What is the Difference Between a Masters and a Postbac Program?

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What is the Difference Between a Masters and a Postbac Program?

Session 48

Postbac, Masters, and SMP programs have pretty significant differences, from the degree conferred to financial aid eligibility, etc. Pick wisely!

If you haven’t yet, please check out all our other podcasts on Meded Media as you’re trying to get as many resources as you can to help you along this premed journey.

Did you struggle in your undergrad classes? Or did you major in something completely random and you never took any science courses and now you need them?

How do you determine what’s the best path forward versus a “postbac” program or a Masters Program in Biomedical Sciences? (There’s also that which is called Special Masters Program or SMP.)

So, what’s the difference?

[01:15] What’s the Difference Between Postbac and Master’s Programs

Q: Which one will prove to the admissions committees that I can handle the coursework? Is a postbac program good enough? Or does it have to be this Masters Program in hard sciences like Biomedical Sciences or Masters in Microbiology? (Masters in Public Health is not considered a hard science.)

A: The difference is that one is a Master’s degree and one isn’t. Postbac programs historically are programs affiliated either separately form an institution. There are a lot of private postbac programs out there now while there are some programs that are part of the university.

There’s also a postbac program for nontraditional students looking to improve their grades or are switching from another career so they need to take all the sciences.

At the core of a postbac program or a masters program, they both do the same thing. They’re both there to help improve or add to your science GPA.

'The postbac program and a master's program are there to help you prove to yourself and the admissions committees that you can handle the science coursework in medical school.'Click To Tweet

Medical school is hard. There are a lot of sciences. If you can’t get a good science GPA then you haven’t proven to yourself or the admissions committee that you can handle the coursework. The last they want to do is accept a student who is not going to finish school.

[03:35] Which One to Choose: Federal vs. Private Loans

Master’s program is a degree program which you can get federal financial aid for. Postbac programs are not degree-programs, which means you don’t get a degree at the end.

Some postbac programs give you a certificate but the certificate these days might not qualify itself for financial aid. This being said, you have to just do your research and follow up with them.

'If you go to a postbac program, you might not be able to get financial aid for that and that would leave you open to needing to get private loans.'Click To Tweet

Private loans are to be avoided at all cost. They’re not very flexible. For instance, they don’t care if you have problems in the future.

When you get federal loans as you go through medical school and residency training, they are very flexible with how you pay back the loans. You have a lot more leeway if any issues come up.

As you’re looking at these different options, think about federal versus private loans.

[05:10] Formal Postbac versus Do-It -Yourself Postbac

Think about whether you need to do a formal postbac versus a do-it-yourself postbac. You don’t have to do a formal postbac. Formal postbac programs are super expensive.

'You can just do a do-it-yourself postbac and just pick and choose classes as an undergrad.'Click To Tweet

One of the tricks for a do-it-yourself postbac is to tell them you want a second degree. Go and apply as a degree-seeking student and just don’t finish the degree.

[06:00] Master’s Program versus Postbac Programs

A Master’s program is going to give you a Master’s degree. A lot of people will choose this being the safer bet. You have a Master’s degree now. Just in case medicine doesn’t work out, now you have a master’s degree to lean back on.

A lot of these master’s programs are postbac programs that are just wrapped in a pretty exterior of a master’s program. This means they’re there to improve your sciences, prepare you for the MCAT, and get you ready for medical school. This is what an SMP does as well.

'At the end of the day, there's really no big difference between a postbac program and a master's degree to do as a postbac.'Click To Tweet

One of the biggest differences is that on your application, a postbac program includes undergrad level courses that help you increase your undergrad GPA. 

If you have a poor undergrad GPA and you take Master’s courses, your undergrad GPA is going to look terrible. Hopefully, you have a good Master’s GPA to improve on that.

If you’re struggling with your undergrad GPA, it may behoove you to do more of a regular postbac. Your postbac courses are going to be included in your undergrad GPA. This may boost you up over that 3.0 threshold.

[08:50] Crush It!

Ultimately, no matter which one you pick, the goal for any of these is to crush them the best you can. Do not go into this process with a poor GPA from undergrad and continue the same mistakes that you make. Otherwise, it’s going to prove you can’t handle the coursework. This is the last thing you want to do.

'Go into these programs ready to crush it – as best as you can, a 4.0!'Click To Tweet


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