What Is a Post-Baccalaureate? Is it right for you?

What Is a Post-Baccalaureate? Is it right for you?

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Posted in: Applying to Medical School

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You want to apply to medical school, but as you do a competitive analysis of your application, you realize your GPA isn’t your strongest point.

If your GPA is low compared to the average medical school matriculant GPA, enrolling in a post-baccalaureate or special master’s program is a great way to strengthen your application.

These programs are also great for students who didn’t follow a traditional pre-med undergraduate path. Pre-medical students take many science courses, so if you switched majors late or didn’t major in a science field, you may be missing out on some important prerequisite classes.

A post-baccalaureate certificate isn’t the same as a bachelor’s degree, but it’s still helpful because it lets students learn more about specific topics needed for med school. You’ll also be able to get hands-on experience in that area.

Knowing your MSC Score can help you understand where you stand among other applicants and how medical schools may evaluate you. The MSC Score Calculator can help you find out.

Types of Post-Bacc Programs for Medical School

Master’s Degree vs. Post-Bacc

A master’s is a graduate degree program. These programs are best for students who graduate with excellent grades and are ready for graduate-level coursework. 

A post-baccalaureate program is a certificate program. Postbacc programs are designed for students who have already completed their undergraduate degree and want to enhance their academic records before applying to graduate programs. 

Post-bacc programs are sometimes referred to as special master’s programs, educational enhancer programs, or career changer programs.

Master’sPostbacc
DegreeNo degree
Graduate level coursesUndergrad level courses
Graduate GPAEnhances undergrad GPA
Thesis portionNo Thesis portion
Federal and State financial aid availableNo Federal or State financial aid
Part of an established education programCredit hours can be earned for science courses without program guidance

7 Benefits Of a Post-Baccalaureate for Prospective Med Students

There are many benefits of enrolling in a post-baccalaureate program. First and foremost, these programs allow you the opportunity to improve your academic record. If your GPA from undergrad was lower than you would have liked, a post-bacc can greatly increase your chances of acceptance when applying to med school.

You can technically complete post-bacc coursework DIY-style, choosing a la carte courses, but it might be easier to join a program. Let’s look at more of the benefits of joining a post-baccalaureate certificate program.

1. More MCAT Prep Opportunities

Many post-bacc programs include MCAT preparation courses. This is a great perk if you haven’t taken the MCAT yet or want to improve your score. 

2. Extracurricular Opportunities

Many post-baccalaureate students use this time to improve their volunteering or research experience. Post-bacc programs are a great way to find and participate in more extracurriculars to strengthen your medical school application. 

Clinical rotations will give you first-hand experience shadowing physicians and working with patients — experiences that will be invaluable once you’re in medical school. Plus, real-life experience in a clinical setting can be very influential when writing a compelling personal statement when you’re ready to apply.

3. Flexible Scheduling

After completing your undergrad, you’re probably looking at ways to support yourself financially. Post-bacc programs are structured with this in mind. You can find programs of different lengths and formats: full-time or part-time, in-person or online, one year or two, and day or night classes.

Many of these programs are somewhat flexible regarding which supplemental courses you must take. For example, if you took calculus as an undergrad, you won’t have to retake it and can instead take an elective course.

4. Condensed Coursework

You will probably appreciate the streamlined coursework post-bacc programs offer if you catch up on missed prerequisites. Classes won’t take as long to complete.

5. Networking Opportunities 

Post-bacc programs have good relationships with medical schools, so they often bring in lecturers and health professionals you usually wouldn’t meet yet. This could expose you to career paths you hadn’t considered before or even potential mentors for later on.

6. Medical School Linkage Programs

Many post-bacc programs are affiliated with specific medical schools. Attending one of these programs can help you become familiar with an institution and give you an edge when you apply to med school. We’ll take a closer look at linkage programs later.

7. A Stand-Out Medical School Application

Post baccalaureate work can give your med school application a competitive edge. Let’s do a simple thought exercise from an admissions committee point of view to see why a special masters and post-bacc program may be so appealing: 

  • Applicant A: 3.60 undergraduate GPA, 506 MCAT score
  • Applicant B: 3.40 undergraduate GPA, 3.90 GPA in a special masters program with first-year medical school classes (such as microbiology, physiology, anatomy), 506 MCAT score

All other things being equal, an adcom will select applicant B. Why? That applicant has proven they can handle medical school classwork, while it’s unclear if applicant A can. A strong post-bacc GPA can make up for a weaker undergraduate GPA. 

Are there downsides to doing a post-bacc?

These ubiquitous programs are common for many premeds along the premed journey. However, the 2 significant downsides of pursuing post-bacc coursework are time and money.

Because some programs are different, weighing out the pros and cons and choosing a program that fits your needs will be essential.

Types of Post-Bacc Programs

Career Changer Programs

Career Changer programs are specifically designed for students who have decided later that medicine is what they want to do. For instance, this might work for a person who was in the finance world for years and now wants to jump into the world of medicine.

You will essentially take the usual pre-med course load, minus any classes you’ve already taken. This usually includes:

  • General chemistry
  • Biology
  • Organic chemistry
  • Physics
  • Various labs
  • Psychology
  • Biochemistry

These programs are great for those who are switching careers for a number of reasons, most importantly providing a basic structure to follow. You can typically finish in 18-24 months.

Academic Enhancer Programs

Academic enhancer programs allow you to prove to medical schools you have the intellectual stamina to get through the first 2 years of medical school. 

These programs are for those students who took most or all of their pre-med classes in college but had less-than-stellar GPAs, or students who don’t already have the appropriate prerequisite science courses for a school of medicine. 

You might consider an enhancer program if your GPA is 3.60 or below or you don’t have the necessary prerequisites.

These programs benefit students who weren’t accepted to medical school the first time or want to enhance their academic records before applying. In these programs, students typically enroll in graduate-level classwork. 

You’ll find a lot of educational enhancer programs that have varied and exciting coursework, including topics like:

  • Biochemistry
  • Neurobiology
  • Physiology
  • Anatomy
  • Medical Art
  • Molecular Biology
  • Biotechnology

There are subsets of academic enhancer programs that will even put you directly side by side in the same classes as first-year medical students. We believe these programs help medical school admission committees look past less-than-desirable grades in undergrad.

Read Next: Should I Attend a Caribbean Medical School or Try to Stay in the US?

Specialty Master’s Program (SMP)

SMPs are master’s programs, so they won’t impact your undergraduate GPA. As we discussed earlier, this is graduate school coursework. SPMs often focus on health sciences and are still geared toward helping students prepare for medical school.

Specific courses vary by program, but SMPs assume you’ve already taken the prerequisite courses to get into medical school.

So, why choose a specialty master’s program? These programs allow students to pursue an education that will inform their medical careers. Additionally, a second set of official transcripts — provided you maintain good grades — will boost your academic record and show admissions committees you have what it takes to perform well.

A Closer Look at Linkage Programs

Linkage is a formal agreement between a ‌post-baccalaureate premedical program and a medical school (or several medical schools, of which you can typically choose one). This agreement enables highly qualified students with a strong interest in one of these schools to accelerate the application process (i.e., apply while still in the post-bacc program).

A linkage may guarantee an interview at a particular school, but remember, an interview isn’t equivalent to an acceptance. That said, many medical schools take a substantial number of their students who perform well in their postbacc programs. This can be an excellent opportunity for someone who shines during their postbacc year.

It also eliminates the gap year; you can start medical school in the fall of the year you graduate from your post-bacc program. This means that you can start sooner, instead of waiting another year before med schools can evaluate those grades.

Post-Bacc Program NameLinkages/Affiliations
Agnes Scott CollegeMercer University School of Medicine
Albany College of Pharmacy and Health SciencesAlbany Medical College, New York Institute of Technology College of Osteopathic Medicine
Arizona State UniversityStudents complete their capstone projects at health care sites such as Mayo Clinic, Banner Health and Arizona Department of Health Services.
Arkansas Colleges of Health EducationArkansas Colleges of Health Education
Barry UniversityPhiladelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine (PCOM), Idaho College of Osteopathic Medicine (ICOM), Orlando College of Osteopathic Medicine (OCOM) & Barry University School of Podiatric Medicine (POD)
Benedictine UniversityMarian University, LECOM, AT. Still University, Ponce School of Health Sciences
Bethel UniversityBethel University – Physician Assistant Program
Boston University School of Medicine, Graduate Medical SciencesBoston University Henry M. Goldman School of Dental Medicine
Bryn Mawr CollegeAlpert Medical School of Brown University, Boston University School of Medicine, Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine, George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences
California Northstate University (CNU)California Northstate University
California Northstate University, College of Health SciencesCalifornia Northstate University College: Medicine, Dental Medicine, Pharmacy, Psychology, Graduate Studies
California State University, Los AngelesWestern University of Health Sciences
California University of Science and MedicineCUSM MD
Campbell University Jerry M. Wallace School of Osteopathic Medicine (CUSOM)Campbell University
Case Western Reserve University, Master of Science in Medical PhysiologyCleveland Clinic Foundation, University Hospital Medical Center, MetroHealth Medical Center, Louis Stokes Cleveland VA Medical Center
Master of Science in Medical PhysiologyCleveland Clinic Foundation, University Hospital Medical Center, MetroHealth Medical Center, Louis Stokes VA Hospital of Cleveland
Case Western Reserve University Master of Science in Applied AnatomyUniversity Hospitals Case Medical Center, Louis Stokes VA Hospital of Cleveland
Case Western Reserve UniversityCleveland Clinic Foundation, University Hospital Medical Center, MetroHealth Medical Center, Louis Stokes VA Hospital of Cleveland
Case Western Reserve University Master of Arts in Bioethics and Medical HumanitiesCleveland Clinic Foundation, University Hospital Medical Center, MetroHealth Medical Center, Louis Stokes VA Hospital of Cleveland, Neighborhood Family Practice and Hospice of the Western Reserve
Case Western Reserve UniversityUniversity Hospitals Case Medical Center, Louis Stokes VA Hospital of Cleveland
Case Western Reserve University Master of Science in NutritionUniversity Hospitals Case Medical Center, Louis Stokes VA Hospital of Cleveland
Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and ScienceUCLA
Chatham University, Master of Arts in Biomedical Studies (MABS)West Virginia School of Osteopathic Medicine, Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine, Chatham University Master of Physician Assistant Studies program
Cleveland State University and Northeast Ohio Medical University NEOMED-CSU Partnership for Urban Health PostbaccStudents attend CSU in Cleveland, OH during 2-year postbacc portion and are granted provisional admission to NEOMED in Rootstown, OH, pending completion of all requirements at CSU. Students may not work full-time during regular academic year.
College of Science & Technology (CST); Temple UniversityLewis Katz School of Medicine, George Washington College of Medicine, PCOM, SUNY-Downstate, Temple University School of Podiatric Medicine
Colorado State University Rocky Vista University College of Osteopathic Medicine (RVUCOM). RVUCOM has guaranteed up to 6 positions annually to applicants who have graduated from our Master’s program.
Columbia University Irving Medical CenterNarrative Medicine – Herbert Irving Comprehensive Cancer – Irving Center for Clinical Research – Mailman School of Public Health – Naomi Berrie Diabetes Center – New York Obesity Nutrition Research Center
Creighton UniversityCreighton University
Des Moines UniversityDes Moines University
Drexel University College of Medicine Intensive Medical Sciences (IMS) ProgramDrexel University College of Medicine, Edward Via College of Osteopathic Medicine, Touro College of Osteopathic Medicine (New York); (Drexel Undergrads ONLY: international students eligible for IMS and Drexel MD)
Drexel University College of Medicine Drexel Pathway to Medical School (DPMS)Drexel University College of Medicine MD Program
Drexel University College of Medicine Interdisciplinary Health Sciences (IHS)Temple University School of Podiatric Medicine, Salus University Doctor of Optometry & Doctor of Audiology programs
Drexel University College of Medicine Master of Biomedical Studies (MBS)Drexel University College of Medicine, Edward Via College of Osteopathic Medicine, Touro College of Osteopathic Medicine (New York), (Drexel U. Grads ONLY: international students eligible for MBS and Drexel MD)
Drexel University College of Medicine Evening Post-Baccalaureate Pre-Medical (PMED)Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine
Drexel University College of Medicine Master of Medical Science (MMS) Drexel University College of Medicine, Edward Via College of Osteopathic Medicine, Touro College of Osteopathic Medicine (New York), (Drexel Undergrads ONLY: international students eligible for MMS and Drexel MD)
Eastern Mennonite Universityprogram has a number of articulation agreements with various professional health programs including osteopathic, optometry, physician assistant, and podiatry. For more information http://emu.edu/ms-biomed/post-emu-study/
Eastern Virginia Medical SchoolEastern Virginia Medical School
Elms College Postbaccalaureate Premedical StudiesMarywood University, Western New England College of Pharmacy, LECOM DO, Dental, Pharmacy
Elms College Master of Biomedical Sciences Degree ProgramLECOM DO and DENTAL, WNEU Pharmacy, LECOM Pharmacy, Marywood PA, Assumption PA
Florida Atlantic University Post-Baccalaureate Medical Certificate ProgramFlorida Atlantic University
FIU Herbert Wertheim College of MedicineFIU Herbert Wertheim College of Medicine
Furman UniversityUniversity of South Carolina School of Medicine – Greenville
Geisel School of Medicine at DartmouthGeisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth, Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth, Graduate Programs in Arts and Sciences at Dartmouth, Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center in Lebanon, NH Veterans Affairs Medical Center in White River Junction, VT
George Mason University/Georgetown UniversityGeorge Mason University Georgetown University
George Washington UniversityGW School of Medicine and Health Sciences
GeorgeSquared GeorgeSquared Advanced Biomedical Sciences Graduate CertificateGeorgetown University Medical Center, George Mason University
Georgetown University MS Integrative Medicine and Health Sciences (IMHS) ProgramGeorgetown University Biomedical Graduate Education, Georgetown University Medical Center
Georgetown University Post-Baccalaureate Pre-Medical Certificate ProgramGeorgetown University, George Washington University, New York University, Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson and the University of Pittsburgh
Goucher College Post-Baccalaureate Premedical Program University of Pennsylvania, University of Chicago Pritzker, University of Michigan, Alpert (Brown), George Washington, Weill Cornell, Stony Brook, Univ. of Maryland, Hofstra, Univ. of Pittsburgh, NYU
Heritage University Master of Arts in Medical SciencesPacific Northwest University of Health Sciences College of Osteopathic Medicine (PNWU-COM)
High Point University Masters of Science in Biomedical SciencesHigh Point Univeristy’s Graduate Programs in Physician Assistant Studies, Dental and Oral Medicine, Physical Therapy
Icahn School of Medicine at Mount SinaiCooper Union
Keck Graduate InstitutePomona College, Claremont McKenna College, Pitzer College, Harvey Mudd, Scripps College, and Claremont Graduate University
Lake Erie College of Osteopathic MedicineLECOM Erie, LECOM Seton Hill, LECOM Bradenton
Larkin University Masters of Science in Biomedical SciencesClinical Shadowing available through Larkin Community Hospital
LaSalle University Postbaccalaureate Premedcial Certificate ProgramRobert Wood Johnson Medical School and Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine
Lawrence Technological UniversityLawrence Technological University PA Program
Lewis UniversityLoyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine
Loyola University ChicagoLoyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine
LSU Health New Orleans School of Public HealthLSU Health New Orleans School of Medicine
Marian University College of Osteopathic MedicineMarian University
Marymount Manhattan College Biology Post-Baccalaureate ProgramTouro College of Osteopathic Medicine and the Touro College of Pharmacy.
Medical University of South Carolina Master of Science in Medical SciencesMedical University of South Carolina College of Medicine, Medical University of South Carolina College of Dental Medicine
Midwestern University Master of Arts in Biomedical ScienceAll Midwestern University Professional programs: medicine, dentistry, pharmacy, podiatry, optometry, veterinary medicine, physician assistant, physical therapy, cardiovascular perfuion
Mills College Postbaccalaureate ProgramLinkage Agreements: Western University of Osteopathic Medicine
Quinnipiac University Graduate Biomedical SciencesFrank Netter School of Medicine at Quinnipiac University
Rosalind Franklin University of Medicine & Science Master of Science in Biomedical SciencesRosalind Franklin University of Medicine & Science
Rutgers University New Brunswick Postbaccalaureate Prehealth ProgramRutgers New Jersey Medical School and Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School
Saint Louis University Medical Anatomy & Physiology Certificate Program (MAPP)Saint Louis University
Saint Xavier University Post baccalaureate Certificate in Medical SciencePonce Health Sciences University, Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine, A.T. Still Osteopathic School, Midwestern School of Pharmacy
Saint Xavier University Master of Science in Medical SciencePonce Health Sciences University, Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine, A.T. Still Osteopathic School, Midwestern School of Pharmacy
Salus University Post-baccalaureate Program in Health SciencesAll Salus University graduate & professional school programs: Optometry, Audiology, Blindness & Low Vision, Occupational Therapy, Speech Language & Pathology, Physician’s Assistant, Orthotics & Prosthetics & Biomedicine programs
School of Medicine, Virginia Commonwealth University Premedical Graduate Health Sciences Certificate (CERT) ProgramVCU School of Medicine, VCU School of Dentistry
Scripps College Post-Baccalaureate Premedical ProgramScripps offers linkage affiliations with University of Michigan, George Washington School of Medicine, Hofstra Northshore LIJ, University of Pittsburgh, Western University College of Osteopathic Medicine
South Dakota State University Human BiologyEdward Via College of Osteopathic Medicine, Des Moines University
Southern Illinois University Carbondale Master of Biomedical ScienceSouthern Ilinois University School of Medicine
Southern Illinois University School of Medicine Medical and Dental Education Preparatory Program (MEDPREP)Southern Illinois University School of Medicine
Stanford School of Medicine REACH (Racial Equity to Advance a Community in Health)Stanford
SUNY Upstate Medical University MedPrep Academic Enhancement MS in Medical TechnologySUNY Upstate Medical University
Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center Graduate Medical Sciences, M.S. in Biomedical SciencesTexas Tech University Health Sciences Center School of Medicine, Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center at El Paso Paul L. Foster School of Medicine
The Ohio State University MEDPATH Post Baccalaureate ProgramThe Ohio State University College of Medicine
The University of Iowa Master of Clinical AnatomyThe University of Iowa
Thomas Jefferson University Postbaccalaureate Pre-Professional Program (P4)Linkage agreement with Sidney Kimmel Medical College at Thomas Jefferson University and Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine
Touro College of Osteopathic Medicine MS in Interdisciplinary Studies in Biological and Physical SciencesTouro College of Osteopathic Medicine
Touro University California MS in Medical Health SciencesTouro University College of Osteopathic Medicine
Tufts UniversityPost Baccalaureate Premedical ProgramLinkage Agreement: Tufts School of Medicine, BU School of Medicine, UMass Med and University of New England COM linkage; Joint Acceptance with Tufts Dental School.
Tufts University School of Medicine MS in Biomedical Sciences (MBS)Tufts University School of Medicine
Tulane University School of Medicine One Year Masters in Pharmacology ProgramTulane University Tulane University School of Medicine
Tulane University School of Medicine One Year Masters Program in PhysiologyTulane University
Tulane University School of Medicine Structural & Cellular Biology ~ Masters Degree Program ~ MS AnatomyTulane University School of Medicine
Tulane University School of Medicine One Year Master of Science in Molecular MedicineTulane University Health Sciences Center
Tulane University School of Medicine Two Year Master of Science in Molecular and Cellular PathobiologyTulane University Health Sciences Center
Tulane University School of Medicine One-Year Masters Program in Biochemistry & Molecular BiologyTulane School of Medicine
UCLA Extension Pre-Medical and General Science Studies CertificateUCLA
University at Buffalo, State University of New York Masters Program (SMP) in Biological SciencesUniversity at Buffalo Jacobs School of Medicine
University of California, San Francisco UCSF Interprofessional Health Post Baccalaureate ProgramUC Berkeley Extension
University of Cincinnati, College of Medicine Master’s in Pharmacology with emphasis on Preclinical & Clinical Drug SafetyCincinnati Children’s
University of Connecticut Pre-Medical and Health Professions Post-Baccalaureate ProgramUConn School of Medicine, UConn Health Center
University of Delaware Premedical Post Baccalaureate Certificate Program“Strong relationships with regional and international medical/health profession programs of study.”
University of Hawaii John A. Burns School of MedicineʻImi Hoʻōla Post-Baccalaureate ProgramUniversity of Hawaii at Manoa
University of Louisville Postbaccalaureate Pre-medical ProgramUniversity of Louisville School of Medicine
University of Michigan Medical School, Office of Graduate & Postdoctoral Studies (OGPS) Postbac MEDPREP Program: Post-Baccalaureate Premedical ProgramUniversity of Michigan Medical School
University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio Pre-Professional ProgramJoe R. and Teresa Lozano Long School of Medicine
University of the Incarnate Word School of Osteopathic Medicine Master of Biomedical SciencesUniversity of the Incarnate Word
University of Vermont Post-Baccalaureate Premedical ProgramUniversity of Vermont College of Nursing & Health Sciences
University of Vermont Master of Medical ScienceUniversity of Vermont Larner College of Medicine
University of Virginia U.Va. Post-Baccalaureate Pre-Medical ProgramLinkages with George Washington University School of Medicine and University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine
Virginia Commonwealth University Undergraduate Post-Baccalaureate Health Sciences Certificate ProgramVCU, College of Health Professions, School of Dentistry, School of Medicine, School of Pharmacy
Wake Forest University Graduate School, Biomedical Programs Biomedical Sciences MS – Pre-health PathwayWake Forest School of Medicine (MD program and PA program)
Washington University in St. Louis Post-Baccalaureate Premedical ProgramCase Western Reserve University College of Medicine,University of Michigan Medical School.
Wayne State University PreMedical Post Baccalaureate ProgramWayne State University School of Medicine Office of Diversity and Inclusion
Western University of Health Sciences Master of Science in Medical SciencesWestern University of Health Sciences College of Osteopathic Medicine of the Pacific, College of Dental Medicine, College of Pharmacy, and College of Podiatric Medicine.

How much does a post-bacc program cost?

Post-bacc program tuition varies by school, but you can expect to pay $10,000-$30,000. Remember, because post-bacc programs are not degree-seeking programs, Federal and State aid will not apply.

Finding the Post-Baccalaureate Program That’s Right for You

Pick programs based on the curriculum you enjoy, the tuition, their other opportunities, and their location. Online programs offer the most flexibility and tend to be the most cost-effective.

Some questions you may want to ask before deciding include:

  • What percentage of students are accepted to MD schools after this program? What about to DO schools?
  • How long does the average person take to finish this program?
  • Is there career advising available?
  • Is there built in MCAT studying time? Are MCAT preparation classes included?
  • What electives can I take?
  • Are there research opportunities?
  • Are there clinical opportunities?

How many post-bacc programs should I apply to?

On your medical school applications, it’s normal to apply to 25+ schools But for post-bacc programs you do not have to apply to nearly as many — just 4-5 should be more than enough.

Ace Your Med School Application

If you’re considering applying to medical school, enrolling in a post-baccalaureate program is a great way to make your application stand out

The cost can certainly be steep, but the benefits are great, too. By taking advantage of everything a post-baccalaureate program offers, you could set yourself up for success in both your application process and your future career as a physician.

We can help you through the medical school admissions process from start to finish — and greatly increase your chances at acceptance!

Picture of Renee Marinelli, MD

Renee Marinelli, MD

Dr. Marinelli has practiced family medicine, served on the University of California Admissions Committee, and has helped hundreds of students get into medical school. She spearheads a team of physician advisors who guide MedSchoolCoach students.

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