Is It Easier To Get Into Medical School With A Master’s Degree?

We all know that medical school is competitive and getting in requires a stellar application. But sometimes life gets in the way and maybe your application is not looking too great.

Could be a GPA issue, your MCAT score, or maybe a lack of extracurriculars. Whatever it might be, it’s not uncommon to wonder if getting a master’s degree would help your chances of getting in. 

So, is it easier to get into med school with a master’s? The answer is not so simple. We need to dissect the reasoning for wanting to get a master’s before med school as well as the type of master’s program you plan on attending.

Why Are You Wanting To Get Your Master’s Before Med School?

First, let’s address the why. 

Are you getting your master’s degree because you are passionate about another area of medicine? Maybe you are interested in research and have the opportunity to attend a master’s program that will allow you to pursue this interest.

Are you interested in obtaining a master’s in a completely different field? If this is the case, how would you marry the passion for medicine and this other passion? 

Are you looking into obtaining a master’s degree purely for the sake of being a more competitive applicant for med school? This is the most common reason and should really be carefully considered. Master’s programs can be very expensive.

Make sure you give this question a lot of thought. Whether or not getting a master’s degree before med school is right for you depends a lot on the reasoning for getting it in the first place.

Does Having A Masters Help You Get Into Med School?

The answer to this question is not simple. 

Most of the time, a master’s degree will help you get into med school. Some med schools will give additional ranking points to applicants with a master’s. But the degree to which a particular master’s helps you get in varies a lot. 

Let’s address the student looking to pursue a master’s degree strictly to make them more competitive for med school. 

Graduate school should be taken very seriously. Unless you are fortunate enough to be given a full ride into a master’s program, you will be spending A LOT of money. 

Not only that, if you aren’t passionate about the actual subject you are studying, you will fall behind the students that are gung-ho about that degree. Subpar results in a master’s program could even hurt your chances of getting into med school.  

Before considering a master’s degree, examine why your application is weak in the first place. If it’s a GPA problem, retaking some classes or taking new classes at a different school could help that. If the problem is your MCAT score, change the way you study for the exam and take it again. If extracurriculars are the problem, get a job as a scribe during a gap year or maybe start volunteering somewhere. 

The point is that there are much cheaper and less time-intensive ways to improve your application. 

If nothing else works, you should consider a special master’s program (More information below) because that is tailored specifically to the premed student trying to enhance their application to med school. 

If you are the kind of student that wants to do a master’s program because it’s something you are truly passionate about, then by all means go for it. One thing that med schools care about is diversity. If you can demonstrate that you are experienced in an entirely new discipline of study, you will impress the schools you apply to.  

Does A Master’s Program GPA Count For Med School?

For both MD and DO schools, your master’s GPA is in a separate bracket from your undergrad GPA. But technically yes, your master’s GPA counts towards med school. You just can’t improve your undergrad GPA with your master’s program.

If you didn’t do so well in undergrad but you rocked your master’s, this will demonstrate to med schools that you are capable of improving. 

What Is A Good Master’s GPA For Medical School? 

A good master’s GPA for med school is going to be in the high 3s to 4.0. If your goal was to demonstrate academic improvement, you need to make sure you are hitting at least a 3.7 if not better. 

Special Master’s Programs: What Are They? Will They Help You Get Into Med School?

Special Master’s Programs, or SMPs, are a type of post-bac program. However, they go beyond a simple post-bac program consisting of just taking prereq classes to increase your GPA. 

SMPs are essentially a branch of medical school. You study in the same buildings as the med students and sometimes you may even have classes with them. In addition, you have many of the same professors, which adds to that overall close link to the medical school. 

In my SMP, we had gross anatomy. Because cadavers weren’t readily available, the med students would be the ones dissecting the bodies while we would come in later and analyze them. But aside from that difference, we had close to the same education on this subject.

In summary, an SMP is essentially like your first year of medical school. Therefore, med schools will see you successfully completing a program like this as being able to perform well in med school. 

So yes, a special master’s program will definitely help you get into med school as long as you do well. 

Will The Experience Gained From A Master’s Program Help You While Attending Med School?

Although master’s programs can vary greatly, generally the experience gained from going to these programs will help you while you are attending med school. 

Higher education involves more critical thinking and taking on complex subjects. Because of this, you will have the edge over students that are seeing science courses at a med school level for the first time. 

Take the SMP that I went to for example. The students who continued on to medical school from my program were almost always top of their class. They were also usually tutoring the other med students that went straight into med school from undergrad.

Opportunity To Get Involved With Research

If you decide to attend a master’s program before med school, there might be some research opportunities that could benefit your career later on. 

For example, halfway through my special master’s program, we were offered a unique research opportunity. Basically, we could extend our program by another year and work in the lab while taking some additional courses. This would push med school back another year, but the research experience could offer a great backup option or a nice addition to your MD. 

Networking Opportunities

Another benefit of attending a master’s program before med school is the networking options you have access to. 

For example, my program put us in contact with various professors that also taught med school students. If we made a good impression, we could use these contacts for guidance on getting into med school and even letters of recommendation. 

Should You Get Your Master’s Before Med School? 

You are trying to get into medical school and you think that getting a master’s will help. Yes, it will. But if this is your sole reason for getting the master’s, I recommend trying other avenues first. 

A master’s degree should be obtained because you are passionate about the subject and hope to use the degree in your career down the road. There are other ways to spruce up your med school application that are much cheaper and less time intensive. 

If you are set on obtaining a master’s degree for the sole purpose of getting into med school, the special master’s program is the way to go. 

But again, these programs are very expensive and should only be a last-ditch effort to get in.

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