Your Education in Health Care
While "pre-health" is not a specific undergraduate major at the University of Washington, we do offer undergraduate degrees in a variety of health sciences (e.g. Environmental Health, Medical Technology, Nursing, Public Health, Speech and Hearing Sciences) as well as preparation for graduate health professional programs.
Choosing a career in health care is not one decision but a series of decisions based on exploration, investigation and reflection. To successfully prepare for a health care program, students will need to continually assess their academic readiness, motivation, and skills in sciences as well as humanities and social sciences. Getting involved in health care (volunteering and shadowing) as well as community service are essential elements to exploring what the profession is really about and if it is a good match for you.
We have also provided in-depth information on preparing for each of the following fields.
Pre-dental students are preparing to apply to graduate programs in dentistry at the same time as completing an undergraduate degree. They are not only taking prerequisite coursework for their intended graduate programs, but are also pursuing experiences to develop themselves as strong applicants.
Environmental health is the study and management of the environmental factors that impact human health. The field concerns itself with maintaining a safe supply of food and drinking water; discovering the mechanisms of environmentally related diseases; treating and disposing of solid and toxic wastes; reducing air, water, food, and noise pollution; and controlling workplace hazards. As a program within Public Health, its activities focus on entire populations rather than on individual patients.
After foundation science courses, students in the Bachelor of Science in Environmental Health complete courses in sampling and analysis, toxicology, risk assessment, epidemiology, microbiology, technical writing and choose electives organized around three interest areas: Biomedical Sciences, Environmental Public Health Practice, and Health & Environmental Sciences.
Health administrators and managers lead health care organizations by developing and allocating resources for clinical programs and enterprises committed to providing high level quality and service, improving community health, and serving the medical needs of patients and their families.
The degree one pursues to prepare for a career in health administration/management is the Master of Health Administration (MHA) degree. MHA programs tend to be housed in Schools of Business or Public Health. The University of Washington MHA Program is housed in the School of Public Health under the Department of Health Services.
Medical Technology is where basic laboratory science meets the practice of medicine. It is a profession of highly knowledgeable and skilled individuals who primarily perform diagnostic laboratory tests on patient samples of blood, other body fluids, or tissue. This is a critical part of health care, as the results obtained by these laboratory tests are used in the diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of diseases. If you enjoy the biological and chemical sciences, laboratory work, and care about people then Medical Technology is an excellent career choice. Using microscopes, stains, precision instruments, computers, and molecular techniques, you, as one of the medical and technical team, will help investigate and solve the riddles of disease.
Pre-medical technology students are completing the required prerequisite courses in order to apply to the Medical Technology program. Once you are in the MT program, you will be taking courses that prepare you for the science skills needed for this profession and gaining experience in the application of those skills during your clinical rotations.
To be "pre-med" means you are embarking on a course of study aimed at preparing you for to apply to a medical school (or other post-graduate health profession). It means you are taking the classes and gaining the experiences that these schools look for in qualified applicants.
Pre-nursing students are completing the necessary prerequisite courses in order to apply to a nursing program. You are taking courses that prepare you for the science of nursing and gaining experience in relevant areas like health care, community service, and leadership.
Pre-occupational therapy students are completing the necessary prerequisite courses in order to apply to a graduate program in occupational therapy. Pre-OT students are also learning about the profession by volunteering with practicing professionals while developing their leadership skills and awareness of community needs.
To be "pre-optometry" means you are embarking on a course of study aimed at preparing you for application to optometry school. It means you are taking the classes and gaining the experiences that these schools look for in qualified applicants.
A pre-pharmacy student is taking coursework to provide a solid foundation in the sciences necessary to succeed in a pharmacy program. Pre-pharmacy students also use experiential-learning opportunities to gain insights into the role of a pharmacist within the healthcare field, and to help them determine if the profession is right for them.
Pre-physical therapy students are completing the necessary prerequisite courses in order to apply to a graduate program in physical therapy. Some PT programs require intensive science preparation, similar to pre-med preparation, while others have far fewer science prerequisites. Pre-PT students are also learning about the profession by volunteering with practicing professionals while developing their leadership skills and awareness of community needs.
The American Academy of Physician Assistants (AAPA) defines a physician assistant (PA) as a medical professional who works as part of a team with a doctor. Physician assistants are graduates of accredited PA educational programs and are nationally-certified and state-licensed to practice medicine with the supervision of a physician.
Pre-PA students are completing the necessary prerequisite courses in order to apply to PA programs. Pre-PA students are also seeking a way to gain hundreds (in many cases thousands) of hours of paid medical experience over the next few years before applying to a PA program.
Podiatric medicine is the profession that strives to improve the overall health and well-being of patients by focusing on preventing, diagnosing, and treating conditions associated with the foot and ankle.
Are you interested in a field of medicine highly involved with athletes and athletics? Perhaps pediatric surgery? Perhaps trauma? Perhaps just helping people do something most of us take for granted – walk painlessly? Many diseases manifest earliest in the body’s extremities. Podiatrists are frequently the first to diagnose diabetes and heart disease. Podiatrists work in all environments, from private practice to large hospitals. It is also a branch of medicine that provides practitioners with control over their time, allowing them to spend more time with their families.
Prosthetics & Orthotics
An orthotist fabricates and fits orthopedic braces. A prosthetist creates, designs and fits artificial limbs. Students preparing for Prosthetics and Orthotics are completing the necessary prerequisite courses to apply to the P&O program. You are taking courses that prepare you for the science skills needed for this profession and gaining experience in the application of those skills in the clinical arena.
The mission of public health is to fulfill society's interest in assuring healthy conditions for entire populations or communities. This is accomplished through organized, interdisciplinary efforts that address the multiple determinants of health—biological; behavioral; environmental; cultural; social, family and community networks; living and working conditions; etc.—in communities and populations at risk for disease and injury.
The Public Health Major offers a liberal arts degree that provides undergraduates critical thinking skills and a foundation to address health problems faced by human populations. Students learn about the tools that public health professionals use to analyze causes, risk factors and the spread of disease. Students work collaboratively in health education, emerging infectious diseases, access to health care, health care delivery systems, and the impact that personal behavior, society, genetics and the environment have on health outcomes.
Speech & Hearing Sciences
The field of Speech and Hearing Sciences (SPHSC) addresses the fundamental aspects of normal human communication (hearing, speech, and language) and swallowing, and the nature and causes of communication and swallowing disorders in children and adults, as well as the identification, prevention and treatment of those disorders.
SPHSC undergraduates complete an academic course of study that prepares them to apply to graduate school to pursue research and teaching careers, or clinical careers as Speech-Language Pathologists (SLPs) or Audiologists.
Undergraduates learn about the clinical professions by observing and volunteering with practicing professionals across a variety of settings including schools, clinics, private practices, hospitals, and skilled nursing facilities.
Pre-Vet students are preparing to apply to graduate programs in Veterinary Medicine at the same time as completing an undergraduate degree. They are not only taking prerequisite coursework for their intended graduate programs, but are also pursuing experiences to develop themselves as strong applicants.
We are excited to be your advising resource and partner as you explore, plan your academic coursework, reflect on your health care experiences, and go through the application process. There's not one right way to prepare for these programs; working with an adviser can help you to individualize the pre-health information in this web site to your situation. Preparing and scheduling a pre-health advising appointment.
All students are welcome to visit our blog, where we post about information and activities that are of interest to students considering or preparing for a career in the Health Sciences.