How important is research for medical school? Research is a critical part of your medical learning, and its important for both how to prepare for med school applications and of course your entire medical career. Research experience of any type is a valuable asset on medical school applications, and clinical research experience even more so. If you’ve completed a stint in a clinical research position, these can count towards how many clinical hours you need for medical school. Some of the most competitive or research-focused medical colleges even require students to have prior research experience to be accepted. Not every med school asks for research experience, but every medical student will need some research experience under their belts by the time they graduate. In this blog, we’ll look at how important research is for medical school, what research experience can do for you and where to look to find medical research opportunities. 


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How important is research for medical school?

There are two sides to this question. The first is whether research experience is important for medical school applications. The second is whether gaining research experience is an important part of attending medical school. The answer to both of these is undoubtedly yes, research is very important for medical school.

Of course, there are some qualifications to this importance. Having research experience is not a hard requirement for the vast majority of medical school applications and students can still be accepted without pre-med research experience. For highly competitive medical schools, such as Stanford Medical School, or medical schools with a heavy focus on research, it may not only be a requirement but a huge asset and a way for you to ensure your medical school application stands out. For a majority of competitive, research-heavy medical colleges, up to 90% of matriculating students have prior research experience.

Check out our video for more advice on how to find premed research experience

It’s a good idea to check Medical School Admission Requirements (MSAR) to see if your choice of med school requires applicants to have any research experience, and if the admissions board has any preference for what type of research experience. A majority of schools will gladly accept students with research experience, but your priority should be on crafting an excellent med school app first and foremost. If you have a strong application and you have the time, you can consider looking for pre-med research opportunities to add to your application as a bonus.

But even if your choice of med school doesn’t require research experience, it is still extremely important to your journey as a med student and your future career as a doctor. If you are planning to apply to a very competitive medical school program, intend to pursue an MD/PhD program or are applying to a research-intensive medical college, research experience is an absolute must. And if none of these apply to you, eventually you will want to add research experience to your medical school resume, too.

First, let’s look at what research experience can do or your medical school applications.

Research experience for medical school applications

Research experience might be a necessary requirement for many med school applications, depending on the school and the program, but the type of research experience can vary significantly. For most med schools, they aren’t choosy about the type of research you have experience in, even if it’s not directly related to the medical field. Having any kind of research position in a scientific discipline will lend you invaluable experience and skills that will transfer to your time at med school.

But something that can help you stand out, and which medical schools value more heavily is clinical research experience. To gain clinical research as a premed might not always be possible for all students. Many try to find virtual research for premed students or look into virtual shadowing opportunities. But straight research experience and even shadowing experience is not considered actual clinical experience, and if you have any direct clinical experience on your med school application, it is considered an asset no matter where you apply.

For pre-med students planning to apply to medical school in Australia, research experience can be a great addition to your GEMSAS application as well as your medicine portfolio for Australia or New Zealand’s top med schools and graduate programs.

Research positions or experience is also valued on Canadian and UK medical school applications if you want to study at a UK med school or at medical school in Canada. Many Canadian medical colleges are very research-driven and having research experience can be a competitive advantage on your application. Medical school consultants in Canada can be useful resources for students wanting to apply to competitive med programs in Canada and need valuable research experience.

A medical school advisor can help you with your medical school application and help you to identify research or clinical research experiences you are eligible for and advise you on MSAR. A medical school admissions tutor will also be able to help you curate your med school application to impress research-intensive programs.

For students who struggle to find clinical research positions or research opportunities near them and require at least some experience to get into med school, there are options, too. Students can write an AMCAS statement of disadvantage to explain their circumstances and still have a fair shot of being accepted without adequate research experience. Conversely, if you publish a paper or participate in a research project after you've applied, you can mention this in a medical school letter of intent.

Research experience in medical school

Even if your choice of med school isn’t bothered by a lack of premed research experience or you don’t plan to pursue a career in medical research, this doesn’t mean you’re off the hook. Research is still an important aspect of medical school and being a practicing physician. Research experience provides you with pivotal skills you’ll employ as a doctor, but it can also broaden and deepen your medical knowledge and medical skills. Doctors rely on research to inform them and broaden their understanding of the medical field. And plenty of clinical physicians take the time to do their own research or publish research as a way to further their careers and open up new opportunities. Research experience also serves as a way to make your medical school resume stand out when you’re applying for jobs in residency and beyond. It might even be a requirement if you want to apply for research training positions or specialty medical research jobs.

For medical students in particular, they will be expected to undertake research projects and will be provided dedicated, protected research time to not only conduct their own individual or team research but to read the work of other researchers, too. Not all of your research experiences need to come directly through school, either. You can and are encouraged to pursue research opportunities outside med school as well. Any experiences you can add to your portfolio will be to your benefit. In short, research is a foundational part of the med school experience and in developing your skills as a medical professional.

So how can research experience help you in medical school? What advantages and benefits can it bring you? We’ll take a closer look at how important research is for medical school students and how it can be a long-term advantage in their careers.

How to find medical research opportunities

Students who do want to attach some research experience to their applications or resumes often wonder where to start looking. Whether you’re a premed, current med school student or graduate student, gaining some research experience is important for your career. There are a number of places to look for opportunities, but the best ways are to use your network of contacts and ask them for recommendations. There are many programs, internships and study programs which offer research experience of any kind, and your school professors, mentors and advisors will have more insight into where to find them.

If you’re still looking for experience, here are some quick and easy ways to start looking for research positions:

For students who have prior research experience, consider reaching out to your past research supervisors for their recommendations or for additional experience. Research position supervisors are also a great place to look if you’re wondering how to find verifiers and referees to ask for reference letters or letters of recommendation.

Conclusion

Research is a critical and eventual must-have skill and experience for medical school. Whether you add some research experience as a premed, med student or medical graduate depends on where you want to go to school and what your chosen career path as a medical professional will end up being. While you will almost certainly be given some research opportunities in medical school, it’s to your advantage to pursue some outside of your studies as well, to give yourself a competitive advantage in the job market, to continue your lifelong medical learning and to ensure you become the best doctor you can be for your future patients.

FAQs

1. How important is research for medical school?

Research can a big advantage on both medical school applications and on medical school resumes for graduate medical students. Research experience is also very important to gain during your time at medical school, as it is a foundational skill you will need to become a physician.

2. Can I get into med school without research?

Yes; research experience is not a definite requirement at most med schools and students without experience can still be accepted with a strong application. However, good research experience should not be considered a substitute for poor academic performance.

3. Do medical schools care about research?

A majority of medical schools don’t require research experience for med school applications, with some exceptions. However, as a matriculating med school student you will be expected to gain research experience and participate in research projects during your school years.

4. How do I find research opportunities as a pre-med?

Premed students can find valuable research positions through summer internship programs or by consulting with a college advisor. Professors and mentors are also a good option for finding research opportunities. Premeds can also look into study abroad programs that offer research experience.

5. Is research more important than clinical experience?

No; most medical schools consider direct clinical experience more important than lab or field research for admissions. However, if you plan to apply for medical research positions, to a research-intensive med school program or want to pursue an MD/PhD, then research experience will be considered more important to have.

6. What does research do for med students?

Research is part of the foundational skills med students will learn and will take with them into their future careers. Research experience can also provide a competitive advantage in the job market and prepare them for residency positions or work as a practicing physician.

7. What if I’m not interested in a research position after med school?

Even if this is the case, research is a large part of being a physician and you will be required to gain at least a little experience with medical research throughout your med school career.

8. Does the type of research matter for medical students?

Generally speaking, no. Medical schools aren’t picky about the type of research experience you have, or even if the subject of the research undertaken was non-medical. Any research experience is valid.

To your success,

Your friends at BeMo

BeMo Academic Consulting


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