So you are thinking about pursuing a professional career—dentistry, medicine, pharmacy, nursing, physical therapy, law, etc. People often choose these programs because they want to make a difference and meet essential needs in others’ lives. These careers also often provide the flexibility and financial stability many students and their families are looking for. At Walla Walla University we care about you having not only a successful career but a meaningful career as well and believe we are uniquely positioned to help you reach your professional goals.
What is a pre-professional program?
Pre-professional programs are tracks in undergraduate programs that prepare you for a professional degree after your bachelor's. You don’t earn the professional degree at WWU, but you take the college-level classes you’ll need to do well on entrance exams, meet application requirements for pre-requisites, and succeed in professional programs.
How is doing a pre-professional different from just getting a degree?
In addition to earning a degree at WWU, you’re paired with an advisor who knows the classes you’ll need to take and the skills you’ll need to gain to pass your professional program entrance exam. While most professional programs require you to have a bachelor’s degree to get into the program, not all do. It’s a good idea to get a bachelor’s though even if it’s not a requirement so you can have more flexibility later in your career.
Not sure which one is right for you yet?
Don’t worry! You don't have to make this decision now.
You can talk with our professional advisors and plan your first year carefully to keep your options open while you are still learning what fits you best.
Be confident in your career potential.
The Student Development Center provides services that are uniquely geared to set you up for a strong start as a working professional.
Nature of Work: Dentists diagnose, prevent, and treat problems of the teeth and tissues of the mouth. In aesthetic dentistry, they remove decay and fill cavities, examine X-rays, place protective plastic sealants on children's teeth, straighten, whiten, and repair fractured teeth. They also perform corrective surgery of the gums and supporting bones to treat gum diseases. Dentists extract teeth, place dental implants, make molds, and take measurements for dentures to replace missing teeth. In addition, they provide instruction in diet, brushing, flossing, and the use of fluorides, and in other areas of dental care. They also administer anesthetics and write prescriptions for antibiotics and other medications. Dentists may operate a general practice or may specialize in any of the following areas: endodontics, implantology, oral surgery, orthodontics, pathology, pedodontics, periodontics, or prosthodontics.
Professional Training: To qualify for licensing, candidates must graduate from an approved dental school and pass a State Board Exam. Licensed professionals may go on for advanced training in order to teach or to specialize.
Nature of Work: The legal system affects nearly every aspect of our society, from buying a home to crossing the street. Lawyers form the backbone of this vital system, linking it to society in numerous ways.
Professional Training: The required college and law school education usually takes 7 years of full-time study after high school—4 years of undergraduate study, followed by 3 years of law school. Law school applicants must have a bachelor’s degree to qualify for admission.
Preparation: Although there is no recommended “prelaw” major, prospective lawyers should develop proficiency in writing and speaking, reading, researching, analyzing, and thinking logically—skills needed to succeed both in law school and in the profession. Regardless of major, a multidisciplinary background is recommended. Courses in English, foreign languages, public speaking, government, philosophy, history, economics, mathematics, and computer science, among others, are useful. Acceptance by most law schools depends on the applicant’s ability to demonstrate an aptitude for the study of law, usually through good grades, the Law School Admission Test (LSAT), and the quality of the applicant’s undergraduate schooling and prior work experience.
Advisors: Timothy Golden
Phone: (509) 527-2217
General Areas of Service: The most familiar job of a radiological technologist is taking X-rays for the diagnosis of broken bones. However, medical uses of radiation expand far beyond this. Radiation is used not only to produce images of the interior of the body, but also to treat cancer. Additionally, the use of imaging techniques that do not involve X-rays, such as ultrasound and magnetic resonance imaging, is growing rapidly. Radiological technologists may specialize in medical radiography as radiographers, nuclear medicine technologists, or radiation technologists treating cancer and other diseases. Most radiological technologists work in hospitals. Others may work in medical school systems as instructors or chief technologists. Radiological technology is concerned with the use of X-rays, radioactive substances, and other forms of radiant energy in the treatment and diagnosis of disease.
Professional Training: Advanced training is needed if one wants to prepare for administration, clinical practice, education, or health physics. Formal training is offered in radiography, radiation therapy, and diagnostic medical sonography (ultrasound). Programs range in length from one to four years and lead to a certificate, associate degree, or bachelor's degree. Two-year programs are the most prevalent.
Advisors: Lisa Hellie
Nature of Work: Physicians examine patients; obtain medical histories; and order, perform, and interpret diagnostic tests. They also diagnose illnesses and prescribe and administer treatment for people suffering from injury or disease, and counsel patients on diet, hygiene, and preventive health care. Doctors in private practices may also handle or oversee the business aspects pertaining to their offices. Most general practitioners are self-employed, working with a group. However, numerous doctors are employed by other practitioners or by state, local, or federal government; or private risk management insurance corporations.
Professional Training: Doctors must acquire an M.D. degree, complete a residency, and obtain a license to practice. Formal education and training are among the longest of any occupation, but earnings are among the highest.
Nature of Work: Occupational therapists work with people who have difficulty coping with psychological or physiological dysfunction. Specifically, occupational therapists help individuals with mentally, physically, developmentally, or emotionally disabling conditions to develop, recover, and maintain daily-living and work skills. They not only help patients improve basic motor functions and reasoning abilities, they also help them compensate for permanent loss of function. They work to help patients lead independent, productive, and satisfying lives through the increase of strength, dexterity, and the ability to discern patterns. An occupational therapist may practice in general hospitals, rehabilitation centers, pediatric or psychiatric hospitals, crippled children's camps and schools, geriatric homes, sheltered workshops, home-care, and community-centered programs. The primary concern of the therapist is to develop or redevelop self-care, work, and leisure skills. Therapy involves retraining patients to overcome their disabilities through the activities of daily living and working.
Professional Training: A degree in occupational therapy and successfully passing the national certification examination are required for work in the profession. A graduate degree is often required for teaching, research, or specialized programs.
Advisors: Lisa Hellie
Nature of Work: Optometrists examine people's eyes to diagnose vision problems and eye diseases. They treat vision problems and, in most states, they also treat some eye diseases such as conjunctivitis or corneal infections. Optometrists use instruments and observation to examine eye health and to test patients' visual acuity, depth and color perceptions, and their ability to focus and coordinate their eyes. They analyze test results and develop a treatment plan. Optometrists prescribe eyeglasses, contact lenses, vision therapy, and low vision aids (for visually impaired patients). All optometrists provide general eye and vision care–some through general practice, and others through more specialized practice such as contact lenses, geriatrics, low vision services, pediatrics, sports vision, and vision therapy. Other optometrists may choose to enter optometric education and perform scientific research.
Professional Training: Doctors of Optometry must successfully complete a four-year accredited degree program at one of the schools of optometry. Most students who are accepted by a school or college of optometry have completed their undergraduate degree, even though the minimum entrance requirement is often only two years of undergraduate course work. Each institution has its own undergraduate prerequisites, so applicants should contact the school or college of their choice for specific requirements.
Nature of Work: Orthotists and Prosthetists, also called O&P professionals, may work in both orthotics and prosthetics, or they may choose to specialize in one. Orthotists are specifically trained to work with medical supportive devices, such as braces and inserts. Prosthetists are specifically trained to work with prostheses, such as artificial limbs and other body parts. An O&P professional may work in small, private offices, hospitals, federal government, and medical equipment and supplies manufacturing companies.
Professional Training: Orthotists and prosthetists need at least a master’s degree in orthotics and a one year residency before they can be certified.
Phone: (509) 527-2476
General Areas of Service: Pharmacists mix and dispense drugs for prescriptions and advise physicians about selection, dosages, interactions, and side effects of medication. They council patients about drug therapy programs, try to ensure that patients understand the instructions on their prescription, and order and maintain supplies of drugs and chemicals. This job requires good numerical and verbal abilities as well as attention to detail. Most pharmacists work in pharmacies. Others are employed by hospitals, the government, or companies that manufacture drugs and medicines.
Professional Training: A Doctor of Pharmacy degree and success on board examinations are required to practice as a pharmacist. Pharmacy schools usually require students to have a minimum of three years of undergraduate work before entering. Upon entering a pharmacy school, a student studies four years to complete the Doctor of Pharmacy degree. Students should consult with the college of pharmacy of their choice about exact course requirements. The following subjects are usually part of the college level courses required before entrance into a pharmacy school: mathematics, biology, chemistry, physics, and English.
General Areas of Service: Physical therapists find employment in hospitals, public and private health agencies, physicians' offices, special schools, research organizations, sports programs, rehabilitation centers, and private practice. Physical therapists are concerned with treating disease, injury and disability, using activities and devices to increase or restore their patients’ strength, flexibility, endurance, coordination and balance, reduce pain and discomfort, and to prepare the patient physically and emotionally to return to the activities of daily living. Their patients include accident victims and disabled individuals with conditions such as multiple sclerosis, cerebral palsy, nerve injuries, burns, amputations, head injuries, fractures, low back pain, arthritis, and heart disease.
Professional Training: Physical therapists must be licensed by the state. By 2020, physical therapy will be provided by physical therapists who are doctors of physical therapy (DPT). Because of this change, clinical programs that have not already changed to prepare students with a DPT are in the process of doing so. Entry into a clinical physical therapy program requires high grade point averages on pre-requisite coursework along with well-rounded extracurricular activities. Both Loma Linda University and Andrews University have DPT training programs. Both schools accept applicants after three years of pre-requisite college coursework. (A bachelor’s degree is awarded to those students who do not have a bachelor’s degree after the first year of clinical physical therapy study.)
Advisor: Mike Hellie
Phone: (509) 527-2886
General Areas of Service: Physical therapy assistants work under the direct supervision of physical therapists. They are employed by hospitals, nursing homes, rehabilitation centers, and medical offices. Most of their work includes working to rehabilitate people with muscle, nerve, joint, and bone diseases or injuries. Physical therapy assistants train patients to do exercises and activities that will aid their daily living. They also observe, report, and assist in treatment programs that utilize heat, sound, water, electrical, and infrared techniques. In addition, they help patients learn to use artificial limbs, braces, crutches, walkers, and wheelchairs.
Professional Training: An associate's degree from an accredited physical therapy program is required as well as supervised clinical experience. Many states require physical therapist assistants to be licensed by the state. Loma Linda University is the only denominational school that offers this training program.
Advisors: Mike Hellie
Phone: (509) 527-2041
General Areas of Service: The Physician Assistant (PA) is an important member of the healthcare team who acts interdependently with a supervising physician to provide diagnostic and therapeutic care in a variety of medical settings. PA programs prepare students to take comprehensive medical histories, complete physical examinations, order and interpret diagnostic tests, diagnose illnesses, create treatment plans, aid in surgery, and perform minor procedures. A physician assistant is frequently involved in more hands-on patient care than a doctor would be.
Educational Experience: Successful completion of a physician assistant program will provide the student with a master’s degree. There is a wide variety in the prerequisite course work for PA programs, so students should check with the school(s) to which they wish to apply to as early as possible to ensure completion of appropriate courses. Physician assistant programs usually require a bachelor’s degree, but application may be submitted completion of this undergraduate degree. Recommended undergraduate majors include biology, biochemistry, health science, or another biomedical field. Most PA programs also require clinical experience of at least 2000 hours of hands-on patient care (actual number of hours varies by program).
Advisors: Kyle Craig
Phone: (509) 527-2762
Nature of Work: Veterinary medicine is a health profession dedicated to the diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of animal diseases and injuries. Veterinarians use scientific knowledge and decision-making processes to enhance the health, welfare, and productivity of animals. They contribute to human as well as animal health by engaging in research, food safety inspection, education, regulatory medicine, and public health. This comprehensive health profession is increasingly important as animal and human populations grow. Most veterinarians in the United States and Canada work in private practices. Specialties within veterinary medicine include research, education, laboratory animal medicine, zoo animal medicine, equine sports medicine, wildlife animal medicine, animal-assisted activities, marine biology, and aquatic animal medicine.
Professional Training: Prospective veterinarians must graduate from a four-year program at an accredited college of veterinary medicine with a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (D.V.M or V.M.D) degree and obtain a license to practice. The United States and Canada have 33 colleges of veterinary medicine.
Advisors: James Nestler
Phone: (509) 527-2551
Why do a pre-professional program at WWU?
Learn to think like a scientist.
At WWU you’ll learn how to think like a scientist--a skill which will give you an advantage when you are applying and completing a pre-professional program. This most directly comes through taking science classes.
Choose from a variety of majors.
You can be a pre-professional student and still choose from our 100+ areas of study. Choosing a major is about understanding your interests and how efficiently you want to complete your core pre-professional requirements. Many majors are well-suited for pre-professional study and our advisors can help you choose one that aligns with your interests and goals.
Receive quality advising.
Every student at WWU is paired with an academic advisor who is trained to be knowledgeable about competencies you need to be successful to apply to pre-professional schools. If you’re uncertain which professional program you’d like to go into, advisors can help you plan your first year carefully to meet a broad range of requirements as you determine which program is the best fit. And for first-generation college students, our advising means getting expert help from others who have gone through college before.
Study in action.
When you attend WWU you’ll gain access to valuable hands-on research experience with faculty who are active researchers. This experience provides a solid background for professional programs. You’ll learn not just how to do research, but also how to understand research. Students can work with faculty and also conduct their own research in their classes.
Anticipate for the future.
Our pre-professional curriculum at WWU is built on current research about what is needed to be successful as a professional in a variety of fields, anticipating what will be needed in the future as well.