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Requirements for Other Health Professions Programs

In general, students seeking entry into an allied health graduate school are well served by following the recommendations on this site and making modifications for individual school requirements. 

For example, nurse practitioner and physician assistant programs generally do not require physics but do require anatomy and physiology, so a student can use the course plans but substitute anatomy and physiology for physics. 

Holy Cross offers support and advice for students seeking entry into such health fields as dentistry, veterinary medicine, nurse practitioner, physician assistant, podiatry, optometry, physical therapy, public health, and many others. The advisors can assist in making a plan to meet the requirements for entry into such professions schools. 

The following offers advice on preparing for various health professions programs. Students may also want to consult this list of online resources for allied health fields.

Dental School

Most dental schools have the following common requirements for admission.

Applicants usually need to have completed all of the courses before application, but some schools allow a non-Dental Admissions Test course like biochemistry to be in progress. Many science majors will find that the science requirements are fulfilled as they complete their major course requirements, though the purpose of these requirements is to encourage students to consider any major.

     •    Chemistry: Four semesters Atoms and Molecules (General Chemistry I), Organic Chemistry I & II, Equilibrium and Reactivity (General Chemistry II)
     •    Biology: Two semesters Introduction to Cellular and Molecular Biology (Biol 161), Introduction to the Functional Biology of Multicellular Organisms (Biol 162) or (Introduction to Biology 1 & 2 or General Biology 1 & 2
     •    Mathematics: Two semesters Calculus 1 and another college math course, e.g., statistics or Calculus II equivalent; statistics is recommended and often required
     •    Physics: Two semesters Introductory Physics I & II. The lab is included with each course.
     •    English: Two semesters any English department course and an additional literature course taught in English

In addition to these requirements (and taking the Dental Admission Test), many schools also require a semester of biochemistry. Individual schools may have additional requirements as well, so it is wise to examine the admission requirements of dental schools you are interested in when making your course plan.

Nurse Practitioner  

Holy Cross does not offer a pathway for a student to graduate and become a registered nurse without earning an additional degree or training elsewhere. However, many students apply to graduate nursing programs to gain a master's degree or doctorate in nursing and earn a nurse practitioner's (NP or DNP) or registered nurse (RN) license after graduating from Holy Cross. 

These programs are typically called "graduate entry," "direct entry" and are usually "accelerated." The typical program is two to four years of training, where the first year consists of basic nursing courses, culminating in taking the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX RN) certification exam. The following years are rotations and specialty training. DNP programs are typically at least a year or two longer than master's programs.

Direct entry graduate nursing programs vary very widely in prerequisites and other requirements, so it is important to research requirements of individual schools.

While the science course requirements are similar to other health professions schools, most do not require physics or a second semester of organic or general chemistry, some do not require a second semester of introduction to biology, but most do require coursework in human anatomy and physiology, microbiology, nutrition, social sciences and statistics. Some have additional requirements in courses like pathophysiology. Students may need to take some coursework away from Holy Cross, for example through the Higher Education Consortium for Central Massachusetts (HECCMA). Students may take one course per semester at a HECCMA school as part of their Holy Cross course load, covered by Holy Cross tuition. To take such a course, students need approval from the Holy Cross Registrar's Office, class dean, and health professions advisor.

The following is a common list of requirements for direct entry nurse practitioner programs, though schools vary considerably.

     •    Biology: One semester of introductory biology, one year of human anatomy and physiology, one semester of microbiology
     •    Chemistry: One semester each of general and organic chemistry (e.g., Atoms and Molecules and Organic Chemistry). Some nursing schools accept a one semester chemistry course for nurses that covers both general and organic chemistry.
     •    Statistics: One semester
     •    Nutrition: One semester
     •    Psychology: Introductory psychology and developmental psychology through the lifespan

Learn more about nurse practitioner careers on the Learn How to Become website.

Optometry  

Doctor of optometry (O.D.) programs have requirements similar to medical school.

The Association of Schools and Colleges of Optometry provides detailed information about prerequisites. Admission to optometry school also requires the Optometry Admission Test (OAT).

The following is a common list of requirements for optometry programs, though schools vary somewhat in prerequisites. You should investigate requirements of individual schools while forming your academic plan.

     •    Biology: One year of introductory (general) biology and one semester of microbiology. One or two semesters of human anatomy and physiology is often recommended.
     •    Chemistry: One year of general chemistry (e.g. Atoms and Molecules and Equilibrium and Reactivity), one semester of organic chemistry, and often one semester of biochemistry
     •    Physics: Two semesters Introductory General Physics I & II or General Physics for Everyday Life I & II. The lab is included with each course.
     •    Mathematics: One year, usually one semester of calculus and one semester of statistics
     •    Social science: One semester of introductory psychology
     •    English: One year of English, may include literature courses in other departments

Pharmacy  

Doctor of pharmacy (Pharm.D.) programs provide training for licensed pharmacists. While requirements are not standardized, they are similar to medical school often with additional coursework in microbiology. In addition, most pharmacy programs require the Pharmacy College Admission Test (PCAT) admissions exam. A wealth of information can be found through PharmCAS.

The following is a common list of requirements for PharmD programs, though schools vary considerably in prerequisites. A list of requirements for individual schools may be found on the American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy website.

     •    Chemistry: Two semesters of general chemistry Atoms and Molecules and Equilibrium and Reactivity and two semesters of organic chemistry
     •    Biology: Two semesters of general biology Introduction to Cellular and Molecular Biology (Biol 161), Introduction to the Functional Biology of Multicellular Organisms (Biol 162) and 1 semester of microbiology
     •    Mathematics: Two semesters Calculus 1 and Calculus 2 or equivalent and one semester of statistics
     •    Physics: Two semesters Introductory General Physics I & II or General Physics for Everyday Life I & II. The lab is included with each course.

Holy Cross has a linkage with Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences (MCPHS) in Worcester for the accelerated doctor of pharmacy program and can assist with applications to other graduate pharmacy programs.

Learn more about pharmacist careers on the Learn How to Become website.

Physical Therapy

Requirements for doctor of physical therapy (D.P.T.) schools vary between schools. 

The American Physical Therapy Association provides a wealth of information on this career path, including links to programs and information on prerequisites. Applications are submitted through PTCAS.

Students interested in a career as a physical therapist should investigate requirements at individual schools. In addition to the requirements below, some schools require courses in exercise physiology, medical terminology and other areas. Most physical therapy programs also require some shadowing experience.

While prerequisites vary between schools, the following is a list of common requirements:

     •    Chemistry: Two semesters, check with individual schools to see specific courses
     •    Biology: Two semesters of introductory biology Introduction to Cellular and Molecular Biology (Biol 161), Introduction to the Functional Biology of Multicellular Organisms (Biol 162) and two semesters of anatomy and physiology.
     •    Physics: Two semesters Introductory General Physics I & II or General Physics for Everyday Life I & II. The lab is included with each course. Physics requires Calculus 1 at Holy Cross.
     •    Statistics: One semester
     •    Psychology: One or two semesters

Learn more about physical therapist careers on the Learn How to Become website.

Physician Assistant

In recent years, there has been growing interest in the physician assistant (P.A.) career, and indeed, the number of physician assistant graduate schools has expanded. Because requirements vary, it is important that interested students research individual schools.

One measurement of quality is the pass rate on the physician assistant license exam. If a school does not publish it, we advise you ask for it. Physician assistant programs have various start dates and application deadlines. The central application service is called Central Application Service for Physician Assistants (CASPA). CASPA provides a chart with participating program deadlines. In addition to the common application, CASPA requires three separate evaluation letters to be sent through their service. CASPA does not accept a committee letter, though one of your three letters may be from the health professions advising office.

Physician assistant programs have similar requirements to nurse practitioner programs though, like nurse practitioner programs, requirements vary from school to school. Compared to nurse practitioner schools, physician assistant schools often require more natural science coursework and fewer social science and nutrition course requirements. 

Physician assistant programs often require extensive clinical work before application, ranging from three months to a year or more of full-time patient contact work. As with courses, different physician assistant schools accept different types of experiences to fulfill this requirement. Applicants often get this experience working as a medical assistant, nurse's aide, phlebotomist, or personal care attendant, for example. Work as an emergency medical technician (EMT) is accepted at some physician assistant schools, but not others. The Red Cross offers training classes to obtain certifications for many clinical positions. Many community colleges offer similar classes.

The following is a common list of requirements for physician assistant programs, though schools vary considerably in prerequisites. Most physician assistant programs require a 3.0 GPA overall and in required science courses to consider an application. Most physician assistant programs require all courses to be taken at a four-year college (that is, not at a community college) and not online.

     •    Biology: One year of introductory (general) biology, one year of human anatomy and physiology, one semester of microbiology
     •    Chemistry: One year of general chemistry (e.g. Atoms and Molecules and Equilibrium and Reactivity), one semester of organic chemistry (or biochemistry)
     •    Statistics: One semester
     •    Social science: One semester of introductory psychology

Holy Cross has a linkage with the physician assistant program at Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences (MCPHS) in Worcester and can assist with applications to this and other physician assistant programs.
Learn more about medical assistant careers on the Learn How to Become website.

Podiatry  

Podiatric medical doctors (DPM) focus on treating the lower extremity but have many sub-specialties including sports medicine, surgery, trauma, pediatrics, gerontology, etc. 

Prerequisites are identical to medical school, and include the MCAT, though podiatric schools typically admit applicants with much lower GPA and MCAT scores than allopathic or osteopathic programs. 

Information about podiatric education and careers can be found through the American Podiatric Medical Association (APMA).

Public Health

Master of public health programs can provide a good supplement for medical or other health professions school or a gateway to many interesting careers on its own. 

Public health professions at the master's level may work in such areas as biostatistics, epidemiology, environmental health sciences, health services administration, and social and behavioral sciences. 

Requirements for master of public health programs vary by specialty so it is important to research individual programs. Most majors at Holy Cross will provide a good foundation for studying public health. Programs are usually two years, though some accelerated programs are available (especially when paired with an allopathic, osteopathic or post-baccalaureate master's program).

For more information about careers and study in public health, check out publichealthonline.orgpublichealth.org or mastersinpublichealth.com.

Veterinary Medical School  

Most veterinary schools have requirements similar to medical school though often have additional required coursework in biology, microbiology, social sciences, and humanities.

In addition, veterinary schools require applicants to have significant experience working with small and large animals. The veterinary school association website has links to individual veterinary schools which list individual requirements.

The University of Massachusetts Veterinary and Animal Sciences program lists veterinary requirements throughout the country: list of veterinary schools and requirements (PDF).

 

Template for Forming Academic Plan 

Students may find it helpful to use this course planning worksheet (PDF) to work out a four-year schedule. This provides a grid to fill in courses by semester and lists MCAT, medical school and common area requirements for reference.