Did you know that there are a couple different paths to becoming a doctor in the United States? While the most traditional route involves earning a Doctor of Medicine (MD) degree , you can also become a practicing doctor by earning a Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (DO) degree. Like an MD, a DO degree qualifies you to become a practicing physician in the U.S.
One big perk to earning a DO degree is that lots of schools offer BS/DO programs. A BS/DO program allows you to earn your bachelor’s degree AND have a guaranteed seat in med school once you graduate. Plus, you might even be able to graduate one to two years faster than traditional undergrad students…which means you could start practicing medicine more quickly! If you’re planning to become a doctor, there’s a lot you should know about DO/BS programs and how they can benefit you, so below we’ll tell you:
- What a BS/DO program is
- How a BS/DO program differs from a BS/MD program
- What the differences are between traditional, accelerated, and combined BS/DO programs
- Which universities offer the best BS/DO programs
Ready? Let's dig in!
What Is a BS/DO Program?
BS/DO programs are highly-competitive, combined BS and DO degree programs that allow you to get your undergraduate pre-med BS degree with the assurance that you have a slot reserved for you in the DO med school program after you graduate, as long as you meet matriculation requirements.
That’s a fancy way of saying that a BS/DO degree program gives you the opportunity to automatically enroll in your school’s med school after you’ve successfully completed your BS and met the DO program’s standards.
Standards vary between schools, but generally, students will be expected to complete the following in order to be eligible for their program’s automatic med school enrollment:
- Exceed a minimum GPA score (often around 3.5 or higher)
- Achieve an MCAT score above the program’s minimum requirement
- Obtain solid letters of recommendation from program faculty
This is different from the traditional path to becoming a DO, which involves completing your BS at a school of your choice, then applying to lots of different medical schools and hoping you get in. Instead, with combined BS/DO programs, you essentially enroll in both at the same school at the same time.
Benefits of a DO/BS Program
The biggest benefit of a DO/BS program is that you can pursue your undergraduate degree without the added stress of worrying about getting into medical school! That’s because of the BS/DO program’s automatic enrollment policy. As long as you meet the minimum requirements of the DO program, you’re guaranteed admission.
Here’s an example to show you how that can work. Davion is enrolled in the New York Institute of Technology’s BS/DO program. As a student, if Davion meets the DO program’s minimum requirements, he’ll get to enroll in New York Tech’s College of Osteopathic Medicine after he graduates with his Bachelor’s of Science degree. Those requirements include:
- Having an average GPA of 3.5 or higher in BS/DO classes
- Earning an MCAT score within the median range of the school’s previous graduating class (based on 2018 data that would be 504 or higher)
- Having positive letters of recommendation from New York Tech’s BS/DO faculty
- Submitting an application packet with MCAT scores by February 1
- Completing (and passing!) an interview with NYIT’s College of Osteopathic Medicine’s committee
Once Davion has met these requirements, he’s guaranteed admission into New York Tech’s DO program!
Another great benefit is that you can save time! Getting a BS/DO in an accelerated program will allow you to graduate with your medical degree a year or two faster. Completing a BS/DO program usually takes six to eight years, while traditional bachelor’s degree programs followed by med school will take 8 years or more depending on a student’s specialty.
BS/DO programs can be great...for some people. That's why it's important to know the drawbacks before you commit to one!
Drawbacks of a DO/BS Program
The benefits of a BS/DO program only kick in if you successfully complete your bachelor’s degree and the DO program requirements. If you don’t, you’ll lose the perk of guaranteed admission–which is a big one! That means you’ll have to be diligent about your undergraduate coursework and make sure you’re meeting your program’s requirements every step of the way. Keep in mind that this could be particularly challenging if you’re in an accelerated program since accelerated programs don’t mean less coursework, just less time to learn the material and complete assignments. So, focus and hard work are going to be the key to success!
Additionally, if you’re enrolled in a BS/DO program, you’ll probably attend the same university for your bachelor’s and post-graduate degrees. So in Davion’s example, he’ll have his bachelor’s degree and his DO degree from the New York Institute of Technology. While some programs partner with a sister university for the DO portion of the degree, most programs will take place entirely at the same institution. And although many BS/DO programs will allow you to apply to other Osteopathic medical schools after finishing your BS, doing so might mean giving up your reserved seat (which is the main reason to take part in a DO/BS program in the first place!).
That said, attending the same school for your DO and BS can be a drawback for students who want to go to a different school for their DO for the sake of learning from a greater variety of teachers…or if they end up disliking the university they’re enrolled in!
Finally, enrolling in a BS/DO program means making an early commitment to becoming a DO rather than an MD. You won’t have as much flexibility to choose your pre-med major, and if you decide later that you’d rather enroll in an MD program after graduation, you won’t get guaranteed admission even if the MD program you want to attend is at your school. That’s because BS/DO and BS/MD programs admit undergrad students separately, and therefore the MD program spots are technically already filled.
To help you make the best possible decision for you before you commit, we’ll go into the big differences between the degree programs below!
Knowing the differences between an BS/MD and BS/DO can help you choose the program that's right for you.
What Is The Difference Between a BS/MD and a BS/DO?
As mentioned above, some schools also offer a BS/MD degree program, which is only slightly different from a BS/DO degree program. Both combined program types offer guaranteed enrollment in med school after you successfully complete the school’s requirements. The main difference between a BS/DO and a BS/MD is which graduate degree you end up with. In a BS/DO program you’ll become a Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine, whereas in a BS/MD program you’ll earn a Doctor of Medicine degree. So the real question is: what’s the difference between having a DO and having an MD?
Both DO and MD degrees qualify you to be a physician in the United States, but you’ll practice medicine a bit differently depending on the degree you earn.
About 89% of practicing physicians have an MD degree. This is the most well-known and common path to becoming a doctor. However, both MDs and DOs are trained in allopathic medicine, which are the science-based medical practices that relate to curing and treating illness. "Allopathic medicine" is just a fancy way of referring to the modern medical practices that keep us all healthy and well.
While MDs focus solely on allopathic medicine, in contrast, DOs practice both allopathic and osteopathic medicine. Osteopathic medicine tends to be more holistic, and it strives to build wellness by addressing the overall picture of a patient’s health. This means that DOs stress prevention of illness rather than primarily reacting to illnesses after they occur. In addition, DOs are trained to practice Osteopathic Manipulation Treatment (OMT), which is a touch-based treatment method in which the osteopathic doctor tries to treat or diagnose a patient’s condition by manipulating their joints, soft tissue, and muscles.
This additional training is the biggest single difference between a DO degree program and an MD degree program. Doctors of Osteopathic Medicine are trained in OMT as well as taking the courses that a Doctor of Medicine would also take. As a result of this added training and the DOs holistic prevention-forward focus, many people with this degree decide to become general practitioners, family doctors, or pediatricians rather than choosing a highly specialized type of practice like dermatology.
But at the end of the day, both MDs and DOs are medical doctors who are licensed to practice basically all kinds of medicine in the United States!
Did you know there are different types of BS/DO programs? Keep reading to learn more!
Is a BS/DO Program Right for You?
If you know that you want to become a doctor, and like the idea of really focusing on preventing illnesses in your patients before they happen, getting a DO degree could be a good option for you. But, you’ve got a few more decisions to make. For starters, should you enter a BS/DO combo program, or should you get your bachelor’s degree and then apply to medical schools?
If you’re not sure that you definitely want to get a DO rather than an MD, going the traditional route to becoming a doctor–getting a pre-med undergrad degree and then choosing a med school–is probably a better idea since this gives you more time to decide.
Similarly, if you think you want to be a doctor but like the idea of getting a chance to explore other career options in college, you may want to skip the BS/DO program. That’s because taking part in these programs will mean focusing your studies on classes related to the medical profession. Taking a course in ceramics or the history of jazz isn’t likely to fit into your schedule, especially if you’re in an accelerated program.
But, if you’re ready to commit to becoming a Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine, enrolling in a BS/DO program is a great choice. Avoiding the extra stress of applying to separate med schools is a big win!
Once you decide that you want to apply to a BS/DO program, you’ve got two options: a standard BS/DO program, or an accelerated one. Each has its own benefits and drawbacks, so it’s important to pick the type that best fits your needs.
Below we’ve included a quick breakdown of the pros and cons of the two program types.
Standard BS/DO Program
A standard BS/DO program is an eight-year program consisting of four years of undergrad and four years of medical school.
Standard combined BS/DO programs take the same amount of time to complete as the traditional track to becoming a doctor we mentioned above. The difference is that your undergrad degree and medical degree are part of one seamless program. You apply for admission your senior year of high school (in some cases you can apply for the BS/DO program at your college during your freshman year), and once you’re admitted you’re part of a structured path to get you all the way through med school.
Some BS/DO programs house both the undergraduate and graduate programs within the same university, while others partner with a different university’s medical school instead. You’ll need to check with each individual program to see which structure your potential school uses.
Pros of a Standard BS/DO Program
The upside of a standard combined BS/DO program is that you’ll have longer to get through the curriculum than in an accelerated program, so you’re less likely to be as overwhelmed or suffer burnout. Additionally, because of the more traditional time-frame, you’ll have a bit more flexibility in your schedule than you would in an accelerated program, so you might be able to squeeze in an interesting class or two that you couldn’t otherwise.
Standard BS/DO programs also sometimes enroll more students than accelerated programs, so you may have a better chance of admission depending on your school.
Cons of a Standard BS/DO Program
One of the downsides of a standard BS/DO program is cost. You’ll have to pay for room and board for eight years, which is one to two years longer than you would in an accelerated BS/DO program. So if you’re planning to live on campus or in a high cost-of-living area, make sure you factor these extra expenses into your DO/BS program decision.
Wanna get your degree fast? Think about enrolling in an accelerated program!
Accelerated BS/DO Programs
An accelerated BS/DO program allows you to finish your requirements in a shorter time. Usually, accelerated programs take seven years, but there are a few six-year programs out there!
The undergraduate (BS) part of the program is almost always the portion that is streamlined, with the graduate component (the most important part!) being exactly the same as a standard BS/DO program. You’ll often see these described as “3+3” or “3+4” programs, meaning three years of undergrad courses plus three or four years of graduate courses.
Pros of an Accelerated BS/DO Program
The good thing about an accelerated BS/DO program is that it’s…well, accelerated. You’ll be able to get out of school and start your residency and career a year or two earlier. Remember, you’ll be taking the same amount of courses as in a traditional program, only in a shorter time span, so tuition costs will likely be the same.
Cons of an Accelerated BS/DO Program
An accelerated BS/DO program is only recommended if you’re ready for intense coursework. If you struggle to keep up with your courses or lack motivation, the increased pace of an accelerated program might end up overwhelming you or burning you out.
Because of the pace, you’ll also have far fewer opportunities to socialize, explore, or relax. So if you’re hoping to have more of a traditional undergraduate experience–with extracurriculars, activities, and a full social calendar–then you might consider a standard BS/DO program instead.
You also won’t have much flexibility in terms of what courses you’ll be able to take. Would you like to explore outside the medical field a little? If so, you’ll have to add those courses on top of your prescribed coursework, which may not be possible if you want to, you know, sleep.
Whether you prefer the standard time-frame, or are looking forward to the challenge of an accelerated schedule, keep reading for our top BS/DO program picks below.
Our Top BS/DO Program Picks
The following combined BS/DO programs are all great choices if you’re interested in becoming a DO. One thing we particularly liked about these is that many of them are more flexible than some of the other programs we’ve seen out there, providing you with either more options with your undergrad major, or what campus you want to take classes on.
Keep in mind that this isn’t an exhaustive list. There are tons of programs across the country that may be better suited for you in the long-run, so be sure to do your own research too!
- Standard 8-year program
If you’re interested in living in the Chicago area, the Illinois Tech/Midwestern University BS/DO program could be the one for you! This is an eight-year 4+4 program. You’ll earn your BS degree in your choice of undergrad majors from Illinois Tech, then you’ll transfer to Midwestern University, where you’ll study in their DO program.
One thing to keep in mind: this BS/DO program only accepts 5-10 applicants per year. That makes it one of the most competitive programs on our list.
- Standard or Accelerated program (your choice)
The LECOM BS/DO can take either seven or eight years, depending on whether you choose the biology or biochemistry option for your undergrad BS degree (biology majors take three years and biochemistry majors take four).
While your degree will come from Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine, your classes will actually be held on the Seton Hill University campus in Greensburg, PA. Since most combined programs take place on the same campus, this might be a good choice for students looking to experience multiple campuses during their educational careers.
- Accelerated program
MSU’s Lyman Briggs College partners with the MSU College of Osteopathic Medicine to offer the seven-year 3+4 MSU BS/DO program. In order to qualify, you’ll have to major in biology for your undergrad BS degree.
One benefit of this combined DO/BS is that you won’t have to take the MCAT or interview for the graduate component if you meet the DO program requirements! So if you’re worried about MCAT scores or the in-person interview, this BS/DO program may be a great fit for you.
New York Institute of Technology College of Osteopathic Medicine (NYIT-COM) Life Sciences, B.S. / Osteopathic Medicine, D.O.
- Accelerated program
The BS/DO NYIT program is a seven-year, 3+4 program. You’ll spend your undergrad years studying biochemistry, anatomy, physiology, microbiology, cell biology, and molecular biology to earn your BS in Life Sciences. You’ll then transition to the DO program, where you’ll have clinical clerkships in your third and fourth years, and will work in private practice or as part of a specialized team in a tertiary referral hospital.
There are actually two different undergraduate NYIT BS/DO programs: New York students also have the option to complete the undergraduate portion at SUNY’s Old Westbury campus. So if you’d like to experience two different campuses during your BS/DO program, NYIT’s could be good for you!
If you want to get a DO from NYIT, you'll be taking lots of classes in this building.
- Standard or Accelerated Program (your choice)
If you’re looking for beautiful settings for your BS/DO programs, Florida has one for you! Nova Southeastern University’s combined BS/DO program in Fort Lauderdale has options for both 3+4 and 4+4 programs, either of which allows you to choose any undergraduate major before embarking on your graduate medical training. This is one of the more prestigious DO programs in the US, and–unlike most medical schools–it offers both allopathic and osteopathic degree paths!
Plus, their sunny, palm tree-lined campus is only a 20-minute drive to the beach. Hopefully, you’ll be able to get away from your studies for a trip or two!
- Accelerated program
OSU’s BS/DO program is called a 3+1, but that’s a bit misleading—this is actually a seven-year accelerated program.
One big perk of the OSU BS/DO program is that you can take your three years of undergrad study at any of seven Oklahoma institutions. Afterward, you matriculate to OSU’s College of Osteopathic Medicine campus in Tulsa, where you take four years of medical school.
This is an especially beneficial program for those who are from Oklahoma (or surrounding states) and may not want to relocate far away for their undergraduate degree since the partnering institutions are located all across the state!
- Accelerated program
If you have an interest in biochemistry, the BS/DO program at Rowan University, located in Glassboro, NJ, might be a great fit. This accelerated 3+4 program allows you to pursue a BS in biochemistry with extensive training in chemistry, biology, math, and physics. The goal is for students to understand the molecular science behind living systems…which is important for a future doctor! You can check out their sample course sequence here.
5 Tips for Choosing and Getting Into a BS/DO Program
Now that we’ve explored the options available to you for your future in osteopathic medicine, let’s talk about the hard part: getting accepted. BS/DO programs can be very selective–some schools only accept 10 or fewer applicants per year! If you want to be admitted into a BS/DO program, you’ll need to make good grades in high school, and be sure that you craft a great college application.
While the admissions requirements and selectivity of BS/DO programs may seem daunting, don’t worry–you can do it! Here are five tips to help you choose which BS/DO program is the best fit for you, and make yourself a great candidate for them in the meantime!
Tip 1: Make Sure You Love the Location
Remember, choosing a BS/DO program is a six- to eight-year commitment, so make sure you’re going to end up in a place where you’ll be happy. Be sure to schedule a visit, either virtual or in-person, so you can get a sense of what the school and the local environment are like. You’ll be glad you did!
Tip 2: Nail The Interview
Most undergrads don’t have to have high-stakes interviews with the selection committee before being accepted into their school of choice, but you probably will if you pursue a BS/DO. To brush up on your interview skills, try having a mock interview with someone who you think will give you good feedback. You can also write out and rehearse your responses to the most common interview questions.
Tip 3: Show Them You’re Passionate About the Medical Profession
BS/DO programs are extremely competitive, so you’ll want to be as excellent a candidate outside the classroom as you are in it. Extracurricular activities are the best way to make yourself stand out. Show the selection committee that you’re a people-focused person with a desire to help others by volunteering with medical organizations or charities in your area. What will make you an attractive candidate will be first-hand experience and a long-term commitment to your community, so try to find a way to help those in need. Even if you don’t end up in a BS/DO program, this will still be time well spent!
Note: some programs we’ve found actually require time spent volunteering at a hospital or shadowing a doctor, so be sure to check the admission requirements at your program of choice, and don’t neglect your focused extracurriculars!
Tip 4: Write a Powerful Personal Statement
Your BS/DO application will likely require you to provide a personal statement that tells why you’re interested in pursuing a DO degree specifically. This means you need to think about what it is about osteopathy that appeals to you.
Try relating some specific event in your life when it became clear that a life in medicine and wellness was the path you wanted to take. You don’t have to write a whole autobiography. In fact, that would make for a vague, uninteresting personal statement. Instead, try to bring a scene to life for the readers, and let them see firsthand how formative this experience was for you!
Tip 5: Get a Glowing Letter of Recommendation
You’ll need at least one letter of recommendation from people who are practicing or have practiced in the medical field to get into some BS/DO programs. Obviously, these cannot be a last-minute addition to your application; you need to have earned enough respect from a professional person that they can honestly recommend you for a BS/DO program. Work toward building this professional connection through volunteer work or interviewing doctors you may know as soon as possible.
Still not totally sure what a Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine is? We’ll walk you through everything you need to know about the DO profession.
If a BS/DO doesn’t quite fit your needs, there are also combined BS/MD programs, too. This expert article will walk you through everything you need to know about BS/MD programs.
It’s important to make sure you’re getting the most out of your education. For most students, that means attending a great school…and medical schools are no different. Here’s our list of the 11 best pre-med schools in the U.S.
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Ashley Sufflé Robinson has a Ph.D. in 19th Century English Literature. As a content writer for PrepScholar, Ashley is passionate about giving college-bound students the in-depth information they need to get into the school of their dreams.