How Many Hours of Shadowing Do You Need for Medical School

November 22

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Having a shadowing experience will significantly impact your application for medical school. In addition, it is a necessary pre-med experience to showcase your capabilities, dedication, and willingness to pursue a medical career. 

The admission requirements of most medical schools in the US include extracurricular activities in the medical field that will help the admission committee in deliberating your med-school application.

These extracurricular activities usually comprise different experiences, including shadowing. 

Therefore, exposing medical school applicants to several clinical settings is fundamental for one’s application. In addition, it will help medical schools know that you are a serious candidate. 

Most candidates are highly competitive with their number of shadowing hours; some tend to have several hundred or more hours. Also, some medical schools have a required number of shadowing hours. 

In this article, we will guide and tackle how many shadowing hours you need when applying for medical schools and other relevant information for shadowing.  

What is Shadowing and its Benefits?

Shadowing is a term used in medical school wherein students are allowed or given a chance to observe the day-to-day work of a medical professional directly. 

And this experience does not involve any direct patient contact or intervention. Still, instead, it is only a direct observation of the working environment of a physician. 

Students have the opportunity to ask the physician questions regarding their work setup, how they handle their patients, what medical assessments they do, how they perform medical procedures, their work ethics, and more. 

The shadowing experience is also considered a necessary extracurricular activity for aspiring medical students to help them gain a deeper understanding of the work that goes into medicine. 

Also, the experience will give pre-med students a view on how to be a physician and help them decide if the career is what they want. 

While shadowing hours is the duration or period, a medical student spends shadowing a physician. The period for shadowing can be scheduled in half or full-day, on a single occasion, or for a couple of days or weeks. 

And sometimes, it depends on the medical school’s requirement and the availability and clinic hours of the physician one will shadow. 

Here are some benefits of Shadowing:

Gain Career Insights

Gaining experience through shadowing is an excellent way for medical students to learn more about their future medical careers. 

It will also give them a better insight into how medical doctors work, how they handle diverse patients, and be familiar with different medical specializations and working environments. 

Also, shadowing allows medical students to gain more knowledge about working in the medical field and the degree of commitment it requires. 

And it helps and guides the student to decide if a career in medicine is something they want to pursue. 

Improve Your Clinical Knowledge and Skills

The opportunity to work and observe a physician closely is a perfect way to improve your basic clinical knowledge and skills in medicine. 

Note that these medical professionals have undergone intensive medical training during their residency. 

And by shadowing these medical doctors, you get to experience firsthand and see how they apply certain medical practices and theories in a real-life setting. 

Also, you can ask them about their medical career, which will help you understand more about the ins and outs of practicing medicine. Shadowing can also give you a clear picture of your future if you pursue medicine. 

It Builds Your Resume/Application

Shadowing can boost your resume or application for medical schools, especially for those aspiring medical students. 

In addition, the firsthand experience of working with a medical professional is a good experience that you can include in your resume. 

Medical school’s admission committee will look into your experiences in the medical field and highly prefer those with shadowing experiences as it allows them to see your dedication and commitment to a career in medicine. 

Also, it widens your connection, and the background will lead to a possibility of mentorship and a great working opportunity. 

It can also provide you with good potential strong letters of recommendation from a valued medical professional for your med school application. 

Clinical Hours & Shadowing Hours: Differences

The difference between clinical hours and shadowing hours is based on the type of experience you are doing. 

For example, clinical hours are when an individual or pre-med student performs hands-on clinical tasks and involves patient interactions. It includes working as EMTs, personal care aides, medical assistants, etc. 

The clinical hours are from the active participation of students partaking in different clinical experiences. And sometimes, it can be a paid or unpaid clinical experience. 

As for shadowing hours, it is the time spent observing a medical professional through shadowing. 

And it is the best way to gain more in-depth knowledge and get exposure to having a career in medicine. It also involves fewer hands-on tasks and much observing how a doctor works. 

How Many Hours of Shadowing Do You Need for Medical School?

The shadowing hours requirement varies per medical school. For example, there is no required number of shadowing hours at Harvard Medical School. Still, they highly suggest that applicants aim for a minimum of 40 to 50 shadowing hours

Also, for example, Johns Hopkins Medical School does not require a specific number of shadowing hours for its premed applicants. 

However, the school recommends shadowing multiple physicians in multiple medical settings. 

Generally, a good range of shadowing hours is around 100 to 120. While the lowest shadowing hours considered is 50 hours below.

When applying to multiple medical schools, it is best to check first the required number of shadowing hours. 

And from there, you now know your target shadowing hours. Also, it is advisable to always aim for a high number of shadowing hours which will benefit your application. 

It is ideal to do shadowing in various settings and should be appropriately scheduled for several months or a year. 

Doing so lets you get the most out of your shadowing experience and avoid cramming it all in a month or two or during summer break. 

For example, suppose you are shadowing one doctor for one day. In that case, you can earn around ten shadowing hours or more, depending on the agreement between you and the doctor. 

If you shadow ten doctors for ten days, you can quickly achieve the ideal number of shadowing hours. 

Also, cover different specializations when you do shadowing as much as possible. It will open more opportunities for you and widen your clinical skills and knowledge. 

Medical schools prefer candidates with shadowing experience as it conveys one’s commitment and persistence in studying medicine. 

Also, it shows that the premed student already knows how demanding and challenging a medical career is based on one’s shadowing experience, yet is still determined to pursue such despite its difficulty.

How to Find Best Shadowing Opportunities

Most medical schools include experiences as part of their admission requirement, and the shadowing experience of the applicant is a strong point for this area. 

It also demonstrates your initiative and commitment to pursuing a medical career since you took the time to observe medical professionals before enrolling in med school. 

Shadowing will give you first-hand experience in the healthcare field. And shadowing experience will help you decide which area of medicine piques your interest and what you are most passionate about. 

As a pre-med student, gaining more significant experiences in the medical field is good to boost your medical school application. 

Shadowing multiple physicians with different specializations is a great move.


There are different shadowing opportunities that you can do, and it varies depending on what medical specialization you are interested in. 

So, when choosing the best shadowing opportunities, you need to narrow down your options and start with the one you are most interested in. 

Here are some of the best shadowing opportunities that you can do.

Physician Shadowing 

Physician shadowing is one of the best shadowing opportunities for premed students. It is first-hand exposure to a career in medicine wherein you are able to observe how a doctor interacts, handles patients, and many more. 

It is highly encouraged to shadow not only one but multiple physicians with different specializations, such as in Radiology, Emergency Medicine, Obstetrics and Gynecology, Surgery, Dermatology, and other medical fields. 

So, you will have a better understanding and broad exposure to various medical specializations that will help you with what you will pursue. 

Online/Virtual Pre-Health Shadowing Programs

Due to the pandemic, most medical schools have adjusted their requirements and accepted online shadowing experiences.

It allows pre-med students to shadow physicians online through live internet sessions and interview doctors with various specializations. 

Many online platforms offer online shadowing opportunities, including,, eSHADOWING, WebShadowers, and many more. 

University Shadowing Programs

Some medical schools offer shadowing programs to premed students, such as Stanford Medical School

The medical school provides the Stanford Immersion in Medicine Series (SIMS), allowing premed students to shadow a physician in their clinics, observe operating rooms, and attend different medical-related activities. 

Also, the Oregon State University Science College offers a medical preceptorship program that allows junior and senior students to shadow a physician in one academic term. 

Medical Scribe

Another shadowing opportunity that you can do is being a medical scribe. The work entails recording and taking notes during patient interviews, describing and summarizing the physician’s interaction with different patients. 

It also involves assisting physicians with patient flow and organization. The shadowing experience as a medical scribe gives premed students direct experience in clinical management and administration. 

Final Thoughts

Your shadowing experiences will allow you to dive deep into the world of medicine, and they will expose you to the real life of medical professionals on what they do daily. 

Also, it will help you strengthen your decision to pursue a specific medical career that interests you most. 

Make the most of your shadowing experience. Whether or not you have achieved the ideal number of shadowing hours, what is essential is that you have learned throughout your experience working with doctors. 

If you struggle to achieve 100 shadowing hours to make your application more competitive than the rest of the applicants, do not worry. 

Even if you get 50 shadowing hours or less, it is still acceptable, so long as you have met the medical school’s requirement for shadowing. 

Also, keep in mind that shadowing a physician will also enhance your medical skills and knowledge and, at the same time, widen your network in the industry. You will be able to meet highly-skilled medical doctors.

You're no longer alone on your journey to becoming a physician

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