Volunteer Hours for Medical School: How Many Hours Is Required?

I can tell you right now, this isn’t a numbers game. A lot of medical students wonder how many volunteer hours for medical school they need to succeed. 

While this is a great question, it’s not the hours that matter but, rather, how you spend those hours. 

The volunteer hours for medical school you put in are just the tip of the iceberg. 

These hours enrich your life with experiences you can’t repeat. These are moments that reveal the opportunity. The events in-between the hours of your day will also test your character. 

On that note, character is what you’re really building here. This allows you to develop into the kind of doctor you aim to be. 

What kind of medical professional do you want to be? How do you want to be treated as one? 

In this article, we’ll not only discuss how many volunteer hours for medical school you need but also take a deeper look into what volunteering is really all about. 

Why Does Volunteer Work Matter? 

Volunteer work is a community service that reflects how committed you are in your pursuit of becoming a doctor. 

It’s true that on your medical school application, your GPA and MCAT score will matter, but being book smart is not enough. 

Medical schools want doctors who care, empathetic, and compassionate towards their patients. Doctors who are willing to strive and persevere in the face of challenges. 

Saying you want to do volunteer work and become a physician isn’t enough. What medical schools want to see is for you to demonstrate through actions and activities. 

What counts as clinical experience is also what can truly make or break your admission into a medical school. 

Even with a low MCAT score, it’s your commitment to your aspirations that can turn the tables around.  

The volunteer hours for medical school you put in also allows you to build a community. This is a stage where you’ll learn how to communicate, work with a team, and lead.  

Being a leader is another essential quality that makes volunteer work significant to the application process. 

How many shadowing hours for medical school are you willing to set aside? Medical schools look for candidates who are willing to shadow physicians. Candidates who are willing to improve and learn by working with others. 

Before you start looking into how many volunteer hours for medical school you need, make sure to look into how you want to fill these hours first. 

How Many Volunteer Hours for Medical School Do I Need? 

The recommended number of hours is 10-15 hours. If you want to know how to get volunteer hours to this level, don’t treat the clinical hours for a med school like a race. 

Service work isn’t about the numbers. It doesn’t matter who crosses the finish line first. It doesn’t matter who has the most hours. 

What is considered clinical experience for medical school is not a formula to solve. If you’re trying to impress the admissions director, this can backfire greatly. 

Your extracurriculars for medical school is a way to put the oath into action. Yes, ethical measures are important, but what sets you apart from the rest is how you deliver your medical practice both in technical knowledge and emotional intelligence. 

A word of advice: Treat volunteering for medical school as a step that allows you to grow and explore your passion as a doctor. Live these hours for the process rather than the destination. 

You chose this path for a reason. Instead of the job defining who you are, define yourself. Define what the job means to you and why you choose to save lives.

How many shadowing hours for medical school do I need? 

The recommendations vary, but the general consensus is 100 hours of pure shadowing or 40 or 50 hours combined with more clinical experiences. 

Now, remember, what counts as clinical experience whether its volunteer work or shadowing is all a matter of quality over quantity. 

Focus on the lessons you gain from shadowing. Let these become opportunities you carry in your career as a medical professional. 

Questions to Ask Before Applying for Volunteer Hours For  Medical School 

What service work aligns with me the most? 

There are two kinds of service work you can go for: 

 1. Healthcare-related field

This will place you in the following locations: 

  • Hospitals/Clinics
  • Mental Institutes
  • Homes for the physically disabled
  • Nursing Homes

This field will teach you how to use your skills as a medical professional. 

In the face of the admissions committee, healthcare-related fields teach you what pursuing a medical career means.  

This is your chance to show how you apply the skills from theory and your assertiveness in treating patients and any relevant diagnostic information. 

2. Organizational Volunteering

This is indirectly related to healthcare and examples of this service include:

  • Nonprofit organizations
  • Tutoring/Teaching
  • Habitat for humanity

Exploring this type of volunteer work is all about providing service and helping those in need. It’s a good way to discover and remind yourself why you wanted to become a doctor in the first place. 

I recommend choosing both types for a well-rounded and balanced medical application. 

How much time am I willing to commit? 

How you spend your time entirely depends on you. You can commit fewer or more hours. 

Although the number of hours won’t directly impact your application, it still reflects your commitment. Medical schools also want to know why you dedicated a certain number of hours in your volunteering efforts. 

A good standard to live by is contributing 10-15 volunteer hours per month. Medical schools want to know whether you’re a dedicated applicant who’s true to the cause or simply logging in hours for credit. 

What do I want to learn?

Undertaking all the volunteer hours and shadowing should encourage you to learn three things: 

  • Your personal growth and ability to thrive in challenging situations
  • Learn new skills or build existing skills and improve
  • Learn about teamwork, personal responsibility, and leadership roles

Remember being a medical professional is not all about technical skills. You may be the smartest person in the room, but without compassion and empathy, saving lives becomes half-baked. 

Don’t just build yourself as a doctor. You should also become a well-rounded individual who sincerely cares about what you do and how you treat those around you.

Frequently Asked Questions

The earliest you can apply for medical school is at least a timeframe of 1 year. If you want to start by the fall of 2021, you should apply for medical school starting in June of 2020. 

You can learn more about the 3 phases of applying to medical school (1) through different sources.

The answer varies. Again, there’s no exact formula or number, but what matters is consistency. The consistency to devote yourself to volunteer work and a steady number of hours every day or every week. 

For example, you could volunteer 2-3 days per week for 7 months straight. Maintaining a schedule is more important than constantly counting your hours. 

You might learn more about how much is enough here (2).


At the end of the day, the total number of hours you put in shouldn’t be your first priority. 

Rather than treat volunteer work like any other academic credit, let it be the start of a long-term commitment you dedicate yourself to. 

Let the work teach you. Let it stir your passion, heart, and soul as a medical professional. 

Finally, let it show you the value and quality of human life. 


  1. https://www.kaptest.com/study/mcat/the-3-phases-of-applying-to-medical-school/
  2. https://medicals-choolhq.net/opm-121-how-much-clinical-experience-do-i-need-for-med-school-apps/