The GPA and the MCAT scores play a crucial role in your medical school application as they serve as quantifiable metrics for comparing applicants. However, medical schools seek more than just impressive scores on paper. They also want to know if you understand the importance of getting medical experience as early in your medical journey as possible. 

Navigating through the myriad of medical-related extracurricular activities can be overwhelming. However, don’t worry because we’re here to help guide you. Join us as we delve into the realm of clinical experience for medical school – understanding what qualifies as clinical experience, how many hours of clinical experience you need, and why it matters. Moreover, you’ll learn more about making a difference in healthcare, even in the early stages of your academic journey.  

What Is Clinical Experience for Med School?

Clinical experience refers to the hours dedicated to active engagement with patients or their care. So, why do you need clinical experience for medical school?

Clinical experience is crucial in displaying that you possess the necessary soft skills to succeed as a doctor, including leadership, communication, empathy, stress management, decision-making, and attention to detail. Moreover, pursuing clinical experiences of different types before medical school shows that you understand the work and responsibilities you’ll eventually have. Lastly, when you include extensive clinical experience in your medical school application, you get to prove to the admissions committee that you already have a track record of work within the medical field and that you have made an effort to see the practical application of the concepts you’ve been learning in undergraduate studies. 

What Counts as Clinical Experience for Medical School?


As you ask yourself what counts as clinical experience for medical school, keep in mind that it encompasses more than just shadowing a doctor. There are many other ways you can gain clinical experience and demonstrate you possess the skills needed to become a doctor. Some of them are:

Emergency Medical Technician

A great way to gain exposure to many elements of the healthcare system is by becoming an emergency medical technician (EMT). You’ll get to respond to a wide variety of 911 calls, offering you unparalleled hands-on exposure, which can help you build a strong foundation in your medical journey. Moreover, you’ll get acquainted with your community’s healthcare needs and develop skills to provide care in various environments. 

The minimum educational requirement for becoming an EMT is having a high school diploma or an equivalent GED. Next, you must attain CPR certification and complete an EMT program, after which you must pass the cognitive and psychomotor exams. Although becoming an EMT and working in a fast-paced environment is no small achievement, the invaluable experience gained from responding to health emergencies will greatly benefit your future endeavors.

Certified Nursing Assistant

By becoming a certified nursing assistant (CNA), you’ll get the chance to work and gain clinical experience simultaneously. Moreover, you’ll be able to take time to get comfortable with patients and support them through numerous activities, including eating, bathing, grooming, and mobility. Another benefit of being a CNA is the flexible working hours, allowing you to avoid having your working schedule conflict with classes or other activities. 

To become a CNA, you must complete a CNA training program offered by local community colleges, vocational schools, and the Red Cross. After completing the training, you must pass the CNA certification exam, which can vary from state to state but typically involves a written exam and a skills evaluation. 

Medical Volunteer Roles

Medical volunteer opportunities include various roles in emergency departments, assisted living centers, hospices, medical centers, externships, internships, and medical missions. An excellent option for unpaid clinical experience is volunteering in a medical center, where you can also fill many roles, including admitting new patients, greeting and guiding patients, attending to families in waiting rooms, or performing various administrative tasks. 

Hospice Volunteer

One of the core values of clinical experience, hospice volunteering in particular, is that it provides an environment for personal growth by offering emotional experiences and diverse clinical exposure. By becoming a hospice volunteer, you can be a source of comfort for terminally ill patients. Moreover, you have the opportunity to support their families as they go through some of their most challenging moments. 

This experience will not only help you balance the ability to care and provide care for your patients while maintaining objectivity but also aid in the development of empathy and compassion for all patients. Therefore, while it can be an emotionally challenging option for some, the insights you’ll gain make this experience worth looking into. 


Lastly, another excellent option to gain medical experience is to work as a phlebotomist. Phlebotomy is the process of drawing blood from a patient using a needle for diagnostic purposes or as a therapeutic measure for some medical conditions such as hemochromatosis, porphyria cutanea tarda, polycythemia vera, etc. 

Therefore, becoming a phlebotomist is a great way to interact with patients in a less stressful environment. In addition to valuable patient care exposure, you’ll also get the chance to expand your network while working in hospitals and clinics. 

The minimum education requirement for pursuing a career as a phlebotomist is having a high school diploma or a GED. To get started on this career path, you’ll need to successfully complete an accredited phlebotomy program, where you’ll receive coursework and hands-on training. Upon completing the program, obtaining a phlebotomy certification is advisable as it increases your chances of securing employment in the field.

Paid Clinical Experience vs. Volunteer Experience

When choosing which extracurriculars for medical school to focus on, you should understand the different types of experiences and their role in your application. You can get paid clinical experience by working as a CNA, an EMT, or a phlebotomist. However, you can also volunteer in different medical roles or volunteer in a hospice. 

Besides offering practical clinical experience, another benefit of paid positions is that they help you gain knowledge on how the healthcare system works while also earning a salary. On the other hand, by actively engaging in volunteering roles, you’ll get the chance to have meaningful interactions with patients and healthcare professionals and take on hands-on duties where you can develop your decision-making skills. 

Ultimately, both paid clinical experience and volunteer experience serve as excellent means to demonstrate your dedication and passion for medicine in your medical school application or during medical school interviews. 

How Many Hours of Clinical Experience  I Need for Med School?

Why are clinical hours crucial? Is there a defined amount of clinical experience that is required? How many hours of clinical experience do you need for medical school?

Clinical hours before medical school help you determine if medicine is the right career for you through interacting with patients, if you’re passionate about the field, and if you can commit to the long years it takes to become a doctor. 

In general, there are different requirements for how many hours of clinical experience you need for medical school, with many schools deeming 100-150 hours as meaningful experience. You can cram these hours into six weeks and check it off your to-do list. However, a better approach would be spreading your clinical experience hours to two or four hours per week in an eight to ten-month interval. This way, not only will you be able to reinforce the practical skills gained through experience, but you’ll also get to showcase your commitment to medicine to the admissions committee. 

However, if you’re aiming for a high-quality and sustained experience that gives you an inside look into the field’s specialties, we suggest you work towards having over 500 hours of clinical experience. 

The Bottom Line

Clinical experience isn’t only about completing a medical school admissions requirement. Firstly, it’s an excellent way to indicate your interest in the field of medicine. Likewise, clinical experience shows that you’ve considered all minute details about the profession and tested how a healthcare career suits you. As for your professional and personal growth, the experience enables you to interact with patients hands-on and helps you develop decision-making and multitasking skills, which are crucial elements in medicine. Additionally, you get to cultivate compassion and empathy.

When considering clinical experience while preparing for the medical school admissions process, there are several options to choose from. These include either paid positions in the healthcare industry or volunteer roles in hospitals or clinics. Clinical experience helps make your application more robust. However, the hours you dedicate to clinical experience also play a vital role in the admission process. While many schools don’t have a set number of hours required, you should aim for 100-150 hours for a standard application. If you want to showcase your commitment to becoming a stellar doctor, consider accumulating at least 500 hours of clinical experience. The med school admissions process can seem overwhelming and daunting, but it can serve as a stepping stone to experience the lifestyle of a doctor before committing to a medical degree. Therefore, get ahead of the admissions process and start your medical school journey today here at AUAMED!


Is 200 hours of clinical experience enough for med school?

Although schools have different admissions requirements and recommendations for the number of clinical hours you should have under your belt, 100-150 hours of clinical experience is considered the minimum amount. 200 hours of clinical experience can be great for applying to medical school. However, to showcase your passion and dedication to medicine, we suggest accumulating 500 hours of clinical work or more. 

What qualifies as clinical experience?

Clinical experience for medical school encompasses all medical-related activities where you can interact with patients and provide care for them. It can include becoming a certified nursing assistant, an emergency medical technician, a phlebotomist, taking on medical volunteer roles, and volunteering in a hospice.