Postbaccalaureate and Master’s Programs for PA School
Postbaccalaureate Programs (Non-Master's Degree)
If you’ve already applied to PA school or you are considering applying and your GPA is not competitive enough for admission, you might consider postbaccalaureate programs (“post-bacc” programs) or master level programs. These programs require an undergraduate degree as a prerequisite, but they are not always considered graduate education. Some programs are considered “continuing education” and can lead to a graduate degree, a certificate, or aid you in meeting the entrance requirements to a physician assistant program. Although mainly for premedical students, AAMC offers a search tool for postbaccalaureate programs. This can be a useful tool as many of the courses taken in premedical postbacc programs will be the same. Always ensure that the program you choose doesn’t have a requirement for MCAT scores and that the program isn’t solely for medical, dental, or vet school bound students.
You’ll want to ensure you choose the right program for yourself. Postbaccalaureate programs are broken into different focuses: career-changers, academic record-enhancers, groups underrepresented in medicine, economically or educationally disadvantaged students, and other. Career changer programs are geared to students who did not complete prerequisite requirements as undergraduates and are designed to provide preparation in the basic prerequisite sciences and complementary coursework and experiences. Academic enhancement programs are designed for students who have completed the prerequisite sciences but need to “enhance” and strengthen their science GPAs. The basic idea is to give students the opportunity to prove themselves by taking demanding science courses. These programs typically offer master’s degrees or certificates. Underrepresented in medicine means those racial and ethnic populations that are underrepresented in the medical profession relative to their numbers in the general population. Economically or educationally disadvantaged means those students who have endured financial hardship or with a learning disability who wish to pursue medical education. These last two programs, which generally fall under the heading of enhancement programs, are designed to support underrepresented students and increase the numbers of them who apply successfully to health professional schools.
Postbaccalaureate programs are designed to increase your knowledge of the sciences, and in doing so, can make your application much more competitive if you have a weak undergraduate GPA. They are designed for people who have little to no undergraduate science education, but you can also use them to retake large amounts of science classes. You can easily become a postbacc student at any university or community college. Your focus should be on upper level science coursework with a mixture of other uncommon sciences such as extra psychology, microbiology, anatomy, physiology, or language courses. You should consider taking courses at an upper division or graduate level, as well. This can show programs that you are able to handle science coursework at the graduate level.
One benefit of being enrolled in postbacc programs is that they can sometimes hold spots for you in classes like gross anatomy, whereas if you weren’t in the program those courses could fill up with students with priority registration. Other postbacc programs have ties with some PA programs that may grant you an interview if you successfully complete the program. Finally, post bacc programs allow physician assistant programs to see your new coursework, and if your coursework is strong, you will prove to programs that you can handle rigorous science coursework.
Keep in mind that your postbaccalaureate coursework will be calculated together on CASPA with your undergraduate GPA. Additionally, postbaccalaureate programs are often expensive methods to raising your science and overall GPA. This is because most postbacc programs charge a great deal of money per credit hour. An alternative to this expensive choice would be to enroll as a postbacc student, but not join the formal postbaccalaureate program. You can simply enroll and register for classes without being in an official program. This can save you money and time if you don’t need to take all of the science courses offered in a traditional postbacc program.
Most postbaccalaureate programs still want you to have at least a 3.0 GPA and if they do not, priority is usually given to students with higher GPAs. If you still don’t meet this requirement, you might consider taking some of your science coursework at a community college first. You can also just opt to take additional undergraduate science courses (besides the prerequisite courses) prior to graduation that will factor into your undergraduate science GPA.
Overall GPA Requirement: Not specified
- Tufts University Graduate Career Advancement Program
- Penn College of Liberal & Professional Studies (possess science undergraduate degree)
- University of New England
- College of Osteopathic Medicine Online Education
- Southern California University of Health Science
- University of Massachusetts Dartmouth
- Somos Hermanos 6-Month Immersion Program (learn Spanish!)
Overall GPA Requirement: 2.5+
Overall GPA Requirement: 2.8+
Overall GPA Requirement: 3.0+
- UC Berkeley Extension
Overall GPA Requirement: 3.2+
- Washington University in St. Louis
Postbaccalaureate Master’s Programs
In comparison, a master level program is designed to be in addition to your undergraduate GPA and will be calculated separately from your undergraduate science GPA. If only a few science courses from your undergraduate career are bringing you down, you probably shouldn’t invest in a master’s degree. Instead, you should consider the postbacc program to reinforce those unfortunate grades with better ones.
Master level programs will show programs that you can handle a rigorous master level science program. Most master level programs also want at least a 3.0-3.2+ GPA overall. If you can meet this requirement by taking a few community college undergraduate courses, then pursuing a master level degree program can be achieved. There are a few programs out there offering master’s degrees with minimum GPAs of 2.5-3.0, but you’ll have to look harder.
A master’s degree doesn’t always have to be in the usual public health, nutrition, genetics, or biomedical science. Instead, they can be in other science-oriented degrees - see below. Whatever you choose, ensure that enough science coursework is incorporated and that you are taking them at a graduate or upper division level.
Master of Science in Biomedical Science Programs
- A.T. Still University (MSBS)
- Tufts University (MSBS)
- Tulane University (MBS with emphasis in Human Genetics)
- George Mason University (MSBS)
- Regis University (MSBS)
- Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine (Training Program)
Master of Science in Medical (Health) Sciences
- Western University (MSMS)
- Drexel University College of Medicine (MSP, IMS, MBS, MMS, IHS, MIHS, DPMS, PMED)
- Boston University (MAMS)
- Loyola University Chicago (MAMS)
Master of Science in Basic Medical Science
- Wayne State (MSBMS)
Master of Science in Nutrition
- Columbia University (Human Nutrition)
- Tufts School of Nutrition Science & Policy (Nutrition Science & Policy)
Master of Science in Anatomy
Master of Science in Physiology
Master of Science in Neuroscience
- University at Buffalo (MSN)
Master of Science in Pharmacology
- SUNY at Albany (MPH)
Master of Science in Biomedical Forensic Science
- Syracuse University (MSBFS)
Master of Science in Clinical and Translational Science
Working for the National Institute of Health (NIH)