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Atlantis students speaking with a doctor while shadowing in the hospital (Genoa, Italy, 2019).

Applying to Med/PA School

How Many Hours of Clinical Experience for Med School: a Summary of Answers

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About Anne Marie

Anne Marie Conrad is a 2021 graduate of Purdue University’s College of Liberal Arts with degrees in Global Studies and Spanish along with a certificate in Medical Humanities. She has explored her passion for global healthcare by doing undergraduate research on best practices for provision of healthcare across language and cultural barriers. Anne Marie was an Atlantis Fellow to Valladolid, Spain during the Summer of 2019.

If you’re a pre-med student like I am, you’ve likely Googled ‘how many hours of clinical experience do I need to get into medical school’ hoping for a certain number that, once reached, will check off the ‘clinical experience’ box for your medical school application. Unfortunately for us there is no set number. Clinical experiences differ, as do the requirements of various medical schools. However, I have done some research, and I’ve compiled the information I found into one digestible summary below. 

The Ultimate Guide to Medical School Extracurriculars: Clinical Experience

While this article recognizes that authorities in the medical school admissions world recommend a minimum of 32 to 48 hours for competitive applicants, the author, Ryan Karmouta MD, MBA, himself recommends 100 to 150 hours of direct clinical exposure. Not only will this make you a more competitive applicant, but Dr. Karmouta cites the importance of being comfortable in a clinical setting to confirm that a career in medicine is the right fit for you. 

How Much Clinical Experience Do I Need for Med School Apps?

This podcast episode by Medical School Headquarters emphasizes that there’s no number of clinical hours that will get you into medical school. Rather, this resource highlights the importance of consistency, for example, throughout undergrad over quantity of volunteer hours in one summer. In my case, this means that although I got over 100 hours of shadowing during my Atlantis 360 shadowing program one summer, I wasn’t able to completely write off any more clinical experience for the rest of my undergraduate career.

Clinical Experience For Medical School: What Do You Need?

This Inspira Advantage post recommends that students aim for 100 hours. If they have any further doubt, they should contact individual admissions offices of specific medical schools that interest them. Again, this source emphasizes quality over quantity and recommends experience to be had over a long period of time in order to demonstrate commitment on the part of the student. 

How Many Shadowing Hours for Medical School Are Required in 2021

BeMo Academic Consulting gives a ton of detail about clinical experience: differences between shadowing and other clinical experiences, information about specific shadowing requirements for different medical schools, how many shadowing hours students should aim for in general, alternatives to shadowing in order to gain clinical experience, and what to do if a medical school to which you’re applying doesn’t have a shadowing requirement. If any of those topics interest you, this is a great article packed full of information to check out.  As far as clinical hours go, this article recommends 100 to 120 hours. They also recommend shadowing in multiple specialties if possible. This article, like many other sources I read, emphasizes that what you get out of a shadowing experience and how well you can articulate that is more important than a quantity of hours shadowing or in another clinical capacity.

Clinical Experience FAQ

Finally, this FAQ by the Health Professions Advising (HPA) department at Princeton University has lots of great information for anyone curious about clinical experience as a pre-med student. FAQs are answered regarding what exactly is clinical experience, how much clinical volunteering should I get, how many hours should I spend shadowing, and how does international experience translate in a medical school application. This resource was especially interesting to me because, as I’ve mentioned, I did a great deal of shadowing through an Atlantis 360 shadowing program abroad in Spain. Princeton’s HPA recommends supplementing any valuable time volunteering or shadowing abroad with time gaining familiarity in the United States with the system here. They also highlight the importance of following guidelines for providing patient care outside of the United States. You can find further information on those guidelines here. A good rule to follow is: if you wouldn’t be able to do it in the United States, don’t attempt it in another country.


I hope my research has given you a little bit better of an idea of how much clinical time you need in order to apply for medical school. As you can see, there is no magic number. Prioritize getting in touch with individual medical schools that interest you to see if they have any school-specific requirements. Advice across-the-board suggests that students make sure they have experiences from which they learn and can share that knowledge.

Cover of the Medical School Admissions Guide.

Two Atlantis alumni admitted to Top 5 MD programs wrote our widely read medical school admissions guidebook guidebook — download yours.

Our Alumni Enter Great Medical Schools

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John Daines

  • Atlantis '17
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Zoey Petitt

  • Atlantis '17
  • U. of Arizona '18
  • Duke MD '23
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Yong-hun Kim

  • Atlantis '17
  • Stanford '19
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Megan Branson

  • Atlantis '18
  • U. of Montana '19
  • U. of Washington MD '24
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Sarah Emerick

  • Atlantis '19
  • Eckerd College '20
  • Indiana U. MD '25
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Snow Nwankwo

  • Atlantis '19
  • Catholic U. of America '21
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Tiffany Hu

  • Atlantis '16
  • U. of Maryland '17
  • U. of Michigan MD '22
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Lauren Cox

  • Atlantis '18
  • Louisiana Tech '20
  • U. of Arkansas MD '24
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Kayla Riegler

  • Atlantis '18
  • U. of Kentucky '20
  • U. of Kentucky MD '24

About Atlantis

Atlantis is the leader in pre-health shadowing and clinical experience, offering short-term programs (1-10 weeks) over academic breaks for U.S. pre-health undergraduates. Medical schools want 3 things: (1)healthcare exposure, (2)GPA/MCAT, and (3)certain competencies. Atlantis gives you a great version of (1), frees you to focus on (2), and cultivates/shows (3) to medical school admissions committees.

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Watch Video: The Atlantis Shadowing Experience and How it Helps In Your Med/PA Admissions Future

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Cover of the Medical School Admissions Guide.
Two Atlantis alumni admitted to Top 5 MD programs wrote our widely read medical school admissions guidebook — download yours.