How to Become a Medical Historian

How to Become a Medical Historian

To become a medical historian, you have to get a bachelor's degree with plans on getting a Ph.D., as this is the usual degree for a professional medical historian.

Your Ph.D. can either focus in the history of medicine or science, or both. You can also get your medical degree and study history in a master's program.

Some medical historians are both Ph.D.s and M.D.s or D.O.s. The History of Science Society has a list of graduate programs that can meet your needs.

1. Earn a Bachelor's Degree (4 Years)

Since there are a few options here, you can choose whether you want to go a pre-med route, or major in the Humanities while taking courses in biology, anatomy, physics, and chemistry, as you will need these for pre-requisites to study medical history in graduate school.

Either way you decide to go, you need to be versed in science and mathematics. If you go a pre-med route your coursework can look like the following:

Grade Level Example Courses
  • General Chemistry I & Lab
  • General Chemistry II & Lab
  • Biology & Lab
  • Calculus I
  • Physics I & Lab
  • Physics II & Lab
  • Humanities Requirements
  • Electives
  • Organic Chemistry I & Lab
  • Organic Chemistry II & Lab
  • Fundamentals of Microbiology & Lab
  • Genetics
  • Physiology
  • Humanities Requirements
  • Electives
  • Cell Structure & Function
  • General Virology & Lab
  • Microbial Genetics & Lab
  • Biochemistry I
  • Biochemistry II
  • Physics
  • Humanities Requirements
  • Electives
  • Health in the US
  • Health Education & Planning
  • Healthcare Management
  • Health Policy
  • Capstone
  • Remaining Requirements & Electives

2. Earn a Medical Degree -or- Skip to #3

If you want to go to medical school, you must first take the MCAT, or Medical College Admission Test, a 7.5 hour, standardized, multiple choice exam used to assess the applicant's knowledge of science, reasoning, communication, and writing skills.

The MCAT is divided into four sections:

Section Section Breakdown
Biological & Biochemical Foundations of Living Systems
  • 59 multiple-choice questions
  • 95 minutes
  • Tests biology, organic chemistry, inorganic chemistry, and biochemistry
Chemical & Physical Foundations of Biological Systems
  • 59 multiple-choice questions
  • 95 minutes
  • Tests biochemistry, biology, general chemistry, organic chemistry, and physics
Psychological, Social, & Biological Foundations of Behavior
  • 59 multiple-choice questions
  • 95 minutes
  • Tests introductory psychology, sociology, and biology
Critical Analysis & Reasoning Skills
  • 52 multiple-choice questions
  • 90 minutes
  • Tess reading comprehension, humanities, and social sciences

You can find study materials, MCAT registration, and your test scores on the MCAT website. If you are unsatisfied with your score on any of the aforementioned exams, you are free to retake them. Depending on the school, some will average your scores and others will simply take your most recent.

After you pass the MCAT, you can get into Medical School. You have two program choices in medical school: a Doctor of Medicine (MD) program or a Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (DO) program.

Each degree focuses on the same methods of treatment, but a DO degree also focuses on osteopathic manipulative medicine.

Whichever path you choose, you are facing 4-5 years in medical school. Your first couple of years will focus on the following:

  • Basic pathology
  • Anatomy
  • Biology
  • Other life sciences

In the second half of the program, you will work with doctors and other healthcare professionals to advance your skills and focus in on psychiatric practice. You can also participate in research programs, if you get the invitation.

3. Earn a Master's or Doctoral Degree (2 - 6 Years)

Some university medical schools have programs in the history of medicine. There, you will research and learn all the intellectual, political, cultural, and social history of disease, health care, and medical science.

You will gain a historical perspective on the role health, medicine, and disease play in society today. It prepares students to think critically about historical and contemporary health issues of today.

If you majored in the history of medicine as an undergrad, you may be eligible to study in the Ph.D. program instead of going through the master's program as well.

First you need to take the GRE and find out what placement you need to go for. Most graduate programs require the GRE for admittance. It's a 3 hour and 45 minute, standardized, multiple choice exam that covers analytical writing, quantitative reasoning, and verbal reasoning.

The GRE is broken down into six primary sections:

Section Section Breakdown
1 Analytical Writing Section
  • 2 writing assignments
  • 60 minutes
  • Tests student's abilities to assess arguments and communicate ideas.
2 Quantitative Reasoning Sections
  • 20 multiple-choice questions
  • 35 minutes per section
  • Tests student's abilities to solve mathematical problems and interpret data.
2 Verbal Reasoning Sections
  • 20 questions per section
  • 30 minutes per section
  • Tests the ability to understand and analyze written material
1 Unscored Section
  • A duplicate of one of the above sections

You can find study materials, GRE registration, and test scores on the GRE website.