250 Neuroscience Lab
250.313 Molecular and Cellular Systems Biology—Biophysics majors
250.253 PEBL -or- 250.383 Molecular Biophysics Lab
NOTE: Biophysics majors can also take Genetics or Cell Biology and match it with PEBL or MBL. 
(Biology Department courses are considered electives for Biophysics majors.)

510.407 Biomaterials II—Materials Science & Engineering majors only
510.430 Biomaterials Lab—Materials Science & Engineering majors only

540.307 Cell Biology for Engineers—ChemBE majors
020.316 Cell Biology Lab
NOTE: ChemBE majors are advised not to take Gen Bio I/II
NOTE: ChemBE majors cannot use 580.451 Cell and Tissue Engineering Lab in lieu of Cell Biology Lab

580.151 Structural Biology of Cells
580.153 Structural Biology of Cells Lab

580.441 Cellular Engineering
580.454 Methods in Nucleic Acid Sequencing

580.442 Tissue Engineering
580.451 Cell and Tissue Engineering Lab

580.485 Computational Medicine: Cardiology
580.487 Computational Medicine Cardiology Lab

A note on BIOCHEMISTRY: The Pre-Professional Office now strongly recommends pre-health students complete two semesters of biology + labs in addition to completing a separate biochemistry course since many medical programs consider biochemistry to be a chemistry course (this is true even when the biochemistry course is taught out of the Biology Department as it is at JHU).

The English/Writing Requirement

As stated by many medical and dental schools, one year of English (two courses) is a common premedical requirement. However, it should be noted that admission requirements may vary from school to school. After assessing the medical school admissions landscape and given the Johns Hopkins University-wide writing-intensive requirement that all students must fulfill, we recommend the following to fulfill the pre-med English requirement:

  • At least one introductory-level “writing intensive” course from the English and/or Writing Seminars departments. Although any introductory level course is acceptable, we recommend Expository Writing as one of your two courses.
  • A second humanities or social sciences class that fulfills the Johns Hopkins University writing-intensive requirement. For more information about the JHU writing-intensive requirement, please visit

IMPORTANT: Each health professional school may use its discretion about whether to accept specific coursework to fulfill pre-health course requirements. It is the responsibility of each applicant to research the curricular requirements of each health professional school where they plan to apply.

Summer Science Courses

Generally speaking, taking pre-health science requirements in the summer is discouraged. Health professions schools look for applicants who have demonstrated success in rigorous science courses. Taking science courses within a full course load during the academic year best reflects your ability to manage the science coursework you will encounter in health professions school. That said, many JHU students do choose to complete a prerequisite course over the summer. We encourage you to discuss your specific situation with a pre-professional advisor, so that we can review your portfolio holistically and provide individualized advice. If you do choose to take classes over the summer, be sure to get pre-approval through your Krieger or Whiting Academic Advising if you would like to transfer your coursework back to JHU, and also check with the Office of Pre-Professional Programs to make sure that the course you’ve selected is appropriate to fulfill pre-health prerequisites.

Other Important Caveats

  • Discuss your plan with both your academic advisor as well as a pre-professional advisor BEFORE registering for the summer course.
  • While spending one summer taking pre-health coursework may be acceptable, please keep in mind that the expectation is for you to complete your pre-health prerequisites during the academic year. Therefore, we recommend that you do not spend more than one summer taking pre-health coursework.
  • While we do prefer that students take all of their science coursework at JHU, many students plan to take summer courses at other institutions for reasons of convenience or financial considerations. If you choose to take summer coursework from another institution, please note that coursework should only be taken at a four-year institution (we advise against taking coursework from community colleges) in a live classroom (online coursework is discouraged).
  • Retain the syllabus for the course, and also plan to secure an official transcript from the institution when you are ready to you apply to medical school.

Taking Online Pre-Health Science Courses

We strongly discourage students from taking pre-health science courses online. Though we appreciate that significant advancements have been made in teaching technology, medical schools are still extremely skeptical about the depth and quality of online coursework. We recommend that you only take pre-health courses taught in a traditional style—in a classroom led by professors and TAs. This is especially important for courses with a laboratory component.

Taking Pre-Health Sciences Courses “S/U” (Pass/Fail)

Medical programs expect applicants to have earned a letter grade for each of the pre-health prerequisites. Therefore, all pre-health students must take all pre-health science courses for a letter grade. Please note that you are expected to earn a minimum grade of “C” in each pre-health prerequisite. If you are in danger of earning a “C” or lower in a prerequisite course, please consult with your academic advisor as well as a pre-professional advisor immediately to discuss your options.

NOTE: Prior to the 2017-2018 academic year, the letter grades earned by freshmen in their first semester at the university were not reported on the transcript and were instead given “S/U” designations. These were known as “covered grades”. Most medical schools are familiar with the JHU covered grades policy and they will accept transcripts with the freshman fall semester grades covered. Occasionally, however, a medical school may choose not to accept a JHU transcript with covered grades. In these instances, students/alumni may complete an “Uncovered Grades Request Form” and forward an official letter or email from the institution to to have those grades uncovered for that institution only.