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How to Choose a Health Major

What is the "best" major to pick if I want to work in healthcare?

Good news, there is no "best" major. In fact, you can major in anything at the University of Minnesota and go on to work in healthcare. No specific major will give you an advantage in applying to graduate and professional schools. This article from U.S. News and World Report, "Choose the Right Undergraduate Major for Medical School" does an excellent job explaining this. Although this article focuses on medical school, the advice applies to many professional health graduate programs.

Questions to consider when choosing a health major: 

  • Am I choosing this major because I feel like I "should" or because I am interested in the subject?
  • Do I have room in my schedule to complete the pre-requisite courses for admission into my preferred graduate program?
  • Will I have enough energy at the end of the school day to gain experience (ex: working, shadowing, interning, volunteering, etc.)?

Parallel Planning in Health

As you explore health majors, you will note some have entrance requirements that must be completed before applying. In some cases, even if you meet these requirements, admission may be limited due to space.

If you are exploring majors that have entrance requirements, we recommend looking at options for a parallel plan (also known as a back-up plan). A parallel plan includes majors that relate to your interests and skills and can be declared without meeting additional requirements. Having multiple options allows you to pursue your goals even if you are not admitted to your first choice major. 

We recommend using the links on this page to explore and identify parallel plan options at the U, as well as learn about the variety of health careers available. The Pre-Health Student Resource Center also has many resources specifically around exploring and preparing for a health-related program.

Learning more about your interests, values, and skills can be helpful in identifying parallel plan options. Visit the Self-Awareness section of the CAPE site for activities that can help you learn more about yourself. 

If you would like support with developing a parallel plan, schedule a meeting with a CAPE Coach

Health Majors List

Direct-Path Majors

These majors allow you to go directly into a healthcare profession with your bachelor's degree.

Dental Hygiene

Health Services Management

Medical Laboratory Science

Mortuary Science

Nursing

Nutrition (Dietetics track)


Health Science Majors

The majors below focus exclusively or predominantly on biological and health sciences that prepare you for professional health programs (examples: Medical, Dental, Pharmacy, Veterinary, Physical Therapy, Speech Pathology, etc.). These majors can also lead to careers directly after graduation, although likely not in direct patient care. Most patient care roles require some form of licensure, certification, and/or graduate degree.

Note: These majors do not necessarily include all prerequisite courses needed for all professional health programs. Be sure to work with your academic adviser to ensure that you have planned in all prerequisite courses for your intended program.

Animal Science

Biochemistry

Biology

Biology, Society, and Environment

Biomedical Engineering

Cellular and Organismal Physiology

Chemistry B.A. and Chemistry B.S.

Chemical Engineering

Ecology, Evolution, and Behavior

Food Science

Genetics, Cell Biology, and Development

Health and Wellbeing Sciences

Human Physiology

Kinesiology

Microbiology

Neuroscience

Nutrition

Physical Activity and Health Promotion

Plant and Microbial Biology

Public Health

Speech-Language-Hearing Sciences

Health-Related Majors List

While not focusing exclusively on health sciences, the majors below have a connection to health and help build interpersonal and scientific skills relevant for many health career fields.

Anthropology (BS)

Bachelor of Individualized Studies: Life Sciences concentration, Public Health concentration, etc.

Inter-College Program: Life Sciences concentration, Public Health concentration, Holistic Health and Healing concentration, etc.

Psychology (BS)

Sociology (BS): Health Care and Careers sub-plan

Technical Writing and Communication: Biological and Health Sciences sub-plan

Career Paths in Health

Often students are interested in health-related majors because they want to prepare for health-related careers. There are many ways to work in healthcare, from interacting directly with patients to conducting research on a new drug.

Below, you will find resources to learn more about a variety of health careers:

Pre-Health Student Resource Center
Get help exploring health careers, building skills and preparing for admission into professional health programs

Profiles of Health Careers 
Get information about job descriptions, average salary, and required education for health careers

Pathways in Health Careers
Learn about the five main areas within healthcare careers, from biotechnology to therapeutic services

Career Services
Connect with the Career Services office for your college to get support in gaining experience