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Monday, March 17, 2014

Postbaccalaureate and Master’s Programs for Physician Assistant School

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


Overall GPA Requirement: 2.5+


Overall GPA Requirement: 2.8+


Overall GPA Requirement: 3.0+


Overall GPA Requirement: 3.2+




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


Master of Science in Medical (Health) Sciences


Master of Science in Basic Medical Science


Master of Science in Anesthesia


Master of Science in Nutrition


Master of Science in Anatomy


Master of Science in Physiology


Master of Science in Neuroscience


Master of Science in Pharmacology


Master of Public Health


Master of Science in Biomedical Forensic Science


Master of Science in Clinical and Translational Science


Working for the National Institute of Health (NIH)


Sources:



28 comments:

  1. These are really a great list of various master degree courses and will sure help students to look details about various courses who are planning to go for master degree programs. Thanks for sharing.

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  2. Thank you Paul, this is a great help.

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  3. If the GPA for master's programs is calculated separately in CAPSA, is the master's program worth investing two years and $$ in? Do you think that PA schools will be swayed by an applicant with a low undergraduate science GPA but a significantly improved graduate school GPA?

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    1. I think it shows them your improvement since you graduated. How else can they gauge your academic performance if all you do is "talk the talk" in your essays? If not, a post-baccalaureate program may be what you are looking for.

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  4. Hi first of all thanks for taking the time to post so much information. I wanted your input and thoughts about my plan. I have a Bachelors of Science degree with a biology major and chemistry minor. I have taken every single course in science that my college offers whether it is histology, organic chem (both 1 and 2), biochemistry, cell biology, genetics etc. which in turn brought my gpa down. So I have a 2.8 GPA and am planning to do a 4 month certificate medical assistant course which is accredited and get at least 500 hours of direct patient care hours before applying and I want to raise my GPA a bit by taking undergraduate courses in community college to get it to at least a 3.3. Please let me know what you think.
    Thank you

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    1. If your GPA is that low, I would consider gaining more healthcare experience before applying. The average PA applicant has around 2,000 hours of HCE. Taking courses at a community college would help, but I would recommend you just pursue a post-baccalaureate program (1-year) or a 1-year master's program instead. Those types of programs will better prepare you for PA school and show schools that you can handle a rigorous graduate-level science coursework. There are many master's programs out there in genetics, anatomy, physiology, etc.

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  5. Hello I am a recent graduate and wanting to apply to PA school. I have a low science GPA and am therefore looking into doing a post bacc or a masters in science. I don't know what the best choice would be. Would PA schools prefer someone getting a masters degree over taken more upper level undergrad classes?

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    1. I don't think schools necessarily prefer one over the other. I think they look at you holistically and see what characteristics/qualities you bring to their program. You have to make that decision yourself - what would benefit you more in the long run? Do you have bad grades because your undergraduate program was challenging or did you just not understand the material the first time around?

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  6. Hello Paul,
    My current science GPA is a 3.23, over all non-science GPA is 3.6, and cumulative is 3.37. The only classes which really brought me down are my 3 C's (mostly in chemistry courses). I applied to a post bac to help raise my GPA, but want to see if there are other options since the program is so expensive. I want to take classes at a nearby CC, but a majority of the courses are not upper-div. What are your inputs on that? Thanks!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi anonymous,

      Because of the volume of traffic I get everyday, I'm not able to respond to everyone about their individual stats. I recommend thePAplatform.com if you would like advice on your own personal journey. This site is run by licensed PAs who probably know more than I do about the application process. Use code: DoseOfPA for discount.

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  7. I am looking to improve a lower GPA and obtain HCE. I have many options to choose from. Mainly, I'm looking at getting a job as a CNA/PCT for HCE. Then to improve my GPA, I was briefly looking into just a graduate certificate over a full one year Master's program (if I don't get in). Do you think that's a bad decision? Do you think that a graduate certificate isn't beneficial at all?

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    1. I would also like to clarify that by graduate certificate, I don't mean a graduate certificate for PA. I am referring to a graduate certificate in something like bioinformantics or health sciences.

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    2. Hello anonymous,

      I can't reply to everyone on my blog as I have in the past - it's simply not possible with the traffic that comes through and with every student asking about their own personal experiences.

      Savannah Perry is a licensed PA and offers services for people just like yourself! Check out her site here: http://www.thepaplatform.com/services/

      Delete
  8. Hello,

    I am looking for a one year post bacc program that will prepare me for PA school. I currently live in MD and there is not to many post bacc programs in the state. Ideally, I would like to find a cheaper program, so I was wondering do the underrepresented and economically disadvantaged programs usually come out a lot cheaper. Also, which of these programs are close to MD and accept students with a GPA around 3.2?

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    Replies
    1. Hi,

      i'm not sure, but I do know that this list came from AAMC and I hope you can use their search tool to find one!

      https://apps.aamc.org/postbac/

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  9. Hi Paul,

    Just wanted to say that this was a great article and a good collection of info all on one page. I have a pretty low cumulative GPA of 2.3 (I was pretty careless in college and was not in the best emotional state of mind).

    I was considering the SMP or Post Bacc route, but I'm just not sure if I have any hope at all getting into one. Is there any slim chance of me getting into one? I am going to take the GREs soon and hope that boosts my application somewhat, I studied very hard and am confident. I also have a good amount of shadowing/volunterring/patient contact hours (around 200 - 300 hours). Please let me know! I appreciate it.

    Thanks!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think if you are a well-rounded student and show that you are motivated in your admissions essays, you have a chance of getting accepted. No one can ever say for sure, but if I were you, I would be proactive and contact the programs to see what they are looking for and whether or not your meet their admissions requirements before applying.

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  10. Hi Paul I have undergrad GPA of a 2.68 I got a graduate degree in biological sciences and graduated with a 3.3 I have about 4 years of healthcare experience. Do you know what my chances would be or is there anything else
    You would recommend I do before applying ?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Unknown,

      Unfortunately due to the high volume of requests like this, I have opted to refer individuals to Savannah Perry's site www.thepaplatform.com where she provides prePA coaching services. For a discount, provide the code: DoseOfPA

      Delete
  11. Hi Paul.
    I don't know if you are going to see this since it's bit a later but if you do great! I've graduated from undergrad with a low science GPA but with a 3.1 gpa overall. I am currently doing an MPH program. Let's say that my gpa is significantly higher than my undergrad GPA like 3.7, do you recommend for me to go back and increase my science gpa to be more competitive for PA school or what do you think I should do after completing the MPH program?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Undergraduate GPA is a huge consideration in your application to PA schools and although PA programs look at your application holistically, cumulative and science GPAs play a major role. If you want more advice, I recommend Savanna Perry at thePAplatform.com. She has helped many students navigate the PA application process and will have answers to your questions.

      Delete
  12. Hello,
    Your blog posts are so helpful,thank you for doing this! You mention that I could enroll at any college as a post bacc and take only the classes I need in order to fulfill pre-reqs and enhance GPA. Would you say it matters at which institution I go to as a post bacc to complete these courses? Is it better to do it at a CSU/UC than a community college?

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  13. Hello Paul,I love this site! ITS SO HELPFUL!!! So I graduated in 2010 with a BA in Sociology and minor in Women Studies. I had a GPA of 3.1, I took the extra courses for most PA schools micro, Anatomy, biochem, etc. after I graduated at a community college, I only have 50 hours so far with shadowing and work at a hospital, but as a supply stocker. I'm thinking about heading back to get patient hours as a tech. I'm wondering should I choose a post bac degree as well? Also will my courses expire even with a degree? Just want to know what you recommend to getting into PA. I'm even reading the book "the ultimate guide into getting into PA school" by Andrew Rodican. I'm just trying to find my way! Thanks

    ReplyDelete
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    1. I think you're on the right track with a post-bacc degree. Your GPA is a little on the lower end (not as competitive) and that might give you the push you need. You're great on shadowing experience, but I think the push toward a tech is a good idea for direct patient care experience.

      Your courses expire after 10 years, I believe, but don't quote me on that. I'd look it up at the programs you plan to apply to and see.

      Good luck and let me know if you have other questions.

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  14. Hi there,

    First I just wanted to say thank you for putting together this website! I recently contacted WesternU about their MSMS program. I spoke with the recruitment office and to my surprise they told me that their program is geared more towards those pursuing doctorate degrees and not and MSPA degree. They told me there is no linkage between their MSMS degree and their MSPA program, moreover they stated that the MSMS program would not be beneficial as a academic enhancer because they look at undergraduate level courses as their prerequisites and not masters level courses. They said the MSMS may help for other PA programs but not their own. Any thoughts? Any suggestions on other courses that may have linkage?

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    Replies
    1. Hi Tim,

      I think, in this case, you were told the opinion of one PA program. There are now >200 programs nationwide. They all have their own rhyme and reasons why they accept and look at undergrad/master level coursework. It's going to be a little more challenging for you, but I'm glad you're doing your research beforehand. There is going to be a program out there that will accept what work you are getting done- whether that be a masters or postbacc program. Just contact the programs you want to end up at and see what their recommendations are for yourself.

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