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Course Based Vs. Thesis Based Master's

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So I am a BC resident with some GPA issues. I applied to UBC this cycle with an aGPA of. I think my ECs are good but I do realize I need basically a miracle to get an interview and I have yet to have my ECs judged by UBC anyway so who knows. I've already done 5.5 years of an undergrad degree and am now done the requirements to graduate. My grades show an extreme upward trend with a competitive >3.8 wGPA for Queens, so I applied there as well (however it seems theres a lot of luck to get a Queens interview so while I am hopeful I'm also pretty realistic.) ALSO I'm not full course load so Western is a no go.


Assuming I get 0 interviews, I'm thinking of doing a Master's degree. I noticed there are some course-based program which offer around 50 credits worth of courses. Considering UBC considers grad and undergrad courses equal this might be a feasible way to bring up my GPA. Does anybody have experience with this? Specifically an MPH? 


I am also interested in some thesis-based programs however they seem to only have about 12 credits of courses. This is like 1 semester which I feel like wouldn't do much... Does anyone know if its possible to do more courses in a thesis based masters? 

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Hi there, 


It took me a while to dig up but I found my post that extensively talks about this exact topic


The context is here: http://forums.premed101.com/index.php?/topic/86360-course-based-vs-research-based-masters/#entry960539


My post is in italics


"... In my honesty opinion, anyone that even is unsure of their desire to do research should consider turning away from research-based programs. While a masters may not seem grueling due to the time commitment (though 2-3 years some would argue is a lot of time when you're young), if you dislike research, repeating results, writing publications, being in a lab all day, etc...... don't do it. You will only make yourself and everyone else around you miserable, while risking an increased potential to produce low quality work.

Now that the PSA is over...

To answer your question more explicitly, a research-based masters is often more recognized, meaning that you'll likely score extra points in various medical school applications somehow (whether it's a GPA boost, additional points on the overall application, etc). A course-based masters is generally not given point in the medical app process, mainly because despite the interesting topics and diversity of experience you can gain (varied courses, practicum, capstone etc), it's hard for a university to really evaluate the strength of the program, the coursework, and to some extent the final deliverables. A research masters is generally more recognized and all have to go through a fairly challenging defense, reviewed by distinguished peers.

On the other end of the spectrum, it's unclear how much the bonuses can change one's overall app... if you only started a masters and haven't been consistently keeping up (or in some cases improving on) activities and grades... it won't make a difference. A research masters generally has too few courses to move your GPA at all, so if it's GPA or MCAT that you are weak at, the thesis-based masters is not the cure for those problems.

In short... do the MSc if it's something you care about and are willing to put in the time commitment (don't just randomly leave your supervisor... like wtf?)

The benefits of a MPH for medical school however is in other aspects....

1. GPA improvement

Since there are many more courses to take than a research masters, you may take enough (depending on the program) courses to have it weigh similar to your undergrad. Most importantly, if you had two weak years during undergrad or your weakest year was your most recent year, having an extra year in a course-based masters program will allow you to remove that senior year, whereas if you don't then you can't remove your most recent year in the calculation... For me this was lucrative, since I struggled with my mental well-being and bombed by BSc graduating year hard. If I wanted to apply again, I couldn't get those marks removed from the calculations unless I had another year's worth of education... ding ding course-based masters allowed me to do that substitution. *note that different schools have different criteria for graduate grades (ex. UofA weighs them by course weight like undergrad, UofC takes your entire masters education and make it have one year's weight...)*

2. Diversity of experience *disclaimer, this doesn't mean research-based masters can't have diverse experiences*

In a course-based masters, most have what we call a practicum, followed by a capstone project for graduation purposes. After you finish your required classes based on program requirements, you have to do a practicum (similar to a co-op in engineering), where you work for at least 16 weeks in an organization to contribute your skills and learn in a practical settings. In my case, I worked at Health Canada's First Nations and Inuit Branch over the summer as a biostatistician. I definitely felt that getting first hand exposure to large organizations and interacting with people from all backgrounds (physicians, epidemiologists, programmers etc...) was great for personal growth. Being involved in interdisciplinary work also can teach you to be more diverse and understand more than just your own field. This same logic can be applied to the capstone project, which basically asks you to demonstrate your developed skills to work on a different project after the practicum. Your experiences can be written as additional ECs, enhance personal statements, and create an overall stronger application in a more intangible way.

It's unclear to me how many opportunities there are in a research-based program for this, outside of PI collaborations with other PIs / clinicians (though I acknowledge there are cases where people have much more diverse experiences...see disclaimer). For myself, as much as I liked research... I wanted to get involved in numerous projects from different fields (health care, environmental health, health promotion etc....) and I couldn't see that opportunity happen in my MSc program.

On the other hand, the MSc program has a much greater opportunity for peer-reviewed publications. Despite publishing reports and dashboards in Health Canada, nothing can be released since they are internal documents. Furthermore, many deliverables produced are so diverse it's hard for an adcom to really quantify its value. That said, I had the opportunity to pursue research on the side, outside of class time and had publications on those instead. At the end of the day you get what you put in.

Regardless of which path you choose, they both can be enriching experiences. It's really important to take it all in, and make the best of your time. Get involved, learn more, don't just do what's necessary and leave. If you want to make it something worthwhile or experience something greater... in the wise words of Shia ... JUST DO IT (ex. I had a friend who fought tooth and nail to do her practicum at the WHO working on HIV epidemiology and containment in South Asian countries, which is amazing for any entry level graduate student to be involved in. I had others fight to get into the CDC and do work there... the potential is there).

So yeah... there's relative strengths and areas for improvements for both options, and each medical school weighs them differently. Ultimately you'll have to decide which is preferable to you.

Good luck =D,"

- G

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