Pre-law and Pre-med Studies
These new emphases within the philosophy major are designed to prepare students for entry into law school or medical school.
Philosophy is a rigorous and well-respected major that hones a student's critical thinking and analytical skills.
Students who are interested in going to law school should consider philosophy as a primary major. Although the American Bar Association website indicates that law schools do not favor a particular major in their admissions practices, the American Philosophical Association determined in a report titled "Philosophy Student Performance on the Law School Admissions Test" that "philosophy majors consistently perform best or near best on graduate school admission exams, year after year and across various sections compared to other majors," adding "… the success of philosophy graduates on the Law School Admissions Test (LSAT) is persistent, and despite changes in the content and scoring, students of philosophy regularly outperform their peers."
That finding is not surprising, because the curriculum of the philosophy major program trains students extensively in critical analysis of texts, analytical thinking skills, verbal communication, and rigorous, persuasive writing. Each of these skill sets is crucial to success in law school. Beyond this, the UC Davis Department of Philosophy conducts a variety of courses on topics relevant to students who plan to practice law. These courses encompass instruction in critical reasoning, logic, ethics and philosophy of law. Students who recently graduated from UC Davis with A.B. degrees in philosophy have enrolled in law school at UC Davis, UC San Diego, UCLA, and the University of Chicago, among others.
Philosophy is an excellent primary or secondary major for students who are interested in attending medical school. Ethics is an increasingly important component of medical education as well as medical practice. Despite the common belief that a major in the biological sciences is required for admission to medical school, only half of students admitted to med schools followed this track. Completion of a philosophy major may help the pre-med applicant stand out among the crowd. In fact, admitted humanities majors have slightly higher MCAT scores than those from the sciences. A US News & World Report article titled "Choose the Right Undergraduate Major for Medical School" explains why choice of undergraduate major has a bearing on performance in graduate school.
An American Medical Student Association article titled "Major Anxiety: If You Think Biochemistry Is Your Ticket to Medical School, Think Again" [link to http://www.amsa.org/members/amsa-premeds/premed-rx/major-anxiety/] documents that applicants who completed their undergraduate work in philosophy have the highest medical school acceptance rate of all majors, at greater than 50 percent.
Majoring in philosophy gives pre-med students firm grounding in critical thinking and analytical abilities that medical school admission boards value. These intellectual skill sets constitute a crucial foundation for a successful career in medicine.
The philosophy major program at UC Davis is flexible to accommodate a pre-med student's enrollment in prerequisite science courses for admission to medical school. Indeed, the course offerings in the philosophy department — notably bioethics, appraising scientific reasoning, and philosophy of biology — complement those in the sciences extraordinarily well.