Special master’s programs with linkage to medical school can make all the difference in a student’s academic career. These post-baccalaureate programs can elevate a student’s candidacy within the highly competitive landscape of medical school admissions. If a special master’s program is linked to a particular medical school, it can lessen the load of application preparation from busy premed students and make the perilous journey to becoming a doctor a little smoother.
In this article, you will learn what special master’s programs are, which programs are directly linked to medical institutions, and how these programs can benefit a student’s prerequisites for medical school.
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What Are Special Master’s Programs?
A special master’s program or SMP is a graduate study program in an academic institution that could enhance a student’s qualifications for professional schools (including medical schools) and their chances of getting in. By furthering their education with an SMP, students can fill a gap year before medical school, complete prerequisites, bolster their clinical experiences, and more. These programs may also be beneficial for students wondering how to get into medical school with a low GPA, as pertinent graduate school experiences can work to supersede a poorer academic performance in undergrad. Some institutions include volunteer opportunities or community service outside of the program curriculum that can further improve a student’s candidacy.
Will a Masters or PhD help you get into med school? Watch this video:
Special master's programs can be very flexible and may appeal to the various needs of non-traditional medical school applicants, whether they are looking for academic enhancers, a career change, or a program meant for educationally or economically disadvantaged students. Depending on a student’s academic goals, applying to an SMP could have significant benefits for their future application, especially if they take advantage of a linkage agreement. If you are wondering whether you should pursue a master’s or PhD, an SMP could be just what you need to find true success.
List of Special Master’s Programs with Linkage to Medical School
The list below contains only master’s programs with direct linkage agreements with programs within their institution or others. It is not inclusive of every standalone master’s program that could benefit a premed student, only those that specifically mention linkage opportunities. Linkage agreements can come in the form of guaranteed interview placements or conditional acceptance based on certain criteria. In general, they are meant to make medical school admissions easier for students. If you are asking “Do I need a graduate degree to gain admission to medical school?”, this list could help to answer that question. As with any other admissions information, details change from cycle to cycle, so it is important to stay in the know about current requirements. With that out of the way, here are the main examples of master’s programs in the United States that have linkage agreements to medical schools:
1. Arkansas Colleges of Health Education
Master of Science in Biomedicine
This master’s program aims to provide students with rigorous courses in biomedical sciences to enhance preparation for the medical field and profession. Students who earn a B or better in this program’s coursework are guaranteed an interview with other Arkansas Colleges of Health Education programs should they apply. These options include Arkansas College of Osteopathic Medicine, ACHE School of Physical Therapy (DPT), and ACHE School of Occupational Therapy (OTD).
BMS – Master of Science in Biomedical Sciences
This program serves to strengthen an application for medical, dental, or another professional health education program through core sciences courses similar to the first year of a medical, dental, or podiatric curriculum. Barry BMS also has guaranteed interview agreements with Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine (PCOM), Idaho College of Osteopathic Medicine (ICOM), Orlando College of Osteopathic Medicine (OCOM), and Barry University School of Podiatric Medicine (POD).
Master of Science in Integrative Physiology
Benedictine University’s Master of Science in Integrative Physiology is a one-year, full-time program that deepens the understanding of physiological sciences meant to improve GPA and strengthen your application. They also provide training that helps students succeed in health-related professions. Benedictine has linkages to Marian University, Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine, AT Still University, and the Ponce School of Health Sciences.
4. California University of Science and Medicine
Master of Biomedical Sciences Program
This master’s in biomedical sciences degree from CUSM has two linkage programs if applications are submitted by the necessary deadline:
- A guaranteed interview with the CUSM MD program, provided students have a fall semester MBS GPA of 3.2 or above and an MCAT score of 506 or above. Students must apply to the program through AMCAS. This option is open to MBS students during their year in the program and for the two years following their graduation.
- Conditional acceptance to the MD program. This option includes the same conditions as the first, but it is more competitive and requires an interview to officially be selected. Candidates must also graduate with a 3.7 GPA or above to be accepted. The MCAT must be taken before the start of the program or early in the fall semester with a score of 506 or above.
The overall aim of the MBS program is for students who wish to enhance their academic qualifications for MD, DO, DDS, PhD, or other related pathways.
Master of Science in Medical Physiology, Master of Science in Applied Anatomy
The Medical Physiology master’s program is available in person or online and is designed for students with a science background who seek to boost their academic credentials for admission to MD, DO, DDS/DMD, PA, CAA, and PhD programs. Through this stream, you can receive a guaranteed interview at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine and Ohio University Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine if you meet specific criteria listed on the university’s website.
Meanwhile, the Applied Anatomy program explores similar goals, and you are guaranteed an interview with the Admissions Committee of Case Western Reserve School of Medicine if you meet specific criteria. If you are already a student in CWRU's MD program, this joint MD/MS program can help you prepare for an anatomy-focused specialty, such as surgery or radiology.
Master of Arts in Biomedical Studies (MABS)
Chatham University offers an MA in Biomedical Studies, which is a one-year academic enhancement program for medical school, dental school, or physician assistant programs. If they meet certain criteria, students may be guaranteed interviews for the West Virginia School of Osteopathic Medicine, Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine, and Chatham University Master of Physician Assistant Studies program.
Master of Science in Community Engaged Medicine
The MS-CEM program at Furman University provides scientific and population health knowledge related to disparities between growing medical needs and resources. This program balances coursework with a 9-month fieldwork experience. Their linkage agreement is with the University of South Carolina School of Medicine – Greenville, where they offer a direct entry program for five high-performing students and a full scholarship opportunity for one Furman graduate.
Master of Science in Biomedical Sciences
Larkin University’s biomedical science master’s program improves performance on admissions exams. The science courses students receive are comparable to those of the first two years of medical, dental, pharmacy, graduate school, research, or addiction medicine. According to their website, Larkin has enrollment agreements with multiple schools but does not specify which.
Master of Science in Medical Physiology
Taught by Stritch School of Medicine professors, the medical school course content in the Medical Physiology master’s program at Loyola University Chicago is delivered through small class sizes. Their program ensures a supportive environment geared toward student success. Loyola also offers a guaranteed interview at Stritch School of Medicine if the student has an MCAT score of at least 507 and an MSMP GPA of 3.6 or higher.
10. Mercer University School of Medicine
Master of Science in Preclinical Sciences (MSPCS)
This is a two-semester graduate program with intensive science courses that cover concepts addressed in medical school. Mercer also promotes the development of critical thinking about biomedical research and its application in medical care. A majority of MSPCS graduates have entered advanced degree programs in health care professions. Over 40% of graduates who are Georgia residents have been accepted to Mercer’s MD program.
Master of Arts in Biomedical Sciences
Midwestern offers various similar programs with different lengths and delivery methods. As for linkages, Midwestern University is affiliated with all Midwestern University Professional programs, such as medicine, dentistry, pharmacy, podiatry, optometry, veterinary medicine, physician assistant, physical therapy, and cardiovascular perfusion.
Accelerated Interdisciplinary Biomedical Sciences Master’s Program
Students of this NYMC master’s program will take pre-clinical medical school courses alongside the first year School of Medicine students as well as complementary graduate school courses over one year of study. Students may be offered admittance to the NYMC School of Medicine upon attaining certain benchmarks in their master’s program.
13. Rosalind Franklin University of Medicine & Science
Master of Science in Biomedical Sciences
The BMS program from RFU prepares you for the continuation of your graduate education in medical school or other health-related professions. The program faculty can provide career advising to students as they complete a rigorous biomedical sciences curriculum. Provided you are actively enrolled in BMS coursework, you will be granted an interview in another RFU clinical program of your choice. Some of these include the Chicago Medical School, College of Health Professions, College of Pharmacy, and Dr. William M. Scholl College of Podiatric Medicine. You are only eligible for these opportunities if you meet the admission requirements and complete the application process for your chosen RFU program.
Master of Science in Medical Science
The MSMS from SXU is an integrated, multidisciplinary, and interdepartmental program designed to provide trainees with a broad-based 11-month curriculum followed by a comprehensive qualifying examination. SXU’s master’s program also aids its top 20% of students by guaranteeing a medical school entry interview with Ponce Health Sciences University in Puerto Rico for its MD program.
15. Southern Illinois University Carbondale
Master of Biomedical Science
This BMS master’s degree is a non-thesis option that lasts one year and requires 30 credits. This program offers MCAT/AT review and individualized help with the application process while preparing students for medical or dental school matriculation. Downstate Illinois residents with a 498 MCAT minimum will be considered for admission to the SIU School of Medicine.
Master of Science in Biomedical Science in Medical Sciences (MSBS-MS)
The primary objective of this MSBS-MS program is to provide resources to students who have completed prerequisites for medical school so that they can enhance their academic credentials and research experience for their applications. Students who meet all prerequisites for UTCOM and who are in good academic standing within the program are eligible for a medical school interview at UT Medical School.
This program also lends itself to an early assurance program. MSBS-MS students can apply to UTCOM while in the program and receive provisional acceptance to UT College of Medicine to eliminate a gap year after the conclusion of the program. The MSBS-MS degree is a requirement, but not a guarantee of admission.
Master of Medical Science
The University of Vermont could enhance your academic credentials with their Master of Medical Science program through a cohesive set of courses that cover the major biomedical disciplines. Their program also covers the fundamentals of pharmacology and biostatistics. The school encourages students to contact them directly regarding their linkage opportunities with the Larner College of Medicine.
18. Via College of Osteopathic Medicine & Bluefield University
Master of Arts in Biomedical Sciences (MABS)
This is a 9-month master’s joint program between Bluefield University and Via College of Osteopathic Medicine. MABS students gain valuable knowledge to prepare for medical school and professional health care programs. Meeting the correct benchmarks in the program can be a significant advantage for acceptance into the VCOM DO program on one of the four VCOM campuses. This special master’s program can also eliminate the glide year that is mandatory in most other programs.
What we can draw from the contents of this list is that benefiting from a linkage agreement through a special master’s program is very situational, but it could have life-changing results. These kinds of options are given to those who meet the necessary academic and professional criteria, meaning there is immense pressure to succeed if you decide to enroll in an SMP. In most cases, simply completing the degree is not enough to guarantee your spot.
Of course, there are other regular master’s programs that do not offer any sort of linkage but can still provide you the necessary GPA requirements or clinical research opportunities to feel more confident in your application and improve your candidacy. When evaluating DO vs. MD schools, osteopathic institutions are still very competitive but are more lenient toward non-traditional applicants. It’s important to do your research thoroughly to see if you actually want to attend whatever medical school you’re looking into.
1. What is the difference between a post-baccalaureate program and an SMP?
A post-baccalaureate (or post-bacc) program is any program that is for students who have already completed bachelor’s degrees. They can be used to enhance knowledge, change careers, or give opportunities to economically and educationally disadvantaged individuals. A special master’s program is a subset of post-bacc programs, where students can receive the same benefits while completing an official graduate degree. Not every post-bacc program ends with a master’s degree; some options end with a certificate or are more focused on the completion of the prerequisites for medical school.
2. How do I find the right special master's program for me?
An index created by the AAMC is very helpful for browsing specific SMP options and learning about programs throughout the United States. You can filter based on the location, whether the school is public or private, and what the school offers its matriculants. Programs within your state usually result in a lower tuition cost, so that is always a great place to start.
3. What are some general benefits of a special master's program?
The right special master's program can really kickstart the graduate education, and eventually the career, of a prospective medical student. Depending on the individual program, you can raise your GPA, factor in more extracurriculars for medical school, and work on innovative research projects. SMPs are also great for networking. You will be exposed to more professors and doctors in the field. These programs will not be a benefit to everyone, however. How much an SMP benefits you will depend on what you want to get out of one. Do not enroll in an SMP just for fun or because you need to fill a gap year. SMPs require as much effort and dedication as any other science-related academic program.
4. Are MCAT scores required for special master's programs?
For most programs, your MCAT score will not be a requirement. If you have written the MCAT prior to applying, some schools do view it as a plus. Make sure to verify how the schools you apply to feel about the MCAT.
5. What is a linkage agreement?
A linkage agreement is a deal between programs and affiliated schools meant to benefit students and allow them an easier path to move forward. For instance, if a particular SMP is connected to a university’s medical school, graduates from that SMP may have a guaranteed interview or conditional acceptance to that medical school. For some schools, they simply prefer applicants from their own state or community and help them follow through with their education to further support their careers as doctors in nearby health care systems.
6. Why are some linkage agreements so strict?
Many linkage agreements only benefit the students who perform best in the SMP cohort. This is not only done to reward students for their academic performance, but to ensure that those most likely to succeed in medical school are given that opportunity. However, some linkage agreements are much more direct and general for anyone who wishes to apply to them. In that case, as long as you meet the criteria they ask for, you have a shot.
7. Does applying to an SMP affiliated with a medical school help my chances?
Yes and no. It really depends on how well you perform while completing the SMP and whether that school’s linkage agreement actually benefits you. Sometimes, the affiliation will lock you into a university you do not personally wish to study at. At that point, your SMP could still be beneficial, but it would not be that different from completing a regular master’s program at another institution.
8. Do Canadian universities have special master's programs?
Some do, but they do not focus on medical schools specifically. Master’s programs in Canada tend to function more as standalone degrees, rather than leading directly to another level of education. Students can use these programs to bolster their applications to medical school, but they are not specifically designed with that goal in mind.
On the whole, medical schools in Canada have similar admissions processes to those in the United States, but they are slightly different in how they operate. For example, Canadian medical schools do not have rolling admissions. There are also no DO schools in Canada, so SMPs affiliated with osteopathic medical programs are not available to you there.
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