Call us on:  08 7130 3970

Request Info
Develop AAMC Core Competencies as a pre-med student

What are AAMC Core Competencies (and how do I get them)?

Develop your Core Competencies for a stand-out medical school application

By Thom Brown | 01st July, 2024
Updated on 17th July, 2024

The path to becoming a medical professional requires more than just academic excellence. It demands a broader approach, based on personal development and professional growth.

You'll need to develop what the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) calls Core Competencies. These are the skills you will need for a successful medical school application and career in medicine.

Keep reading to discover the 17 Core Competencies and how to develop them.

This will become your roadmap on your pre-med journey. Take this chance to become a well-prepared and well-rounded medical school applicant.

What is the AAMC?

Established in 1876, the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) is a non-profit organisation that represents all medical schools and teaching hospitals in the United States.

The AAMC plays a pivotal role in shaping medical education standards and practices across the US. Collaborating with medical schools and healthcare institutions, it develops guidelines, resources, and initiatives to enhance the training of future physicians.

A significant component of your AAMC application is the development of Core Competencies.

What are the AAMC Core Competencies?

While pre-med requirements include your GPA, MCAT scores, and clinical exposure hours, they also involve Core Competencies.

Competencies are divided into three categories:

  1. Professional Competencies
  2. Science Competencies
  3. Thinking and Reasoning Competencies

Together, they comprise the essential knowledge, abilities, and skills that you need to become a successful medical school applicant.

The 17 Core Competencies

Navigating the complexities of the twenty-first-century healthcare environment requires a diverse skillset. The AAMC lists these as 17 Core Competencies.

These form the bedrock of medical education, leading to compassionate and competent healthcare providers.

The 17 Core Competencies are:

Professional Competencies

1. Commitment to Learning and Growth: Demonstrating a desire to continuously acquire new knowledge and skills.

2. Cultural Awareness: Understanding and appreciating the diversity of cultures, races, ethnicities, genders, sexual orientations, socioeconomic backgrounds, and disabilities.

3. Cultural Humility: Interacting with people from diverse backgrounds while acknowledging your own biases and limitations.

4. Empathy and Compassion: Recognizing and sharing the feelings of others.

5. Ethical Responsibility to Self and Others: Upholding ethical principles in all aspects of professional and personal life.

6. Interpersonal Skills: Building and maintaining positive relationships with others.

7. Oral Communication: Clearly and effectively conveying information verbally.

8. Reliability and Dependability: Being trustworthy and accountable.

9. Resilience and Adaptability: Coping with stress, setbacks, and change.

10. Service Orientation: Serving others and improving the wellbeing of the community.

11. Teamwork and Collaboration: Working effectively with others towards a common goal.

Science Competencies

12. Human Behavior: Understanding factors that influence human behaviour, including psychology, social determinants of health, and cultural influences.

13. Living Systems: The knowledge of the structure and function of living organisms at the molecular, cellular, and organismal levels.

Thinking and Reasoning Competencies

14. Critical Thinking: Analyzing information, identifying underlying assumptions, and solving problems.

15. Quantitative Reasoning: Interpreting and using numerical data.

16. Scientific Inquiry: Asking questions, developing hypotheses, conducting experiments, and analyzing results.

17. Written Communication: Clearly and concisely conveying information in writing.

These competencies form a framework for assessing applications. Therefore, mastering them will ensure you are aligned with medical school admissions criteria.

Mastering these competencies also equips future physicians like you with the right skills and mindset. This will help you provide exceptional patient care as you positively impact the healthcare landscape.

Why should I care about the Core Competencies?

Embodying the Core Competencies is not just a box-ticking exercise on your pre-med journey. It's a critical aspect of your professional identity. It displays a readiness to navigate the complexities of healthcare.

“Today, the realities of medical practice and the rapid advancement of science require medical education to focus much more on developing practical skills and competencies [...] they are also expected to have superior communication skills, manage patients with multiple chronic conditions, and understand the social determinants of health.”

- Darrell G. Kirch, MD, President Emeritus of the AAMC

A strong foundation for medical practice

Mastering the Core Competencies is not just about preparing for the medical school application process. It also lays the groundwork for a successful and well-rounded medical career.

It is a signal of intent and a commitment to lifelong learning. Medicine is evolving rapidly, so greater emphasis is placed on continuous learning, critical thinking, and resilience.

Effective patient care

The Core Competencies go beyond technical skills. They include empathy, cultural awareness, and good communication. These are essential for building trust and having better relationships with patients, regardless of their backgrounds. 

Choose the right path for you

Adopting the AAMC Core Competencies will help define your values, goals, and aspirations within the medical field. It’s much more than memorizing facts to pass a test; it’s a way of life.

By aligning your personal and professional development with these competencies, you can make informed decisions about your career path.

How can I develop Professional Competencies?

A doctor with medical students in Cambodia

Building Professional Competencies goes beyond classroom learning. It requires immersive experiences and active engagement.

Here's how you can develop AAMC Professional Competencies.

Push yourself beyond your comfort zone

Stepping beyond the familiar challenges you to adapt to new cultures, languages, and healthcare systems. Find opportunities to push your boundaries, develop resilience, and hone your interpersonal skills by navigating unfamiliar environments.

Study in a completely new environment

Immersing yourself in a new academic setting exposes you to diverse perspectives and teaching methodologies. This provides insights into global healthcare practices that can enrich your understanding of medical concepts and cultural competence.

Commit to volunteer service

Engaging in volunteer activities allows you to apply your knowledge and skills in real-world settings while making a meaningful impact. You can participate in medical outreach programs, volunteer at clinics, or assist with public health initiatives.

Committing to service deepens your empathy, compassion, and sense of social responsibility.

How can I develop Science Competencies?

Pre-Med medical research

Developing a strong foundation in Science Competencies is essential for aspiring physicians.

Here’s how to enhance your understanding and proficiency in science.

Work alongside medical experts

Seek opportunities to shadow and collaborate with experienced healthcare professionals. By observing medical experts in action, asking questions, and participating in patient care, you'll gain insights into the application of scientific principles in diagnosing and treating patients.

Attend lectures and workshops

Participate in lectures, workshops, and seminars focused on scientific disciplines relevant to medicine. These sessions provide valuable exposure to cutting-edge research, emerging technologies, and interdisciplinary healthcare approaches.

Engage in discussions, ask questions, and network to deepen your understanding and stay abreast of advancements.

Learn more about human behavior

Go beyond the psychology, sociology, anthropology, and public health textbooks. Get face-to-face, real-world experience to truly hone your understanding of people, including the social, environmental, and behavioral aspects that determine a person’s health.

How can I develop Thinking and Reasoning Competencies?

Complete a Pre-Med Program Peru to gain AAMC Core Competencies

Enhancing your cognitive skills is crucial for navigating the complex world of medicine.

Here’s how to prove your commitment to the Thinking and Reasoning Competencies.

Collect and analyze data

Engage in research projects that involve collecting, interpreting, and analyzing data. Practice using statistical methods, data visualization tools, and analytical techniques. Use these to draw meaningful conclusions and make evidence-based decisions.

By honing your data analysis skills, you'll strengthen your ability to critically evaluate information.

Find novel solutions

Challenge yourself to think creatively and innovatively when faced with complex situations. Explore alternative perspectives, brainstorm approaches, and collaborate with peers to generate solutions. Step outside your comfort zone, experiment with new ideas, and learn from both successes and failures.

Cultivating a mindset of curiosity and experimentation will empower you to adapt to evolving challenges and contribute to advancements in healthcare.

Develop your written skills

Keep a reflective journal as you develop. This is a valuable way to track your progress and organize your thoughts. Embrace opportunities to improve your writing through essays, research papers, and creative writing.

Can a Pre-Med Program abroad build my AAMC Core Competencies?

The key to developing your competencies is to be proactive. Seek experiences that will develop your competencies, especially those that align with your interests and strengths.

It helps to make the process fun and meaningful so that you can really lean into it.

One way to turbocharge your pursuit of AAMC Core Competencies is by joining a Pre-Med Program abroad.

Not only will you gain academic knowledge but you’ll also cultivate the diverse skillset you require. These transformative experiences are a fun way to demonstrate a commitment to learning and growth.

Gain experience beyond the classroom

Pre-Med Programs abroad provide over 40 hours of clinical exposure and over 15 hours of community volunteer service. This means you can observe healthcare delivery systems firsthand and interact with diverse patient populations.

These immersive experiences foster empathy and a commitment to service, building AAMC interpersonal competencies.

Build deep and lasting cultural awareness

Interacting with doctors and patients abroad exposes you to diverse cultures, languages, and healthcare practices. This broadens your perspectives, enhances your communication skills, and cultivates respect for cultural differences.

All of these qualities are integral to AAMC Professional Competencies.

Develop resilience and adaptability

Navigating a foreign environment challenges students to adapt to new academic, social, and cultural contexts. This breeds resilience and adaptability. Facing unfamiliar situations and overcoming language barriers build confidence, perseverance, and critical thinking.

These attributes are essential for AAMC Competencies related to resilience, adaptability, and growth.

The best programs for pre-med students

Become a Pre-Med volunteer in Africa

Want a surefire way to build AAMC Core Competencies? Exploring diverse cultures and healthcare systems can enrich your experience.

Here are some exceptional Pre-Med Programs tailored to provide immersive learning opportunities for aspiring physicians:

  • Pre-Med Program in Peru: Immerse yourself in the ancient Incan culture of Cusco. You’ll shadow local healthcare professionals and support disadvantaged communities.
  • Pre-Med Program in Nepal: Travel to the majestic Himalayas! This program provides opportunities to observe healthcare delivery in diverse settings across Kathmandu.
  • Pre-Med Program in Tanzania: Shadow physicians in busy Arusha hospitals, work with disadvantaged Maasai, and explore the rich biodiversity of the African savannah.
  • Pre-Med Program in Greece: Explore the ancient city of Athens as you help out in a modern but resource-limited European hospital.

Each of these Pre-Med Programs offers 40+ hours of clinical exposure and 15+ hours of community service volunteering.

This provides a unique blend of academic rigor, cultural immersion, and clinical exposure tailored to students like you. We prepare aspiring doctors for the challenges of medical school and beyond.

Your journey to achieving AAMC Competencies

  1. Browse our Pre-Med Programs.
  2. Contact our friendly Project Experts or book a free consultation for more information.
  3. Fill in a simple online application form.
  4. Secure your spot on the Pre-Med Program of a lifetime for just $495.
  5. Complete your program and ace your AAMC medical school application.


Want to learn more about Pre-Med Programs abroad?

Contact us with your questions.

Fields marked with * are compulsory!

Share this article:

Don't forget to spread the word and let us know what you think on Facebook and Twitter!

Still got questions?

Get in touch today!

08 7130 3970

Our accreditations