BS/MD Programs: How to Get In

Learn how hard it is to get in and the strategies you need to make it happen, plus a complete list of BS/MD programs

BS/md programs provide students with a direct path to a career in medicine

BS/md programs provide students with a direct path to a career in medicine

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Introduction

Though many aspiring doctors arrive at the decision to apply to medical school during their college years, some have dreamt of becoming a physician since childhood. Recognizing this, colleges and medical schools created BS/MD programs for high achieving high school students who are ready to commit to a career in medicine.

BS/MD programs, also known as direct medical programs, allow students to earn a Bachelor's of Science (BS) degree followed immediately by a Doctor of Medicine (MD) degree without having to go through a separate admissions process for medical school. Their benefits include a focused and sometimes expedited course of study free from the stress and uncertainty of the medical school application process.

Though BS/MD programs have notoriously low acceptance rates—ranging from one to four percent—they may be a great option for college applicants committed to a career in medicine.

In this article, we’ll cover:

  • The pros and cons of BS/MD programs

  • Strategies for getting in

  • A list of the best BS/MD programs

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What is a BS MD program?

A BS/MD program is a program in which an undergraduate institution and a medical school partner to allow students to gain admission to both straight out of high school. BS/MD students typically earn both degrees—a BS (or, occasionally, a BA) and MD—from the same university, though some programs, such as the Rice/Baylor Medical Scholars Program and the Penn State-Jefferson Accelerated Premedical-Medical Program, pair degrees from two different institutions.

Many BS/MD programs take eight years, the same amount of time a student would normally spend getting a BS and MD through separate programs. However, some programs are completed in seven years, meaning students can enter residency programs sooner. There are also a few six-year BS/MD programs in the United States, though they are becoming increasingly rare due to the breakneck pace required to complete them.

During the undergraduate portion of nearly any BS/MD program, students will be required to fulfill standard premed course requirements in the sciences. However, some programs grant undergraduates a great deal of freedom in regard to their majors and class selections while other programs have a well-defined course of study. For example, students in Brown University's Program in Liberal Medical Education (PLME) are able to choose any major, including humanities degrees, ranging from chemistry to history. On the other end of the spectrum, Drexel University's BA/BS + MD Early Assurance Program is open only to students who choose specific science and engineering majors such as biomedical engineering or psychology.

Though students who are accepted to BS/MD programs do not need to worry about applying to medical school at the end of their undergraduate years, that doesn't mean that they can rest on their laurels through college. Nearly all BS/MD programs have GPA requirements that students must meet as a condition of their acceptance into the medical school. Many programs also require their undergraduates to take the MCAT and to achieve a certain minimum score. Students who fail to meet these requirements will typically be allowed to graduate with a BS but will not be permitted to move on to medical school through their BS/MD program and will instead have to go through the standard medical application process.

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Is a BS/MD program right for my child?

For the right student, BS/MD programs can offer several advantages over a traditional path to medical school. First and foremost is the ability to avoid the stressful process of applying to medical school while simultaneously completing an undergraduate degree. Because BS/MD students are relieved of the pressure and uncertainty that accompany these applications, they are often able to focus more intently on their premed studies. Similarly, in programs that do not require their students to take the MCAT, such as those at Northwestern, Brown, University of Rochester, Case Western Reserve, and University of Pittsburgh, students are able to bypass the stress of preparing for the exam.

Additionally, because BS/MD students have already been accepted to medical school, they may feel a greater sense of freedom as undergraduates to explore academic interests outside of the scope of science and medicine without worrying about how this will appear to medical school admissions committees. This can give future doctors a more well-rounded education.

Some BS/MD programs also offer their students special opportunities for learning, networking, and service. For instance, Brown's PLME has enrichment activities which include healthcare-oriented study abroad, research assistantship opportunities, community service, fellowships, and more. Similarly, Northwestern University's Honors Program in Medical Education (HPME) offers many research fellowships and travel grants, as well as entrepreneurial opportunities and public and global health internships and experiences.

BS/MD programs also tend to be quite small, with some accepting as few as 4-6 applicants per year, such as the Rice/Baylor Medical Scholars Program and the University Scholars Program in Medicine at Washington University in St. Louis. Even BS/MD programs on the larger side typically number under 100 students per incoming class. Because students spend seven or eight years with a relatively small cohort, they have the opportunity to become part of a tight-knit community within a larger institution.

As noted above, some BS/MD programs can be completed in fewer than eight years, which can save time and money spent on tuition and application fees.

However, it's worth noting that the pace of these accelerated programs often entails taking summer courses in order to cram an undergraduate education into three or fewer years, such as at Boston University's Seven-Year Liberal Arts/Medical Education Program. Nevertheless, an expedited timeline may be an incentive if your child hopes to begin their professional life as soon as possible.

Despite these many benefits, BS/MD programs are not right for every student interested in medicine. Not only do they require spending seven or eight years studying one topic and living in one place, they also require students to have the maturity and self-knowledge to essentially commit to a lifelong career at age 17 or 18.

For many if not most students, college is a time of valuable academic exploration and self-discovery. If your child is not 100 percent committed to a career in medicine, they would be better off applying to a traditional four-year undergraduate program.

Another potential disadvantage to entering a BS/MD program is the fact that students must choose two schools at once rather than selecting an undergraduate school and medical school separately. This, along with the relatively limited number of BS/MD programs (approximately 70, compared with over 7,000 undergraduate institutions in the United States), means that students cannot be as picky as they might otherwise be in regard to the cultural and academic fit of a school. Plus, in some cases, students may end up having to choose between the long-term assurance of a BS/MD program and a spot at a more prestigious undergraduate institution.

If a student commits to a BS/MD program and decides it’s not a fit, they may be able to "apply out" to other medical schools. Some programs are non-binding, meaning that they do not prohibit their undergraduates from applying to other medical schools. Other programs explicitly state that students cannot apply to other medical schools while retaining a seat in their program. If your child chooses to enter such a program, they will want to be certain that they are committed to completing it.

If your child excels in math and science and loves the idea of helping others, they might want to become a doctor, but they might also an engineer who creates lifesaving medical devices, or a cancer researcher. So how can you child know that a career as a physician is right for them? Shadowing a doctor or volunteering at a hospital can provide your child with great insight.

In general, if your child is considering BS/MD programs, they should talk to their college counselor or admissions advisor to find as many ways as possible to be immersed in clinical environments. This will both help strengthen their application and ensure that medicine is truly a perfect fit. We’ll talk more about extracurriculars shortly.

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BS/MD programs acceptance rate

The competition to get into BS/MD programs is fierce, with acceptance rates as low as under 1 percent at top-tier, very small programs like Rice/Baylor and Washington University in St. Louis. Even a top program on the large end of the spectrum like Brown, which accepts 90 students per class, still has a daunting acceptance rate of 3.9 percent.

While a less selective program like the University of Missouri-Kansas City's BA/MD Program has an acceptance rate of 9 percent, it's worth noting that this figure is on par with undergraduate acceptance rates to Ivy League schools like Brown and the University of Pennsylvania. All in all, BS/MD programs' extreme selectivity is due to the fact that they receive hundreds or thousands of applications for relatively few spots.

That’s why competitive applicants need to have exceptional grades, test scores, extracurricular activities, and letters of recommendation. Though the majority of programs state that they assess applications holistically, successful BS/MD applicants will typically have a GPA at or near 4.0, rank in the top 5 percent of their graduating class, and achieve a 95th percentile or higher score on the ACT or SAT (and, in some cases, SAT Subject Tests in sciences and math).

Even if your child meets these high standards, bear in mind that the vast majority of BS/MD applicants will also have excellent test scores and grades. As such, truly exceptional extracurricular activities and glowing letters of recommendation, particularly from science teachers and professionals in the healthcare field, can help give your child's application a boost.

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How to get into a BS/MD program

Extracurricular activities

When it comes to extracurricular activities, your child should commit to one or two instead of dabbling in a variety of areas in order to seem well-rounded. This is especially the case for BS/MD applicants, for whom demonstrating a real commitment to medicine is so important. As such, the extracurricular activities of successful BS/MD applicants will demonstrate their passion for science and helping others.

The very best extracurriculars for BS/MD hopefuls will also show that the applicant has spent time exploring and diving deep into specific interests rather than signing up for activities in order to check the right boxes.

For instance, if your child loves working with kids and is interested in practicing children’s medicine, they might want to volunteer at a pediatric hospital as well as start an organization that fundraises for kids with cancer. If they are intrigued by the public policy side of medicine, interning at the local public health office would be a great way to explore this subject. Depending on what areas of public health grab their interest, they could then proceed to something even more specific like volunteering at a vaccination clinic for the homeless.

An added benefit of this approach is that being “the best” at a certain activity becomes less important. Whether your child’s extracurriculars take the form of one big project, such as a long-term research assistantship for a science professor, or a variety of different activities that revolve around a central subject, becoming a specialist will show a level of commitment that will both help your child stand out and demonstrate that their passion for medicine is well-founded.

Supplemental essays

The application process for BS/MD programs is usually more involved than that of a standard undergraduate application. In addition to the regular application that all undergraduate applicants to a given university must fill out, many BS/MD programs also require their applicants to submit supplemental essays and, if chosen as semifinalists, to participate in an on-campus interview or possibly a local interview with an alum. Both are important opportunities for applicants to showcase their specific interests in that program and in the field of medicine in general.

Supplemental essay questions will of course vary from program to program, but many schools tend to use versions of the same types of questions. Below, we’ve given successful examples that respond to some of the most common BS/MD supplemental essay questions and broken down exactly why they work.

The “Why Medicine” question: variations of this common question are used by programs like Washington University in St. Louis, Boston University, Case Western Reserve, and more. Let’s take a look at how Yuki tackled this question in her application to the Brown University BS MD program:

Prompt: What values and experiences have led you to believe that becoming a doctor in medicine is the right fit for you? (250 words)

Yuki's response:

My journey towards medicine began the day I dissected a worm in 7th grade science class. Though most of my classmates were thoroughly grossed out by this assignment, I was fascinated by the idea that I could understand what was going on inside a living creature’s body. This prompted me to join my school's science club, and, for a while, I thought I might want to become a biologist.

In high school, I began volunteering at a nursing home to fulfill my school's community service requirement. Not only did I find that I actually enjoyed sitting and talking with the home's residents, I also found myself admiring the nursing staff for their work in making the residents' lives as comfortable as possible. As the nurses got to know me better, they eventually started asking me to help with minor tasks like getting extra pillows or glasses of water. Playing even a small role in providing care for someone in need made me feel surprisingly gratified and opened my eyes to the thought that medicine might be for me.

I became sure of this the summer after my sophomore year when I shadowed a doctor at my local hospital. As I watched Dr. Gomez spend time both listening attentively to her patients and taking blood samples, I saw how perfectly medicine married two things that are important to me: helping people and the intellectual excitement of science. Ever since, I’ve known that practicing medicine would be a job I’d genuinely love.

Yuki’s essay is successful because it tells two stories with convincing clarity: how she became interested in science and how she became interested in caregiving. Her “aha” moment in regards to becoming a doctor doesn’t come until the end, but this chronology works because it mimics her own journey. Let’s break it down:

Paragraph 1: Yuki’s anecdote of dissecting a worm grabs the reader right away and establishes her interest in biology through her unusual excitement at being able to understand what’s going on inside the body.

Paragraph 2: This paragraph introduces a twist: Yuki herself is surprised that she enjoys volunteering at the nursing home. This plants the seed of medicine as a potential career and conveys the growth that this experience has given her.

Paragraph 3: In this last anecdote, the first two paragraphs are linked together as Yuki realizes that medicine “marries” her two passions: science and caregiving. Though this sentence, her thesis, doesn’t come until nearly the end of the essay, it works here because it successfully ties together all the themes of the essay and the narrative of her journey towards medicine.

It’s worth noting that the natural ingenuity and youthfulness of Yuki’s voice works fine for her at this age, but won’t be sufficient as a twenty-two or twenty-four-year-old applying to medical schools. She has specific connections to medicine now, but will need far more specific clinical experience if she doesn’t opt for a BS/MD program from the get-go.

The “Why This School” question: This is another common question asked by BS/MD programs and traditional undergraduate programs alike. Here’s how Patrick handled this question in his application to the Rutgers BS MD Program:

Prompt: Discuss why you are specifically interested in attending Rutgers New Jersey Medical School (NJMS) over other medical schools. (150 words)

Patrick’s response:

My nearest hospital is twenty minutes down the highway. I’m one of many Americans who grew up in a medically underserved area, and I want to be a doctor to return to my community, to address that gap. Rutgers’ outreach and educational programs for the local community in Newark would provide me with a wide range of patient experiences. Similarly, Rutgers’ strong emphases on the diverse and humanistic components of medicine speak to me.

I’m also interested in attending Rutgers because of its clinical research. In my community, rates of heart disease are much higher than in wealthier parts of the country, and while diet and exercise can help change some things, there are many genetic and cultural factors that contribute to heart health. I am interested in working with the Cardiovascular Research Institute to learn more about the basic science behind the healthcare problems I have grown up around.

Patrick’s cites specific reasons he is interested in attending Rutgers. In only 150 words, he manages to talk about an academic interest, his values as a future doctor, and what aspects of his personal history have led him down this path. This essay is successful because not only does Patrick give a sense of himself, he also conveys that he is familiar with the mission and resources of Rutgers, showing how they converge with his own history and interests.

Students applying to BS/MD programs often ask if their Common App essay should discuss medicine in some way. Because supplemental essays already provide space to do that, we recommend that applicants use their main personal statement as a space to elaborate on a separate but compatible aspect of themselves. Some schools, like Boston University , for instance, explicitly direct applicants to make their supplemental essays distinct from their Common App essay. Bear in mind, though, that all of your child’s essays should add up to tell a cohesive story about their ambitions.

Though most supplemental essays will be shorter than the main personal statement your child submits through the Common App, we recommend giving just as much care and consideration to supplementals.

Interviews

The majority of BS/MD programs require interviews once applicants make it to a certain stage of the application process. Because only 10 percent or so of applicants even make it that far, anyone invited to interview is virtually guaranteed to have already submitted an impressive application. That’s why the interview is an important opportunity for applicants to stand out by further convincing an admissions committee that they have the dedication, maturity, and passion for medicine that it takes to be successful in a BS/MD program.

The format of these interviews can vary—some schools interview students in groups while others do one-on-one meetings or even a series of interviews. It’s safe to say, though, that most schools will not quiz candidates on their medical knowledge, but will instead be looking for them to provide human depth to their applications. Though there’s no telling what questions will be asked, in order to prepare for a BS/MD interview, we recommend that your child be ready to answer, at minimum, the following common questions, many of which should overlap with the supplemental essays your child has already written:

Common BS MD interview questions

  • Why do you want to become a doctor?

    • Your child should be prepared to discuss their interests in both the academic and caregiving/service-oriented sides of medicine.

  • What previous medical experiences have you had?

    • Your child should take this opportunity to emphasize how their extracurriculars have impacted their decision to go into medicine.

  • What interests you about BS/MD programs?

    • Your child’s response should not focus on saving time or avoiding the MCAT! Instead, they should highlight their commitment to medicine and discuss how a focused course of study will help them succeed.

  • What interests you about this specific program?

    • Make sure your child has thoroughly researched the program in advance and is prepared to talk about its specific characteristics and resources and how they fit into your child’s goals.

(Recommended reading: 7 Tips for Acing the College Admission Interview)

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What about BS/DO programs?

Just as DO (Doctor of Osteopathy) degrees provide another path towards becoming a physician, students looking into direct medical programs may want to consider BS/DO programs, such as those at the New York Institute of Technology College of Osteopathic Medicine or Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine, as an alternative to BS/MDs. BS/DO programs are similar to BS/MD programs in that they also allow students to gain acceptance to an undergraduate school and a medical school at the same time. The major differences between the two types of programs lie in their levels of selectivity and the different philosophies that inform osteopathic versus allopathic medicines.

Because BS/DO programs are less competitive than BS/MD programs, they may be worth looking into if your child is interested in a direct medical program but does not have the grades and test scores to gain acceptance to a BS/MD program. Nevertheless, being admitted into a BS/DO program will still require an applicant to demonstrate a strong academic performance. Typically, this means a GPA of 3.5 or higher and a combined SAT score above 2000.

The other reason to look into BS/DO programs is, of course, if your child has a specific interest in osteopathic medicine, in which patients are treated more holistically and in which doctors receive additional training in osteopathic manipulative treatment. Though DO graduates have more difficulty matching into allopathic residencies, once graduates are actually practicing medicine, the two degrees are effectively the same.

(Recommended reading: MD vs DO admissions: What are the Differences?)

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Choosing where to apply

Because admission into BS/MD programs is so competitive, there is no guarantee of acceptance for even the best students. Though selectivity certainly varies, the concept of a "safety" school does not really apply when it comes to BS/MD programs. That’s why we recommend making sure your child's list of schools to apply to includes several "reach" and "target" BS/MD programs as well as several traditional undergraduate programs at universities and colleges with strong offerings in premed or the sciences. This strategy should give your child plenty of viable paths towards a future in medical school, even if they do not ultimately get into a BS/MD program and must apply to medical school four years down the line.

Additionally, either if prestige or name recognition is important to your child, they may ultimately appreciate having a number of options when decision letters come around. Because it is just as if not more difficult to gain acceptance to a BS/MD program as it is to get into the nation's most prestigious undergraduate colleges and universities, many successful applicants report ultimately choosing between an acceptance offer from an Ivy League or similarly prestigious university and a BS/MD offer from a school with less name recognition. The "right" decision in such situations completely depends on the individual student, but we believe that having as many options as possible is to every applicant's benefit.

Final Thoughts

For high-performing students who are absolutely sure that they want to attend medical school, BS/MD programs provide a one-stop focused path towards becoming a doctor and allow students to avoid the stress of medical school applications.

BS/MD programs are not right for every student, particularly for those students who would benefit from more time to explore different academic and career possibilities. However, if your child has not only the requisite academic records and extracurricular achievements but also the maturity and self-awareness necessary to commit to a lifelong career, he or she should certainly consider applying to BS/MD programs alongside traditional undergraduate colleges and universities.

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Complete list of BS/MD programs

(Note: This is a list of direct med programs. There are some BS/MD programs that only accept applications during freshman or sophomore year of college. These are not included on the list.)

Augusta University

  • Medical School: Medical College of Georgia

  • Program Length: 7 years

Baylor University

  • Medical School: Baylor College of Medicine

  • Program Length: 8 years

Boston University

  • Medical School: Boston University School of Medicine

  • Program Length: 7 years

Brooklyn College

  • Medical School: SUNY-Downstate Medical Center

  • Program Length: 8 years

Brown University

  • Medical School: The Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University

  • Program Length: 8 years

Caldwell University

  • Medical School: New Jersey Medical School at Rutgers University

    • Program Length: 7 years

  • Medical School: St. George's University School of Medicine

    • Program Length: 7 years

  • Medical School: American University of Antigua

    • Program Length: 8 years

California Northstate University

  • Medical School: California Northstate University College of Medicine

  • Program Length: 6, 7, or 8 years

Case Western Reserve University

  • Medical School: Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine

  • Program Length: 8 years

The City College of New York

  • Medical School: Sophie Davis Biomedical Education School of Medicine

  • Program Length: 7 years

The College of New Jersey

  • Medical School: New Jersey Medical School at Rutgers University

  • Program Length: 7 years

Drew University

  • Medical School: New Jersey Medical School at Rutgers University

  • Program Length: 7 years

Drexel University

  • Medical School: Drexel University College of Medicine

  • Program Length: 8 years

Florida Atlantic University

  • Medical School: Florida Atlantic University College of Medicine

  • Program Length: 8 years

Franklin Pierce University

  • Medical School: St. George's University School of Medicine

  • Program Length: 8 years

George Washington University

  • Medical School: George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences

  • Program Length: 7 years

Grambling State University

  • Medical School: Meharry Medical College

  • Program Length: 7 or 8 years

Hofstra University

  • Medical School: Hofstra Northwell School of Medicine

  • Program Length: 8 years

Howard University

  • Medical School: Howard University College of Medicine

  • Program Length: 6 years

Indiana State University

  • Medical School: Indiana University School of Medicine

  • Program Length: 8 years

Mercer University

  • Medical School: Mercer University School of Medicine

  • Program Length: 8 years

Monmouth University

  • Medical School: St. George's University School of Medicine

  • Program Length: 8 years

Montclair State University

  • Medical School: New Jersey Medical School at Rutgers University

  • Program Length: 7 years

New Jersey Institute of Technology

  • Medical School: American University of Antigua West Indies

  • Program Length: 7 or 8 years

  • Medical School: New Jersey Medical School at Rutgers University

  • Program Length: 7 years

  • Medical School: St. George’s University School of Medicine

  • Program Length: 7 years

Northwestern University

  • Medical School: Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine

  • Program Length: 7 or 8 years

Penn State University

  • Medical School: Sidney Kimmel Medical College at Thomas Jefferson University

  • Program Length: 7 years

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

  • Medical School: Albany Medical College

  • Program Length: 7 years

Rice University

  • Medical School: Baylor College of Medicine

  • Program Length: 8 years

Rutgers University-Newark College of Arts and Sciences

  • Medical School: New Jersey Medical School at Rutgers University

  • Program Length: 7 years

Siena College

  • Medical School: Albany Medical College School of Medicine

  • Program Length: 8 years

St. Bonaventure University

  • Medical School: George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences

  • Program Length: 8 years

St. Louis University

  • Medical School: St. Louis University University School of Medicine

  • Program Length: 8 years

Stevens Institute of Technology

  • Medical School: New Jersey Medical School at Rutgers University

  • Program Length: 7 years

Stony Brook University

  • Medical School: Stony Brook University's School of Medicine

  • Program Length: 8 years

Temple University

  • Medical School: Temple University Katz School of Medicine

  • Program Length: 7 or 8 years

Texas Tech University

  • Medical School: Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center School of Medicine

  • Program Length: 8 years

Union College

  • Medical School: Albany Medical College School of Medicine

  • Program Length: 8 years

University of Alabama

  • Medical School: University of Alabama School of Medicine

  • Program Length: 8 years

University of Cincinnati

  • Medical School: University of Cincinnati College of Medicine

  • Program Length: 8 years

University of Colorado

  • Medical School: University of Colorado School of Medicine

  • Program Length: 8 years

University of Evansville

  • Medical School: Indiana University School of Medicine-Evansville

  • Program Length: 8 years

University of Connecticut

  • Medical School: University of Connecticut School of Medicine

  • Program Length: 8 years

University of Illinois at Chicago

  • Medical School: University of Illinois at Chicago College of Medicine

  • Program Length: 8 years

University of Missouri–Kansas City

  • Medical School: University of Missouri–Kansas City School of Medicine

  • Program Length: 6 years

University of Nevada-Reno

  • Medical School: University of Nevada-Reno School of Medicine

  • Program Length: 7 years

University of New Mexico

  • Medical School: University of New Mexico School of Medicine

  • Program Length: 8 years

University of Pittsburgh

  • Medical School: University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine

  • Program Length: 8 years

University of Rochester

  • Medical School: University of Rochester School of Medicine

  • Program Length: 8 years

University of South Alabama

  • Medical School: University of South Alabama College of Medicine

  • Program Length: 8 years

University of Southern Florida

  • Medical School: Morsani College of Medicine

  • Program Length: 7 years

University of Southern Indiana

  • Medical School: Indiana University School of Medicine-Evansville

  • Program Length: 8 years

Virginia Commonwealth University

  • Medical School: Virginia Commonwealth University School of Medicine

  • Program Length: 8 years

Washington University in St. Louis

  • Medical School: The Washington University School of Medicine

  • Program Length: 8 years

Washington & Jefferson College

  • Medical School: Temple School of Medicine

  • Program Length: 8 years

Wayne State University

  • Medical School: Wayne State University University School of Medicine

  • Program Length: 8 years