Work experience will come up at several points of your medical school application process, from your personal statement to medical school interviews. Find out what the requirements are here.

What Do Medical Schools Expect From Work Experience?

Medical schools typically expect applicants to have relevant work experience that demonstrates their commitment to the field of medicine and provides insight into the healthcare profession.

Work experience is more about quality than quantity. Medical schools expect you to have learned from and reflected on your work experience – regardless of what you did. This means that volunteering can often be just as meaningful as a clinical placement, as long as you can effectively reflect on the experience and extract key learning points.

Don’t forget that medical schools expect applicants to reflect on their work experiences and articulate how these experiences have influenced their decision to pursue a career in medicine. You should be able to demonstrate personal growth, self-awareness, and an understanding of the challenges and rewards of working in healthcare.

Examples Of Accepted Medical Work Experience

There are a few ways in which you can demonstrate your interest and exposure to medicine.

  • Clinical Exposure:

Medical schools value hands-on clinical experience, as it allows applicants to gain insight into patient care and the healthcare system. This can include volunteering or working in hospitals, clinics, or other healthcare settings. It is important to have direct patient interaction and observe healthcare professionals in action.

  • Research Experience:

Medical schools appreciate applicants who have engaged in research activities. This can involve conducting scientific research, participating in research projects, or assisting researchers in a laboratory setting. Research experience demonstrates critical thinking skills, scientific inquiry, and an understanding of evidence-based medicine.

  • Community Service:

Medical schools value applicants who have demonstrated a commitment to serving others and making a positive impact in their communities. This can include volunteering at local organizations, participating in community outreach programs, or engaging in healthcare-related volunteer work. Community service showcases compassion, empathy, and a dedication to helping others.

  • Leadership Roles:

Holding leadership positions in extracurricular activities, clubs, or organizations demonstrates organizational skills, teamwork, and the ability to take initiative. Medical schools appreciate applicants who have shown leadership qualities, as these skills are essential for future physicians who often work in team-based healthcare settings.

  • Non-Clinical Experiences:

While clinical experience is crucial, medical schools also value non-clinical experiences that showcase a well-rounded applicant. This can include involvement in activities such as teaching, mentoring, advocacy, or working in public health initiatives. Non-clinical experiences highlight a broader understanding of healthcare and a commitment to improving health outcomes.


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Work Experience Requirements For Medicine

This table shows what medical schools are currently saying about work experience on their websites.

Many of them also recommend consulting The Medical Schools Council’s latest guidance on work experience.

UniversityWhat kind of medical work experience do they prefer?
AberdeenRelevant hospital or GP experience is very useful, and you need to show an understanding of what a career in Medicine entails. They say that if you’ve had difficulties obtaining work experience, describe these in your Personal Statement and discuss other ways that you have attempted to research a career in Medicine.
Anglia RuskinIt is desirable for applicants to have work experience in the healthcare sector. Clinical and non-clinical experiences are important – which could be in a nursing home, charity, voluntary organisation or pharmacy, as well as GP surgeries and hospitals. They also consider other forms of work experience where you have gained transferable skills such as communication and problem solving.
Aston As standard, applicants are not required to provide evidence of healthcare work experience in their Personal Statement or in answer to interview questions. However, they say it is important that Medicine applicants have a realistic view of what is involved. They recognise that not everyone will be able to secure healthcare work experience, and that it is possible to gain valuable, relevant work experience in a non-medical environment.
BartsBarts does not specify type or amount of work experience. They say that work experience can take many forms and can be a voluntary opportunity or a paid job. They acknowledge that shadowing a Doctor is not attainable for everyone and that volunteering in a care home or with a charity is just as valuable.
BirminghamAt interview, they are interested in experiences where you had some role in providing care or support to vulnerable individuals or witnessed others providing care or support to vulnerable individuals. They say that if you have been unable to observe a professional delivering care or support, or have been unable to do this yourself, the next best thing is a virtual experience such as Observe GP.
Brighton and SussexThey do not have requirements for the amount or type of work experience that an applicant should have. However, they do expect you to have a realistic understanding of Medicine and what it means to be a Doctor, plus some experience of engaging with a wide range of people. BSMS also offers a virtual work experience course for aspiring medics.
BristolThey encourage applicants to obtain a minimum of two weeks’ work experience. They understand it may be difficult to obtain clinical work experience, so applicants are encouraged to seek out opportunities to work with the public in a customer service role, or volunteer in a care/health environment or a youth group.
BuckinghamNo work experience requirements specified.
CambridgeTo develop understanding of what a career in Medicine involves and your suitability for it, you’re strongly advised (though not required) to undertake relevant work experience, either paid or voluntary, in a health or social care organisation.
CardiffCandidates should demonstrate insight into a career in Medicine and evidence of experience and reflection in a caring environment. They recognise that opportunities for certain types of work experience and
participation in similar activities will vary according to individual applicant’s background, including socioeconomic, cultural, and geographical circumstances.
DundeeThey will be interested in your work experience at interview, but they recognise that your ability to gain this may have been affected by the pandemic.
Edge Hill UniversityNo work experience requirements specified.
EdinburghApplicants should have an understanding of the realities of a career in Medicine. This could be gained via work experience and shadowing with health professionals or in health promotion, as well as talking to Doctors and medical students, attending university open days and medical conferences/lectures, and reading/watching/listening to medical content. They value quality of experience over quantity.
ExeterWork experience is not part of their standard entry requirements – and they say that whether you have work experience or not, you are welcome to apply.
GlasgowWork experience in a medical setting is not necessary, but it is expected that candidates will have at least spoken to a Doctor about a career in Medicine or have researched it through reading careers books or newspapers. An awareness of current issues facing the medical profession is expected, which can be obtained from newspapers, journals and the internet. An interest in caring for others is also expected, which can be demonstrated through voluntary/paid work in a community setting.
Hull YorkThey require applicants to demonstrate experience of providing people-focused care through relevant work experience. Applicants are advised to have a range of experiences, either voluntary or paid, in healthcare settings and other areas that require interaction with people. Clinical work experience is not an essential criteria for applying to Medicine.
ImperialThey recognise that it has been more difficult for many people to gain work experience in healthcare settings due to the pandemic. You may need to look at alternative resources such as online platforms to gain insight into clinical work, or gain experience in another setting where you have interacted with the general public and/or worked successfully within a team. They’re looking for future medics who have participated fully in school/college life, can reflect on experiences of society beyond their immediate environment and understand what it is like to work in a responsible, caring role.
KeeleA roles & responsibilities form is used to select applicants for interview. You can use the form to tell them about experiences that demonstrate your direct engagement with people in a supportive/assistive/caring role, your ability to handle responsibility and your understanding of how somebody has benefited from some help, support or care you have provided. These experiences are not expected to be medical or undertaken in formal caring settings. They say they do not give any credit for workplace shadowing.
Kent and MedwayNo work experience requirements specified.
King’sThey normally expect you to have undertaken some work experience in a caring environment and/or observation in a medical clinical setting. If this has not been possible, they look for evidence that you have worked in a setting where you interacted with the general public, e.g. in a pharmacy or restaurant.
LancasterIt is important that you have some relevant work experience to help you decide if Medicine is the right career path for you. This does not have to be shadowing a Doctor but can be any experience (unpaid work, paid work or volunteering) within a healthcare setting that gives you an insight into what it is like to be a Doctor today. You can also draw on non-healthcare work experience, if you can relate the skills you developed to a career in Medicine.
LeedsThey are aware that work experience opportunities have been affected by the pandemic and will take this into account. They add that clinical work experience is not generally a requirement for applying to Medical School in any year.
LeicesterMedical work experience is not essential, but you should be able to demonstrate that you have undertaken some kind of work where you are able to communicate with the public.
Lincoln As part of your application you will usually be required to provide evidence of your work experience. This can include volunteering or paid employment.
LiverpoolThey advise applicants to read The Medical Schools Council’s statement on the core values and attributes needed to study Medicine and the guidance on gaining relevant work experience to study Medicine.
ManchesterApplicants are required to complete a Non-Academic Information Form about non-academic activities, including experience in a hands-on caring role which may or may not be medically related. They want to see that you have a clear idea of what it is like to study Medicine and what the role of a Doctor entails. They state that shadowing doctors in a hospital/GP setting is not essential or considered to be a substitute for hands-on caring work experience.
NewcastleThey do not have any specific work experience requirements, but at interview they will be looking for examples of how applicants have shown a commitment to caring. They understand that finding suitable work experience in a primary/secondary care setting can be difficult, but say there are many ways you can show that you are a committed and caring individual, such as volunteering.
Norwich/UEABefore committing to studying Medicine, you should find out as much as you can about being a Doctor – so any experience that gives you an insight into your suitability is valuable.  This could include work experience in a healthcare organisation (e.g. a hospital, hospice or primary care setting), volunteering in a care-related setting, or paid employment as a healthcare assistant or similar. If you’re invited to interview, you will be required to fill in a work experience form and bring it with you.
Nottingham Applicants are expected to have work experience which could include volunteering in a care-related setting, volunteering with disadvantaged groups, or paid employment in a job that involves working with the general public.
OxfordThey are aware that hospital work experience can be very difficult to arrange, so they have no specific requirement for it. They say that any form of voluntary work is beneficial in the context of applying for Medicine. Applicants should show that they have a realistic understanding of what a medical career will involve, and that they have the potential to become effective and caring Doctors.
PlymouthNo work experience requirements specified. They do not consider Personal Statements or work experience when selecting for interview.
Queen’s BelfastThe Personal Statement should include evidence of what the candidate has done to find out about Medicine as a career. This can be demonstrated in ways including: opportunities for observational experience in a clinical setting, attending medical careers conferences, or undertaking voluntary work in a care setting.
SheffieldApplicants are normally expected to have undertaken work experience to show that they have a realistic insight into the medical profession and the complex nature of a Doctor’s role. They recognise that it isn’t always possible for students to obtain work experience in a medical environment and suggest looking into other areas, such as paid/voluntary experience in a residential care home or hospice, working in a youth centre or working with young children, and participating in community volunteering schemes. They say that work experience in a hands-on role is extremely valuable.
SouthamptonAny form of work experience is valuable for a career in Medicine as you will be working with people from all cultural and socio-economic backgrounds. For example, retail, restaurant and bar work can provide opportunities to talk about customer service, handling problems in fast-paced environments and demonstrating initiative. However, if you can secure experience within the medical professions it can give a greater insight into the career pathway ahead of you.
St AndrewsThey say that applicants should have work or shadowing experience in a caring or health environment. This experience can be gained in hospitals, GP surgeries, nursing homes, local hospices, or by working with people who have ill health or a disability.
St George’sThey chose to relax their work experience requirements due to the impact of the pandemic. However, they still require applicants to have an understanding of the realities of working as a healthcare professional and to show they have the necessary skills and attributes for a career in Medicine. Online resources can offer valuable insight into working in the healthcare sector.
SunderlandThey do not place requirements on the amount and type of work experience a prospective medical student should have. However, they expect candidates to have a realistic understanding of Medicine and what it means to be a Doctor, to have some experience of engaging with a wide range of people, and to understand the realities of a caring profession.
UCLThe ability to demonstrate and reflect on what you learned (about yourself and about Medicine) is the main factor they are looking for when assessing your work experience. There is no specific requirement for clinical work experience or a specific duration of time spent completing work experience. They understand that it has been difficult to gain relevant experience in healthcare during the pandemic and recommend that applicants read The Medical Schools Council’s work experience guide.
UCLanPractical experience in a caring role is extremely valuable to understanding what a career in Medicine entails. Applicants who have taken paid employment may also discuss examples from their interactions with people at work. Active involvement in helping underprivileged, unwell, disabled or distressed people is valuable in gaining experience for a future career in caring. Other valuable experiences can include contending with demanding situations or going above and beyond your basic duties to help someone in a work based situation.
WarwickAll applicants must have completed at least 70 hours of health or social care related work experience in the last three years. These should be a variety of different experiences; including at least two different health or social care organisations and at least two roles/professions.

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Discussing Work Experience At Interview

As part of your interview prep, you should refresh your understanding of what each medical school’s work experience requirements are (use the table above).  Then, follow these steps to effectively incorporate your knowledge into the interview.

  1. Select Relevant Experiences

Choose work experiences that are directly related to healthcare or medicine. Focus on experiences that allowed you to interact with patients, observe healthcare professionals, and gain insight into the challenges and rewards of the medical profession. This can include clinical volunteering, shadowing physicians, or working in healthcare settings.

   2. Reflect on the Impact

When discussing your work experiences, reflect on the impact they had on your understanding of medicine and your personal growth. Share specific examples of how these experiences influenced your decision to pursue a career in medicine, shaped your values and ethics, and deepened your commitment to patient care.

  3. Highlight Transferable Skills

Discuss the transferable skills you gained from your work experiences that are relevant to the medical profession. This can include communication skills, teamwork, problem-solving, empathy, and adaptability. Provide specific examples of how you applied these skills in your work and how they will contribute to your success as a future physician.

   4. Discuss Challenges and Lessons Learned

Be prepared to discuss any challenges or difficult situations you encountered during your work experiences. Talk about how you overcame these challenges, what you learned from them, and how they have prepared you to handle similar situations in the future. This demonstrates resilience, maturity, and the ability to learn from adversity.

  5. Connect Work Experience to Your Motivation

Articulate how your work experiences have solidified your motivation to pursue a career in medicine. Discuss the specific moments or interactions that inspired you and reinforced your passion for healthcare. This shows your genuine interest in the field and your understanding of the demands and rewards of being a physician.

  6. Show Professionalism and Ethical Awareness

Emphasize your understanding of professionalism, patient confidentiality, and ethical considerations in healthcare. Discuss how you maintained professionalism during your work experiences and how you navigated ethical dilemmas. This demonstrates your commitment to upholding the highest standards of patient care and ethical conduct.

  7. Ask Thoughtful Questions

Towards the end of the interview, you may have the opportunity to ask questions. Use this opportunity to ask insightful questions about the medical profession, the school’s curriculum, or any other relevant topics. This shows your genuine interest in the program and your desire to learn more.

You can also have a look at work experience interview questions for tips on how to answer popular questions.

If you want to experience medical work in a real hospital setting this summer, learn more about InvestIN’s medicine summer school programme.


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