Original Article

How Postbaccalaureate Career Changer and Traditional Medical Students Differ Academically

Authors: I. Cori Baill, MD, Bertha Ben Khallouq, MA, Oloruntomi Joledo, PhD, Anna Jacobs, BA, Robert Larkin, BA, Nyla Dil, DVM, PhD


Objective: This retrospective descriptive study compared the academic performance of postbaccalaureate career changer students with that of traditional students during the classroom-based, science-dominated early years of medical school. Earlier studies documented the eventual success of nontraditional medical students, although we found little information specific to the medical school performance of career changers. Our objective was to determine whether postbaccalaureate career changer medical students perform differently from traditionally prepared medical students in the science-dominated early years of medical school classroom education.

Methods: This study analyzed the admission data and academic performance of medical students at the University of Central Florida College of Medicine across 8 years (N = 630). Differences in performance were assessed using examination grades from the first 2 years of medical school, and US Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE) Step 1 and Step 2 scores.

Results: Statistically significant differences were found between traditional and career changer students for all science modules in year 1, and 4 of the 5 modules in year 2. Traditional students performed better on USMLE Step 1. Significant differences between the groups disappeared by USMLE Step 2.

Conclusions: Career changer medical students show a small, persistent academic lag in the first 2 years of medical school and on USMLE Step 1 scores. By USMLE Step 2 the difference disappears. Similar undergraduate grade point averages and Medical College Admission Test scores suggest that science exposure, not ability may explain these differences. An unexpected finding is the number of career changer students is not increasing proportional to the proliferation of postbaccalaureate programs in the United States. This study may benefit student advisors and residency directors, and, it is hoped, provide reassurance to career changer students.

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