Masters and Post-Bac Programs
What are the different post-baccalaureate options?
It is first important to note that the term “post-baccalaureate” can refer to any academic work you complete post undergraduate graduation. Below are some examples of program types.
Career Changer programs exist for the sole purpose of providing the students who did not complete premedical requirements as undergraduates with the basic premedical sciences and complementary coursework and experiences—generally within the time frame of a year or 15 months. We have one of the most highly regarded “career changer” programs is right here at Johns Hopkins University, the JHU Post-Baccalaureate Premedical Program. These are not graduate programs; however, they can award a post-baccalaureate certificate.
Academic Enhancement post-baccalaureate programs are designed for students who have completed the premedical sciences as undergraduates but need to “enhance” and strengthen their academics, most often their science GPAs. The basic idea is to give students the opportunity to prove themselves by taking demanding science courses. These programs typically offer master’s degrees or certificates.
Special Master’s Programs are for students who completed their premedical requirements and need to enhance their academic record. Generally, the programs are linked to a medical school. Advanced science courses are offered at the graduate level and students may take courses alongside first year medical students. These programs may offer guaranteed medical school interviews for performance, MCAT preparation, academic advising or a committee letter.
Underrepresented in Medicine post-baccalaureate programs generally fall under the heading of enhancement programs, are designed to support underrepresented students and increase the numbers who apply successfully to medical school.
What are some important considerations?
When researching these programs, it is important to consider the following:
- Standards: It is important to know the various types of programs available to you. Do not assume that enrolling in a post-bac program that is associated with a particular medical school will automatically improve your chances of getting into that medical school. Unless you have an agreement with a school to matriculate into the medical program, you should pick a program based on its merit and fit for your needs.
- Class Size: Smaller class sizes may offer a more personalized approach to instruction and advising. Also, it will be easier to interact with faculty if you’re in a small class, and thus make it easier to obtain a letter of recommendation from science faculty when you apply to medical school.
- Type of master’s degree: A master’s program in research (i.e. biology, neuroscience, and microbiology) will not offer science coursework to enhance your BCPM GPA. It also won’t offer you pre-med advising to help improve your application for medical school. If you are intending to enhance your science GPA, you must be in post-baccalaureate certificate or master’s program with rigorous science coursework that can count toward your BCPM GPA.
- Science Coursework: If you need to strengthen your science GPA, you will need to enroll in a program where the majority of the courses are BCPM courses, specifically biomedical coursework. It should also be remembered that master’s and enrichment program coursework does not impact the undergraduate GPA. The courses are listed under a separate post-baccalaureate or master’s program entry on the AMCAS or AACOMAS application.
- Also, see the article “Is a Post-Bacc Program Right for Me? Seven Benefits to Consider” that appeared in the Pre-Med Navigator. Their list includes:
- Extended access to advisors
- Medical school linkage programs
- Built-in volunteer opportunities
- Exclusive networking and programming
- Flexible structure and scheduling
- Accelerated coursework, and
- MCAT preparation
What are some important questions to ask?
There are so many questions to ask when reviewing programs. Consider these:
- How long has the program been established?
- Do I need a minimum GPA or MCAT score to be eligible?
- Is the GRE acceptable if I am unable to take the MCAT by the time the application is due?
- Is an MCAT preparatory component offered?
- Does the program involve taking classes with the medical school class?
- How will the program support my application to medical school? What advising is offered to students who are enrolled?
- What percentage of students matriculates into medical school? After one year? After two years?
- Have you received a grade below “C” in any of your premedical requirements that might need to be repeated?
Do these programs guarantee entry into medical school?
No. Whether or not an enrichment program is beneficial depends on the student’s ability to earn strong grades in the program. So, the main questions really are, “Why didn’t I do as well as I could have in my science courses when I was an undergraduate?” and “Am I able to perform better in a program that might be even more demanding than undergraduate work?” and, finally, “Am I willing to sacrifice considerable time (and tuition money) for the sake of getting into medical school when I know that the outcome is uncertain?”
How do I Apply?
Each post-bac/master’s program has its own application, procedures, and deadlines, so you must be organized when managing this application process. They typically ask for educational history, demographic data, experiences relevant to a career in medicine, MCAT or GRE scores, and an essay. Most programs also ask for two or three letters of recommendation.
Regarding letters of recommendation: The Pre-Professional Office has two different sets of directions for submitting letters of recommendation to post-bac/master’s programs:
- If you have previously applied to medical school and know that we uploaded a Committee Letter and letters of recommendation on your behalf, we can forward your Committee packet to post-bac/master’s programs. For more information, please go to the Forms page and open the link titled Post-Bac/Master’s Applicants WITH Committee Letter. Please read the instructions very carefully.
- If you are first applying to a post-bac/master’s program and have not yet applied to medical school, please go to the Forms page of the Pre-Professional website and open the link titled Post-Bac/Master’s Applicants WITHOUT Committee Letter. Letters from faculty and individuals with whom you have worked directly in a research, internship, or related capacity are preferred by these programs. Please carefully check application deadlines since they can range anytime from February to July.
The Association of American Medical Colleges’ Post-baccalaureate Premedical Programs is a searchable database that enables you to search according to program type and other program characteristics. This is the most comprehensive list of programs available.
The American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine also has a database of Osteopathic Post-Baccalaureate Premedical Programs.