For some students, college is a time of testing the waters in different subject areas to explore possible future career paths. Others might already know exactly what they want to do long before they begin college. If this is the case for you, there are some courses of study that might expedite your career path or at least simplify it. For students planning to pursue a career in medicine, one option is a BS/MD program.

Combined BS/MD programs streamline the process of applying for and pursuing a medical degree. They provide a more focused program of study for students who are ready to commit to their career path from an early point. If you’re a high school student committed to pursuing your Doctor of Medicine (MD), read on to learn more about combined BS/MD programs.

What Are BS/MD Programs?

These combined programs allow you to complete a Bachelor’s of Science (BS) degree and then proceed directly into a medical program for your Doctor of Medicine (MD) degree. Basically, you apply for and are accepted to both your undergraduate program and med school at the same time. Typically, you will commit to a certain college and medical school simultaneously, with the medical school typically being part of the same institution or a partner school of the college or university supplying the undergraduate degree.

Of course, these programs don’t give you free reign to do whatever you want during your undergrad years while maintaining a guaranteed spot in a medical degree program. You still have to meet minimum requirements, usually including your GPA, some prerequisite courses, and often a minimum MCAT score as well.

Are Early Assurance Programs the Same as BS/MD Programs?

Some undergraduate schools offer what are usually termed Early Assurance Programs for students committed to pursuing their MD. In these programs, you apply and are accepted to the undergraduate college or university first, and then, usually after your sophomore year, you are able to apply to med school based on your performance during your first two years of undergraduate work.

While these programs offer some similar benefits in terms of knowing from an early point that your med school acceptance is taken care of, they are not the same as BS/MD programs because you do not apply to the med school portion while you’re still in high school and your acceptance to it is independent from your acceptance to the undergraduate institution.

Still, for students who do not end up pursuing a combined BS/MD program, attending a school with an early assurance program might be a good alternative. You’ll have two extra years to ensure that you’re certain about your career path, and you’ll still graduate without the hassle of applying to med schools during your senior year.

Should I Pursue a BS/MD Program?

BS/MD programs are a great option for some students, but they are definitely not for everyone. Obviously, these programs require you to commit to a career path much earlier than the standard declaration of a college major. Furthermore, you are completely committed to a career in medicine whereas most college majors allow the freedom to choose from broader paths or even change course completely. This requires a particularly mature and self-driven teen to know exactly what you want to do with your life by the time you graduate high school. But if you know without a doubt that medicine is the path for you, a BS/MD program is something to consider.

Admission to these programs tends to be very competitive. While standard premed students will have the opportunity to prove themselves through college coursework and MCAT scores, you will need to show your commitment and readiness for a BS/MD program through only your college application. This means that your grades, test scores, extracurriculars, and everything else included on your college application will need to be exceptional.

Generally, a successful applicant will have an exceptional recommendation from a science teacher, strong scores on science SAT Subject Tests and AP exams, high SAT or ACT scores, and a high GPA. While the competitiveness of schools offering BS/MD programs varies significantly, these programs are always more competitive than admissions for just undergraduate programs at a given school. Often, the spaces are limited to only 20-30 students each year, and plenty of programs accept fewer than 10 students annually. 

BS/MD programs do offer some great advantages to the students who choose them and gain admission. Foremost, you don’t have to worry about applying and being accepted to med school once you’ve been accepted to a BS/MD program. This can be a huge weight lifted and will ultimately streamline the entire process for you.

While many BS/MD combined programs will still require you to take the MCAT and meet a minimum score on it (which varies by program), you will not have to worry about exemplifying your commitment to the field through coursework. Some students in BS/MD programs report that they feel more academic freedom with the knowledge that they have already been accepted to med school. Although there are still strict course requirements, you no longer have to worry about proving your commitment to the field.

What Is the Best Strategy for Applying to BS/MD Programs?

If you’re absolutely convinced that you want to pursue a career in medicine and you’ve tested the waters already through volunteer work, hospital shadowing, and summer research programs, you may be tempted to apply exclusively to BS/MD programs.

While it’s reasonable that these programs are your top choice, it’s not necessarily a great idea to put all your eggs in one basket, so to speak. Remember, these programs are extremely competitive, and most students who are admitted will have a 4.0 GPA and standardized test scores in the 95th percentile or above. Even if you meet these high standards, there’s still no guarantee that you’ll get in.

Instead, a more balanced approach is usually to select several BS/MD programs that you’re truly interested in, with one or two being “reach” schools and another two being “target” schools. (There really is no such thing as a “safety” school when it comes to BS/MD programs, though you can certainly find some that are less competitive than others). Then, also apply to several schools with strong science, biology, or pre-med programs, or even humanities and liberal arts colleges.

More and more often now, med schools are seeking students with broader undergraduate experiences, in an effort to mold more well-rounded practitioners, so attending a school that does specifically tailor to a pre-med path may not count against you as long as you take the required pre-med classes along with your other coursework. 

It’s natural to feel driven towards your future career if you think you’ve found the right one a young age, but remember that there is more than one means to an end. Don’t be discouraged if you don’t end up attending a BS/MD program.

What Is an Accelerated BS/MD program?

Accelerated BS/MD programs offer a consolidated course of study. The traditional path through college and med school totals eight years, with four years spent on undergrad and another four years spent in med school. Some BS/MD programs offer this course of study during a shorter timeframe of seven or even as few as six years.

To accomplish this, undergrad work is compressed. Often, you will need to work on your degree year-round, without summer breaks to pursue other plans or interests. Still, finishing your degrees in advance can be financially appealing since you’ll enter the job market at a younger age.

What Schools Offer Six-Year BS/MD Programs?

Of all the BS/MD programs, six-year ones are the least common simply due to the speed at which they must progress in order to include all of the requirements in only 75% of the time. To pursue one successfully, you’ll need to essentially eat, drink, and breathe your coursework for the first two years, during which you’ll complete an entire undergrad degree. And the pace likely won’t slow once you start the medical school portion of the program. For some, this pace is unsustainable. In fact, just in the past two years, two of the most competitive six-year programs (Penn State/Jefferson MC and Ohio State/NEOMED) have discontinued their accelerated programs in favor of a more traditional timeline.

The remaining six-year BS/MD Programs are:

What Schools Offer Seven-Year BS/MD Programs?

Seven-year programs, while more popular than six-year ones, still deliver the undergrad program at an accelerated pace. If you’re considering one, be prepared to sacrifice free time and other pursuits. Schools that offer seven-year programs include:

What Schools Offer Eight-Year BS/MD Programs?

Eight-year BS/MD programs are the most common design, since they adhere to the traditional timeline of a four-year undergrad degree and a four-year medical school. In these programs, you are more likely to find a well-rounded undergrad experience since you aren’t in such a time crunch to meet your premed course requirements. Though you won’t get to graduate ahead of time, you’ll still benefit from having locked down your med school before beginning your undergrad work. Schools with eight-year programs include:

A combined BS/MD program isn’t for everyone, but if you’re a high-achieving, focused student who knows that a Doctor of Medicine degree is in your future, it is definitely an option to consider. To learn more about combined BS/MD programs, read these CollegeVine posts:

Timeline: Applying to BS/MD Programs

BS/MD Programs vs PreMed: Which is Right For You?

CollegeVine’s Top 25 Combined BS/MD Programs

A Beginner’s Guide to 7-Year Med Programs

How to Write 7-Year Med Program Essays

How to Survive Your 7-Year Med Program Interview

Summer Activities for the Prospective PreMed Student

Are Combined Undergraduate/Graduate Programs Right For You?

To learn more about the application process for these programs and how to maximize your chances of acceptance, contact CollegeVine for a free consultation to discuss how our services can help guide you to success.

Fill out our free consultation form and one of our admissions specialists will reach out to you!

Kate Sundquist

Kate Sundquist

Senior Blogger at CollegeVine
Kate Koch-Sundquist is a graduate of Pomona College where she studied sociology, psychology, and writing before going on to receive an M.Ed. from Lesley University. After a few forays into living abroad and afloat (sometimes at the same time), she now makes her home north of Boston where she works as a content writer and, with her husband, raises two young sons who both inspire her and challenge her on a daily basis.
Kate Sundquist