Return to MCAT® Blog Homepage

Do You Need Research Experience for Medical School?

Medical school applicants often ask the same question: Do you need research hours for medical school? Becoming a doctor means making a commitment to lifelong learning. Among the many experiences premed students can engage in, research stands out as a crucial component of your application. It ties into this idea of evolving into a lifelong learner.

Engaging in research builds your understanding of scientific inquiry and cultivates essential skills for success in medical school and as a physician. In this article, we’ll explore why research is important for premed students, how to get involved, and the invaluable benefits it offers.

Why Research Matters for Medical School

Research is the cornerstone of medical advancement. It pushes the boundaries of knowledge, fosters innovation, and drives improvements in patient care. For premed students, engaging in research provides a firsthand opportunity to contribute to the ever-evolving landscape of medicine. It offers a chance to explore scientific inquiries, tackle challenging questions, and make meaningful discoveries that can potentially impact patient outcomes. 

Moreover, research equips premed students with invaluable skills that are highly sought after in medical school and beyond. If anything, this reason alone is why you need research for medical school. It hones critical thinking abilities, fosters analytical reasoning, and nurtures a spirit of inquiry. 

How Many Research Hours Do You Need for Medical School?

There is no set number of research hours you need for your medical school application. However, the AAMC reported that matriculants in the 2022 cycle averaged 1,360.7 hours of research lab experience.

Sign up to get expert tips and exclusive invites to free MCAT classes and medical school admissions workshops!

Where To Find Research Opportunities for Premeds

Getting your start in research may seem daunting at first. However, it can be accessible to everyone. Here are some steps to guide premed students on your journey into the world of research:

1. Identify Your Interests

Reflect on your interests within the field of medicine. Are you passionate about neuroscience, public health, or genetics? Identifying your areas of interest will help you narrow down potential research opportunities. Peruse faculty websites or journal articles to get a sense of what excites you. 

Or, take this quiz to see what kind of doctor you should be first!

2. Reach Out to Faculty

Take the initiative to reach out to faculty members at your undergrad institution who are conducting research in your areas of interest. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and demonstrate your eagerness to learn. Usually, they are happy to share their work with people.

Many universities offer research programs specifically designed for premed students. Explore these programs and consider applying to gain hands-on research experience under the mentorship of experienced researchers.

3. Network

Attend research seminars, conferences, and networking events to connect with researchers and fellow students who share your interests. Building a strong network can open doors to exciting research opportunities and collaborations. These connections can serve you throughout your career. Plus, if your relationship is strong enough, they might write you a letter of recommendation for medical school.

4. Be Persistent

Securing a research position may require persistence and patience. Still, don’t be discouraged by initial setbacks or rejections. Keep reaching out, exploring different avenues, and demonstrating your commitment to research!

Benefits of Research Experience Medical School Applicants

Engaging in research as a premed student offers a TON of benefits that extend far beyond your med school application. Here’s how research experience can enhance your journey through medical school and prepare you for a successful career as a physician:

  • Enhanced Critical Thinking: Research challenges you to think critically, analyze data, and draw evidence-based conclusions. These skills are indispensable for success in medical school. Additionally, as a med student, you’ll be required to navigate complex medical cases and make informed clinical decisions.
  • Understanding of Scientific Methodology: Research familiarizes you with the scientific method and experimental design. This lays a solid foundation for understanding medical literature and conducting evidence-based practice in clinical settings.
  • Communication Skills: Engaging in research involves presenting findings, writing reports, and collaborating with fellow researchers. These experiences sharpen your communication skills, which are essential for effectively communicating with patients, colleagues, and interdisciplinary teams in healthcare settings.
  • Professional Development: Research fosters professionalism, resilience, and adaptability—qualities that are highly valued in the medical field. It teaches you to manage time effectively, overcome challenges, and work collaboratively towards common goals.

Final Thoughts

Research is not just a checkbox on your medical school application. It’s a transformative experience that enriches your understanding of medicine, sharpens your skills, and prepares you for the challenges ahead. By immersing yourself in research as a premed student, you’re not only investing in your academic success but also laying the groundwork for a fulfilling and impactful career in medicine. 

Still, if you can’t fit research into your packed premed schedule, don’t worry. You can still strengthen your application with a competitive MCAT score. Blueprint MCAT students increase their MCAT scores by 15 points, on average.

Whether you need the flexibility of a Self-Paced Course, the instruction of a Live Course, or 1:1 attention of a private MCAT tutor, we have the MCAT prep option that works for your learning style!

Ready to start on the path toward your MCAT score increase? Get access to tons of free MCAT resources today when you create a free Blueprint MCAT account!


MCAT is a registered trademark of the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC), which is not affiliated with Blueprint.