Understanding Various Types of Premed Post-Bacc Programs

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David Fang


David Fang

Dr. Baran Erdik


Dr. Baran Erdik

In the ever-evolving world of academia and professional development, a range of opportunities exists for those seeking to further their knowledge and skills after earning an undergraduate degree. Among these, post-baccalaureate programs, or "post-baccs," are increasingly recognized for their pivotal role in bridging the gap between undergraduate study and more advanced professional or graduate programs. 

Understanding Post-Bacc Programs and Their Role

These programs typically last one to two years. While they do not result in a new degree, they frequently result in a certificate or diploma upon completion.

The versatility of post-bacc programs extends into various disciplines. However, they are particularly salient in preparing students for medical school. Often, prospective medical students may not have the prerequisite courses required for admission or need to enhance their academic records to improve their competitiveness. There are many post-bacc premed programs available nationwide that may help bridge the gap.

Types of post-bacc programs include:

Pre-Medical/Pre-Health Programs:

For students who have completed a bachelor's degree but need to complete the necessary science coursework (e.g., biology, chemistry, physics) to fulfill the prerequisites for medical, dental, veterinary, or other health professional schools.

Programs Designed to Help Underrepresented Groups in the Medical Profession:

Certain post-bacc programs, including those offered by Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), aim to broaden access to medicine for students from diverse or underrepresented backgrounds. These programs, in addition to providing academic support, often include mentorship and professional development components.

Career Change Programs:

Tailored for individuals who completed a bachelor's degree in a field unrelated to their desired career path. For example, individuals who have a non-science background, but now wish to pursue a medical career.

Academic Record Enhancement Programs:

Some students may need to improve their academic records, particularly if they aim to apply to competitive graduate or professional programs. 

Second Bachelor's Degree Programs:

Some individuals with a bachelor's degree may want to switch fields entirely and pursue a second bachelor's degree in a different discipline. 

International Student Preparation Programs:

Designed for international students who wish to study in the United States and need additional English language instruction or coursework

Prerequisite Programs and Pre-Med Programs

Prerequisite programs, also known as pre-med post-baccalaureate programs, are designed to provide students with the foundational science courses needed for medical school admission. 

These programs are designed for people who decide to pursue a career in medicine later in their undergraduate career or after graduation and thus do not meet the prerequisites for medical school admission.

For example, the Johns Hopkins Post-Baccalaureate Premedical Program is designed for students who have already completed a bachelor's degree and want to pursue a medical career. The program offers some flexibility with start dates to help best accommodate students. 

Not only do these programs provide students with the necessary coursework, but they also provide a host of other forms of assistance designed to improve students' chances of being accepted into medical school. This may include preparation for the MCAT, career counseling, assistance with the application process, and opportunities for relevant experiences such as volunteering, conducting research, and job shadowing in healthcare settings.

Programs to Improve Students' Academic Records

Academic record enhancement programs often called GPA-enhancement programs, are designed for students who have already completed the prerequisite courses but did not achieve the grades they desired or needed for competitive medical school applications. These programs, such as the one offered at Boston University provide an opportunity to retake science courses or take upper-level science courses to demonstrate academic improvement and capability.

These programs do not simply offer the repetition of undergraduate classes; instead, they provide coursework that allows students to delve deeper into scientific fundamentals and, thereby, demonstrate their commitment to and preparedness for the rigors of medical school.

Post-Bacc Centered around Career Change

Career change post-bacc programs are tailored for individuals who did not major in a science-related field during their undergraduate studies and have decided to transition to a career in medicine. This approach is typically a suitable option for people who are re-entering school after their initial degree, or after they have spent some time working professionally and decided on a career change from another unrelated field. 

As such, these individuals often lack both the necessary prerequisite courses and a foundation in science. In fact, some students have no science courses in their transcripts. These programs are designed to provide intensive, accelerated coursework in the basic sciences and often assume that students have little to no background in these areas.

Some examples of post-bacc programs centered around career change include: 

Most of these programs can be completed part-time to accommodate students who may already be working or have other commitments. They offer a learning environment that is catered to students who come from a variety of backgrounds, including those with non-science undergraduate degrees or people who need a blend of on-campus and online class options. 

Special Master's Programs

While a less common path for students to pursue, special master's programs (SMPs) are designed to boost the competitiveness of students who already have a strong science background but wish to further enhance their academic record and readiness for the demands of medical school. SMPs are usually one or two-year programs that involve rigorous, graduate-level biomedical science coursework. Georgetown University reports that the high intensity and rigor of SMPs are intended to mimic the challenges of medical school, providing both a test of and preparation for what lies ahead.

Post-Bacc Program Costs

The price of completing a program after receiving a bachelor's degree can be quite high, frequently reaching tens of thousands of dollars. The price of these programs is determined by many different aspects, such as their length, in state vs. out of state, whether or not they include an SMP, and whether or not they are offered at a public or private institution. Keep in mind the options for financial assistance for post-baccalaureate programs tend to be more restricted, meaning that there are fewer options for loans or scholarships. This reality may make it more difficult for some students to secure financial sources to pay for the program. 

It is also essential to consider the return on investment. Many students who are returning to school after their initial graduation have gained professional experience in a field that is related to their initial degree. Sometimes, this approach allows people to understand more about what they want for their futures, and why the change in careers is important to you. It is important to evaluate the costs of starting another program along with the time investment. Carefully analyze the benefits as it fits your life. Will this improve your chances of getting the position that you want? Will this increase potential future earnings? Is a new career path where you’ll find happiness and fulfillment in your professional life? You will want to stack these considerations against the cost of the program. 

Post-Bacc Program Application Requirements

The application requirements for post-bacc programs will generally include several things.  Additionally, some of the requirements are the bare minimum required for application, but actual acceptance can require much higher scores rankings. Some examples of this are minimum GPA requirements - typically a 2.5, although most students who are accepted to programs are higher than this. Other schools require a minimum of the 40th percentile with an MCAT score, others require 50th percentile, but accepted students may have ranked much higher. 

As a general rule, you will need to obtain official transcripts from all post-secondary institutions you’ve attended. Applications often need to include letters of recommendation. Seek endorsements from individuals that are qualified to speak to your qualifications as a candidate for admission and who are also relevant to the industry you are looking to be a part of. Examples include former professors or people you’ve worked with during internships. Most programs also require a personal statement that describes why you’d be a good fit for this program.

Depending on the program, other elements might be necessary, such as a resume, interviews, or even a demonstration of commitment to a particular field.

For medical post-bacc programs, the application may also require proof of volunteer work, clinical experience, or other indicators of a serious commitment to a medical career. Each program has a unique timeline for application submission; however, a general rule of thumb is to start the process in the summer before the intended year of matriculation.

Determining Which Post-Bacc Program is Right for You

Deciding to pursue a post-bacc program is an important and potentially transformative choice. These programs, often stepping-stones into the medical field, can significantly shape one's career trajectory. Given the various needs they address, it's vital to take into account personal circumstances, career aspirations, and unique program characteristics before deciding to embark on a post-bacc journey.

In order to determine whether a post-bacc program is the best option for you, take a close look at the following elements:

  • Understanding Your Needs and Goals:

    You should determine if a post-bacc program is the right choice and involves self-reflection. Understanding your career aspirations, evaluating your academic performance, and identifying areas that need improvement are essential. 

  • Understand the Purpose of Your Program:

    Prerequisite or pre-med programs, academic record enhancement programs, career change programs, and special master's programs are the four broad categories into which post-bacc programs can be divided. It's important to decide which type best suits your needs. For example, if enhancing your GPA is the goal, consider academic record enhancement programs.

  • Program Resources:

    Beyond the academic curriculum, the resources that a program offers can significantly influence your preparation for medical school. Resources can include everything from MCAT training and academic counseling to help with medical school applications and chances for clinical or research experience. You can select a program that meets your needs by being aware of what each one has to offer.

  • Networking Opportunities:

    Some programs have robust connections with local medical schools or healthcare facilities, offering students increased opportunities for networking, internships, or job shadowing. Networking can lead to meaningful connections, provide insights into the medical profession, and enhance your application for medical school.

  • Program Intensity and Duration:

    It's essential to evaluate the rigor and length of the program. Some programs are intensive and designed to mimic the demands of medical school, providing a realistic glimpse into future challenges. Others might be part-time or stretched over a longer duration to accommodate working individuals or those with family commitments.

  • Financial Implications:

    Post-bacc programs can be a substantial financial investment. Understanding the full cost, including tuition, books, living expenses, and potential loss of income during the program, is important. Explore all potential sources of funding, including scholarships, grants, and financial aid options. A careful cost-benefit analysis can help determine if the potential long-term career benefits outweigh the immediate costs.

  • Program Reputation and Success Rate:

    The reputation of a program and its track record in preparing students for medical school are important factors to consider. Data on the percentage of program graduates who successfully gain admission to medical school or their chosen graduate program can provide valuable insights into a program's effectiveness.

Choosing the right post-baccalaureate program is a personal decision that should take into account all these factors. Remember, there is no one-size-fits-all program. Therefore, careful research, thoughtful reflection, and, if possible, discussions with program alumni or advisors can significantly assist in making the most informed decision. 

Final Thoughts

Post-baccalaureate programs provide a critical stepping stone for individuals aspiring to pursue medical careers. They cater to a range of needs, from those needing to fulfill prerequisites to those wanting to enhance their academic records to career changers. Therefore, understanding the various types of post-bacc programs, their costs, application requirements, and how to evaluate their suitability is crucial for any prospective student.

Frequently Asked Questions

If you have already completed the medical prerequisites, you can apply to medical school without finishing a post-baccalaureate program.

Some individuals opt for a post-bacc program simply to give themselves improved confidence and familiarity with what may be expected of them at the next level of education.

Depending on the degree you receive after completing the program, a post-bacc can be categorized as either undergraduate or graduate education. Furthermore, while a program like this may distinguish you apart from other medical school candidates, it has less of a bearing when it comes to postgraduate professional opportunities. 

Post-baccalaureate programs have fewer options for financial aid than undergraduate and graduate programs do. Post-baccalaureate students can, however, borrow money to help pay for their coursework through various personal loan vehicles. Grants are another option worth exploring. 

Although it is a major financial commitment, some may find it worth it in terms of return on investment. This is not the case for everybody, and you must make this determination based on your specific situation.


  1. Hess, C., & Mason, M. (2015). Post-baccalaureate programs: An integral component of the educational pipeline. Change: The Magazine of Higher Learning, 47(4), 50–56.

  2. O'Neill, L., Vonsild, M. C., Wallstedt, B., & Dornan, T. (2012). Admission criteria and diversity in medical school. Medical education, 46(6), 557–561. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23662872/ 

  3. https://students-residents.aamc.org/financial-aid-resources/medical-school-costs-nontraditional-students 

  4. https://krieger.jhu.edu/postbac/the-program/ 

  5. https://students-residents.aamc.org/medical-student-well-being/considering-postbaccalaureate-premedical-program 

  6. https://students-residents.aamc.org/choosing-medical-career/post-bacc-program-right-me-seven-benefits-consider

Written by:

David Fang

David Fang is a medical and wellness writer living in Destin, Florida. David’s work has been featured in Newsweek, Forbes and Active.com.

David Fang

David Fang

Contributing Writer, Medical Careers

Education: Florida State University

Knowledge: Health and wellness

Reviewed by:

Dr. Baran Erdik, MD, MHPA

Dr. Baran Erdik is an M.D. with specialized training in Internal Medicine/Cardiology. Dr. Erdik traveled the world, working as a physician in New Zealand, Germany and Washington State. Dr. Erdik completed a Master’s in Healthcare Administration and Policy from Washington State University, graduating summa cum laude and now consults with healthcare facilities. In his "spare time", Dr. Erdik is a professor at the American Vision University in California.

Dr. Baran Erdik

Dr. Baran Erdik, MD, MHPA

Internist and Cardiologist

Education: Doctor of Medicine (MD) - Yeditepe University

Knowledge: Internal medicine, cardiology, healthcare policy