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What Kinds of Special Master’s Programs Are There?


If you’re considering a post-bacc program to help you prepare to apply to medical school, you probably already know that there are two major types of post-baccs available: certificates and special master’s programs (SMPs). However, not all SMPs are the same. In this article, we’ll look at some of the different SMP fields available, and describe how each one can align with your goals as a pre-med student. 

What Are Special Master’s Programs?

SMPs are specialized graduate programs designed to provide additional academic preparation for students pursuing careers in medicine or other health professions. These programs cater to students who have already completed their pre-med prerequisite courses as undergraduates, but whose GPA may not meet the requirements of the medical school they want to attend. 

Completing an SMP with a strong GPA can demonstrate to admissions committees that you’re capable of handling rigorous science coursework, and that you’re dedicated to pursuing a career in medicine or healthcare.

Master of Science in Medical Sciences

The most common type of SMP is a Master of Science in Medical Sciences (MSMS). SMPs in medical sciences usually mirror the first year of a medical school curriculum, including classes in:

  • Physiology
  • Microbiology
  • Medical Biochemistry
  • Neuroscience
  • Medical Ethics

In some schools, you may even take some of your classes alongside current medical students. Like other post-bacc programs, SMPs in these fields usually include additional support for your application prep, such as MCAT coaching, career guidance, and networking events. Others may also include clinical experience or volunteering opportunities.

Master of Science in Biomedical Sciences (or Biomedical Studies)

Biomedical sciences SMPs will often incorporate some of the courses found in a medical sciences program, but usually take more of a research-focused approach. Courses in a biomedical sciences SMP usually include more hands-on lab time than in an MSMS program.

Choose a biomedical sciences SMP if you’re more interested in research than clinical practice – they’re also appropriate if you want to pursue an MD/Ph.D. program.

Master of Science in Physiology

Physiology SMP programs provide coursework and support for students who want to prepare for medical or other health professional programs without directly mirroring the medical school curriculum. As the program name suggests, courses may focus on physiology, including pathophysiology and neurophysiology, with additional coursework designed to enhance your clinical reasoning and ability to review and evaluate medical literature.

Some physiology SMPs may also include elective options with a hands-on component in research or clinical experience.

Master of Science in Pharmacology

Pharmacology SMPs, while focused on pharmaceutical science and research, may also be appropriate for aspiring pre-meds who have a passion for this area of medical science. Pharmacology SMP programs tend to include more coursework in statistics, science communication, and chemistry than other SMPs. In addition, some MS in Pharmacology students may need to complete a thesis to graduate – that’s not always the case in other SMP programs.

Other SMP Programs

It’s possible to find master’s programs in other fields that market themselves as appropriate for pre-med students. These can include:

  • Master of Public Health (MPH) programs
  • Master of Science in Anatomy
  • Master of Science in Integrative Health (usually appropriate for DO applicants)
  • Master of Science in Biology/Biological Sciences
  • Master of Science in Nutrition

Find the Right Special Master’s Program for You

When choosing an SMP program, make sure it advertises as specifically supporting pre-medical and pre-health professional students. Check to see whether it offers any additional features you need, such as research experience, clinical opportunities, or medical school linkages. Our database of master’s programs can help you get started – begin your search today!

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