Benefits of an MS?

Discussion in 'Pre-Medical - MD' started by sunflower79, Aug 29, 2001.

  1. sunflower79

    sunflower79 Plays well with knives

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    Hello,
    I am considering getting an MS (or MPH) as a means to improve my academic record, but I am not sure about its value to adcoms as an academic improvement or its value in itself (specifically the value of an MS, since I am not *that* interested in research and I don't intend to work for biotech). Please share your opinions on this.

    Also, if anyone has heard from the adcoms about how they see grad students earning an MS or MPH, despite a lower undergrad gpa, please let me know.

    Thanks!
     
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  3. algae

    algae Senior Member

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    Hi Kareniw - I completed my MS, mainly to bring up my gpa from undergrad. I've spoken to a med school admissions office about my situation, and the consensus seems to be that a strong performance in grad school attests to your current level. I also asked if I should retake classes that I didn't do well in as an undergrad, and I was told that it would be better to keep taking upper level science courses. My advice would be to talk to someone in the admissions office of the school you want to attend and ask for their input. Good luck!
     
  4. sunflower79

    sunflower79 Plays well with knives

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    Thanks for replying algae,

    Do you mind if you tell me what school(s) you spoke with? I am interested in the UCs (I know, long shot right.) so I talked to them first. They all say different things. Some say if you want to bring up your undergard gpa then just take undergrad courses. Others say graduate work is considered fine if not better. So as a balance I am taking some of both. I have this discussion going in another thread Post-bacc coursework confusion!

    But what I'd also like to know is, what does one do with an MS? I am considering it instead of an MPH mainly because it takes less time. Personally I think an MPH is much more valuable than an MS, but you can certainly argue otherwise. Hmm, sounds like I need to consider whether the extra year or two is worth it.
     
  5. kutastha

    kutastha 2K Member
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    I hung mine on my wall. Other than that, it may have helped me get into grad school, but that's about it. I'd say go for the MPH - you'll get better exposure and can increase the GPA with some very good classes.

    Andrew
     
  6. algae

    algae Senior Member

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    Hi again kareniw - I did not talk to anyone at the UC's so I can't help you there. A big benefit to doing an MS is that you can get good teaching and research experience which can also pay for your education. I completed a MS costing me nothing and receiving a stipend every week. Plus, now I have lots of good experiences to add to my application (papers, teaching assistantships etc.).
     
  7. sunflower79

    sunflower79 Plays well with knives

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    Whoa algae, could you please share where you did your MS? I had no idea this sort of thing existed. If they are a common occurence at various schools, please share the details!
     
  8. kutastha

    kutastha 2K Member
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    Mine was the same deal - it was at UC San Diego in the chem/biochem dept.

    Andrew
     
  9. imtiaz

    imtiaz i cant translate stupid
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    I'm doing the same thing. It's a great experience. I'm teaching 100 students, doing research, taking 3 classes, attending seminars, working towards publishing. I love it. But I'm planning for MD/PhD so it's not out of my way really. But MS or MPH is definitely the way to go if you want to bring up your GPA. Good luck!
     
  10. algae

    algae Senior Member

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    I would guess that most universitities that conduct research offer assistantships to grad students. Assistantships can either be teaching or research, and they usually come along with a tuition waiver and a stipend. I don't know if MPH programs have the same deal as MS. One glitch is that you really need to commit to finishing the degree once you've started. Many med schools frown upon dropping out once you've started. If you are interested, look into some big schools near you. See what the profs are doing for research, and if any of their projects interest you, contact them. It worked for me.
     
  11. kobe8

    kobe8 Member

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    I finished my MS in Physiology two weeks ago and am reapplying for the 2002 entering class. I cannot speak for everyone, but my masters program was very helpful for several reasons. First, the classes that I took will give me a head start for medical school (biochemistry, physiology, neuroanatomy, pharmacology, immunology, histology, etc.). At my school, the graduate school classes are more in-depth than the medical school classes. In fact, the common feedback I get from classmates who are now in med school is that it is not difficult. Don't get me wrong, they still have to study, however, with a such a strong background, much of the info thrown at them during the first year has already been seen. In addition,I was told by the dean of admissions at my school that a masters can give you a leg up on the competition when it comes to residency matching. There are other reasons why it may be advantageous to obtain a graduate degree (increase GPA, etc.), however I have to get back to work.
     
  12. sandflea

    sandflea Senior Member

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    the problem with a MS is that it's still no guarantee of an acceptance to medical school. and if you don't get in, you're stuck with a degree that is essentially useless unless you want to go into biotech or work as a lab tech (under someone else), and you already stated that you're not interested in doing this. sure, it gives you a headstart of sorts on med school material, but you don't need an MS to do well in med school anyway.

    i decided to get a masters to improve upon my undergrad GPA and i went for an MPH in epidemiology instead. it's completely relevant to medicine, as it is a public health degree, and i am so glad i decided to pursue this route--i think the background i've gotten in epidemiology, statistics, health administration and policy, etc, etc, is extremely valuable. the downside to epidemiology is that some adcoms see it as 'soft science' and may not see it as a direct prediction of your ability to perform in med school, so to address this i've taken graduate biology courses as electives to my MPH. but i spoke to a few adcoms after i wasn't accepted the first time around (i'm a second-time applicant) and asked if it would be better for me to get an MPH or an MS and was universally told that they didn't care, as my GPA was the bottom line. plus, the MPH gives me someone to fall back on in case med school never pans out--i can still have a career in the health field.

    i could get a graduate assistantship and go to school for free with a stipend too if i wanted, although i didn't. i think this is universal among all graduate programs.

    whatever you decide to do, just make sure that you do well!
     
  13. rxfudd

    rxfudd 1K Member

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    Imtiaz, what course are you teaching?
     
  14. algae

    algae Senior Member

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    Do you have to write a thesis and do research for a MPH?
     
  15. kobe8

    kobe8 Member

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    The fact that many schools consider MPH programs as a soft science should be somewhat of a deterent. If you are trying to get into medical school you should enter a program which prepares you for such. You should not have to take a class/es outside of your program in order to convince adcoms that you are competitive. That defeats the purpose of you entering a grad program at all.
    Of course you don't need a MS to do well in medical school, but it sure doesn't hurt. If you can, why not get a headstart on the medical school cirriculum? It will make your transition into medical school material much easier and the overall experience less stressful.
    When I speak of MS programs, I am speaking of ones which 1)are located on and/or closely affiliated with a medical school and 2)consists of an intensive cirricullum with solid med school background courses (physiology, histo, cell bio, biochem, etc.). While you may not be enthusiastic about the research aspect, medical colleges look well upon research since it demonstrates critical thinking and reasoning skills. Besides, the research is usually only one year.
    While MPH programs are very relevent medicine, isn't medical research? My thesis work was in a biomedical engineering laboratory where we designed a small diameter vascular prosthetic for vascular replacement procedures. This experience allowed me to interact with many patients on a daily basis, it gave me a clearer understanding into patient-physician interactions, policy (funding for procedures, etc.)and the epidemiology of cardiovascular diseases.
    As you know, it is important that you perform well in any graduate program you choose. Therefore, the focus in deciding which programs is the most suitable should include: Will this program make me a stronger applicant? Will this program make me a stonger medical student? While we can make points both ways as to which program is better, I see we can only agree to disagree. Nonetheless, good luck in whatever route you choose.
     
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  17. sandflea

    sandflea Senior Member

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    i should clarify my post: *physicians* i spoke to (who are not on adcoms) told me that epidemiology is considered a soft science. but not a single adcom i spoke to said that it was the wrong route, and in fact i was told that a public health degree would make me all the more marketable as a physician and it certainly was a way to make my app more competitive. one adcom actually advised me *against* pursuing an MS. and remember that many med school programs also require epidemiology/biostatistics courses in addition to hard sciences. so to state that *many* adcoms view epidemiology (not MPH) as a soft science is to generalize on too broad a scale, and it is not the way i worded my post.

    i really think you missed the point of my post. the point is, it is really somewhat of a bad idea to pursue a grad degree for the *sole* purpose of getting into med school, because no grad school program, regardless of its affiliations, is any kind of guarantee of acceptance to med school. and if you ultimately don't get in, what do you have? a degree that really doesn't pull as much weight as you might believe, *especially* since kareniw already stated her lack of interest in biotech or research, which is really all you can directly do with an MS. an MPH has more of a practicality aspect in that it will prepare you for a different health career should one not be able to get into med school.

    besides, how does the fact that some (not all) adcoms may prefer an MS suddenly make my MPH not worthwhile and 'defeat the purpose of entering grad school'? as i mentioned in my earlier post, i find the background i'm getting in public health to be extremely valuable and i have never, at any point, viewed grad school solely as a way to get myself into med school. if anything, such a narrow-minded view of an educational opportunity is what defeats the purpose of grad school, in my opinion. i've appreciated the chance i've had to broaden my education in an area in which i'm extremely interested, and that alone is worth it to me.

    i am not sure if you were addressing your research comments to me, but i would certainly agree with you that research has its place in medicine and i never stated the contrary. in fact i've worked in a basic research lab the entire time i've been working on my MPH.

    i am not trying to argue that an MPH is unequivocally better than an MS--there are limitations to each, and i was simply trying to highlight the advantages of an MPH. it's up to kareniw what approach she takes, and i was just trying to provide some feedback from an MPHer's perspective. BOTH an MS and MPH have their strongpoints in medical school admissions and, believe it or not, have their own ways of making one a stronger medical student.

    algae, an MPH is more of a professional degree (like an MBA) than a research degree (like an MS), so, at least at my school, no thesis is required per se. i am required to complete an research internship and to make a presentation/write a paper on an epidemiological research project that i'm currently working on (as my degree is in epidemiology), so it is roughly the equivalent of research and a thesis but not as extensive.
     
  18. imtiaz

    imtiaz i cant translate stupid
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    CHEM 101 baby!

     
  19. sunflower79

    sunflower79 Plays well with knives

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    Thanks so much for the replies everyone!

    Kobe and sandflea, I appreciate your different perspectives on the MS and MPH. For me, it sounds like getting one or the other comes down to the following:

    - As I have stated and others seem to have supported, I do not see much value in the MS as a goal in itself. But as Kobe has pointed out, the MS certainly seems to help as a means to medical school.

    - As sandflea seems to suggest and I would agree, the MPH in itself is a more flexible and valuable degree for one's career. As a means to med school admissions, sandflea, you seem to suggest that adcoms see it being just as helpful as an MS right?

    Question to Kobe: You gave rather specific qualifications on what kind of MS would be helpful in gaining med school admissions... I am looking at a particular program that does NOT meet such strict specifics, i.e. it is NOT affiliated with a med school -- though the curriculum is physiology/pathology oriented. Do you think such a program would cut the mustard for the purposes of going to med school?

    I am considering the MS also for the reason that it is shorter. An MPH takes 2-3 years... anyone knows if it can be done in a year? I think that only applies to those with an advanced degree or those already in med school.
     
  20. sandflea

    sandflea Senior Member

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    i hesitate to say that *all* adcoms universally see an MPH as the same as an MS. while the schools that i contacted definitely appreciated an MPH, the same way they appreciated *any* health-related masters degree, i am aware that not all schools see an MPH as being as 'strong' a way to improve one's credentials for the purpose of gaining admission to med school. i can't say which schools this may be--i was simply warned by my premed advisor that there are schools out there. BUT, this is NOT to say that an MPH was not a way to improve one's app to these schools--just that it doesn't address an applicant's ability to handle hard science courses. then again, that's obvious anyway, as an MPH is not a hard science degree. at the same time, though, an MS is certainly not viewed as a sure-fire way to get into med school either, no matter what anyone tells you--there are plenty of applicants with MS degrees who still don't get in. an MPH and an MS are really two different degrees with two different focuses and thus it is difficult to make a direct comparison. but the reason why both degrees were seen as application-enhancers is because A) you have pursued an advanced education and B) you have demonstrated the commitment involved in finishing a grad degree (yes, you are expected to finish the grad degree if you start it at the majority of med schools). so whether you take the MS or MPH route is mostly a matter of what you want to get out of your grad degree.

    actually at my school a full-time MPH student is *expected* to finish within two years. it's impossible to finish within one year unless you're in med school or have health-care experience (meaning, you're already a doctor or nurse) and thus have many of the degree requirements waived. i could very easily have finished my degree in a year and a half but chose to spread the remaining requirements over the entire final year to give myself a break.

    hope this helps!
     
  21. kobe8

    kobe8 Member

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    If medschool is your ultimate goal, you should choose the best program to prepare you for such. While MPH and MS are both advantagous, I feel that you should choose the program that best suits you. If you are determined to enter medical school, then the career advantage of a graduate degree is moot point. One of the best quotes regarding this matter is from a cardiologist is my lab who said "I have never met an individual who truly wanted to be a physician and did not accomplish that". The point is that if you are working to make it happen, then, eventually it will.
    In regards to the cirriculum of the program you are interested in, just make sure that it consists of courses that will prepare you for med school. The courses that you named seem to be solid, you may want to stick with that. With that said, good luck with grad school and the med school admissions process.
     
  22. sandflea

    sandflea Senior Member

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    while i agree with the rest of your post, i have a comment on the above sentence: are you *actually* implying that there is no added worth of a graduate degree in tandem with an MD? i highly, highly doubt that the vast majority of MD/PhDs, MD/MBAs, MD/MPHs, or MD/anything pursued their graduate degree solely as a way to get themselves into med school. i'm sure a very large number of them desired the additional degree to finetune and personalize their medical degrees to their own specific goals as a physician. there's a lot more to medicine than just seeing patients and while an additional degree is of course not always necessary to pursue medicine's other facets, do you honestly believe that the additional degree is worthless and a waste of time?
     
  23. kobe8

    kobe8 Member

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    Of course a graduate degree is advantagous for your career. The point that I was making is that you should not choose a program based on how it will help your career if you do not get into medical school. The program you choose should be one which can help you as a future physician. In fact if you read my first post I stated how many residency programs look highly upon individuals with graduate degrees.
    In response to your statement that individuals don't go to grad school simply to get into med school, I disagree. I personally know several people who did it solely for that purpose.
     
  24. sandflea

    sandflea Senior Member

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    but to what extent do residency programs look favorably on someone with an MS in biology? you already take equivalent coursework in med school, and the research experience can be very easily obtained without being in a degree program. so where's the advantage? residency programs will look favorably on *any* additional degrees that are relevant to the residency.

    and how will an MS in biology possibly help you as a future physician? it may help you become a physician in the first place (i.e. it may help you get into med school) but beyond that, you can easily duplicate the experiences and coursework of an MS in biology before/during med school anyway without actually getting the degree. besides, as i've noted before, not only do you not necessarily need the MS in bio to get into med school in the first place, other grad degrees can also help to get you in as well. so, from my perspective, since i was faced with the possibility of getting a masters in A) biology, which arguably may more directly speak to my ability to handle med school courses but doesn't really have much professional worth beyond that, or B) public health, which is highly relevant to my career interests as a doctor (i'd like to go into public health, although this isn't necessary for an MPH to be worth it) AND will improve my app to med school (which you seem reluctant to acknowledge), the choice to me was obvious as to which route i should take. i have no regrets. again, it's a personal choice, but i can't possibly fathom how pursuing an MPH was a mistake.

    i never stated that *all* individuals who go to grad school do so just to get into med school. of course there are people who do--i know some too. but you can't say that everyone does this because i also know plenty of people who got MPHs, MBAs, or PhDs *before* med school because they wanted the additional background and didn't want to complete it in a dual-degree MD program.
     

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