You need to consider your major when you plan to go on to dental school, but not for the reasons you might think. Because the majority of dental schools accept students with degrees in any subject, it’s more important that you meet course prerequisites than hold a specific degree. Some degrees, however, are better suited for preparing you not only to enter dental school but also to practice dentistry.
The Required Courses
Before you select a major, you should acquaint yourself with the prerequisites of the dental schools you’ll eventually apply to. Although these vary from university to university, they commonly include psychology or sociology, organic and inorganic chemistry, microbiology, biology, physics and English composition. You'll probably have to take some courses, such as English composition, to satisfy the general education requirements of any degree. For other courses, such as microbiology, you might need to select as an elective, depending on the degree you choose. Keep in mind that for science prerequisites, you’ll need a lab component, not just a lecture.
Science Majors Get a Boost
According to the American Dental Education Association, most students who enter dental school have chosen to major in the sciences. This is not because dental schools necessarily give preference to these students, but rather because dental school involves a large amount of science training, both before and during. Majors you might consider if you’re interested in the sciences include those in the physical sciences, such as physics or chemistry, or in the life sciences, such as biology, microbiology, physiology or neuroscience. Some schools also offer pre-dental majors that focus on the sciences.
Dentistry as a Business
Although business majors might seem like a counterintuitive choice for aspiring dentists, these degrees can be useful. After all, many dentists run their own practices. You’ll gain business knowledge and skill through your core courses, and you can still take the necessary science courses as electives. Choosing a business major is also a good way to ensure you’ll have an alternative career route in case you change your mind or are not accepted into dental school. Majors to consider include marketing, business information systems, human resources management and business administration.
Don't Forget the Social Sciences
Dentists need strong interpersonal skills; after all, their job is ultimately about providing a service -- often to people who are in pain or nervous and scared. Earning a degree in the social sciences is one route to gaining this sensitivity while you’re studying the physical and life sciences as electives. If you also consider that dental schools look for well-rounded students, at least according to Johns Hopkins University’s Office of Pre-Professional Programs and Advising, then earning a social science degree can help you stand out as broadly educated. Degree programs you might choose in this area include sociology, psychology, communication, anthropology or history.
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