Back to Blog
Two Atlantis students getting the opportunity to speak with a doctor while shadowing (Athens, Greece, 2019).


How Many Shadowing Hours For Medical School? A Summary of Official Answers

Alexia profile

About Alexia

Alexia Katsaros is a Purdue graduate (’21) and a pre-medical student enjoying a gap year on the Atlantis admissions team. As an undergraduate, she majored in psychology and minored in biology and sociology. In the summer of 2019, she shadowed doctors at KAT hospital when she journeyed to Athens, Greece through the Atlantis shadow abroad program.

The Challenge of Physician Shadowing

Whether your shadowing journey has just started, or you’ve been at it for a while, a common question crossing your mind might be: “How many hours do I actually need?” It’s normal to wonder about how much time you should contribute, especially when you have so many other priorities in your day. In any case, understanding medical schools’ expectations for pre-med shadowing hours is paramount to maximizing the benefits you get out of it

Determining How Many Hours From The Top Sources

Although shadowing hours seem like they should be predetermined and standardized by medical schools, a quick Google search shows that this is not the case. In fact, there are a wide array of opinions out there when it comes to shadowing hours. I’ve seen a range between 25 to 150 or even 200 hours over the years. In this post, I’ll be listing out some prominent online sources so I can break down their recommendations and give you my own advice.

  1. Bemo Academic Consulting recommends pre-med students to rack up anywhere from 100 to 120 hours of shadowing experience. This is on the higher end of the range, which can really serve your application well. However, Bemo describes a typical shadow day as a 10-hour shift, which might not be realistic for you. Depending on who and where you’re shadowing, you might only be able to get 4-5 hours in a day, and you might be able to shadow the specialist/physician you’re interested in only a couple days out of the week. This can ultimately double the timeframe you might expect to rack up those 100 hours of experience. Make sure to consider this, especially if you’re starting your shadowing late in the game.
  2. Global Pre-Meds recommends at least 40 hours of shadowing. A common theme when it comes to shadowing experience is quality over quantity. You could do 200 hours of passively shadowing a specialty you’re uninterested in and not have much to say during your applications. On the other hand, even if you contribute fewer hours to it, quality shadowing in fields you’re personally invested in learning about will do the most for you.
  3. Prospective Doctor seems to be in the same boat with the previous sources. Their article on pre-med shadowing comes to that same conclusion: quality hours have more weight than anything else. They even add that having a variety of shadowing positions could really make your application pop and give you that competitive edge. One of the main reasons I chose to shadow with Atlantis was because I would be able to achieve more than 90 hours of 360 shadowing through my program over 3 weeks. In such a short time frame, I cycled through many different doctors. Although shadow hours fulfilled abroad are not necessarily counted for pre-med requirements, they do offer you a powerful insight on the differences between foreign and domestic healthcare. These distinctions are crucial to understand as healthcare takes on a more globalized perspective. As a result, my experience with Atlantis gave me a lot to talk about on my AMCAS application
  4. If you find yourself perusing the r/premed Reddit page, you can find hundreds of admitted MD students who list their experiences and application details. You’d be surprised to find students with some major deviations to the flexible ~100-hour recommendation. Some admitted pre-meds only have 20-30 hours, while others might have racked up over 200. This really goes to show that, although shadowing is a vital part of the application, it does share the stage with multiple other important characters: volunteering, GPA, MCAT, and core competencies. There can be some give and take between them, but if one is missing or severely deficient, it can hurt your chances. Don’t let yourself be misled by the accepted pre-meds with a red flag like that on their application. Major deviations often accompany atypical exceptions, and you don’t have enough insider information about any one applicant to use their experiences to make judgements and adjustments on your own. That’s a very risky move, and as an applicant you want to use every shot you have to make your application stellar. You want to go beyond just filling in the paperwork, and you don’t want to copy any one approach. 

Key Takeaways

Shadowing is indeed a vital component of a pre-med’s application. The law of diminishing returns promises that the more energy we invest in something, the less we get out of it. Although that definitely does not apply to your medical training, it does raise the important point of quality shadowing hours. Before undergoing any shadowing experience, make sure you know what you want to get out of it so you can maximize the benefits.

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

John Daines headshot.

John Daines

  • Atlantis '17
  • Brigham Young University '19
  • Washington U. in St. Louis MD '23
Zoey Petitt headshot.

Zoey Petitt

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

Yong-hun Kim

  • Atlantis '17
  • Stanford '19
  • Mayo Clinic MD '24
Megan Branson headshot.

Megan Branson

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

Sarah Emerick

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

Snow Nwankwo

  • Atlantis '19
  • Catholic U. of America '21
  • Georgetown U. MD '26
Tiffany Hu headshot.

Tiffany Hu

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

Lauren Cox

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

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.

A student smiling and learning how to kayak.

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

MessengerWhatsAppCopy Link
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.