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Choosing A Major

You should choose a major that you like and likes you back!

Doctorate Level Health Professions
(medical, dental, optometry, podiatry, veterinary)

There is no preferred major when applying to the doctorate level health professions. You can major in anything you want as long as you complete the pre-requisites to apply to these programs.

At most colleges and universities, including Stony Brook, there is no “premedical major” or “pre-health major.”  However, to be competitive for medical, dental, optometric, podiatric, or veterinary schools you need to finish up your bachelor’s degree, and therefore you must have a major.

When selecting a major you have to ask yourself a lot of questions. What topics are interesting? Does the course of study fit my style and my academic background? If you are not sure about many academic fields you might begin by writing down a list of things about biology, science, or health care that interest you. Then, think of the academic disciplines which could border on some of these issues and ideas. For example:

  • scientific method (Biology, Biochemistry, Philosophy, Physics)
  • ethics (Philosophy, History, and perhaps Anthropology)
  • communities and health (Anthropology, Sociology, History)
  • children: their growth, health and development (Psychology, Sociology)
  • managed care--the economics of health care (Economics, Politics)
  • world health, international health (Africana Studies, East Asian Studies, History, Anthropology)

You are encouraged to meet with departments of your interest and read about their curriculum in the undergraduate bulletin.  The Career Center also has great information on how majors and careers are related.

Is there any kind of major that you should steer away from?

  • Avoid choosing a major which has a course of study which would make it difficult or impossible to complete your pre-health prerequisites at the level of quality or within the time frame you need.
  • Don’t prepare yourself for one career by getting ready to enter another one.  Students who have career-oriented bachelors’ degrees often make very strong applicants to even the most competitive schools of the health professions, but the maturity and insight that they gained in putting their initial degree to work first is often a crucial component in their success.


Masters Level Health Professions
(physical therapy, physician assistant)

Just like the doctorate level health professions, there is no preferred major when applying to masters level professions such as physical therapy and physician assistant.  You can major in anything you want as long as you complete the pre-requisites to apply to these programs.  Please see above for suggestions on choosing a major. 


Bachelor Level Health Professions 
(ie. nursing, athletic training, respiratory care etc.)

If you are planning to apply to a program that is a bachelors degree (athletic training, nursing, respiratory care, social work, etc.), you may want or need to declare a different major while you are completing your pre-requisites for these programs.  If you apply to the program of your choice but don’t get in the first time around, you still need to make progress towards your degree. You are not, for example, a “nursing major” until you formally apply and are accepted into a nursing program.  Speak to an advisor for more information on planning your courses and possible back up majors. 

You may also need to have a major declared to be eligible for some financial aid programs. You should speak to someone in the Office of Student Financial Aid Services to see if this applies to you.