Skip to main content

Alternate Options to Medical School

Applying to an MD program at the end of your junior year is not the only way to reach your goal of a fulfilling career. 

There are many pathways and timetables to becoming a physician or other health professional. Explore these other options:

Northwestern Undergraduate Premedical Scholars Program (NUPSP)

  • NUPSP is an early MD acceptance program into the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine for high achieving Northwestern undergraduate students with a demonstrated commitment to a career as a physician.
  • Competitive applicants must have a 3.7 overall and science GPA and extensive research and clinical experiences.
  • Northwestern students apply to the program at the beginning of their junior year for matriculation into the Feinberg School after their senior year.
  • Interested students should review the NUPSP program website and talk with their college advisor and a health professions advisor about their suitability for the program.

Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (DO)

HPA advisors are happy to discuss the similarities and differences between MD and DO programs to help you find the best career pathway fit.

What is an osteopathic physician?

Osteopathic physicians:
  • Practice the entire scope of modern medicine, bringing a patient-centered, holistic, hands-on approach to diagnosing and treating illness and injury.
  • Can choose any specialty, prescribe drugs, perform surgeries, and practice medicine anywhere in the United States.
  • Bring the additional benefits of osteopathic manipulative techniques to diagnose and treat patients.
  • Work in partnership with patients to help them achieve a high level of wellness by focusing on health education, injury prevention, and disease prevention.

(Source: Association of American Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine)

To learn more about osteopathic medicine and D.O. medical schools, students can download the free Osteopathic Medical College Information book.

Postbaccalaureate Premedical Programs (a.k.a "Post Baccs")

Post bacc programs may strengthen a student's application to medical schools and other health profession programs. Post bacc programs are designed for those who have already earned their baccalaureate degree.

There are 3 main types of post bacc programs:

  • Career-changers: for students who have not completed their pre-med coursework requirements
  • Academic enhancement: for students who have taken all of their pre-med coursework but may still need additional science courses to enhance the competitiveness of their science GPA.
  • Programs that target groups underrepresented in medicine and/or educationally or economically disadvantaged. 

Students can search for post bacc programs by program type and other characteristics on the AAMC website.

MD-PhD Programs

Pre-med students interested in research as well as medicine may want to consider the MD-PhD option. 

MD-PhD programs:

  • Train students to be physician-scientists
  • Prepare students for a career in research/academia with a foundation in medicine
  • Require that applicants have a strong research background
  • Allow students to earn both an MD and PhD in less time than it would take to earn those degrees separately
  • Offer students tuition-waivers and a stipend for the length of their program

For more information on MD-PhD pathways and programs consult:

Other Health Professions or Non-Health Career Professions

While medicine is a wonderful career choice, you owe it to yourself to make sure that it's the best career fit for you:

  • Take time to observe a variety of health professionals while gaining clinical experience.
  • Be open to other health professions when trying to find the best fit for you
  • Discuss your health profession options with an HPA advisor.
  • For all careers, a career counselor at Northwestern Career Advancement can assist you in career self-assessment and exploration.