Getting into medical school is extremely competitive, with thousands of applicants vying for a limited number of seats each year. As you prepare your application, you may be wondering whether physics is a required prerequisite course for med school admission.

If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer to your question: Most medical schools require 1 year of physics with lab as a prerequisite for admission. While a handful of schools make physics optional, the vast majority expect applicants to have taken introductory physics.

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll discuss why physics is an important prerequisite for aspiring doctors, dive into medical school admissions requirements, and provide tips for excelling in your physics course.

The Importance of Physics for Future Doctors

Physics may not be the first subject that comes to mind when you think about medical school, but its importance cannot be underestimated in the field of medicine. Here are some key reasons why physics plays a crucial role in the education and practice of future doctors.

Understanding Human Physiology

Physics provides a foundation for understanding the principles of human physiology. By studying physics, aspiring doctors gain insights into how the body functions at a fundamental level. Concepts such as fluid dynamics, electromagnetism, and thermodynamics are essential for comprehending the intricate workings of the human body.

For example, understanding fluid dynamics helps doctors analyze blood flow and circulation, while knowledge of electromagnetism is vital in interpreting electrocardiograms (ECGs) and other diagnostic tests.

Operating Medical Equipment

Medical equipment, such as MRI scanners, X-ray machines, and ultrasound devices, relies heavily on principles of physics. Doctors who lack a solid understanding of physics may struggle to operate these complex machines effectively.

Physics knowledge enables doctors to interpret the results accurately and make informed diagnoses. For instance, knowledge of the principles of nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) is crucial in interpreting MRI scans and identifying abnormalities.

Performing Medical Procedures

Physics also plays a role in various medical procedures. For example, during surgeries, doctors often use lasers to cut through tissues or cauterize blood vessels. Understanding the behavior of light and how it interacts with different materials is crucial for using lasers safely and effectively.

Physics also comes into play when administering radiation therapy to cancer patients, ensuring that the radiation is targeted accurately to minimize damage to healthy tissues.

Conducting Medical Research

Physics is essential for conducting medical research and developing new technologies in the field of medicine. Many medical advancements, such as the development of medical imaging techniques like CT scans and PET scans, have their roots in physics.

By applying physics principles, doctors can push the boundaries of medical knowledge and develop innovative solutions to complex medical problems.

Physics Prerequisites for Medical Schools

When it comes to applying to medical school, many prospective students wonder if they need to take physics as part of their undergraduate coursework. The answer to this question depends on the specific medical schools you are applying to, as well as the requirements set by each individual institution.

1 Year with Lab is the Standard

For the majority of medical schools, one year of physics with a corresponding lab is a standard prerequisite. This requirement ensures that aspiring doctors have a solid foundation in the fundamental principles of physics that are relevant to the practice of medicine.

Topics covered in these courses may include mechanics, thermodynamics, electricity, and optics.

Medical schools often require applicants to complete two semesters of physics, typically referred to as Physics I and Physics II. These courses are designed to provide students with a comprehensive understanding of the concepts and principles that underlie the physical world.

Notable Exceptions with Optional Physics

While most medical schools require physics, there are some notable exceptions. Some medical schools may offer the option to substitute physics with other science courses, such as biology or chemistry. However, it is important to note that even if a particular school does not require physics, having a strong foundation in the subject can still be beneficial for medical school and beyond.

Physics helps develop critical thinking skills, problem-solving abilities, and a deeper understanding of the natural world. These skills can be valuable in medical school and in the practice of medicine, as physicians often encounter complex problems that require analytical thinking and creative solutions.

Meeting the Prerequisite at Community College

For students who are unable to take physics courses during their undergraduate studies, community colleges can be a valuable resource. Many medical schools accept prerequisite courses taken at community colleges, as long as they meet specific criteria.

It is important to check with each individual medical school to ensure that the courses taken at a community college will fulfill the physics requirement.

Succeeding in Your Physics Coursework

Physics coursework can be challenging, especially if you’re pursuing a career in medicine. However, mastering the principles of physics is crucial for understanding the complex workings of the human body and the technology used in medical practice.

Here are some tips to help you succeed in your physics coursework and prepare for medical school:

Don’t Underestimate the Difficulty

Physics is often considered one of the most challenging subjects, and it’s important not to underestimate the difficulty of the coursework. Many medical schools require physics as a prerequisite, so it’s essential to take it seriously and put in the necessary effort.

Don’t be discouraged if you find it challenging at first – with dedication and practice, you can overcome the obstacles and excel in your physics coursework.

Make Use of Office Hours and Tutoring

If you’re struggling with physics, don’t hesitate to seek help. Most universities offer office hours where you can meet with your professor or teaching assistant to ask questions and clarify concepts. Additionally, many universities provide tutoring services specifically for physics.

Taking advantage of these resources can greatly enhance your understanding of the subject and improve your performance in coursework.

Focus on Conceptual Understanding

Physics is not just about memorizing formulas and solving equations. It’s essential to develop a solid conceptual understanding of the principles and theories behind the equations. Take the time to grasp the fundamental concepts and how they relate to real-world phenomena.

Understanding the underlying principles will not only make the coursework more manageable but will also help you apply physics principles effectively in medical school and future medical practice.

Get Help Early if You’re Struggling

If you find yourself struggling with physics coursework, it’s crucial to seek help sooner rather than later. Falling behind can make it even more challenging to catch up. Speak to your professor, attend tutoring sessions, or form study groups with classmates.

There are also online resources, such as Khan Academy and Physics Classroom, that offer comprehensive explanations and practice problems. Remember, asking for help is a sign of strength and dedication to your academic success.

By following these tips, you can succeed in your physics coursework and build a solid foundation of knowledge that will benefit you in medical school and beyond. Remember, physics is not just a hurdle to overcome – it is an essential tool that will help you understand and contribute to the advancements in medical science and technology.

Physics Concepts to Master

Physics is a fundamental subject in medical school that lays the foundation for understanding the intricacies of the human body and medical procedures. While it may seem intimidating at first, mastering key physics concepts can greatly benefit aspiring medical professionals.

Here are some important areas of physics to focus on:


Mechanics is the branch of physics that deals with motion and forces. Understanding concepts like velocity, acceleration, and Newton’s laws of motion can help medical students comprehend the mechanics of the human body.

For example, knowledge of mechanics is crucial in understanding how forces act on bones and muscles, enabling physicians to diagnose and treat injuries effectively.

Electricity and Magnetism

Electricity and magnetism play a significant role in various medical technologies and procedures. Familiarity with these concepts is essential for understanding topics such as electrocardiograms (ECGs), magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), and defibrillation.

By grasping the principles of electricity and magnetism, medical students can appreciate the functioning of medical devices and interpret diagnostic results accurately.

Waves and Optics

Waves and optics are crucial in understanding how light and other forms of energy interact with the human body. Medical imaging techniques like X-rays, ultrasound, and lasers rely on the principles of waves and optics.

By studying topics such as reflection, refraction, and diffraction, medical students can gain insights into the behavior of these energy forms and their applications in diagnostics and treatment.

Atomic and Nuclear Physics

Atomic and nuclear physics delve into the structure and behavior of atoms and the phenomena associated with nuclear reactions. This knowledge is particularly important in the field of nuclear medicine, where radioactive isotopes are used for imaging and therapy.

Understanding the principles of atomic and nuclear physics allows medical professionals to make informed decisions regarding the safe and effective use of these techniques.

It is worth noting that while physics concepts are important for medical school, the level of depth required may vary depending on the specific medical field. For example, a radiologist may require a more comprehensive understanding of atomic and nuclear physics compared to a general practitioner.

Mastering physics concepts not only enhances one’s understanding of medical principles but also fosters critical thinking and problem-solving skills. It enables medical professionals to approach complex medical scenarios with a scientific mindset and make evidence-based decisions.

So, if you’re considering a career in medicine, don’t shy away from physics – embrace it as a valuable tool in your medical journey.

Preparing for the MCAT Physics Section

Content Covered

The Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) is a challenging exam that assesses a student’s readiness for medical school. One of the sections included in the MCAT is physics, which evaluates a candidate’s understanding of fundamental principles in the field.

It may seem daunting for those who do not have a strong background in physics, but with proper preparation, it is possible to excel in this section.

The physics section of the MCAT covers a wide range of topics, including mechanics, electricity and magnetism, waves and optics, and thermodynamics. Understanding these concepts is crucial for medical school because they lay the foundation for understanding various biological processes and medical technologies.

For example, a solid grasp of mechanics is essential for comprehending the principles behind human movement and the mechanics of the cardiovascular system.

It is important to note that the physics section of the MCAT does not require advanced knowledge or complex mathematical calculations. Instead, it focuses on testing a candidate’s understanding of basic concepts and their ability to apply them in real-world scenarios.

Practice Concept Application

To excel in the physics section of the MCAT, it is essential to practice applying the concepts learned. Merely memorizing formulas and theories will not be sufficient. This section requires critical thinking and problem-solving skills.

One effective way to practice is by solving MCAT-style physics problems. Many resources, including reputable study guides and online practice tests, offer a variety of questions that simulate the actual exam.

By regularly practicing these problems, students can improve their ability to analyze and solve physics problems efficiently.

Furthermore, students should aim to understand the underlying principles behind each question rather than relying solely on memorization. This approach will not only help in answering MCAT questions accurately but also strengthen the foundation of physics knowledge for future medical studies.

Brush Up on Math Skills

While the physics section of the MCAT does not require complex mathematical calculations, it does involve some mathematical reasoning. Therefore, it is crucial to have a solid understanding of basic math skills, such as algebra and trigonometry.

Brushing up on these math skills will not only aid in understanding the physics concepts but also in solving problems effectively. Students should review topics such as solving equations, manipulating variables, and understanding graphs and data.

Being comfortable with these mathematical concepts will give students an advantage in the physics section of the MCAT.

There are several online resources and textbooks available that can help students refresh their math skills in preparation for the MCAT. These resources provide explanations, examples, and practice problems, allowing students to reinforce their understanding of math concepts.


While medical schools don’t expect you to major in physics, this foundational science course provides critical background knowledge for aspiring doctors. Mastering concepts in mechanics, electricity, magnetism, and optics will prepare you to understand the human body on a deeper level.

With diligent study habits and proactive use of academic resources, you can develop the physics proficiency needed to excel on the MCAT and in medical school.

Physics may seem intimidating initially, but don’t let it deter you from pursuing your medical dreams. Approach this prerequisite as an opportunity to strengthen your scientific foundation and demonstrate your academic abilities.

With hard work and commitment, you can succeed in physics while getting one step closer to becoming a future physician.

Similar Posts