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How Many Shadowing Hours for Medical School? 10 Answers with a Common Thread

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About Luke

Luke Orr is a recent graduate of University of Oregon. As an undergraduate, he majored in human physiology and earned minors in business administration, sports business, and chemistry. During the summer between his sophomore and junior year, he participated in the Atlantis Summer 2017 shadowing program in Toruń, Poland. He is currently applying to medical school with an interest in orthopedics and sports medicine.

A frequent concern for pre-med students revolves around the number of shadowing hours that are needed for medical school. Here, I present 10 answers to this question with a few common threads. 

How Many Shadowing Hours For Medical School Are Required in 2021 | BeMo® (

To put it plainly, there is no clear-cut number of hours, and most schools will simply require or recommend shadowing without a number attached. However, some schools will have specific shadowing requirements, e.g., 12-24, 50 or more, 120, etc., so it’s imperative that you check the particular requirements of the medical schools you’re applying to. If there are schools you are interested in that do have shadowing requirements, figure out what the highest number of hours required would be, and aim for that as a minimum. With shadowing, it’s always better to aim for the high end of what’s required of you. If, for example, you’re applying to five different schools and one has a requirement of 120 hours, another has a minimum of 50 hours, and the other three have no specific requirement, then aim for a minimum of 120 hours.

If you want to put a number on it, around 100-120 hours is a good ideal range. Shadowing one doctor for one day will be approximately 10 hours, so if you can shadow multiple doctors for a total of 10 days spread over time, (even over a year or so if you start early), then you can easily hit your target.

How Many Shadowing Hours Do I Need for Medical School? | Prospective Doctor

The question of how many hours you need to shadow is really one that doesn’t necessarily have a definitive answer, but let’s put one out there. A good number is approximately one hundred. Now, the next thing that med schools want to see is that you’ve actually shadowed a variety of different doctors.

How Many Hours of Clinical Experience do you Need for Medical School Applications? – Med School Pursuit

As I mentioned, there is no magic number. There are great applicants with 100 hours and terrible applicants with 3000 hours.

How many shadowing hours, volunteer hours, clinical hours, research hours are needed for med school application? (

Shadowing in various settings over several months or a year is going to be more valuable to you than cramming it all into a month or one summer. Make sure to shadow several physicians in different specialties. Remember the goal is to view different specialties and see the practice of medicine close up. There are interpersonal things you can learn from individual physicians, and more practical, practice-related things that become apparent in different medical settings. 40 hours is on the low end, while100 hours is superb.

Shadowing a Doctor: The Ultimate Pre-Med Guide – Transizion

Many medical schools in the US have a minimum requirement for shadowing hours.

  • This varies widely, with most experts recommending between 40 and 100 hours of shadowing.
  • This might seem like a lot, but keep in mind that a doctor usually works 10-12 hour days.
  • You want to split your time shadowing up between specialists.

Reddit User #1

“I’ll give you the standard vague answer: however much you need to have a meaningful experience. Only you can make that determination. I believe the average applicant has around 50 hours of shadowing experience, but more is always great.”

Reddit User #2

“Kinda depends but the “safe zone” seems to be around 50-100 shadowing. For shadowing you should definitely shadow a PCP and 1 or 2 other doctors to be safe but realistically you can shadow as much as you’d like if you can find doctors and you enjoy it.”

Reddit User #3

“100 hours is a decent goal, the more important part is being able to talk eloquently about the experience. Opinions of shadowing hours vary greatly. I’ve seen between 20 and 100 hours being mentioned as goals.

Reddit User #4

“Got into a good school with less than 20 hours from 3 different specialties. I always think it’s interesting when people talk about shadowing hours as a big part of an application when there is no question specifically asking “how many hours did you shadow?”. Basically, shadowing is great and an important part of the application, but you should focus more on getting diverse experiences and being able to talk about them to an interviewer.”

Reddit User #5

“Rather than focusing on the number of hours, focus on the quality of the experience. Why do you like to volunteer there? What do you actually do? How has it helped cement your desire to pursue a career in medicine? These are just a few questions you will be asked in secondaries. Having good experiences will make answering them easy. I would pick one or two things and stick with them. There is no real set number of hours. Just the amount of time you need to learn something about yourself and help others in your community. I hope this helps! Best of luck!”

Common threads:

Throughout the above answers, it is clear that aside from a specific medical school requiring a particular amount of shadowing, there is NO exact number of hours needed. However, the consensus seems to be that 100 hours is a good mark to strive for. Through Atlantis, shadowing a comparable amount is easily accomplished.  

Variety is crucial! Shadowing physicians in multiple professions are heavily preferred over shadowing just one individual. Thankfully, Atlantis can help in this area as well, as students observe multiple departments on a single program. 

Most importantly, focus not on the hours, but on the overall experience. Shadowing should be viewed as an opportunity to be exposed to different situations; it should also be enjoyable and fun!

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

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Zoey Petitt

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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.