Overview of Post-baccalaureate Programs

Post-baccalaureate programs begin after an undergraduate degree and are designed to support the transition into professional school. While they are a great option for many students, understanding the difference between the various types of post-baccalaureate programs can be challenging! We wanted to write a quick overview about post-bacc programs to answer some common questions and help students on their path to health professional school.

What is a post-bacc program?

According to the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC), "the term 'postbaccalaureate' describes programs that begin after you've completed an undergraduate degree and are designed specifically to support the transition to a professional school, such as a medical school, as well as enhance an applicant's competitiveness for admission. There are several types of programs which are designed to address a particular need, such as academic record enhancement, career change, MCAT exam prep, as well as programs for underrepresented students."

Is a post-bacc program right for me?
As you are approaching graduation, it is time to start thinking about the next steps. If you want to pursue a career in the health field but do not feel ready to apply, a post-bacc program might be a good fit. There are two main types of post-bacc programs: academic enhancers and career changers. 
  •  Academic Enhancers: These programs are designed for students who have completed their prerequisite courses but want to improve their undergraduate GPA. Typically, these programs consist of various upper-division courses that apply to health professions, such as Immunology or Physiology. The goal of taking these classes is to demonstrate your ability to learn advanced material. Your undergraduate GPA might not reflect this ability, but it will set you up well if you can show an upward trend through a post-bacc program. Academic enhancers are typically 1 year in length and relatively structured, often granting a certificate or graduate degree.
  • Career Changers: These programs are designed for students who have completed their undergraduate degree, but still need to take the prerequisite science courses in order to apply to a health professional school. Often times these students did not originally intend to pursue a career in healthcare, and decided after or close to graduating that their chosen major or career wasn't the right fit for them. Career changers offer the opportunity to complete the science prerequisites in an accelerated format, and prepare applicants for the coursework of either medical, dental, or veterinary school. These programs range anywhere from 12 to 24 months, depending on the amount of relevant coursework a student has completed before enrollment.
Other types of post-bacc programs:
  • MCAT Exam Prep: These programs are designed to review and reinforce the material covered in the prerequisite science courses for medical school, in preparation to take the Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT). These programs typically consist of classroom lectures, group study sessions, one-on-one tutoring, as well as developing test-taking strategies for the exam itself.
  • Post-bacc Programs for Underrepresented Students: These programs are usually academic enhancing programs that have been developed specifically to support students from disadvantaged backgrounds or underrepresented minority groups in medicine. Some of these programs are privately funded by the universities that offer them, while others are funded by the government through a program known as the Health Careers Opportunity Program (HCOP). Visit the AAMC website to see the current list of programs that focus on serving underrepresented and disadvantaged students. 

How do I find information about these programs?

The AAMC website is a great place to begin your search for post-bacc programs or to find specific information about a particular program. Their program data base allows you to filter and search by location, program type, public or private universities, DACA eligibility, and more.

If you have further questions about post-bacc programs or would like some help in identifying programs that would be a good fit for you, please come by the pre-health advising office (Bldg 53 Rm 211) and see one of our pre-health peer advisors! If you would like help with the application process to postbaccalaureate programs, please schedule an appointment to see one of our academic advisors through Calendly.

Example program: UCSF 
UCSF offers a structured post-bacc program for individuals from disadvantaged backgrounds looking to improve their academic profile. Here are some quick facts about the program:
  • includes summer component focused on MCAT preparation 
  • each participant takes 18 units of upper division science courses
  • applicants must be considered disadvantaged or be from an underserved community
The deadline to apply is March 11! Learn more and apply here