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How Much Work Experience Do You Need For Medicine?

How Much Work Experience Do You Need For Medicine?

Updated on: December 3, 2023
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Written By Dr Ollie

Every article is fact-checked by a medical professional. However, inaccuracies may still persist.

Work experience shows a medical school that you’ve gone out and put in the effort to find out if you’re suited to a carer’s role and whether a career in medicine might be a good fit for you.

But, to have a fighting chance of getting an offer, is there a set number of hours of work experience that medical schools expect applicants to have?

Most medical schools do not set a minimum amount of work experience that applicants need to have. However, successful candidates will generally have completed at least two weeks of medical work experience prior to applying. There are no rules as to what form this work experience has to take.

Only a small handful of universities set hard and fast rules as to how much work experience you need.

The majority understand that not everyone will have the same opportunities to get this experience as others. Whether that be because of COVID, geographic location or illness.

In this article, I’m going to further explore how much is the ‘norm’ for medicine applicants, what each medical school’s individual requirements are and even if you can actually have too much work experience..!

How Much Work Experience Should You Have?

Work experience can serve to massively increase the strength of your medicine application.

It shows that you’re willing to take action rather than just talking about dedication in your personal statement.

Longer commitments are going to prove that your decision to apply to medical school wasn’t a last-minute decision.

If you can keep showing up to a care home, charity work or community project, over months rather than a few days, it shows that you’re in it for the long haul and are serious about a career in medicine.

When I was applying to medical school, I volunteered just two hours of my time a week at a local care home but over a period of about a year.

I combined this commitment with a couple of varying shadowing experiences to get a better understanding of what doctors specifically do.

It’s this combination of both longer-term volunteering with shorter-term, more patient-facing, experiences that helped my application achieve four out of four interviews.

In order to help give you an idea of what successful applicants have done in the past, I sent out a short survey to some of my applicant club members:

“I shadowed a junior doctor on the wards for one week, shadowed a GP partner for one week and have been a Girl Guide leader for the past two years.”

Catherine
A little boy being given a vaccine

“I volunteered at a local A&E getting cups of tea for patients and generally making sure everyone’s comfortable for five months. I also spent a week with a community nurse visiting patients in their homes.”

Daniel

“I worked as a GP receptionist for four months before applying to medical school. I wasn’t able to get a hospital placement but did get to shadow one of the GPs on some out-of-hours community response shifts he did.”

Harrison

Work Experience Requirements For Each Medical School

Each medical school can decide exactly how much work experience an applicant needs to have if they want to apply.

This information is generally freely available on a university’s website, although it isn’t always the easiest to find.

I’ve gone through and tried to summarise what each UK medical school requires from a candidate.

Just bear in mind that medical schools can (and do) change what they ask for so always double-check the website or with the admissions team before applying.

Medical SchoolWork Experience Requirements
AberdeenRelevant clinical or non-clinical experience as able
Anglia RuskinRelevant clinical or non-clinical experience as able
AstonNo specific requirements
BartsRelevant clinical or non-clinical experience as able
BirminghamRelevant clinical or non-clinical experience as able
Brighton And SussexNo specific requirements
BristolMinimum of two weeks’ work experience
BuckinghamNo specific requirements
BrunelNo specific requirements
CambridgeRelevant clinical or non-clinical experience as able
CardiffRelevant clinical or non-clinical experience as able
DundeeRelevant clinical or non-clinical experience as able
Edge HillNo specific requirements
EdinburghRelevant clinical or non-clinical experience as able
ExeterNo specific requirements
GlasgowRelevant clinical or non-clinical experience as able
Hull YorkRelevant clinical or non-clinical experience as able
Imperial College LondonRelevant clinical or non-clinical experience as able
KeeleNo specific requirements
Kent And MedwayNo specific requirements
King’s College LondonRelevant clinical or non-clinical experience as able
LancasterRelevant clinical or non-clinical experience as able
LeedsRelevant clinical or non-clinical experience as able
LeicesterRelevant clinical or non-clinical experience as able
LiverpoolRelevant clinical or non-clinical experience as able
LincolnRelevant clinical or non-clinical experience as able
ManchesterRelevant clinical or non-clinical experience as able
NewcastleNo specific requirements
NottinghamRelevant clinical or non-clinical experience as able
OxfordRelevant clinical or non-clinical experience as able
PlymouthNo specific requirements
Queen’s University BelfastRelevant clinical or non-clinical experience as able
SheffieldRelevant clinical or non-clinical experience as able
SouthamptonRelevant clinical or non-clinical experience as able
St AndrewsRelevant clinical or non-clinical experience as able
St George’sRelevant clinical or non-clinical experience as able
SunderlandNo specific requirements
SwanseaNo specific requirements
University of Central LancashireRelevant clinical or non-clinical experience as able
University College LondonRelevant clinical or non-clinical experience as able
University of East AngliaRelevant clinical or non-clinical experience as able
WarwickApplicants must have completed 70 hours of work experience across a minimum of two placements in the last four years

Because of the COVID pandemic, quite a few medical schools that did use to have specific requirements relaxed their rules for entry.

Presumably then, as we move further past the height of lockdown, universities will slowly start to reintroduce these demands.

Minimum Amount Of Work Experience You Need

As you can see from the table above, a lot of medical schools don’t set an explicit minimum for the amount of work experience candidates need to have.

However, that doesn’t mean you can ignore it as a requirement entirely.

The reason a lot of universities don’t set minimums is because they understand each applicant has their own individual circumstances.

What if, because of personal illness, you missed the two weeks of hospital shadowing you’d arranged? Or didn’t have time to volunteer your time at a charity shop because you’re a carer for a close family member with special needs?

Despite most medical schools not having black-and-white rules as to the number of hours applicants need to have completed, I’d recommend you do everything you can to get at least two weeks under your belt.

Ideally, this would be one week in a hospital and one week in a GP practice.

An ultrasound being performed on a patient’s knee

However, if you can’t get even this then don’t panic.

Even if you don’t have any work experience at all, just be sure to explain your circumstances in your personal statement and potentially at interview.

Medical schools know that not everyone has an uncle, aunt, brother or sister who’s a doctor so it can be far more challenging for some people to get placements than others.

Anything you can get that helps you understand what caring for a patient might be like or replicates some of the challenges doctors have to face working in healthcare will be valued by a university.

Can You Have Too Much Work Experience?

I’m sure you’ll have heard the phrase “too much of a good thing” and this can somewhat be the case when it comes to excessive work experience.

Although you won’t be penalised for having above and beyond the requirements for work experience, you will suffer the opportunity cost of what you could have otherwise spent that time doing.

Could you have used it to do a bit of extra study for the UCAT? Further refined your personal statement? Or put the finishing touches on your interview technique?

You absolutely won’t be marked down for having lots and lots of work experience but you will get ever-diminishing returns from each experience.

Medical schools aren’t generally impressed by repetition in a candidate’s work experience portfolio.

If you’ve already shadowed a junior doctor for two weeks in the summer, you won’t get a huge amount more from shadowing another doctor for two weeks in the autumn.

You’ll get a lot more value from shadowing a GP, a health visitor or volunteering in a care home.

Variety of experience will give you the most value and so is looked upon most favourably by the universities.

Final Thoughts

To summarise, not many medical schools care about the actual number of hours or days of work experience that you’ve accrued.

The focus at interview is always going to be what you’ve taken away from that work experience.

Not what you actually did or for how long.

However, being able to show evidence of having undertaken work experience is always going to be a pillar of successful medicine applications.

Where you can, aiming for at least two weeks should put you on a level footing with most other applicants.

About the author
After studying medicine at the University of Leicester, Dr Ollie now works as a junior doctor in London. His interests include medical education and expedition medicine, as well as having a strong belief in the importance of widening access to medicine.