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Job vs Master’s Degree, in terms of benefits for med school applications


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Hi everyone, hope you are staying health in these unprecedented times.
Due to some complications in my immigration progress to Canada, I will have to take a gap year before I can apply to med schools. Not wanting to let these time go to waste, I’m currently conflicted between applying for a job in this extra year and getting a graduate degree.

If I were to find a job, it will most likely be related to healthcare or research. If I choose the other option, I’d probably go for the master of health science at UofT. 

My question is: which option would prove to be more beneficial for my med school application? I understand that some say graduate students have an edge in the application to medical schools, but would a year of work experience in the healthcare field have a similar effect?

Some background info: I’m starting my third year at McGill this September, cgpa 3.97. I have experience working in labs and a publication (though not one with a exceptionally high influence factor) , which hopefully could help me with graduate school applications. My extracurricular is rather weak, so I’d hope that I can find a way to improve my application on that front. 

Please help! All inputs are welcomed. 

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If you want to strengthen your ECs, finding a job might be a better option. You'll have some time after work and on weekends to get involved. With a graduate degree, you will likely not have the same flexibility as a 9-5 job. But I don't know much about the workload/difficulty of the health science program at UofT.

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More campus access can strengthen ECs, there are typically grad student clubs, but you can also volunteer once a week at Ronald McDonald or something to build up ECs. Work will typically be one entry if you stay at the same place and the EC opportunities you will have to find yourself which may be slightly worse than through schools, e.g. in leadership or mentorship. With masters you can add more student-run activities per year bc of research + clubs/organizations through your school, which also means more responsibilities/roles you can touch on during interviews. If you are okay with research/masters type tasks then do a masters. If you don’t get in med school after you graduate it will be tough to find a job in science without one because there are so many applicants with a masters, they’d rather go with someone who needs less training.

Plus a masters can help with CaRMS but I’m not too knowledgeable on that. Ive heard something like epidemiology research helps and some competitive specialties will value graduate degrees in addition to whatever research you do during med. Some MDs that don’t match even do a masters before they apply again if they’re set on that specialty. One way or another, a masters can be beneficial to you if not just for applying.

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6 hours ago, UwoToUo said:

More campus access can strengthen ECs, there are typically grad student clubs, but you can also volunteer once a week at Ronald McDonald or something to build up ECs. Work will typically be one entry if you stay at the same place and the EC opportunities you will have to find yourself which may be slightly worse than through schools, e.g. in leadership or mentorship. With masters you can add more student-run activities per year bc of research + clubs/organizations through your school, which also means more responsibilities/roles you can touch on during interviews. If you are okay with research/masters type tasks then do a masters. If you don’t get in med school after you graduate it will be tough to find a job in science without one because there are so many applicants with a masters, they’d rather go with someone who needs less training.

Plus a masters can help with CaRMS but I’m not too knowledgeable on that. Ive heard something like epidemiology research helps and some competitive specialties will value graduate degrees in addition to whatever research you do during med. Some MDs that don’t match even do a masters before they apply again if they’re set on that specialty. One way or another, a masters can be beneficial to you if not just for applying.

Thanks for the input!

I’m wondering if you know this is true: I think some med schools place graduate students in a different pool from undergraduate applicants. If this is true, would this give me an edge in my application or hurt my chances?

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Grad pool makes it easier, but it’s now just stated that “applicants will receive credit during the file review process” depending on which type of grads degree you’re doing (course-based MSc vs thesis-based MSc vs PhD), and whether it’s conferred or in progress, so it should be purely helpful (unless it’s an in progress course-based MSc, which UofT gives no bonus for). While other schools don’t have separate pools per say, they do give explicit credit for grad degrees as well (ie. Mac), which are not an enormous advantage and often requires them to be conferred already (like Mac), but are again purely helpful and don’t stand to harm you in any way. 


If you land a unique/impactful job that experience could be quite helpful in the application, as could your spare time to keep up with ECs, so I won’t comment on comparing the grad degree vs work experience, I think that’s situation dependent, but the grad degree only stands to help you for med.

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I would caution you from putting too many research activities if you have more than the max number of abs entries, it doesn't make up for leadership/service ethics/etc. So if you already have like 3-4 research things you might be good enough in the research category and could pursue your masters less for the research ABS but job prospects + on campus ECs. But you can make the case that conferences do show communication skills. But they wouldn't get much out of like 7 first author publications when you could've mentioned running a campus club, mentoring students, volunteering for a suicide hotline, etc unless you have the room. Those are just random examples, not from my app. Those ECs show your personal attributes, values, and skills that research alone cannot.

Like others have mentioned uoft actually has a grad student pool but other schools do boost your application. Mac boosts slightly, 1% for grad and 4% for PhD. Queens doesn't apply the undergrad pool GPA cutoff so you get to move onto their EC/reference letter portion of their file review. But granted you have a 3.97 (is that on a 4.00 scale? Impressive) you would get no intrinsic benefit from queens. Can't remember if ottawa does anything, my guess is they don't. Idk about OOP schools. Definitely check out each school's website and report back.

EDIT ** Didn't see your question -> Can't say if graduate pool will necessarily help your application... or hurt it. Too many variables that depend on the graduate pool that year. My best guess is that your competition would decrease somewhat because its not being reviewed against 4000 other uoft applicants (just for uoft) but a few hundred? Every other school there is an objective (slight) benefit, and that might get you an interview! Also I heard UBC likes research/masters, my knowledge of OOP is very poor so definitely research (ha).

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