Post Baccalaureate Coursework

What is a Post-Baccalaureate (PB) Program?

A post-baccalaureate is a program of study at the undergraduate or graduate level, which allows students who have already earned a baccalaureate degree to either obtain for the first time their pre-health prerequisite coursework or allows them to enhance their current science coursework in order to make themselves more competitive for the health professional school admissions. These programs are available only to those students who have earned a bachelor’s degree.

What is a structured PB program?

A structured postbac program is one in which the curriculum is highly defined and generally inflexible. Students usually enroll in two semesters each of chemistry, organic chemistry, biology, and physics.

What is an unstructured PB program?

An unstructured PB program is often more flexible with how students begin and end their program of study. They often have more liberal or open admissions policies, and may offer fewer support services. They can usually serve both career changing and grade enhancing students, and may or may not grant a certificate at the completion of the program.

What is a certificate-granting PB program?

A certificate-granting postbac program gives students a certificate upon completion of all the requirements of the program. This is not the same as a degree.

What is a "career-changer" PB program?

A person who has decided to pursue a career in medicine or other clinical health profession after receiving a bachelor’s degree with undergraduate coursework that did not include the pre-health prerequisites.

What is a "grade-enhancer" PB program? 

A person, possibly a biology or other science major in college, who may have already taken the pre-health prerequisites, but who needs to retake courses for higher grades. A grade-enhancing PB student may also need to take upper level science courses to demonstrate the capability to be academically successful. Grade enhancers may or may not have taken the MCAT. If MCAT scores are low, a grade enhancing PB student may use a PB program to help bolster their MCAT or other standardized test scores. Grade or Academic Enhancing PB programs may offer courses at the undergraduate and graduate levels. Some programs located at medical or dental schools may offer PB students the opportunity to take first year medical or dental school courses.

To find PB programs in your area click this link: https://apps.aamc.org/postbac/#/index

What is a Special master's PB program?

Special master’s program are designed for grade enhancement and serve students who prefer to earn a master’s to taking further undergraduate science courses to strengthen their candidacy. There are a number of Special Master’s Degree granting programs available and most, if not all, are affiliated with specific medical schools. Many are noted on the AAMC website.

What does "group underrepresented in medicine" mean?

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

What does "educationally or economically disadvantaged students" mean?

Educationally disadvantaged students are those students who experienced barriers to learning by the social, cultural, regional, political, and economic environments in which they live.

Economically disadvantaged students are those who come from families with an annual income below a certain level, which is based on low-income thresholds according to family size published by the U.S. Bureau of the Census, adjusted annually for changes in the Consumer Price Index.

How long does a typical PB program take to complete?

The length of PB programs varies. Many can be completed in one to two years, which may include summer study. In terms of sequencing of courses, two semesters of General Chemistry are taken prior to two semesters of Organic Chemistry.

How much will a typical PB program cost?

Program tuition costs can vary dramatically from $16,000 to $45,000.
What is the typical course load for a PB student?Two - three courses with laboratories per semester are what might be expected in a typical career changer PB program. If a PB student needs to improve his math background, an additional course might be added. To receive financial aid, there are often regulations about how many semester hours of classes must be completed per semester. In a grade enhancing PB program, a PB student might take 3-4 courses per semester in order to demonstrate academic success.

Can I expect a PB program to provide volunteer/service activities for me?

Generally a structured program and some unstructured programs assist students in locating health- care related volunteer, service and shadowing opportunities. However, many postbac programs will expect you to have already obtained some of this experience before admission in order to demonstrate that you are making an informed choice in pursuing a health profession. 

Do PB programs help students in the applicaiton process?

Typically, a structured program, whether a career changer or enhancement, will work closely with each student as s/he embarks on the application process. This likely will include a letter of recommendation, advice about the timing of the application, the personal statement, and selection of schools. Unstructured programs may offer these services but are less likely to do so. 
Do PB programs provide letters of recommendation for PB students?Many PB programs do provide letters of recommendation/evaluation. These can be in either a Premed Committee Letter format or letters written by individual faculty who teach the required premedical science courses. In some PB programs, PB directors may provide a cover letter for the letters of evaluation. 

What is typically required in the application process to PB programs?

Typically, programs require applicants to submit a formal application (including essays), application fees, two letters of evaluation, official transcripts, and standardized test scores. Some programs with more open admissions policies may only require an application, an application fee, and official college transcripts. 

What makes a successful PB applicant and subsequent PB student?

Postbaccalaureate students are expected to have certain qualities and characteristics. Whether it is an application to a postbaccalaureate program or an application to the profession school, successful students demonstrate both ability and work ethic to succeed academically and the motivation based on a mature understanding of the profession. As older students, postbacs are typically more self-aware. Ideally they have sought out exposure to their chosen profession and also developed qualities of resilience, respect for others, integrity and dedication. These students should seek help where needed but also need to be self-motivated and independent. Once enrolled in a postbac program, a student will find the help necessary to prepare for professional school. The student will, however, be expected to work very hard and handle what is expected as a mature adult.

For more information, check out our presentation on Post-Bacc Programs: 

If you have questions, please make an appointment with a pre-health adviser. 

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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.

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