Do I Need Clinical Experience to Get into Medical School?

Understanding this important way to build your pre-medical profile is crucial.


To get into medical school, do I need clinical experience?

Clinical experience is a not realistic goal as a premed student. This can be impossible to achieve.


Because, in the United States clinical experience, where you’re getting to know how to talk to and touch patients, is not a realistic premedical goal for obvious reasons. This type of training is meant for medical students and residents.

But here’s the good news:

Clinical exposure should be your goal.


Because clinical exposure is something that is basically required for medical school.

I considered this to be a medical school prerequisite.

It’s important to realize you are not going to be looked upon seriously if you
haven’t had exposure to the healthcare field.

Here’s what I recommend.

First of all, I like people to get exposure domestically, here in the
United States. Sometimes people think it’s glamorous and appealing to do work abroad.

Is there any value to gaining experience abroad?

It’s terrific to have an understanding of how medicine is practiced in other countries.

What else?

You might get some valuable global health experience.


Where are you going to be practicing medicine? Probably for most of
your life, you’ll be here, domestically in the United States.

So remember:

Understanding how medicine is practiced here is really essential. It is really
expected by admissions committee.

How do I do this?

This can be accomplished in several ways:

Shadowing is the most common way that students learn about clinical medicine.

What else?

I like students to try to get exposure in different settings and in different specialties.

How can you do this?

Try to get exposure in a hospital and in an outpatient setting. For example, try to shadow an anesthesiologist in the operating room. Then shadow a pediatrician in his/her office.

This is how you gain diverse clinical exposure.

You’ll then understand what it means to be a doctor.


Exposure in different areas and settings is important.

Practicing in an academic hospital can be very different than practicing medicine in a rural area, or even in a suburban outpatient setting.

Here’s another good example:

You can gain clinical exposure by being an EMT or by working on clinical research project.

Medical school admissions committees love this:

With clinical research you’re not only learning about research, but you’re also gaining clinical exposure.

Adcom members know:

You’ll be interviewing patients and shadowing physicians.


Here’s a great idea for premedical students taking a gap year.

Sometimes if students are taking a gap year you can think about becoming a medical assistant.

So you ask, why would you take a gap year?

Many students take gap years because it is so so difficult to fit in all your prerequisites, as well as all of your activities, within four years.

Here’s another great idea!

You can become a medical scribe.

To become a scribe you’re essentially shadowing a physician. You’ll be taking medical histories.

For example:

You may work in an emergency department. Many E.D.’s use scribes. You will be seeing tons and tons of different specialties practicing medicine.

Again, this is a great way to gain clinical exposure.

The bottom line:

There’s no question that clinical exposure is required for admission to medical school.