Work Experience for Medical and Dental Schools

Last updated: 27/08/2021

What you will find in this article

Medical and Dental Work Experience Finder

How much work experience should I do for medicine/dentistry?

How to get medical or dental work experience near you

Volunteering for the NHS

Work experience with GPs (primary care)

Medical volunteering abroad

Online (virtual) medical work experience

Medical work experience for different age groups

Where can I find dental work experience?

Other types of medical work experience

Work experience requirements for medical schools

Work experience requirements for dental schools

Medical and dental work experience FAQs

Introduction 

Getting into medical school is seriously competitive.

Work experience is one of the best ways to stand out from the crowd and gain a meaningful insight into your future career. 

To get medical work experience, you need to be persistent, but the most important thing is to reflect on what you learn. The universities want to see that you know what a doctor actually does and whether you are a good fit.

For advice on medical entry exams and how to get a place at university, read 'How to get into medical school'.

Medical and dental Work Experience Finder 

If you are struggling to find healthcare work experience, try our work experience map

Type in where you would like to do work experience in the search box and any available places will appear on the map. 

Click on your chosen place to find: 

  • Contact details
  • Length of placement
  • Minimal age restrictions
  • Any necessary links

How much work experience should I do for medicine/dentistry?

There is usually no official minimum requirement for the number of hours of work experience you need, but it makes sense to aim for about two weeks. If you can do more, that’s great, but usually two weeks is fine, and indeed even less than two weeks is rarely a big issue. 

Aiming for a high target in terms of time can even be counterproductive. Your focus should be on quality rather than quantity

If your interest is primarily dentistry, read our dentistry application overview.

Read Samar’s story about getting into dentistry at Manchester, which she achieved partially thanks to her high-quality, multinational work experience. 

How to get medical or dental work experience near you

8 ways to get medical or dental work experience: infographic.

Volunteering opportunities

Photograph of the emergency ward at a hospital - a potential place for medical volunteers.

Hospital work experience

Experience in a busy hospital can be hard to secure. Although universities are aware of this and it is fortunately not compulsory, it is still very useful and worth pursuing.

You could volunteer to provide basic patient assistance, talk to patients on the wards, assist disabled patients or shadow doctors. 

  • Contact the voluntary services of your local hospital (via their website) to find out what options are available to you.
  • Be aware that voluntary jobs often require a long-term commitment, so plan in advance and give yourself time to fulfil the full placement. Hospitals may take up to 6 months to process your application and will require a Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) check.
  • Although the length of your work experience is not critical, recent experience gives you more to talk about in your personal statement and at interview.

You must be aged 16 or older to work in a hospital due to legal restrictions. 

Consider organising voluntary work in a hospital during or after your final GCSE year.

Laura, University of Manchester
"My most memorable work experience was on the paediatric wards. Attending clinics with various doctors taught me about how different people can approach problems in a variety of ways. Observing doctors communicating effectively and examining children taught me a great deal about the skill set needed to be a pragmatic clinician. It also showed me how to alleviate patients’ anxiety."

Volunteering for the NHS

Find out about opportunities with the NHS.

There are a lot of opportunities to volunteer with the NHS. You can volunteer at your local hospital in a range of roles:

  • Fundraising
  • Administrative support
  • Patient support groups 

The opportunities available can vary from hospital to hospital, so be sure to contact your local hospital to find out what roles are available. You can also volunteer at your local GP surgery, but be sure to contact the surgery to know what options are available.

If you’re over 18, consider being an NHS volunteer responder. There are a range of responder roles, and you’ll be able to meet patients from all walks of life.

Work experience with GPs (primary care)

Shadowing a doctor in primary care is, in many ways, more essential than hospital care experience because the majority of healthcare is currently community-based.

In order to get medical work experience with your GP, approach your local surgery, explain who you are and offer a CV or application letter to indicate your interest. 

Smaller organisations are often far more able than hospitals to organise placements for eager students, but planning ahead will avoid the problem of oversubscription.

Keep in mind:

  • Each patient will need to verbally consent for you to sit in as a work experience student. While most patients are happy to allow students to attend their appointments, do be prepared for the occasional refusal. 
  • Some GP practices refuse students who are patients at the practice for fear of recognising their neighbours, so you may have to venture further from home to find a placement.
  • An advantage of primary care work experience is that the placement is in the community. This will expose you to a wide variety of patients with varied clinical presentations, backgrounds and interpretations of their own ailments.

Primary care is the first point of contact for any member of the public with the health services and is absolutely critical to the successful functioning of the NHS. Have a look at NHS Choices to find GP practices near you.

Medical volunteering abroad 

Volunteering abroad, while not a direct substitute for local work experience, can give you a great insight into different attitudes to medicine. 

Websites to find healthcare work experience abroad:

Go Overseas

Projects Abroad 

Online (virtual) medical work experience 

Although work experience typically happens in person, the pandemic has created virtual work experience opportunities. 

Free virtual work experience opportunities:

Adopts the format of a course, with various modules that cover different hospital departments. To receive certification, you have to submit a short reflective piece of work.

With this, you can tour a GP practice and watch four consultations. Get a taste of the skills required by a GP.

This site offers free virtual work experience with different hospitals. Opportunities aren't always available, but once you’ve signed up, keep up to date with your emails. You have to apply to the opportunities that suit you and different programmes will have varying eligibility criteria.

With this site, you can do short courses to increase your knowledge of the NHS and further your scientific interests.

You can register for virtual work experience on this site and apply to different opportunities that come up.

Find out more about medical and dental applications in the age of COVID-19.

Medical work experience for different age groups

Work experience for 16 and 17-year-olds

Getting medical work experience in sixth form is a great way to boost your application.

  • Hospitals and dental practices will generally take over-sixteens for work experience, but you may not be allowed to perform certain tasks. 
  • There are specific opportunities for sixth-form medical work experience on Springpod
  • iWill has a lot of information about volunteering for young people.

Persistence is key. Keep calling up different practices until you find one that says ‘yes’.

Work experience for undergraduates and recent graduates

Already graduated?

A graduate’s skillset can make them more desirable to placement and work experience providers than a secondary-school student. 

Graduate-Entry Medicine and Graduate-Entry Dentistry are highly competitive, so having extensive work experience in the care sector can make you stand out. 

If you choose a first degree in a related field, like nursing or pharmacy, you’ll get hands-on work experience as a result of your university placements. 

Dental work experience

Where can I find dental work experience?

Consider the diverse range of alternatives below, and before you even start with work experience, start to build vital skills such as manual dexterity

Immersing yourself in the world of dentistry online also means you can hit the ground running on your first day.

General Dental Practice

After graduating dental school, you’re most likely going to be working in a general dental practice, so it’s important to know how they work. 

Many universities prefer candidates to have experience in general dental practice. 

These include (but are not limited to): the University of Sheffield, the University of Newcastle and the University of Manchester.

During your time at a general dental practice, you’ll probably do administrative tasks like booking appointments and filing patient records. You may also have the opportunity to shadow dental nurses and dentists during surgery.

Private Dental Practices

You can try getting work experience at private dental practices. You can use this experience to draw comparisons between the delivery of private care and the delivery of NHS care. 

Orthodontics 

Orthodontics is a speciality within dentistry that focuses on the correction of bites and irregularities of the teeth. A placement in orthodontics will mostly involve you observing or doing administrative work. 

This allows you to demonstrate your understanding of different specialities within dentistry and how they interact with each other (such as referrals from general practice to orthodontics).

Hospital Dentistry / Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery

A placement in a hospital is always valuable to have. As well as seeing a speciality within dentistry, you’ll get experience in the hospital environment.

You’ll be able to see how the dental team interacts with a wider team within the hospital. This is useful to reflect on in your personal statement and interviews.

Dental Laboratory 

You don’t have to shadow a dentist to get experience. 

It’s important to understand other members of the dental team. At a dental laboratory, you’ll most likely shadow a dental technician. You may even have the opportunity to make impressions or dentures, or to try some of the lab equipment. 

Community Dental Practice

This specialist practice is for patients who can’t attend a general dental practice because of travel difficulties, a phobia of dentists or some other obstacle.

Having a few days of work experience in a community dental practice will help you appreciate how social factors can affect a patient's likelihood to get treatment.

Other types of medical work experience 

Work experience in hospices

Hospices provide insight into palliative and end-of-life care, which is becoming more relevant in our ageing population. 

Working in a hospice provides an opportunity for deeper reflection on and analysis of good patient care. It enables you to think holistically and reflect on the limitations of modern medicine. 

If you develop a good relationship with the care providers, they can often help you organise a wide range of experiences and volunteering opportunities, such as attending day centres, going to family homes or attending in-patient units. 

Have a look at the Hospice UK website for general information and to research your local hospice.

Work experience in care homes

It may not match the fast-paced excitement of a surgical operation or an emergency department, but volunteering in a nursing home has many advantages. 

  • A placement is easy to secure after a DBS check. 
  • You can gain the perspective of people who have experienced a lifetime of health and illness. 
  • You can have a positive effect on the day of those you meet.
  • You will have the chance to perform some hands-on care and attend activities as a volunteer.
  • You will ultimately understand the roles of the care assistants, nurses and doctors who look after older people.

If you have a longer block of time available, consider working as a care assistant for a summer or gap-year job. 

If you really listen and have plenty of patience, you will learn a huge amount.

Work experience with additional support needs patients

There are many centres in the community, both NHS-funded and charity-funded, that support adults and children with additional learning or communication needs. If you secure work experience at one of these centres, you can:

  • Make a difference to people’s lives and learn more about the challenges faced by disabled members of society. 
  • Work out how best to communicate and collaborate with different people. 
  • Reflect on how you can overcome difficulties and develop rapport and trust with those who are more limited in their understanding and/or expression.

Work experience with St John Ambulance

The opportunities here are vast. If you crave hands-on practical skills training and real-life situations, this is a great option. With St John Ambulance, you can:

  • Learn first aid skills and then put them into practice on members of the public. 
  • Develop the skills and understanding you need to deliver first-aid care effectively.

St John Ambulance website

Working with children 

Don’t discount the value of working with local groups like kids’ clubs, children’s sports teams or at support centres for disabled or disadvantaged people. This is not just fun but also highly relevant. Children make up an important workload of primary care and, of course, paediatric care. 

You could approach your old primary school, your local sports centre or a special educational needs centre.

Counselling and support work

There are opportunities for training and gaining experience with support groups such as Samaritans or the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC). Experience with these groups is generally more unique than the experience you gain through other types of voluntary placements and thus provides something fresh and interesting to discuss on your application. 

This kind of work requires long-term commitment and considerable training, however, so be sure to plan in advance and give yourself enough time.

If you are interested, check out the Samaritans and NSPCC websites.

Medical research work experience

There are many advantages to this sort of experience. You will:

  • Appreciate the roles of scientists who are progressing the medical field, from development of new gene therapies to latest anti-cancer drugs.
  • See the thought process required when undertaking research and perhaps even be able to help carry out some practicals.
  • Learn what medical problems are yet to be solved and research how these conditions affect people.

Use nationwide placement finders like RateMyPlacement or ask your sixth-form or college if they know any research laboratories. 

Medical laboratory work experience

At medical laboratories you’ll be able to see how blood tests and other similar procedures are done and how the work of the laboratory staff influences the decisions made by a doctor. This will allow you to appreciate the work of laboratory technicians and scientists, without whom doctors wouldn’t be able to do their job. 

Try contacting your local hospital to arrange a couple of days working in the pathology lab or you can ask your sixth form or college if they have any contacts. 

Medical and Dental work experience FAQs

Work experience requirements for medical schools

Medical School

Work Experience Requirements

Aberdeen – standard entry

Clinical and non-clinical experience. Work experience form to be completed and submitted at interview.

Aberdeen – gateway year

Expected to have understanding of medicine and applicant’s suitability for the profession. Work experience module to be completed as part of the course.

Anglia Ruskin – standard entry

Healthcare work experience is desirable. Can take the form of various roles, paid or unpaid.

Aston – standard entry

Not required to have health care work experience but some experience in the workplace needed.

Birmingham – standard entry

Face-to-face work experience not required, but will need to demonstrate understanding of the medical profession at interview.

Birmingham – graduate entry

Face-to-face work experience not required, but will need to demonstrate understanding of the medical profession at interview.

Brighton and Sussex – standard entry

Not required.

Bristol – standard entry

Work experience not essential but encouraged to have at least 2 weeks work experience. You may need to discuss your experience at the interview.

Bristol – gateway year

You should have some practical work experience in Medicine. A minimum of 5 days is recommended.

Buckingham – standard entry

Not considered.

Bradford – gateway year

None required.

Cambridge – standard entry

Medical/healthcare work experience in the medical industry and shadowing of medical professionals is required. Regular and varied hands-on patient care experience within the NHS is preferred.

Cambridge – gateway year

Medical/healthcare work experience in the medical industry and shadowing of medical professionals is required. Regular and varied hands-on patient care experience within the NHS is preferred.

Cardiff – standard entry

Need to show an appreciation of the length of the programme and the career. The university acknowledges that work experience opportunities will vary for individuals.

Cardiff – gateway year

Need to show an appreciation of the length of the programme and the career. The university acknowledges that work experience opportunities will vary for individuals.

Dundee – standard entry

Usually up to 2 weeks of work experience which is then drawn upon at interview.

Dundee – gateway year

This will be discussed in your interview.

Edge Hill – standard entry

Work experience isn’t required, however you’ll need to draw on personal experience at interview.

Edge Hill – gateway year

Work experience isn’t required, however you’ll need to draw on personal experience at interview.

East Anglia – standard entry

Need to provide evidence for 2 different experiences that allowed you to make an informed decision to study medicine.

East Anglia – gateway year

Need to provide evidence for 2 different experiences that allowed you to make an informed decision to study medicine.

Edinburgh – standard entry

You need to reflect on your work experience and demonstrate the lessons learnt from it.

Exeter – standard entry

Not required.

Glasgow – standard entry

Work experience will be discussed at interview.

Glasgow – gateway year

Not required however you will need a sound understanding of roles and responsibilities of a doctor.

Hull York – standard entry

You should reflect on your work experience in your personal statement and in your interview.

Hull York – gateway year

No specific requirements but you need to have an understanding of being a medical student and doctor.

Imperial – standard entry

Physical work experience is preferred however as a result of Covid-19 online work experience will also be considered.

Keele – standard entry

Selected for interview based on roles and responsibilities. Need to include experiences in a caring/ supportive role(s) with direct engagement with people.

Keele – gateway year

Selected for interview based on roles and responsibilities. Need to include experiences in a caring/ supportive role(s) with direct engagement with people.

Kent and Medway – standard entry

Work experience should be considered in the personal statement.

King’s – standard entry

Ideally in a caring or clinical setting. If that’s not feasible then in an environment where you’ll engage with the general public.

King’s – gateway year

Ideally in a caring or clinical setting. If that’s not feasible then in an environment where you’ll engage with the general public.

King’s – graduate entry

Expects work experience in a health/care environment or shadowing in a clinical setting. You need to have a realistic understanding of a medical career.

Lancaster – standard entry

The work experiences mentioned in your personal statement will be verified at interview. You’ll be required to reflect on your work experience at interview.

Lancaster – gateway year

The work experiences mentioned in your personal statement will be verified at interview. You’ll be required to reflect on your work experience at interview.

Leeds – standard entry

Experience in a healthcare setting is required. This covers a wide range of settings.

Leeds – gateway year

Experience in a healthcare setting is required. This covers a wide range of settings.

Leicester – standard entry

Work experience in a healthcare setting is not required but applicants must reflect on whatever work experience they have, especially in borderline cases.

Leicester – gateway year

Work experience in a healthcare setting is not required but applicants must reflect on whatever work experience they have, especially in borderline cases.

Lincoln – standard entry

Work experience not expected due to Covid-19 pandemic.

Lincoln – gateway year

Work experience not expected due to Covid-19 pandemic.

Liverpool – standard entry

You should read the statement of core values and work experience guideline as a bare minimum.

Liverpool – gateway year

No specific work experience requirements however you should be able to demonstrate their non-academic criteria which is used at interview.

Manchester – standard entry

You will need to discuss your work experience in the non-academic information form. Your work experience can include online work exercise for 2022 entry as a result of Covid-19.

Manchester - preliminary year

You will need to discuss your work experience in the non-academic information form. Your work experience can include online work exercise for 2022 entry as a result of Covid-19.

Newcastle – standard entry

Your work experience needs to show that you are committed towards caring, this can include volunteering and also commitment to working in a team.

Newcastle – graduate entry

Your work experience needs to show that you are committed towards caring, this can include volunteering and also commitment to working in a team.

Nottingham – standard entry

Work experience not required as a result of Covid-19.

Nottingham – gateway year

Work experience not required as a result of Covid-19.

Nottingham – graduate entry

Usually considered, however the limitations caused by the pandemic are appreciated.

Oxford – standard entry

Admissions tutors look at this along with other parts of your application. Use your work experience to show you suitability for medicine.

Oxford – graduate entry

Should take work experience in a health or social care setting to demonstrate commitment and suitability to medicine.

Plymouth – standard entry

No requirements.

Plymouth – gateway year

No requirements.

Barts – standard entry

You’ll be asked about work experience at the interview. You should reflect on your experience in order to answer competency based questions.

Queen’s Belfast – standard entry

No specific requirements. Health care related work experience or volunteering is advisable.

Sheffield – standard entry

Clinical work experience is preferable but not a prerequisite. The focus is on what you have learned.

Sheffield – graduate entry

Work experience can be done in various medical or care settings. The focus is on what you have learnt.

Southampton – standard entry

Formal work experience is not required. You should show what you’ve learnt from when you’ve engaged with people in a health or social care setting.

Southampton – gateway year

Formal work experience is not required. You should show what you’ve learnt from when you’ve engaged with people in a health or social care setting.

Southampton – graduate entry

Formal work experience is not required. You should show what you’ve learnt from when you’ve engaged with people in a health or social care setting.

St Andrews – standard entry

You need work/shadowing experience in a health or care setting. Impacts of Covid 19 will be taken into consideration.

St Andrews – gateway year

No specific experience required.

St Andrews – graduate entry

Work experience should be taken in a health setting. It will be discussed at interview. Impacts of Covid 19 will be taken into consideration.

St Georges – standard entry

You need to have an understanding of a career as a healthcare professional. You must also be able to show you have the necessary skills.

St Georges – graduate entry

You need to have an understanding of a career as a healthcare professional. You must also be able to show you have the necessary skills.

Sunderland – standard entry

Your work experience needs to demonstrate that you have communication and leadership skills.

University College London – standard entry

Work experience that involves working with other people is recommended. Your reflection on your work experience will be assessed in your personal statement and interview.

Central Lancashire – standard entry

You will need to submit a transferable skills target in which you should reflect on your work experience.

Swansea – graduate entry

Work experience will be discussed at interview. The focus is on the quality of reflection.

Ulster – graduate entry

Not essential. You’ll need to show an understanding of the challenges of being a doctor and the breadth of the career.

Warwick – graduate entry

At least a minimum of 70 hours across 4 years before the application deadline. One work experience can’t count for more than 50 hours out of the 70 hours. You need to have hands-on experience and your work experience must be in patients. You can’t shadow for more than 20 hours. You’ll need to provide formal evidence of your placements via an online portal.

Work experience requirements for medical schools

Medical School

Work Experience Requirements

Aberdeen – graduate entry

Used for interview selection and will be discussed in interviews.

Birmingham – standard entry

Requirement waived due to COVID-19. Usually requires a minimum of three days of work experience in NHS or NHS/private mixed practice as well as evidence of community voluntary work.

Bristol – standard entry

Not a prerequisite. A minimum of 2 weeks of work experience is recommended. You should ideally look for roles that involve interacting with the public.

Bristol – gateway year

A minimum of 5 days of work experience in dental or clinical setting is recommended.

Cardiff – standard entry

Will be used for selection in 2022.

Dundee – standard entry

Work experience is not compulsory but ideally you'll have around 2 weeks of experience.

Glasgow – standard entry

Work experience is not required for 2022 entry. You could still try to secure placement in other public facing sectors.

King’s – standard entry

Normally you would be expected to have experience in a caring/health setting and also observation in a dental setting.

King’s – graduate entry

Not specified.

King’s – gateway year

Ideally in a caring or clinical setting. If that’s not feasible then in an environment where you’ll engage with the general public.

Leeds – standard entry

Not required.

Leeds – graduate entry

Not required.

Leeds - preliminary year

Not required.

Leeds – gateway year

Not required.

Liverpool – standard entry

Work experience in a dental setting is desirable. If you don’t have any work experience you should contact the university before applying.

Liverpool – gateway year

Work experience in a dental setting is desirable. Ideally, in more than one setting.

Manchester – standard entry

Should have some work experience in a dental setting.

Manchester - preliminary year

Should have some work experience in a dental setting.

Newcastle – standard entry

Work experience needs to show that you are committed towards caring, this can include volunteering and also commitment to working in a team.

Newcastle – graduate entry

You should discuss some work experience of interacting with the public in your personal statement.

Plymouth – standard entry

Not required.

Queen Mary – standard entry

Need some experience in dentistry and you need to be able to show an understanding of the career.

Queen’s Belfast – standard entry

Not required but students must say what they’ve done to find out about a career in dentistry.

Sheffield – standard entry

You should have work experience and this should be combined with research and discussion with healthcare workers to inform your decision on applying to dentistry.

Central Lancashire – graduate entry

You need to show you motivation for dentistry and that you before the pandemic had dental work experience.

Medical and Dental work experience FAQs

How should I act when on placement?

  • Dress well - some places may have a dress code. It’s likely that you’ll have to be bare below the elbow if your work experience is at a hospital for infection control purposes.
  • Be respectful to all the staff members and patients. All the members of the team are necessary for you to do your job. Besides, you never know who you’ll end up working with in the future.

What skills and qualities should I try to develop during my work experience?

Keep a diary and reflect on experiences that help you to develop these skills or qualities:

  • Motivation to study medicine/dentistry and genuine interest in the medical/dental profession 
  • Insight into your own strengths and weaknesses 
  • The ability to reflect on your own work 
  • Personal organisation 
  • Academic ability 
  • Problem-solving 
  • Dealing with uncertainty 
  • Managing risk and dealing effectively with problems 
  • Ability to take responsibility for your own actions 
  • Conscientiousness 
  • Insight into your own health 
  • Effective communication, including reading, writing, listening and speaking 
  • Effective teamwork 
  • Ability to treat people with respect 
  • Resilience and the ability to deal with difficult situations 
  • Empathy and the ability to care for others 
  • Honesty

What if I make a big mistake during my work experience?

Everyone makes mistakes and your placement providers know that. 

The important thing is to make sure that you turn your mistakes into a learning opportunity. 

When you do make a mistake, consider these two key questions:

  • Why did it happen?
  • How can I stop it from happening again?

Taking the time to reflect makes your work experience much more valuable. 

Where do I have to talk about my work experience?

It’s definitely worth mentioning your work experience, but only if it’s relevant, and remember that it’s not compulsory to talk about work experience anywhere. 

You should talk about it in your personal statement as it’ll show the admissions tutors that you understand what a career in medicine or dentistry involves.

Interviewers may explicitly ask you about your work experience or they may ask you about a time where you demonstrated a certain skill, thus giving you an opportunity to talk about your work experience. 

How do I talk about the placement in my interview?

For medical and dental school interviews, a lot of universities recommend the STARR approach when describing what happened. This will help you explain everything that's relevant in a concise manner:

Example - “tell me about a time you communicated well”

Situation: Briefly explain the scenario

I was helping at the reception of a GP practice when a lady who didn't speak very much English came to the counter. She wanted to know how to get the flu jab, but she was struggling to understand what was being said to her.

Task: Explain what needed to be done

I needed to explain to the lady how to get a flu jab, help her book an appointment and make sure she understood.

Action: Explain what you did

I explained everything slowly, using simple language and not using any figurative expressions to reduce the likelihood of miscommunication. I waited for the lady to understand what I had just said before moving on. I also passed on information to the receptionist so that they could book a translator for her appointment.

Result: Explain what the outcome was

The lady was able to successfully book her flu jab and was able to understand all the information.

Reflection: How did this help? How could you improve? What did you learn from it? What can I go and read about from here?

This experience was useful as I was able to appreciate the challenges people may have in accessing healthcare due to language barriers. I was able to develop my communication skills and I could also see the difference effective communication makes for people.

Will my work experience compensate for any other part of my application, such as my UCAT?

Usually, your work experience won’t compensate for any other part of your application. 

However, in the case that two students have identical marks, UCAT and interview scores, it could swing the decision in your favour. 

Are overseas placements worth it?

Admissions tutors are fully aware of the cost and logistics of doing work experience abroad and do not favour students who are able to do so.

Ahmad, University of Manchester

"As an international applicant, it was practical for me to shadow doctors on a busy labour ward in my home country, Malaysia. It was an exciting 2 weeks which allowed me to gain an insider’s perspective on how a government hospital worked alongside supplementing my existing knowledge of my local healthcare system. It was useful to meet doctors who had studied overseas and had returned to work in Malaysia and I was able to learn from their experiences too. To ensure that I was aware of how the UK healthcare system worked for the purpose of my interview, I researched it online thoroughly to prepare myself.’ 

I only have virtual work experience. Is that okay?

Admissions tutors understand that not everybody is in a position where they can go and do work experience physically. Doing virtual work experience will show tutors that you have taken an initiative and that is a good thing. 

You don’t need to mention the fact that you have no physical work experience in your personal statement.

Will I get paid for doing work experience?

Work experience is more your need than your placement providers’. This means it’s unlikely you’ll be paid for it. Avoid discussing pay with your placement providers unless they bring it up, as it can give a bad impression. 

Are any work experience types better than others?

What admissions tutors are trying to find out from your work experience is whether you have a realistic understanding of what a career as a doctor or dentist entails.

As long as you can demonstrate that, tutors don’t mind if your work experience was at the reception of a GP surgery or watching live open-heart surgery.

Do I need to have healthcare work experience?

Healthcare work experience is ideal. It’s directly linked to the field you hope to work in. 

Some universities, like the University of Cambridge and the University of Aberdeen, also specifically advise getting healthcare-related work experience. 

The Medical Schools Council has more information on what each medical school advises. Be sure to check it out, so you know what the medical schools you’re applying to are expecting.

Is volunteering or work experience better?

Work experience and volunteering are both important. While work experience demonstrates your awareness of the medical or dental profession, volunteering shows your humanitarian side. It demonstrates that you want to help others and are a compassionate individual. This is difficult to show in your work experience. 

Ideally, you should do both work experience and volunteering. It’s okay if you can’t do one or the other, as long as you have other examples to demonstrate the same skill. 

Do I need to submit evidence of my work experience?

Universities may ask you to provide proof of attending work experience, so always be honest in what you have or haven't done, and be sure to have some correspondence from your placement providers confirming that you've attended.

I had work experience about 4 years ago. Does that still count?

Ideally, work experience should be as recent as possible. Some universities recommend that your work experience be within 2 years of applying. 

Having recent work experience means that your experience will be fresher in your mind.

I couldn't get any work experience. What should I do?

Don’t panic! It might seem a bit bleak right now but think carefully. The most important thing is that you can prove you have the skills you need to be a doctor or a dentist

Have you ever done any paid work? Have you ever helped out with anything at school or college? Have you helped explain a difficult topic to a friend? Have you helped a friend who was going through a difficult time? Have you ever worked in a team, be it as part of a practical experiment at college or even as part of a sports team?

You can find relevant experiences in any of these contexts. 

Do I need to write a CV to get work experience? 

Usually you won’t need to write a CV, but depending on where you’re applying you may need to write a brief explanation of how this work experience will help you and what you hope to get out of it. 

If you are asked to attach a CV, make sure it’s up to date and professional. Include as many skills as possible to show your placement providers that you would do well in a medical or dental environment.

Is getting work experience competitive?

Getting work experience in the medical or dental field can be competitive. It may be hard to find a placement that can take you in. It’s likely that you may face some rejections before you get a hold of something, so stay positive and know that even these rejections are part of the process. 

How can I learn more about healthcare outside of my work experience?

Consume respectable medical media extensively. Try our top 5 medical podcasts and top 5 medical books.

How can I increase my chances of getting work experience?

  • Be polite and professional in all your communication.
  • Be persistent - contact as many people as possible.
  • Do some virtual work experience to show you have some knowledge of what you’re going to be doing.
  • Be flexible - you might have to split the 2 weeks of placement over a period of a few months, and being flexible will mean you’re more likely to get something.
  • Take up volunteering opportunities - this will help you build contacts that could help you get work experience. 
  • Ask your school’s careers advisor.
  • Have a strong CV.
  • Try contacting the secretaries of consultants and dentists if you’re not having any luck with general channels.

Does work experience after my UCAS application count?

Although any work experience you do after your deadline can’t be written about in your personal statement, it’s still useful. You can use what you learn to help you with your interviews.