What Are the Best Premed Gap Year Jobs?

April 18, 2023


Reviewed by:

Jonathan Preminger

Former Admissions Committee Member, Hofstra-Northwell School of Medicine

Reviewed: 04/18/23

Many premed students take a gap year before attending medical school. In a recent study by the AAMC (Association of American Medical Colleges), nearly 50% of matriculants took a gap year after completing their undergraduate studies. 

If you’ve decided that taking a gap year is the best path forward before attending medical school, you’ve come to the right place. You will need to spend your gap year gaining clinical experience to bolster your application and have a competitive edge over other candidates.

Taking a gap year is the perfect opportunity to get work experience in a healthcare setting. This article will go over how taking a gap year can benefit your application, the best premed gap year jobs, and how to choose the right job for you.

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How Can Taking a Gap Year Benefit My Application?

Taking a gap year can benefit your application in numerous ways. First, it is important to think of the gap year as extra time to strengthen your candidacy as a medical school applicant. This means that a gap year is not time off; rather, it is an opportunity for you to improve your application materials where they may be lacking.

Some benefits of taking a gap year include:

  • More time to prepare for the MCAT and CASPer tests.
  • The chance to complete required prerequisite courses
  • The option to retake coursework to improve your total and science GPA.
  • More opportunities to work in one of the best premed jobs in healthcare settings.

Other personal benefits of taking a gap year include:

  • Working to pay down student debt.
  • Preventing academic burnout and recharging your mental health before committing to 7-12 years of medical school and training.
  • Traveling with a purpose, for example, experiencing a different culture and getting involved with humanitarian aid and nonprofit organizations.
  • Exploring different career paths, such as the MD PhD dual degree. 

There are a few drawbacks to taking a gap year that you should seriously consider as well. First, it will take you longer to become a licensed physician if you delay medical school. This may be an issue if you are eager to get started and want to go straight from undergrad to medical school. However, the average age of matriculated students is 24, meaning that many students do not go straight to medical school after earning their bachelor’s degree. 

Secondly, if you don’t use your gap year strategically to improve your application and strengthen your skills (if you use the gap year as vacation or time off), this will hurt your chances of acceptance. Admissions committees want to see your dedication and continuous effort to become a physician. With that said, a gap year is not the time to forgo your academic and professional responsibilities. 

Finally, taking a gap year might make you lose motivation without the structure of full-time school. You may also get sidetracked with a job, other activities, and responsibilities, making it harder to keep your interest in medical school. 

However, overall, taking a gap year is beneficial if you strategically use it to improve weaknesses in your application. This requires honest self-reflection and planning on your part to make the most of your gap year. If you need help with scheduling your gap year, we recommend speaking with a pre-health advisor.

Best Premed Gap Year Jobs

Infographic outlining the best pre med gap year jobs

To increase your chances of acceptance to medical school and to stand out as a strong applicant, consider the following best premed gap year jobs:

Medical assistant preparing the clinic for a patient

Medical Assistant

Medical assistants are crucial in helping physicians with daily tasks. They are trained to assist physicians with both administrative and clinical responsibilities. These include preparing patients for examination, scheduling appointments, drawing blood, overseeing patient charts and records, ordering basic tests, and filing. 

Taking on a gap-year job as a medical assistant will give you a soft entry into the medical profession. It will give you an idea of how a healthcare office or establishment is run.

Medical assistants work in physician offices, hospitals, outpatient clinics, medical research centers, and universities. Medical assistants can be certified or uncertified. Certified medical assistants perform more tasks and have more patient interaction than uncertified medical assistants. Although not all employers require certification, it is often preferred.

To become a certified medical assistant (CMA), you will need to complete an accredited post-secondary medical assistant program and pass the CMA Certification Exam through the AAMA (American Association of Medical Assistants). On average, it takes nine months to two years to become a certified medical assistant. 

EMT in uniform opening an ambulance passenger door

Emergency Medical Technician (EMT)

Becoming an EMT is a rewarding experience because EMTs are first responders in medical emergencies. EMTs respond to 911 calls and experience hands-on medical training of all types, from sprains and bruises to life-threatening emergencies. 

EMTs have the unique benefit of interacting with various patient populations and different healthcare providers such as police officers, firefighters, nurses, and physicians. Along the way, EMTs gain the necessary skills of teamwork, leadership, and collaboration. Additionally, EMTs learn stress tolerance in high-stress situations, emotional intelligence, empathy, and maturity. They also learn how to work effectively under pressure, a valuable skill for medical school.

There are different levels of qualifications to become an EMT. The EMT-B (Basic EMT) is an entry-level position that requires up to four months of training. The next level is EMT-I (Intermediate EMT) which requires basic EMT training in addition to field experience. Finally, there is the EMT-P (paramedic) which is the most advanced level. To become a paramedic, you must have significant field experience and complete at least 700 hours of training. 

EMTs are employed by local EMT organizations, national parks, fire departments, and ambulatory services. 

Research assistant looking into a microscope

Research Assistant

While research experience is not a medical school requirement, it is recommended if you want a competitive edge. The majority of medical school applicants have some kind of clinical experience, but not all applicants have research experience. Admissions committees value research experience because it shows that you are curious about the mechanisms behind diseases. It also shows your commitment to understanding biological systems and disease to find cures, better treatments, and breakthrough discoveries. Research experience is also valuable if you end up publishing. Publications are highly valued, impressive, and rare, especially so early on in your career, even before attending medical school.

The best way to become a research assistant is to network. Make connections with your professors, career counselors, and advisors at school. You can also see if hospitals and universities in your area are hiring research/lab assistants. There are also many summer research internships available through universities, institutions, and hospitals.

Research assistants typically work in hospitals, universities, and federal research centers such as the National Institute of Health. 

Having experience in research as an aspiring med school student will allow you to practice scientific inquiry and critical thinking. It shows your curiosity and inquisitiveness, both of which are valuable skills for any medical professional.

Medical scribe documenting patient notes

Medical Scribe

Medical scribes help physicians with everything regarding medical documentation. This can be taking notes during patient interactions, documenting notes dictated by physicians, updating lab records, writing charts, and maintaining patient records. 

You don’t need specialized training to become a medical scribe. On-the-job training is provided once you’re hired. Medical scribes often work in hospitals, emergency rooms, and clinics, often directly with physicians. 

Working as a medical scribe will help you learn the day-to-day of a physician's practice. You'll learn medical terminology, procedure, and shadow patient interactions--all of which are valuable skills as an aspiring doctor.

Certified nursing assistant checking in on a patient

Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA)

Becoming a certified nursing assistant is a great option to gain hands-on clinical experience while working with patients. CNAs work under the supervision of RNs (registered nurses). CNAs help with feeding and bathing patients, medical procedures such as drawing blood, cleaning rooms, and other daily activities. 

CNAs develop necessary skills such as compassion, bedside manner, communication, and flexibility. There is no standardized certification to become a CNA. Instead, certification is issued by the state after the successful completion of a training program. CNA training programs are usually between one to three months, and you must pass the state certification exam.

CNAs often work in nursing care facilities, assisted living facilities, hospitals, and hospices.

As you’ve probably noted, premed jobs require some kind of training, education, or certification. This is why you should plan your gap year well in advance so that by the time you’re ready to graduate college, you have something lined up for your gap year. The last thing you want to do is scramble at the last minute to get your affairs in order. Jobs aren’t guaranteed, so you should complete the requirements in advance to secure a job on schedule.

How to Choose the Right Premed Gap Year Job 

To choose the right premed gap year job, consider your application and what’s lacking. If you have gaps in clinical experience, research, or volunteering, address them first by working at a job that will fill in those areas. 

You should also follow your passions and interests and do what you enjoy. If you love working with people and want more patient interactions, becoming a medical assistant is the perfect choice. If you love critical thinking, analysis, and learning topical subjects, find a job in research.

You should also reflect on any personal shortcomings you may have and work on those before attending medical school. For example, if you want to improve how you respond in high-stress situations and emergencies, the training you’ll receive as an EMT will be invaluable.

Also, consider the specifics of the job, such as setting and patient populations. If you want to work in geriatrics in the future, think about working in a nursing home or hospice to get hands-on experience with your desired patient population. 

Choosing the right gap year job is a personal decision that only you can know for sure. Don’t be afraid to try new things, have fun with the experiences, and challenge yourself with every opportunity to learn new and develop existing skills. 

Here are some questions to ask yourself that will help you choose the right premed gap year job:

  • What critical experiences are missing from my application?
  • Have I obtained strong letters of recommendation?
  • What setting do I want to work in?
  • What patient populations do I hope to work with in the future?
  • What do I enjoy doing?
  • What do I enjoy learning?
  • What are my strengths and weaknesses?
  • What job aligns with my goals as a healthcare provider?
  • What job will help me learn new skill sets/develop existing skill sets?
  • What job will help me become a better person?
  • What job will help me become a better physician?

FAQs About Premed Gap Year Jobs

1. Can I Ask My Supervisor at My Premed Job to Write a Letter of Recommendation?

Yes! No matter where you go academically or professionally, you should prioritize networking and building strong relationships. If you have substantive work experience at your premed job, and your supervisor knows you and your work well, you should definitely ask for a letter of recommendation. 

2. Does it Matter if My Premed Job is Paid or Unpaid?

No, admissions committees are not concerned with whether or not you were paid at your premed job. What’s crucial is the experience itself, what you learned from it, and the skills you strengthened. Unpaid volunteering looks great on your application because it shows your altruism and service to others. 

3. How Should I Discuss My Gap Year in My Med School Interview?

Your gap year is likely to come up during the medical school interview. Your objective is to demonstrate why a gap year was the best choice for your path to becoming a leading physician. You should talk about your experiences during your gap year positively and with a growth mindset. Your talking points should reflect what you did, what you learned, and how your skill sets improved. Be specific, cite examples, and tell interesting narratives that capture your experience. 

For example, if you worked as an EMT, you could describe how you gained emotional intelligence and maturity in high-stress medical emergencies. You could reflect on your stress tolerance before and after the experience and express that the job was vital in preparing you for a career in medicine.  

4. What’s the Best Way to Plan Activities For My Gap Year?

As previously stated, a gap year should be a strategic time for you to improve your application and develop your skill sets. Start with your application and see what’s missing. Perhaps you have substantial clinical experience, but you don’t have research experience. So, you could prioritize becoming a research or lab assistant. 

Most importantly, a gap year should not be a frivolous, last-minute decision. If you’re seriously considering taking a gap year, make plans and accommodations in advance so that you start your premed job and other activities after completing your undergraduate studies. 

Also, be mindful that plans can sometimes fall through due to unforeseen circumstances. Always have a backup plan in place. For example, when applying to premed jobs, give yourself a variety of options. You don’t want to depend on one prospect without a safety net. 

If you need help staying on the proper schedule, speak with a pre-health advisor. 

5. Can I Take a Non-Medical Job?

No requirement says you must have a medical job but working in healthcare has benefits specific to your career goals that non-medical jobs do not. That said, medical schools do like to see diverse candidates with diverse skill sets and backgrounds. 

If you take a non-medical job, be sure to fill in the gaps with relevant medical experiences. This can be done with volunteering, medical shadowing, clinical experience, and research. Also, be sure to talk about the transferable skills you developed at your non-medical job. For example, interpersonal skills, leadership, and critical thinking are all essential core competencies for entering medical students

6. What are the Best Premed Jobs to Build Leadership Skills?

You can find many leadership roles in nonprofit and community organizations. Think about what your community needs and go from there. For example, if you work at an assisted living facility and notice a lack of wellness programs, take the initiative and pitch ideas to your supervisor. Perhaps you could start art therapy programs, poetry readings, music lessons, or exercise classes for different skill levels. Taking on leadership roles for new projects is a great way to be a competitive candidate. 

7. What are Some Other Good Premed Gap Year Jobs to Consider?

Another great option is working for a contract research organization (CRO) to support pharmaceutical, biotechnology, and medical device industries. CROs outsource research services to contractors. Responsibilities include preclinical research, clinical research, clinical trials, biopharmaceutical development, bioassay development, pharmacovigilance, and commercialization.

CROs support universities, foundations, research institutions, and government agencies such as the NIH and the FDA. As a contractor, you will have strong research experience and understand the behind-the-scenes of developing drugs from conception to commercialization.

Final Thoughts

Taking a gap year to bolster your application materials and strengthen your candidacy is a great option for medical school readiness. Be sure to use the time productively, otherwise, your gap year will be seen as “time off” rather than the extra time that was needed to maximize your chances of acceptance.

The best premed gap year jobs provide significant and beneficial training in various healthcare settings. Medical assistants, EMTs, research assistants, medical scribes, CNAs, and volunteers all receive vital training to help prepare them for medical school and a future career in medicine. 

To choose the best premed gap year job for you, review your application and fill in areas that may be lacking. Follow your passions, interests, and professional goals. What do you want to learn? What do you want to experience? What types of settings and workplaces appeal to you? What skills do you want to develop?

The answers to these questions will lead you to the perfect premed gap year job. We wish you the best of luck with your future endeavors. 

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