Many premeds wonder “do I need a graduate degree to boost my med school chances?”. Let's face it; getting into medical school is becoming increasingly difficult. What are you supposed to do when becoming a physician seems so close, yet so far away? In exploring how to get into medical school, you’ll discover that you need strong grades, a great MCAT score, and brilliant extracurriculars. But you might also be thinking that you need another degree altogether!
Before embarking on a desperate search in online forums like premed101 and Reddit Premed (note: spare yourself the pain, don't do it!), let BeMo guide you in determining whether you really need a graduate degree to get into medical school. This article will help you find out.
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Medical Schools that Consider Graduate School GPA
Be mindful that not all medical schools in the US and medical schools in Canada consider your graduate schools GPA, but here’s a list of those that do:
- Albert Einstein College of Medicine - 30 hours required for consideration
- Boston University Aram V. Chobanian & Edward Avedisian School of Medicine
- Brody School of Medicine at East Carolina
- California Northstate University College of Medicine -- 12 hours; 2.8 undergrad GPA required for consideration
- California University of Science and Medicine School of Medicine -- 15 hours; 3.0 undergrad GPA required
- Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine
- Central Michigan University College of Medicine -- 12 hours, 2.0 GPA required
- Charles E. Schmidt College of Medicine at Florida Atlantic University -- 3.3 undergrad GPA required
- Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science College of Medicine
- Chicago Medical School at Rosalind Franklin University of Medicine & Science
- Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons
- Creighton University School of Medicine
- Donald and Barbara Zucker School of Medicine at Hofstra/Northwell -- 32 hours; 3.0 GPA required
- Drexel University College of Medicine
- Duke University School of Medicine -- 30 hours and 2.8 GPA required
- East Tennessee State University James H. Quillen College of Medicine
- East Virginia Medical School -- 24 hours required
- Emory University School of Medicine
- Florida International University Herbert Wertheim College of Medicine
- Florida State University College of Medicine
- Frank H. Netter MD School of Medicine at Quinnipiac University
- Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth
- Geisinger Commonwealth School of Medicine -- Uses holistics review
- Harvard School of Medicine -- Uses holistic review
- Howard University College of Medicine -- 2.5 GPA required
- Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai
- Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine
- Kaiser Permanente Bernard J. Tyson School of Medicine
- Keck University School of Medicine of the University of Southern California
- Kirk Kerkorian School of Medicine at UNLV – 30 hours required; Junior and senior year cannot replace a low undergraduate GPA
- Loma Linda University School of Medicine
- Louisiana State University School of Medicine – 30 hours required
- Louisiana State University School of Medicine at Shreveport
- Marshall University Joan C. Edwards School of Medicine -- If an applicant has below a 3.0, a graduate program is suggested
- Medical College of Georgia at Augusta University – 3.0 GPA required
- Medical College of Wisconsin
- Medical University of South Carolina College of Medicine – 15 hours; 3.0 GPA required
- Michigan State University College of Medicine -- Most applicants have 24 hours; Most applicants have 3.5 in subjects that need improvement
- Morehouse School of Medicine
- New York Medical College – 20 hours; 3.0 GPA required
- New York University Long Island School of Medicine
- Northeast Ohio Medical University
- Northwestern University The Feinberg School of Medicine
- Nova Southeastern University Dr. Kiran C. Patel College of Allopathic Medicine
- NYU Grossman School of Medicine
- Oakland University William Beaumont School of Medicine – 24 hours; 3.0 GPA required
- Ohio State University College of Medicine
- Renaissance School of Medicine at Stony Brook University
- Rush Medical College of Rush University Medical Center – 24 hours; 2.85 GPA required
- Rutgers New Jersey Medical School – 9 hours minimum
- Rutgers, Robert Wood Johnson Medical School – 15 hours minimum
- Saint Louis University School of Medicine
- Southern Illinois University School of Medicine – 2.8 GPA minimum
- Stanford University School of Medicine
- State University of New York Upstate Medical University Alan and Marlene Norton College of Medicine – 12 hours; 2.5 GPA minimum
- SUNY Downstate Health Sciences University College of Medicine – 24 hours; 3.0 GPA minimum
- Texas A&M University School of Medicine
- Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center Paul L. Foster School of Medicine
- The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio Joe R. and Teresa Lozano Long School of Medicine – Advanced coursework is required
- The University of Toledo College of Medicine and Life Sciences – 2.9 GPA minimum
- Tufts University School of Medicine
- Tulane University School of Medicine
- Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences F. Edward Hebert School of Medicine – 20 hours, 3.0 GPA minimums
- University of Alabama at Birmingham Marnix E. Heersink School of Medicine – 20 hours; 2.0 GPA required
- University of Arizona College of Medicine – 12 hours; 3.0 GPA
- University of Arizona College of Medicine – Phoenix
- University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences College of Medicine
- University of California, Davis, School of Medicine – 20 hours; 3.7 GPA
- University of California, Irvine, School of Medicine
- University of California, Riverside School of Medicine – 3 hours; 2.5 GPA
- University of California, San Diego School of Medicine
- University of California, San Francisco, School of Medicine
- University of Central Florida College of Medicine – 20 hours, 3.0 GPA
- University of Chicago Division of the Biological Sciences The Pritzker School of Medicine
- University of Colorado School of Medicine
- University of Connecticut School of Medicine – Uses holistic review
- University of Florida College of Medicine
- University of Hawaii, John A. Burns School of Medicine
- University of Illinois College of Medicine -- 24 hours; 2.9 GPA
- University of Iowa Roy J. and Lucille A. Carver College of Medicine – 20 hours; 2.0 GPA
- University of Kansas School of Medicine
- University of Kentucky College of Medicine – 18 hours; 3.0 GPA
- University of Louisville School of Medicine – 24 hours; 3.5 GPA
- University of Maryland School of Medicine – 3 hours; 2.0 GPA
- University of Miami Leonard M. Miller School of Medicine – 25 hours; 3.2 GPA
- University of Michigan Medical School – 20 hours; 2.0 GPA
- University of Minnesota Medical School
- University of Mississippi School of Medicine – 30 hours minimum
- University of Missouri-Columbia School of Medicine – 15 hours; 3.0 GPA
- University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Medicine – 3.0 GPA
- University of Nebraska College of Medicine
- University of Nevada, Reno School of Medicine – 2.8 GPA
- University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Medicine – 30 hours minimum
- University of North Dakota School of Medicine and Health Sciences
- University of Puerto Rico School of Medicine – 2.5 GPA minimum
- University of South Carolina School of Medicine Columbia – 6 hours; 3.0 GPA
- University of South Carolina School of Medicine Greenville
- University of South Dakota, Sanford School of Medicine
- University of Texas Medical Branch John Sealy School of Medicine
- University of Texas Rio Grande Valley School of Medicine – 3.2 GPA minimum
- University of Washington School of Medicine – Science GPA 3.0 minimum
- University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health – 12 hours minimum
- Vanderbilt University School of Medicine
- Virginia Commonwealth University School of Medicine – 27 hours; 2.7 GPA
- Wake Forest University School of Medicine – 15 hours; 3.2 GPA
- Washington State University Elson S. Floyd College of Medicine – 12 hours; 2.6
- Wayne University School of Medicine – 20 hours minimum
- West Virginia University School of Medicine – Uses holistic review
- Western Michigan University Homer Stryker M.D. School of Medicine – 30 hours; 2.0 GPA
- Wright State University Boonshoft School of Medicine – 12 hours; 3.0 undergraduate BCPM, 3.3 Graduate BCPM, 3.3 postbacc BCPM
Canadian Medical Schools that Consider Graduate/Postbacc GPA
- Memorial University of Newfoundland Faculty of Medicine
- University of Saskatchewan College of Medicine
Why Are You Considering Graduate School?
First, ask yourself why grad school. Do you want to pursue something specific? Are you having doubts about medicine? Are you unsure of whether you should pursue a master's or a PhD? Are you afraid you won’t get in? Why do you want to be a doctor? Have you been wondering "How hard is it to get into medical school?" and thought a graduate degree might help your chances? Whatever the reason, answer that question before doing anything else.
Grad school is a serious commitment. Getting into grad school is challenging and isn’t cheap. It’s an excellent idea to pursue graduate education if you are passionate about a discipline or want to further your education, but the decision to enter grad school takes careful planning and should not be used as a backup plan to medicine. If you are worried that your medical school application is weak, address those weaknesses first. If you need more clinical hours, then volunteering and shadowing a physician would be a better step in the right direction, rather than grad school. On the other hand, if you are worried about your grades, graduate school could help show the admissions committee that you can handle the advanced coursework. Keep in mind that each committee will evaluate your graduate GPA differently. Some might include it in the overall GPA calculation, some might not include it at all, and some may even replace your undergrad GPA with the grad school GPA. Again, remember, this is specific to each school. You will have to do your research to understand how this process works for each school you apply to.
It is important to realize that pursuing a grad degree to bolster your med school application is not a good idea. Grad school is hard and expensive! You must have a better reason to pursue grad school than simply improving your admissions chances. If you need to boost your GPA or extracurriculars for medical school, enrolling in a post-bacc for medical school is a better option.
But if you decide that you want to attend graduate school before you commit to the path of medicine, let's examine how a grad degree can help you.
Will a Masters or PhD Help You Get Into Med School? Watch this video:
Pros of Earning a Graduate Degree Before You Apply to Medical School
Cons of Earning a Graduate Degree Before You Apply to Medical School
Does a Graduate Degree Help Your Medical School Acceptance Chances?
Now that you know more about some of the pros and cons, you must face the question of whether or not you “need” a graduate degree (master’s or PhD) to gain successful admission into medical school. The short answer is no, you don’t need a master’s degree or doctorate to secure admission. Admissions committees evaluate each applicant's GPA, MCAT, medical school recommendation letters, personal statement, research, volunteer experiences, and extracurricular activities. Each committee will weigh these differently, but the majority will pay attention to your MCAT score and GPA as the most influential factors.
Can Grad School Help Increase These Statistics?
Med school admissions committees have filters that will weed out incompetent applicants. For example, if you have a 3.4 GPA and their cut-off is a 3.5, then your application will face medical school rejection. You must get by their initial screening of your statistics to continue in the competition. As previously stated, a graduate degree GPA might offset your undergrad grades, but it depends on whether your chosen medical school considers your graduate school GPA. Each school calculates this differently, so research their admissions processes before applying. Keep in mind that for your grades to count, you have to finish the program.
Can Grad School Help Your MCAT Score?
Not necessarily. The MCAT tests very basic scientific knowledge, which is typically studied in introductory undergrad courses. You only need to take medical school prerequisites to have enough knowledge to start your MCAT prep, so graduate education is absolutely not necessary to ace the MCAT. I want to emphasize that grad school education would not hurt your chances of getting a good MCAT score, but it's certainly not a requirement for doing well on the test.
Can Grad School Help Your Other Application Components?
You can definitely apply and gain acceptance to medical school with or without a graduate degree, but additional research experiences and strong letters of recommendation from your supervisors can certainly add to your candidacy. But it's worth repeating that graduate school is not an easy path, so acceptance to medical school should not be the only reason you pursue a master's or a PhD.
If you are simply looking to boost your med school acceptance chances and have no real interest in research and graduate work, our best advice would be to do as well as you can on your MCAT and get a high GPA, write a killer medical school personal statement, get as much experience shadowing and volunteering as you can, and practice with common medical school interview questions. You can also use an academic consulting service to help you put all these components together.
At the end of the day, if you think applying to graduate school is right for you, then you should go for it! There are many things to be gained by having that experience. But don't do it to simply "boost" your med school application. There are many cheaper and easier ways to do this!
Not sure if a grad degree before med school is right for you? Take a look at this infographic:
Can Grad School Skills Make Me Successful Medical School?
Graduate degrees develop desirable skills, primarily those centered around critical thinking and research. In my experience, these traits and skills are useful in medical school and the medical profession. Appraising evidence-based bodies of work becomes second nature. Medicine is full of discoveries, breakthroughs, and research. As a doctor, you have to be up-to-date on the newest information and glean important information from studies. Graduate students are adept at parsing dense material to unearth relevant information. From being able to review and critique the evidence to summarizing findings and applying them to discussions, having a graduate degree can be beneficial. By the time you graduate, you will know how to publish as a graduate student, which will show the medical school admissions committee that you’re scientifically competent and research savvy.
As you know, medical schools value strong written and oral communication skills, and these are developed during grad school. Grad students become proficient in writing and communicating scientific articles and concepts. So, as you prepare for medical school applications, you will be able to write student-led medical publications, textbooks, papers, medico-social opinion pieces, articles, and commentaries. So for anyone wondering how to get into grad school, it’s a good idea to consider a graduate school admissions consultant. As you can see, there’s a lot to be gained from graduate school in terms of skills. Graduate school admissions is competitive, though, so you need to be prepared if this is the route you want to take.
Graduate students can pursue research projects that can lead to presenting their work at conferences, and hopefully publications. This can be a huge advantage for your medical school application! Many programs have thesis and publication requirements, so these would work well in improving your skills and application. Research projects in graduate school can give you an edge when it comes time to apply for residency. Learning research methodology and self-directed planning will give you an advantage in research-driven medical programs.
What Kind of Graduate Programs Are Best for Medical School?
Admissions committees will look favorably upon graduate training that is applicable to medicine. You may want to look into Special Master's Programs (SMP) geared toward medical school hopefuls. SMPs provide graduate-level coursework over 1–2 years. They are designed specifically for premed students, and you graduate with a master's degree. It is well known that premeds who take the time to pursue an SMP after their undergrad are doing so to strengthen their medical school application, whether it's to increase their GPA or gain more research skills, and this presents as an advantage. Each medical school in the US (similar to Canadian schools) has its own system for assessing GPA, but in general, if an applicant has applied with a subpar undergrad GPA, their SMP GPA will help compensate for it.
Another great benefit of SMPs is that many are directly affiliated with medical schools! You would be taking classes alongside medical school students and have access to the same facilities. Plus, the faculty and staff will know your name and witness your hard work and progress. If one of your SMP instructors agrees to be a strong reference for you, you will have support from internal faculty, which is a huge feat!
Admissions for SMP programs are highly competitive and tuition is very costly. SMP programs are also similar to the intensity of medical school, even more so than regular programs, such as a Master of Public Health, an MBA, etc. Should you be in a position where your medical school application needs a boost, pursuing an SMP might be a smart choice.
Thinking of pursing MD-PhD programs? Check out our tips below:
If you are passionate about research, applying to MD-PhD programs could also be beneficial. Many institutions offer a dual MD-PhD track that allows you to earn both degrees. Most start with the same 2 years of medicine followed by 2–3 years of research and thesis writing. After completing the PhD portion, you begin your clinicals. This allows you to finish both degrees quicker than doing them separately. A PhD alone can take between 5–9 years, in addition to the 4 years of medical school and subsequent years of residency training, so doing a combined degree is advantageous.
How Will Graduate School Affect My Career Timeline?
Earlier, we highlighted the fact that graduate school will postpone your medical school education. But by how much will this affect your career timeline? This mostly depends on your goals and what you plan to do after you graduate from medical school. Different specialties can vary in terms of the standard track for becoming a practicing physician. For example, cardiologists usually complete a residency in internal medicine, or pediatrics if they want to be a pediatric cardiologist. Then, once they complete their residency training, they complete a fellowship, which will take another 3 years. If they want to continue to specialize further – let’s say, in electrophysiology – then they will have to complete another fellowship, which will take an additional 1–2 years.
To know just how delayed your career will be, you will have to do some career planning. Of course, prior to medical school, you might not know what specialty you want to pursue. So, you can consider the following general timeline progression to help you get an idea of the length of each step of the process:
So, Should You Pursue a Graduate Degree Before Medical School?
Graduate school could be just the thing for you. So could a post-bacc, an SMP, or even an MD-PhD program. What I’m getting at here is that it is very situation dependent. If you can’t stand the idea of not going right into medicine, then don’t go to grad school. Some of you might be totally hyped by the idea of doing some research or discovering a new field; go ahead and apply to a grad degree.
The path to medical school is different for everyone. Dr. Szczupak went straight into medical school and loved it. Dr. Wafa finished a PhD and then went to medical school and loved it. Both of us value our experiences and how we decided to go into medicine. I even know some people who got a master's after their MD. It is a difficult decision, but one that is ultimately leading you to your goals.
1. Do I need a graduate degree to get into medical school?
No, you do not need a graduate degree to get into medical school. Most medical schools will simply ask for an undergraduate degree or a number of completed undergrad credits. A graduate degree is totally optional.
2. Does having a graduate degree increase my chances of getting accepted into medical school?
Some medical schools give applicants with graduate degrees additional ranking points. But these points are not enough to overshadow weak application elements, such as a low GPA or MCAT. Typically, a graduate degree is not a significant advantage when it comes to medical school acceptance.
3. I am not ready to pursue medicine. Should I enroll in a graduate degree?
If you are thinking of taking a gap year before medical school, you can certainly choose to attend a grad program. This experience will help you hone your research and communication skills. However, you can also choose to get a premed gap year job or use the gap year to prepare for the MCAT.
4. What kind of graduate degrees should I pursue before medical school?
If you choose to attend a graduate program before med school, you should try to enroll in a health care-related degree, which will help you will gain useful and transferable skills.
5. Are there any grad programs that are specifically designed to help me get into medical school?
Yes. You should investigate Special Master's Programs (SMPs), which are often associated with medical schools. These programs are specifically designed to help you transition from graduate studies to medical school.
6. How expensive are graduate degrees?
Grad degrees, especially PhDs (due to their length), can be very costly. In the United States, a year of private graduate school can cost around US$25,000 and a year of public graduate school anywhere between US$5,000 and US$25,000. In Canada, these fees are slightly lower, around CAD$10,000 per year.
7. What is the application process for graduate school?
Every graduate program will have its own application process. Most programs will require an online application form, statement of purpose, transcripts, graduate school CV, reference letters, standardized test scores, and writing samples. Make sure to research the application requirements of your chosen programs before you apply.
8. Can my graduate school instructors and supervisor be a reference for medical school?
Absolutely! In fact, medical schools will expect you to provide a letter from the principal investigator you worked with during grad school.
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