What is a Post-Baccalaureate Program? - Tips, Types & FAQ

March 19, 2024
7 min read


Reviewed by:

Jonathan Preminger

Former Admissions Committee Member, Hofstra-Northwell School of Medicine

Reviewed: 3/19/24

If you’re trying to boost your profile for med school, you might consider a post-baccalaureate program. In this guide, we’ll cover everything you need to know below. 

If you’re a pre-med looking to boost your med school profile, you may consider a post-baccalaureate (PB) 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. 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 Is a Post-Baccalaureate Program?

A post-baccalaureate program is completed after graduation from college. They typically specialize in a certain subject and are highly specific.

The purpose of a PB program is to strengthen your application and help you become a more competitive candidate during a gap year. Think of it as a stepping stone to medical school.

Who Are Post-Baccalaureate Programs For?

PB programs are designed to help students who’ve received their undergraduate degree. They assist students in the transition period between undergrad graduation and graduate school.

How Long Are Post-Baccalaureate Programs?

The typical post-baccalaureate program runs from one to three years. However, there are accelerated programs that can be completed in as little as nine months.

How Much Do Post-Baccalaureate Programs Cost?

PB programs can cost $20,000 to $40,000. Many programs offer financial aid options, but you might also need to consider taking out loans to cover the costs. 

It's worth noting that not all programs qualify for federal aid, so it's a good idea to check with the financial aid offices of the programs you're interested in. If you do end up taking federal unsubsidized loans, keep in mind that the interest starts accumulating right away and continues during your time in medical school.

Types of Post-Bacc Programs

There are four main PB program types. For allopathic schools, these are: 

  • Academic record enhancers 
  • Career changers
  • Medical programs for minority students
  • Programs for economically and educationally disadvantaged groups

Remember, your experience depends on the program. There are over 270 programs in the AAMC database. You can search for programs that match your needs and goals. 

Programs for Improving Your Academic Record

PB 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

PB 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. 

These programs 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

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 program may be right for you. 

Programs for Disadvantaged Groups in Medicine

PB 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 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 PB 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 PB 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 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. 

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

You should apply to a PB program if your GPA is lower than the average medical school applicant. Consider how you want to improve your application and your circumstances:

  • If you come from an economically or educationally disadvantaged group, 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 experience? For example, if you’re passionate about research and want more research experience, prioritize PhD and thesis-based programs. If you do what you love, you’re more likely to succeed.
  • Consider whether you want to attend an undergraduate or graduate 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 PB 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 PB program. It shows admissions committees your commitment to and interest in their school above others. 
  • Consider your current GPA and academic performance. These 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 program during this time. 

Post-Baccalaureate Pros

If you’re wondering what one of these programs 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 PB 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 

PB 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, these programs give you more time to study. Additionally, MCAT prep classes are often built into curricula.

Post-Baccalaureate Considerations

While 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 PB 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 PB certificate or diploma.

If you’re looking for post-baccalaureate help, book a private tutoring session with one of our tutors to set you up for success.

How to Apply to Post-Baccalaureate Programs

Because there are various types of 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 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 requirements and to determine how to apply. If you need help along the way, consider relying on post-baccalaureate help from an expert to make sure you check every box.

Best PB Programs for Medical School

The best 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
  • The University Of Pennsylvania Pre-Health Programs

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

Bryn Mawr College Johns Hopkins Columbia University UCSF UPenn
Program Type Designed for career changers Designed for career changers Designed for career changers Designed for individuals from disadvantaged backgrounds/underserved communities Designed for career changers and academic enhancement
GPA Requirement Most accepted students have a GPA above 3.3 Students are more likely to be accepted with a GPA
above 3.0

3.0 or above 2.94 or higher, minimum 2.8 GPA in the sciences 3.0 or above
Linkages 17 linkage schools, including Weill Cornell, Brown, Case Western Reserve, and more 10 linkage schools, including Weill Cornell, Rutgers, Boston University, and more 15 linkage schools, including NYU, Icahn School of Medicine, Columbia, and more N/A 6 linkage schools, including Rutgers, George Washington University, and more
Cost $34,726 $47,130 $63,060 (for 30-point program) $15,757 (not including the cost of living) $14,992 per year
Program Length 12 months 9 to 14 months Varies, 18 months to 2 years 11 months 2 years


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

1. How Do I Find Post-Bacc Programs?

To find post-baccalaureate programs, use the AAMC's database and filter your search results by:

  • Public, private, undergraduate, or graduate programs
  • Programs that award certificates or not
  • Programs accepting DACA students
  • Programs focusing on career changers, academic record enhancers, underrepresented minority students, economically or educationally disadvantaged students, or those interested in other health professions

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

Part-time post-baccalaureate programs are less common than full-time programs. While part-time programs offer more time to complete the coursework, they limit options for enhancement and are not beneficial for improving undergraduate GPA.

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

Completing a post-baccalaureate program correlates with increased acceptance rates to medical schools. Most schools report higher acceptance rates for post-baccalaureate students, likely due to improved GPAs, MCAT scores, and more experience in relevant extracurriculars like medical shadowing, volunteering, and research.

4. Should I Apply to PB Programs Affiliated With Medical Schools?

Applying to a post-baccalaureate program offered by your preferred medical school has advantages, such as familiarity with the application process and timelines. However, it's important to also apply to other programs that match your needs.

5. How Much Are PB Programs?

PB programs can cost anywhere between $20,000 – $40,000. Check with programs and consult the Student Financial Services office to review your options.

6. What’s the Difference Between PB and Master’s Programs? 

The difference between PB and MA programs is that post-baccalaureate programs contribute to your graduate GPA, while MA programs can boost your undergraduate GPA. Many students enroll in MA programs to improve their profile when they are satisfied with their undergraduate GPA and have met medical school requirements.

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

Acing your PB classes can increase your GPA by a few tenths of a point, such as from 2.8 to 3.1. The extent to which a post-baccalaureate program can raise your GPA depends on your performance in the classes. 

8. Are PB Programs Hard to Get Into? 

Compared to medical school, post-baccalaureate programs are generally easier to get into. However, top programs are still selective, and you'll need to submit stellar application documents for your best chance at admission.

9. How Long Are PB Programs? 

Post-baccalaureate programs typically range from one to three years in duration. Some can be completed in as little as nine months.

10. Is a Post-Baccalaureate Certificate Worth It? 

Yes, earning a post-baccalaureate certificate demonstrates to medical schools that you have worked to address gaps in your candidacy and can take the initiative to learn and grow. A certificate is valuable if you have concerns about your candidacy, are a career changer, or feel your GPA and test scores are not competitive enough for your target medical schools.

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

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

Final Thoughts

These 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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