how many volunteer hours for medical school

Volunteer Hours for Medical School: How Many is Enough?

Written by: Kristine Thorndyke

People often ask how many volunteer hours for medical school admission is best, but they should be asking what those volunteer hours mean for their medical school application.

When it comes to volunteer hours for med school, you should be looking for opportunities that enrich your life before you simply log spent hours. In this article, you will learn why volunteering is important for your medical school application as well as how many hours you should volunteer for medical school.

How Many Hours of Volunteering Do I Need for Medical School?

There’s no exact formula for volunteer work on medical applications, especially if the activity is something that matters deeply to you. That said, for the numbers people out there, the number of hours of volunteering for medical school is recommended to be consistent 10-15 hours per month for several years. With this said, these numbers aren’t set in stone. Some students who get accepted have less volunteer experience than this, while others have more.

When you’re doing service work, the quality of the work far outweighs the quantity. You should be taking the time to reflect on the lessons learned and the affirmations you’ve had throughout your journey. Don’t be focused on the rote method of logging hours. You should be taking the opportunity to discover where your passions lie.

Service work isn’t a race. You shouldn’t focus solely on hours logged as you hope to impress an admission committee member. Instead, think of your volunteer work as a way of growing, exploring, and discovering who you are as an individual. It’s a piece of the ever-evolving journey of self-discovery. You’ll find out what you’re capable of while you pursue your passions.

You’ll also be making a true difference in your community and changing lives. The service work you do should be based on personal choice. It should reflect your ethos and include a mandate that you believe in. You should look forward to it more than any other part of your day. If your chosen activity for exploration feels like something you’re simply “tolerating” rather than enjoying, look for volunteer work that’s a better fit.

Related: Doctor Salary Guide [Updated for 30 Specialties]

What’s the Average Volunteer Hours for Applicants?

Most medical schools will want you to cite a minimum of 36 to 40 hours of volunteer work within your community. However, you don’t want to be at the bare minimum when you’re applying for medical school. The application process is extremely competitive, and if you only meet the bare minimum requirements, you might be overlooked.

The average for students applying to average medical schools is 100 hours. This should be your minimum aim if you want to make your application competitive. To stand out from the crowd, you might want to log significantly more than 100 hours, especially if you’re applying to top-rated, highly competitive medical schools.

Why Volunteering is Important for your Med School Application

Volunteer experiences have a huge impact on your medical school application. You have a lot to worry about when you’re aiming for medical school, from maintaining a great GPA to juggling extracurricular activities as well as prepping for the MCAT.

The medical school application process can make you feel nervous and strapped for time, but volunteer work is an area where you’ll learn the most valuable lessons. Volunteering helps you to find out where your passions lie and become a more well-rounded, caring, and empathetic person.

Medical schools are looking for people who care. When you submit your medical school application’s volunteering section, you’ll illustrate that you have more than book smarts. You’re a human being whose levels of altruism, compassion, and selflessness are insurmountable.

In addition, volunteering lets you work with people within your community. You’ll learn how to communicate, work on a team, and take control as a leader. Medicine is a field filled with competitive and high-achieving people, so community involvement helps to set yourself apart.

When you volunteer, you’ll garner a host of benefits. You’ll learn more about yourself and what you care about. You’ll build substantial, long-lasting relationships with other people. You’ll reaffirm the reasons why you chose being a doctor, have a sense of purpose, gain new experiences, and give back to your community. Your perspective will broaden, and you’ll receive the skill building you need to become a truly wonderful physician.

Having volunteer hours can also help pad a low MCAT score. See more on what’s the lowest MCAT score accepted into medical school for 2024.

What to Consider As You Look for Volunteer Positions for Medical School

1. Type of Volunteer Work

volunteering for medical school

There are two main types of volunteer experience for medical school that you should be considering:

The first is experiences that are directly linked with your medical school application. These might involve volunteer work with nursing homes, homes for the mentally and physically disabled, hospitals, and clinics. Any setting that requires you to use the skills you’d acquire as a medical professional is a good setting to look at.

You should also consider experiences that are indirectly linked to the healthcare field. This might include volunteering for tutoring work, teaching, soup kitchens, Habitat for Humanity, and other important nonprofit organizations. The biggest factor regarding their relevance is the way you frame the activity when you fill out your application.

If your service work is completed in health-care related fields, you’ll show the admissions committee that you have explored and reached an understanding of what it’s like to pursue a medicinal career. Exploring more indirectly-related services shows that you care about helping and serving other people. The most well-rounded applicants will have volunteer work logged in both of these categories. 

2. Time Commitment

time commitment volunteering medical school

It’s true that the quality of your work trumps the quantity — at least to a point. But you should also pay attention to the numbers as you finish your requirements for medical school admission. Your admissions committee will be looking for a well-rounded individual. To show that you meet these requirements, you should illustrate that you have a long-standing dedication to your volunteer activities. On average, medical schools suggest that you have a minimum of 10 to 15 volunteer hours per month.

Your admissions committee will also consider your service work to be a long-term commitment. This means that prospective applicants should have given at least 6 months of their time to any given organization. It’s even more helpful to have committed several years. Long-term commitments illustrate that you’re a dedicated applicant, which is an incredibly important factor in medical students.

3. Skill-building

skill buidling

Your best volunteering options are ones that allow you to build on your existing skill sets. Try to look for opportunities that meet the following qualifications:

  • You’ll be able to learn new skills or to build on your existing skills
  • You’ll receive leadership opportunities and have the ability to take on increasingly responsible roles
  • You’ll be challenged and undergo personal growth

Not only will this make you a well-rounded individual for your medical application, but it will also change your life. Reading accounts written by doctors can also give you an edge in understanding the type of grit required to be a successful physician.

Volunteering for Medical School FAQ

Can I get into medical school with no extracurriculars?

Most competitive medical schools look for extracurriculars during the application process as an indication of a well-rounded student. We suggest that you find an activity that you may partially enjoy, such as volunteering at a homeless shelter, joining a club, playing an intramural sport, etc.

Can you get into medical school with no volunteering?

Although volunteering is not required for admittance into medical school, it is highly encouraged to have both clinical and non-clinical volunteering to remain competitive in the application process.

What kinds of hobbies do medical schools like to see?

While hobbies won’t make or break your application, med schools like to see hobbies that show that you can take care of yourself and have something interesting to offer. These can be sports, playing instruments, reading, etc.


How many volunteer hours for medical school? In the end, the total number of hours shouldn’t be your focus. Instead, you should be focused on making a long-term commitment to a volunteering opportunity that you’re passionate about. Your first focus should be making sure your volunteering enriches your life. If this is the case, you’ll log enough hours for your medical school application without any problem.