The Benefit of Completing a Master’s Degree Before Applying to Medical School

The thought of grad school may have crossed your mind, whether you’re in your first year of undergrad or in your fourth year and have just been rejected from the medical schools you’ve applied to. “Should I pursue a Master’s degree and apply again after?” “Should I take a year off and work full time?” “What about doing a fifth year?” These are some questions you may be facing. While there is no “right answer”, hopefully this blog post can help you see the benefits of a research-based Master’s degree! 

There are many reasons why pursuing a graduate degree can be beneficial not only to your medical school application, but also your personal development:

  1. You will learn to take initiative. A research-based Masters requires proactiveness and commitment. You will be given a project to complete within a certain time frame (usually two years), but there won’t be a handy syllabus with due dates for each experimental goal. You will learn to proactively begin protocols, set a timeline, seek help when needed, and voluntarily find readings on PubMed that will enhance your knowledge in your field. 
  2. You will pick up invaluable practical skills. PCR reactions described in a textbook seem simple enough, but did you know that several days of optimization are needed before the PCR can be successful? Learning protocols from a textbook is one thing, but being able to do them yourself and troubleshoot is a valued skill. These skills can be carried on into medical school as there are many research opportunities available in your specialty of interest. 
  3. It’s a nice mental break. Yes you heard that right, grad school can feel like a break sometimes! Say goodbye to endless PowerPoints and textbooks. Every article you read is for your project, so it will be a delightful read. You also won’t be studying for exam season because it doesn’t exist! The majority of your day will be spent on your feet in the lab. As a huge bonus, you can look forward to travelling with your lab mates to national/international conferences. 
  4. You expose yourself to the research world. A Master’s degree is the perfect length of time to test the waters with research—you might end up finding it’s what you want to do for the rest of your life. Be it a PhD or an MD/PhD, you’ll never discover your love for research until you try it.
  5. Extra points on your med app. Even if at the end of the day you are not enjoying your research project, it won’t be all for nothing; medical schools like University of Toronto give your med app extra points if you’re pursuing a research-based graduate degree. 
  6. It’s essentially free! Although there is a tuition fee for grad school, most (if not all) grad programs include a stipend package that covers your tuition as well as some of your living expenses. So you won’t have to worry about grad school adding to your student loan debt! 

Should you choose to pursue grad school, I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did. Good luck.

Looking for additional resources or have more questions on alternative and different pathways to medicine? Check out our blog:
Thoughts on Having an MBA in Medical School


Book a 1-on-1 consultation with a medical student who has been admitted to medical school after taking the non-traditional route to get there!