What Are Post-Bacc Programs?

Post-bacc programs provide you with the foundation you need to enter med school. Learn more about what a post-bacc entails and whether it's right for you.

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by Blake Weil

Published September 21, 2022

Reviewed by Erin Bjorvik, BS, CVT

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What Are Post-Bacc Programs?
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A postbaccalaureate program, or post-bacc program, is a degree or certificate program you can enroll in after college. These programs are typically designed to help you with the transition from undergrad to professional, graduate-level education.

Most post-bacc programs target budding medical and healthcare professionals. Students often enroll in post-bacc programs after college to earn the science prerequisites they still need to get into medical school.

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Ready to start your journey?

You can also enroll in a post-bacc program to try to improve your grades for med school applications if you didn't do so well in your pre-med classes while in undergrad.

What Are the Different Types of Postbaccalaureate Programs?

Post-bacc programs cater to all kinds of students. For example, maybe you majored in a STEM field and took several science courses in college. Or maybe you only took one or two science courses because you weren't initially planning to go into medicine.

Students of all ages enter post-bacc programs. Once you complete a program, you'll typically receive either a certificate or master's degree.

You can often skip doing a post-bacc by completing all medical prerequisites in college. For example, you could major in biology while taking supplemental courses in chemistry and physics.

Post-bacc programs typically last 1-2 years. And while most are in person, some are available online or offer hybrid options.

Here are some of the main types of post-bacc programs you can enter.

Prerequisite and Pre-Med Programs

A prerequisite or pre-med post-bacc program allows you to take the fundamental science courses you need to apply to med school.

These programs also often provide other help getting into medical school, such as MCAT preparation and opportunities for volunteering and job shadowing.

Ideal for:

  • Students who decided late in college to apply to medical school
  • Applicants with little to no science experience

Programs for Underrepresented Groups in Medicine

Some postbaccalaureate programs offer an entry point into medicine for traditionally underrepresented groups in medicine. Examples include post-baccs offered through historically Black colleges and universities.

Ideal for:

  • Students from backgrounds not well represented in medicine
  • Students hoping to integrate advocacy for marginalized groups into their eventual medical practice

Academic Record Enhancement Programs

If you have a lower GPA, academic record enhancer programs give you the chance to improve your grades and impress med schools.

While these post-bacc programs don't necessarily repeat classes you might've taken as an undergrad, coursework allows you to expand and reinforce your understanding of science fundamentals.

Ideal for:

  • Students committed to a career in medicine with a weaker academic record
  • Students hoping to strengthen their med school application after an unsuccessful admissions cycle

Career Change Programs

Some post-bacc pre-med programs specifically target career changers. These programs assume you have little to no medical knowledge and often follow accelerated timelines. Many programs feature part-time courses to accommodate different schedules for working students.

Ideal for:

  • Older students looking for a cohort of classmates with similar circumstances or life obligations as them
  • Busy professionals looking to accelerate their entry into medical school or balance their job with part-time coursework

Special Master's Programs

Similar to academic record enhancer programs, special master's post-bacc programs aim to help students with science experience get into medical school.

Coursework expands on basic principles and can include intro-level medical coursework. In some cases, this coursework can be transferred as med school credit.

Ideal for:

  • Students with science experience looking to boost their chances of getting into med school
  • Students looking to complete relevant coursework before starting med school

How Much Do Post-Bacc Programs Cost?

A pre-med post-bacc program can vary in cost depending on a number of factors, such as:

Generally, postbaccalaureate program tuition costs tens of thousands of dollars. Some online programs may be cheaper, while others may be just as or more expensive.

While student scholarships for post-bacc programs are limited, some programs do offer them. These scholarships typically require you to submit the FAFSA to prove financial need. Filing the FAFSA can also make you eligible for federal loans.

What Are Post-Bacc Program Application Requirements?

Application requirements vary depending on the post-bacc program. Typically, though, you'll need to submit:

Many post-bacc pre-med programs also require you to submit SAT or ACT scores since you likely won't have taken the MCAT yet. Some postbaccalaureate programs use a common application, called the PostbacCAS.

Aim to start your applications the summer before applications are due.

What Are the Pros and Cons of a Post-Bacc Program?

Pros

  • Post-baccs are one of the only ways you can shift to a career in medicine.
  • Physicians and other healthcare professionals generally earn high median salaries.
  • Focused programs allow you to complete several years of undergraduate science coursework faster.
  • Many post-bacc programs offer opportunities for volunteering, job shadowing, and mentorship.
  • Some postbaccalaureate programs let you immediately join an affiliated medical program.

Cons

  • Enrolling in a post-bacc program means more time in school before you can start your medical career.
  • Postbaccalaureate programs aren't cheap and can potentially increase your student loan debt.
  • It can be difficult to juggle work and other commitments while in a post-bacc program.
  • You're not guaranteed admission to med school after completing a postbaccalaureate program.

Is a Postbaccalaureate Program Right for Me?

If you're set on med school and don't have either the prerequisite coursework or grades to apply, a post-bacc is a great option. Postbaccalaureate programs help bridge the gap between undergrad and medical school, especially if you didn't decide on a career in medicine until late in college or after you graduated.

A post-bacc program could be right for you if you're truly committed to a career in medicine. If you're still not sure, consider volunteering in a medical setting or shadowing a doctor before you enroll in a post-bacc program.

Frequently Asked Questions About Post-Bacc Programs

Do I need to complete a postbaccalaureate program to apply to medical school?

No. You do not need to complete a postbaccalaureate program to apply to med school, as long as you've already completed medical prerequisites (and earned the grades you wanted to in them).

If you'd like to change careers or strengthen your med school application, a postbaccalaureate program can be a good option. Which type of post-bacc program you enter will depend on your experience and what you hope to get out of it. For example, some programs are designed for career changers who did not take pre-med coursework in college.

How do I list a post-bacc program on my resume?

A post-bacc can be considered part of your undergraduate or graduate education depending on the credential you earn after completing the program.

When writing your resume, list your post-bacc along with your undergraduate education if you complete a certificate-granting post-bacc that offers bachelor's-level coursework. If your post-bacc culminates in a master's degree, list that program as graduate coursework.

The Association of American Medical Colleges explains how to calculate your undergraduate GPA to include post-bacc grades.

Can I get financial aid for a postbaccalaureate program?

Financial aid opportunities are more limited for postbaccalaureate programs than they are for undergraduate and graduate programs. While many institutions offer aid for a post-bacc, you're less likely to find scholarships specifically for post-bacc programs.

Post-bacc students can take out loans to help pay for their program. Make sure to file the FAFSA every year you'll be in school to see what loans you're eligible for.

Spend time considering all of your financial aid options before deciding which post-bacc programs to apply for.

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