How Many Shadowing Hours for Medical School Are Required?


Shadowing experiences are a key part of medical school applications. They show your interest in medicine and give you a glimpse of a doctor’s daily life and the healthcare field.

In this guide, we will discuss how many shadowing hours you might need for medical school, which can vary widely. We’ll also discuss different medical schools’ requirements for shadowing and share tips on making the most of these experiences.

Whether it’s choosing the right specialties to shadow, balancing shadowing with your other commitments, or understanding the value of these experiences in different countries, we’ll cover what you need to know to enhance your application and prepare for a career in medicine.

Shadowing Requirements

Medical schools often ask for shadowing hours, during which students follow senior doctors to see what their jobs are like. This helps students understand the medical field better and prepare for their future careers.

There is no set number of hours that all schools require, but it’s common to hear that between 50 and 120 hours is a good goal. This can vary greatly from one school to another. Some might ask for more hours, while others may not specify an exact number but still expect you to have some shadowing experience.

The type of shadowing can also matter. Certain schools prefer you to shadow in a variety of medical fields to get a broad understanding, while others might value depth in one area, especially if it aligns with their focus or your career interests.

It’s important to check each medical school’s requirements or recommendations because they can be very different. Doing enough shadowing in the right areas can strengthen your application and show that you’re serious about becoming a doctor.

Quality Over Quantity

When it comes to shadowing doctors for medical school applications, it’s not just about how many hours you’ve spent. What really matters is the quality of those experiences. Having deep, meaningful shadowing experiences where you truly engage and learn can be more valuable than just racking up a lot of hours. It’s better to have fewer really impactful hours, where you had the chance to ask questions, understand the challenges doctors face, and see the difference they make in people’s lives, than to have many hours where you didn’t get much out of the experience.

Think of shadowing not just as a requirement to check off your list but as a unique opportunity to confirm your interest in medicine and to gather insights and stories that can enrich your medical school application and interviews. This approach can set you apart from others who might have treated shadowing as just another task to complete.

Schools can distinguish between applicants who have genuinely immersed themselves in the medical environment and those who haven’t. So, focus on making each shadowing experience meaningful and seek opportunities that offer a closer look at the medical profession, even if that means accumulating fewer hours.

Balancing Shadowing with Other Commitments


Balancing shadowing with your studies, job, and extracurricular activities can be challenging, but it’s crucial for a well-rounded medical school application. Certain tips can help you with this.

  • Plan Ahead: Look at your schedule and find less busy times, like breaks or less demanding academic periods, to do your shadowing.
  • Quality Over Quantity: Instead of trying to shadow for many hours, focus on meaningful experiences that allow you to learn and engage deeply.
  • Communicate: Talk to your academic advisors and employers about your goals. They might be willing to accommodate your schedule or deadlines.
  • Use Weekends or Evenings: Some shadowing opportunities might be available during these times, which can help minimize conflict with classes or work.
  • Short Sessions Count: Even if you can only shadow for a few hours at a time, these experiences can add up and still provide valuable insights.

Excessive shadowing hours might seem impressive, but they can have a downside:

  • Neglecting Academics: Too much time shadowing can take away from your studies, potentially lowering your GPA.
  • Limited Extracurricular Engagement: An overemphasis on shadowing might mean less time for other activities that can enrich your application, like volunteering or leadership roles.
  • Burnout: Balancing too many commitments can lead to burnout, affecting both your health and the quality of your application.

Finding a balance is key. It ensures you gain insights and experiences from shadowing while maintaining strong academic performance and engagement in other activities.

Maximizing Shadowing Experience

Making the most of medical shadowing opportunities involves more than being present. There are ways to deepen the experience and get the most out of it.

  • Be Curious: Ask thoughtful questions about the procedures, patient care, and the daily life of a physician. It shows your interest and eagerness to learn. Respect the privacy and policies of the workplace; ensure your questions are appropriate.
  • Observe Carefully: Watch the medical procedures and how doctors interact with patients and other healthcare professionals. Notice the communication and decision-making processes.
  • Build Relationships: Take the opportunity to get to know the physicians and healthcare staff. Expressing genuine interest can open doors to more learning opportunities and possibly mentorship. Follow up with a thank-you note or email to show appreciation for their time and guidance.
  • Reflect and Journal: Keep a journal of your shadowing experiences. Note down what you learned, felt, and observed each day. Reflect on how these experiences align with your goals and values in pursuing a career in medicine. This can be a valuable resource for your personal statement and interviews.
  • Understand the Big Picture: Try to grasp the overall flow of the healthcare environment, including the challenges and rewards of medical practice.
  • Respect Privacy: Always maintain patient confidentiality and professionalism during your shadowing experience.

Journaling and reflection are crucial because they help solidify what you’ve learned, provide material for medical school applications, and assist in personal growth. Reflecting on your experiences can deepen your understanding of the medical field and help clarify why you want to pursue a medical career.


Diverse shadowing experiences can offer a broad perspective, enhancing your application and preparing you for a career in medicine. To make the most of your shadowing experiences, focus on quality over quantity; embrace each opportunity with curiosity and a desire to learn; ask questions, observe procedures carefully, and build relationships with physicians to deepen your understanding of the medical field; and reflect on your experiences and journal regularly to consolidate your learning and insights.

Let’s step into shadowing with a keen eye, an open mind, and a readiness to grow. Start seeking out those opportunities today and make every moment count toward your future in healthcare.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs):

Can I shadow multiple doctors for medical school?

Shadowing in different specialties is beneficial for medical school, as it can provide a broader view of medicine and help you identify areas of interest or passion.

Do I need to shadow different specialties for medical school?

It’s beneficial to shadow in different specialties for medical school, as this can provide a broader view of medicine and help you identify areas of interest or passion.

Can I shadow outside of the United States for medical school?

Yes, you can shadow outside of the United States for medical school. International experiences can offer unique perspectives on healthcare and medical practices in different cultural contexts.

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