What Are Post-Baccalaureate Programs? A Complete Guide

January 11, 2023


Reviewed by:

Jonathan Preminger

Former Admissions Committee Member, Hofstra-Northwell School of Medicine

Reviewed: 5/13/22

If you’re trying to boost your profile for med school, you might consider a post-baccalaureate program. But what does post-baccalaureate mean? We’ll cover everything you need to know below. 

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If you’re a pre-med looking to boost your med school profile, you may consider a post-baccalaureate program. Perhaps you have a bachelor’s degree in a non-science subject and need to complete prerequisite course requirements. Or maybe you’ve been rejected from med school and need to strengthen your application before reapplying

If this sounds like you, you’ve come to the right place. So, what’s a post-baccalaureate program, and how much does a post-bacc program cost? We’ll review these programs, weigh the pros and cons of enrolling, and review post-baccalaureate requirements. 

We’ll discuss everything you should consider when choosing a program, how to apply, and provide a short list of post-bacc programs for med school you can use to evaluate your options. 

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What Are Post-Baccalaureate Programs?

So, what are post-baccalaureate programs? These programs support your transition to med school after graduating college. Their purpose is to strengthen your application and help you become a more competitive candidate during a gap year. Think of a post-baccalaureate program as a stepping stone to medical school.

Post-baccalaureate programs are typically one to two years long. They may award a master’s degree, a certificate, or no degree or certificate at all. Some programs offer undergraduate credit, while others offer graduate credit. 

Types of Post-Bacc Programs

There are four main post-bacc program types. For allopathic schools, these are: 

  • Academic record enhancers 
  • Career changers
  • Post-baccalaureate medical programs for minority students
  • Programs for economically and educationally disadvantaged groups

Your post-baccalaureate experience depends on the program. There are over 270 programs in the AAMC post-bacc database. You can search for programs that match your needs and goals. 

Infographic outlining the types of post-baccalaureate programs

Programs for Improving Your Academic Record

Post-bacc programs for academic record enhancement are for pre-med students who believe their academic standing isn’t as competitive as they’d like it to be. These programs help students boost their academic stats, such as GPA and MCAT scores

You should enroll in a program for undergrad coursework if you’re unsatisfied with your undergraduate GPA. Graduate programs only affect your graduate GPA, not your undergraduate GPA. The AMCAS application separates your undergraduate and graduate GPAs. 

Programs for Changing Your Career

Post-baccalaureate programs for career changers are designed to help non-traditional students prepare for med school. Typically, these students hold a bachelor’s degree in a non-science subject and decide to become a doctor after college. 

Post-bacc programs for career changers help students complete prerequisite coursework. These programs also provide additional support to meet medical school requirements, such as studying for the MCAT and CASPer. Students may also receive medical school application support.  

Programs for Underrepresented Groups in Medicine

Post-bacc medical programs for minority students and underrepresented groups can help these groups gain acceptance into med school. The AAMC defines underrepresented groups as the following: 

“Underrepresented in medicine means those racial and ethnic populations that are underrepresented in the medical profession relative to their numbers in the general population.”

If you belong to an underrepresented group, this post-bacc program may be right for you. 

Programs for Disadvantaged Groups in Medicine

Post-bacc programs for disadvantaged groups in medicine exist to help economically and educationally disadvantaged students. This applies to students who come from low-income families or have faced societal hardship that negatively impacted their educational and professional opportunities. 

In addition to allopathic post-bacc programs, there are special master’s programs and osteopathic courses.

Special Master’s Programs (SMPs)

SMPs are for students interested in getting a graduate degree. While post-bacc programs are designed for students to fill application gaps, SMPs exist to enhance applications. Students enrolled in SMPs generally meet med school requirements but want a competitive edge.

Because SMPs are graduate-level coursework, they don’t affect undergraduate GPA.  

Osteopathic Programs

Osteopathic post-bacc programs are affiliated with osteopathic med schools. These programs are similar to those above; however, they emphasize osteopathy, not allopathy. The AACOM has a list of post-baccalaureate programs at over 20 osteopathic schools. 

It’s worth mentioning that there may be an overlap between program types. For example, programs for underrepresented groups may also be academic record enhancers or career changers. You must research and look for programs that best align with your circumstances and goals. 

Post-Baccalaureate Program Pros

If you’re wondering what a post-baccalaureate program can do for you, there are several benefits. We’ll discuss them below. 

Extended Access to Pre-Health Advisors 

Pre-health advisors help you prepare for medical school and provide guidance based on where you are in the application process. They help schedule classes, manage application timelines, and provide additional resources.

Several Post-Baccalaureate Programs Are Affiliated with Specific Medical Schools 

These are called post-baccalaureate linkage programs. Some of the best programs are affiliated with medical schools. While enrolling in a linkage program doesn’t guarantee acceptance, it’s beneficial to know the ins and outs of the campus, faculty, mission, and environment.

Volunteering Opportunities

Many programs include built-in volunteering opportunities. This can help you gain relevant experiences to discuss in your medical school interview and the AMCAS work and activities section.

Networking Opportunities 

You’ll have extensive networking opportunities with faculty, staff, colleagues, and mentors. Because many programs are affiliated with medical schools, renowned lecturers and professors often give presentations and network with students.

Flexible Program Structuring and Scheduling 

Program lengths vary, but you can check out part-time or online options to accommodate your schedule. Just be mindful of any limitations of part-time and online programs. 

For example, if you need to improve your GPA but a part-time or online program doesn’t factor that in, it may be best to look at full-time, on-site academic enhancement programs.

Improve Other Aspects of Your Medical School Application 

Post-bacc programs are a great way to complete prerequisite coursework in less time (accelerated coursework). If you’re a non-traditional student or didn’t complete all required science coursework/labs, then the accelerated path may be right for you.

These programs also help you prepare for the MCAT. If you’re unhappy with your score or haven’t taken the test yet, post-baccs give you more time to study. Additionally, MCAT prep classes are often built into post-bacc curricula.

Post-Baccalaureate Program Considerations

While post-bacc programs have pros, there are other factors to consider. So, let’s explore several of them. 

Cost of Attendance

Simply put, more education means more money. Consider your finances and financial aid options before deciding to accrue debt on top of possible existing student debt and the future cost of med school.

Not Improving Your Undergraduate GPA if You Enroll in Graduate Programs

If your goal is to improve your undergraduate GPA, ensure the program you choose impacts your undergraduate GPA, not your graduate GPA. The primary difference between post-bacc and master’s programs is that an SMP will give you a graduate-level degree but won’t impact your undergraduate GPA.

The Pressure to Succeed and Bolster Your Application 

Because your goal is to boost your profile, you may feel tremendous pressure to achieve the highest marks and gain the best relevant experiences. This may cause burnout before you even get to medical school, so prioritize self-care and ask for help when needed.

Several Programs Don’t Award Degrees or Certificates

If your goal is to obtain credentials, apply to the programs that provide them. For example, if you want to improve your academic credentials with a graduate degree, an SMP may be the ideal choice for you compared to a post-bacc certificate or diploma.

How to Decide if You Should Enroll in a Post-Baccalaureate Program

To decide if you should enroll in a post-bacc program, consider how you want to improve your application and your circumstances:

  • If you come from an economically or educationally disadvantaged group, post-bacc programs in this category can help you maximize your chances of acceptance.
  • If you identify as part of an underrepresented minority group, then related programs can help you prepare for medical school by giving you a competitive edge.
  • Consider your interests. What are you looking for out of the post-bacc experience? For example, if you’re passionate about research and want more research experience, prioritize PhD and thesis-based post-bacc programs. If you do what you love, you’re more likely to succeed.
  • Consider whether you want to attend an undergraduate or graduate post-bacc program. Review your undergraduate academic performance before deciding, as graduate programs bolster your application without impacting your college GPA.
  • Consider where you want to attend medical school and see if they offer post-bacc programs. While completing a program at the school doesn’t guarantee acceptance, there are still benefits. For example, you’ll learn more about the school’s mission, culture, environment, faculty, and resources. 
  • Additionally, the faculty and staff will also get to know you. Admissions committees will see you attended their school in a post-bacc program. It shows admissions committees your commitment to and interest in their school above others. 
  • Consider your current GPA and academic performance. Post-baccalaureate programs usually have a minimum required GPA to apply. Ensure you meet these requirements.
  • Lastly, you should consider the program length and structure. Can you commit to one or two years of rigorous education before med school? If not, are part-time or online options right for you? If you plan to take a gap year to boost your application, you can enroll in a post-bacc program during this time. 

How to Apply to Post-Baccalaureate Programs

Because there are various types of post-baccalaureate programs, application requirements vary. You’ll have to follow the specific program’s application requirements and recommendations.

What Are the Post-Baccalaureate Application Requirements? 

General post-baccalaureate requirements include:

  • GPA of 2.5 or greater, although some programs may be more competitive and require a higher GPA.
  • The MCAT, GRE, or DAT with a score higher than the 40th percentile. Some programs are more competitive and require a score higher than the 50th percentile.
  • Most programs will only accept U.S. citizens, although some exceptions allow international students. Verify the selection factors with the programs you apply to. 

Ensure you check program websites for more information on specific post-bacc requirements and to determine how to apply.

Best Post-Bacc Programs for Medical School

The best post-bacc program for med school is the one that aligns best with your needs, goals, and circumstances. However, there are many excellent programs for you to consider; these five programs have impressive linkages and are renowned for their high-caliber instruction: 

  • Bryn Mawr College Post-Baccalaureate Premedical Program
  • Johns Hopkins Post-Baccalaureate Premedical Program
  • Columbia University Post-Baccalaureate Premedical Program
  • UCSF School Of Medicine Post-Baccalaureate Program
  • University Of Pennsylvania Pre-Health Programs

This table breaks down what you need to know about each of them: 

table outlining the best post-bacc programs
table outlining the best post-bacc programs part 2
Source: Bryn Mawr College, Johns Hopkins University, Columbia University, UCSF, UPenn

Post-Baccalaureate Program FAQs

We’ve outlined several answers below to help you further understand post-bacc programs and how you can get into one.  

1. How Do I Find Post-Bacc Programs?

The AAMC’s post-baccalaureate database is a valuable tool. You can filter your search results to yield public, private, undergraduate, or graduate programs. Additionally, you can select: 

  • Programs that award certificates or not
  • Programs that accept DACA students
  • Programs that focus on career changers 
  • Academic record enhancers
  • Underrepresented minority students
  • Economically or educationally disadvantaged students
  • Students interested in other health professions

2. Are There Part-Time Post-Bacc Programs?

Part-time post-bacc programs are less common than full-time programs. Part-time programs mean more time to complete the program but also limit your options for enhancement. For example, part-time programs aren’t beneficial for improving your undergraduate GPA. 

3. Do Post-Bacc Programs Increase My Chances of Acceptance to Med School?

There’s a correlation between acceptance rates and successful completion of post-bacc programs. Most schools report an increased acceptance rate of post-bacc students, likely due to improved GPAs and MCAT scores and more experience in relevant extracurriculars such as medical shadowing, volunteering, and research. 

4. Should I Apply to Post-Bacc Programs Affiliated With Medical Schools?

There are advantages to applying to the post-bacc program offered by your preferred med school. For example, applying to their post-bacc program makes you more familiar with the application process and timelines. That said, you should also apply to other post-baccs that match your needs. 

5. How Much Are Post-Bacc Programs?

Cost varies greatly depending on the school and program length. Some programs can cost upwards of $10,000 per term when you add fees and other costs. Check with programs, and speak with the Student Financial Services office to review your options.

6. What’s the Difference Between Post-Bacc and Master’s Programs? 

The main difference between master’s vs. post-baccalaureate programs is that the former contributes to your graduate GPA while the latter can boost your undergraduate GPA. Most students enroll in SMPs to enhance their profile: they’re happy with their undergraduate GPA and have met medical school requirements. 

7. How Much Can Post-Bacc Programs Raise GPA? 

How much a post-bacc can raise your GPA depends on how well you perform in your classes. Acing your classes can raise your GPA by a few tenths of a point: for example, from 2.8 to 3.1. 

8. Are Post-Bacc Programs Hard to Get Into? 

Compared to medical school, post-bacc programs are generally easier to get into. However, top programs are still selective. You’ll need to produce stellar application documents for your best shot at admission. 

9. How Long Are Post-Bacc Programs? 

Post-bacc programs typically range from one to two years. 

10. Is a Post-Baccalaureate Certificate Worth It? 

Getting a post-bacc certificate shows medical schools you worked to address gaps in your candidacy and can take the initiative to learn and grow. A post-bacc certificate is worth it if you’re worried about your candidacy, are a career changer, or feel your GPA and test scores aren’t competitive enough for the med schools you’re applying to.  

11. What Is the Point of a Post-Baccalaureate Program? 

A post-bacc program can help you raise your undergraduate GPA, further your education, change gears toward a medical career, and help strengthen your medical school profile. 

What Is a Post-Baccalaureate Program? The Key to Your Future

Post-baccalaureate programs are a great option to bolster your application before applying to med school. If you want to improve your GPA, gain relevant experiences, or prepare for the MCAT, post-bacc programs can help you reach your goals.

Consider your circumstances and reflect on your medical school readiness. Do you see gaps in your application? Are there areas that need improvement? Have you completed all requirements? These questions will help you determine whether a post-bacc program is right for you.

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