Why Med School?
Before exploring the captioned question, we’ll address this question for those considering medicine as a career. According to the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC), there could be a shortage of 54,000 to 139,000 physicians by 2033. The number of applications has also increased since the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic of 2020, which has stretched into 2021. In a typical year, there might be a two or three-percent increase. For 2021, there is an 18% rise in medical school applications. The instability of the job market caused by many closures due to the pandemic is another reason. College students want a profession with job security. What better than the healthcare industry?
What is the best degree for Med School?
Data from the AAMC published by the American Medical Association (AMA) states that about 60% of applicants have an undergraduate degree in the biological sciences. Reviewing 21,662 applications, 11,843 matriculated in this discipline, followed by the physical sciences with only 2,214. All of the candidates, as required, submitted scores from the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT). Did students who studied biological sciences do better on the MCAT? Not really. The data show that these graduates were in the middle when compared to all other undergraduate majors.
The Davis School of Medicine at the University of California-Davis reports that it does not have a degree preference. This school focuses on students’ passion and mastery of a particular subject – whether it’s music, history, philosophy, or art. Some schools believe that humanities and social sciences are valuable as they impart practical communication skills. Therefore, excelling in biology may not ensure your successful admission into medical school.
However, you may require a lower GPA by graduating with a degree in biology, chemistry, physics, or math (BCPM). Data published by the Medical Admissions site for 2020-2021 reveals that the average GPA for BCPM graduates is 3.65. For non-science applicants, the average is 3.8. These are averages, as some elite schools have higher standards. For example, Johns Hopkins has an average GPA of 3.94, and Baylor, Harvard, and New York University have 3.92. On the scale’s lower end is Rosalind Franklin University of Medicine and Science in Chicago, with a median GPA of 3.5.
The captioned question refers specifically to a Master’s in Biology. The consensus among professional organizations and medical school admissions is that a master’s degree in any field is not a prerequisite. The AAMC stresses that most students take a year off after receiving their baccalaureate. During the time, they recommend bolstering your GPA in any weak courses, study for the MCAT, pay down tuition debt, or volunteer for a medically-related field. The gap provides the opportunity to network with those conducting medical research or clinical work. Prospective students may prefer working to set aside the partial funds for the expensive road ahead. Or apply for federal financial or institutional loans.
Between 2015 and 2017, more than 50% of medical school matriculants took at least one year off after earning a bachelor’s degree (AAMC).
Another option, as alluded to above, is to enroll in a post-baccalaureate program for a year. For example, one student took General Chemistry 1&2, Physics 1&2, Organic Chemistry 1&2, and Biology 1&2 during the Gap year. The program did not award a degree or certificate, but it allowed the student to prepare for the MCAT. Consequently, the Lewis Katz School of Medicine at Temple University in Philadelphia accepted him.
Medical school professors opine that you should have a clear purpose if you decide to pursue a master’s degree. Meaning, will your chosen graduate major enhance the knowledge that you can apply to medical school? Individuals planning on entering medical research might benefit more from a master’s in biology than medical students opting for patient care.
Less than 25% of med school applicants pursued post-baccalaureate training (AAMC).
The AAMC reports that there are 15 Core Competencies for anyone considering medical school. For example, many are soft skills, such as Social Skills, Teamwork, Oral and Communication, Reliability, Resilience, and Ethical Responsibility. Critical Thinking, Scientific Inquiry, Written Communication, and Quantitative Reasoning are also significant.
As portrayed above, a master’s degree in biology may be the least of your concerns. Your GPA, official transcripts, work, extra-curricular activities, letters of recommendation, personal statement or essay, criminal history, financial information, MCAT score, and interview are all part of the acceptance process to stand out among the myriad of applicants. Some students apply to one medical program, whereas others may send an application to dozens. One student who graduated from the University of Hawaii applied to 32 medical schools. With the escalating interest in medicine, this might become the norm in a competitive environment.