There are two reasons to pursue post-baccalaureate (“post-bac”) coursework or programs: (1) you have completed all of the pre-med requirements but you want to improve your math and science grades before applying to medical school, or (2) you want to apply to medical school, but did not complete the pre-med requirements as an undergraduate.
(1) Post-Baccalaureate Coursework and Academic Record-Enhancer Programs
If you have completed the pre-med pre-requisite courses for medical school, but your grades need improvement in order to be competitive for admission, we recommend that you take additional upper-level science courses after graduation. You can do this by enrolling in courses as a non-matriculating student at a university; or you can complete a post-bac academic record-enhancer program, which is more structured and often provides advising services.
Some academic record-enhancer programs are non-degree programs, while others provide students with the opportunity to complete a master’s degree. Be aware that the grades for courses taken in a master’s program will not be included in the undergraduate science GPA considered by medical schools. Grades for courses taken after graduation, but at the undergraduate post-bac level, are included in the undergraduate science GPA for medical school.
Academic record-enhancer programs vary in structure and in what they offer in terms of advising, academics, and application support. Moreover, some schools offer multiple post-bac study tracks with different academic options. The AAMC has an online searchable directory of post-bac programs.
(2) Post-Baccalaureate Programs for Career Changers
Those who come to the decision to pursue medical school either toward the end of their college career or after graduation may enroll in special post-bac programs to complete the pre-med requirements. There are many career changer post-bac programs and all offer the same basic courses; however, as with any program, there are variations among them. Some are one-year programs, while others can take two years to complete. At some schools, post-bac students take classes with undergraduates, while at others the post-bac students take classes separately. To identify career-changer post-bac programs, search the AAMC’s directory of post-bac programs.
It is critical that you have access to a pre-med advisor while completing your post-bac work. As you investigate programs, pay special attention to how accessible the advisor is and try to speak with current students who can vouch for the quality of the advising services.
Many post-bac programs also have “linkages” which offer connections to specific medical schools. Students can apply to medical school through these linkages while they are finishing their post-bac work; in this way, students can avoid the “lag year” that otherwise would exist between the time they complete their post-bac studies and the time they enter medical school. The requirements for these linkages can be rigorous, so be sure to thoroughly investigate them.