Job Shadowing

Job shadowing, also known as externship, allows students to observe full-time professionals on-the-job and experience a typical workday or workweek. Job shadowing is a form of experiential learning where students can “try on” various work environments within their projected career fields and can gain information helpful to career decisions like choosing a major, occupation, or industry.

Get Matched with a Shadowing Opportunity Through FSUshadow

Get matched with a Shadowing Opportunity through FSUshadow. The FSUshadow Program connects students with employers, community partners, alumni, and friends of the university for one-day job shadowing opportunities to provide exposure to a wide variety of career fields and industries. FSUshadow, taking place during winter, spring, and summer breaks, invites all FSU undergraduate and graduate level students to participate in this program. Click here for more information.

Job Shadowing

What is job shadowing?

Job shadowing is a type of experiential learning opportunity that involves observing a working professional throughout his or her typical workday or workweek. Through direct observation, students may learn important information that can help them make career decisions like choosing a major, occupation, or industry. Job shadowing can be done in person or virtually and is sometimes called an externship. Though generally not for credit or compensation, job shadowing provides many benefits. It may help clarify career goals, connect classroom learning to real-world application, and allow for exploration of different occupations and workplace cultures. Job shadowing at a specific organization can also aid in the development of professional networking contacts that may make finding and acquiring future internships or full-time opportunities easier. A great way to identify possible contacts to job shadow is through the ProfessioNole Mentors database. Speak with a Career Advisor or Career Liaison to help you learn other ways to find and acquire job shadowing experiences.

Though generally not for credit or compensation, job shadowing provides many benefits. Participation in job shadowing can:

  • Help clarify career aspirations and professional goals
  • Connect classroom learning to real-world application
  • Allow for exploration of different occupations and workplace cultures
  • Develop professional networking contacts that may make finding and acquiring future internships or full-time opportunities easier

Job shadowing is a common practice in healthcare related fields, however, some industries might not be as familiar with the concept or able to accommodate a shadow due to privacy concerns. For guidance on how to approach a potential job shadowing contact, refer to the Job Shadowing and Information Interviews Guide.

Finding and Securing Your Own Job Shadow Opportunity

Interested in participating in a job shadow opportunity outside of the FSUshadow dates? Tips and suggestions are included below:

  • Use ProfessioNole Mentors, an online database of alumni and other individuals who have volunteered to participate in career-related conversations with FSU students. It can be accessed through NoleNetwork. These professionals in a variety of disciplines and fields are a great resource for finding potential job shadow opportunities.
  • Create a LinkedIn profile and begin building an online professional network. LinkedIn has several features that can help you connect with individuals through contacts you already have. The “find alumni” search tool is an easy way to connect with alumni of the University and to ask about potential job shadow opportunities. Additionally, The Career Center’s LinkedIn page is a good way to connect with your peers, alumni, and employers. Log in and search for FSU Career Center to join. For more information about how to get started with, view the “Building A LinkedIn Presence” guide.
  • Ask friends, family, neighbors, colleagues, faculty, peers, and former employers — anyone you know — for opportunities to shadow in their workplace.
  • Search for “job shadow” in Nole Central to see potential opportunities to shadow or networking connections through Registered Student Organizations on campus.

How to inquire about job shadow opportunities?

  • State your interest in job shadowing and outline what you are hoping to gain from the experience in your initial communication. Gauge the individual’s willingness to host you. If the professional agrees, discuss and decide on the length of your job shadow and schedule your experience. After the initial conversation and scheduling, immediately follow up with the employer to confirm the experience. Confirm again 48 to 72 hours prior to your arrival.


Make the Most of Your Job Shadow Opportunity

  • Dress professionally. First impressions are always important.
  • Get to the site a few minutes early and be courteous to everyone that you meet —administrative assistant, receptionist, etc.
  • Once inside the organization, look around. What kind of working environment is present — dress style, communication patterns, sense of humor, etc.? Is this a place you would want to work?
  • Ask open-ended questions when appropriate (questions that require more than a “yes” or “no” answer) to promote discussion. Additional information on questions to ask can be found in our guide on Information Interviews.
  • Thank the host for taking the time to allow you to shadow. Emphasize your willingness to stay connected, and send a handwritten thank you note or personalized thoughtful email.
  • Evaluate your experience: how did this experience increase your understanding of a potential career path? What do you still want to learn about the position or organization? What key take-away did you learn? How will you use this experience to help shape your career goals moving forward?


Health Professions/Medical Shadowing

 Health professions shadowing falls under the term clinical experience as it involves following and observing a physician, nurse, or other healthcare professional while they conduct their daily work activities in a clinical or hospital setting. Through health professions shadowing, students gain exposure to and learn about working conditions within the healthcare field.  

Due to potential exposure to sensitive patient data or other confidential information, participating in a medical job shadow may require that you complete trainings or supply documentations such as a background check or other safety and security measures, first aid or cultural sensitivity training, or immunizations.

A majority of medical schools and healthcare professional programs require that undergraduate student applicants complete health professions shadowing hours prior to submitting their graduate program application.  While the number of required hours vary for program admission, it is a general graduate school application requirement in order to ensure students have exposure to working in the healthcare field prior to committing to a lengthy graduate program.  These required health professions shadowing hours do not have to be completed all at once.  In fact, it is preferred that the hours are completed over time with multiple physicians or healthcare professionals.  This is to expose students to the different methods and structure different healthcare settings utilize in patience care.   While completing health professions shadowing hours, it is the student’s responsibility to maintain a log in order to track the locations and total hours shadowed.

Journaling about shadowing experiences is also important. Students will participate in a variety of observation sessions during the undergraduate years and will draw on these experiences to write personal statements for medical school and professional school. Useful topics to reflect on include:

  1. What you saw
  2. What you learned
  3. Insights gained from observation
  4. How the experience helped clarify your decision to practice medicine

Possible Reflection Questions

  • Can I see myself doing what this healthcare professional does on a daily basis?
  • What are the pros and cons of this particular type of healthcare practitioner role?
    • Consider: size of practice (solo or group), types of patients (age, sex, problems/diagnoses, insurance), size of community, salaried or self-employed, paper charts or electronic medical records, hours and call schedule, family life, community service and/or influence, ability to practice in rural area or overseas
  • Am I drawn to diagnostic problem solving or to procedures?
  • Is the healthcare practitioner involved in clinical research or in “bench” (lab) research?
  • How does the healthcare practitioner relate to his/her patients?
    • Consider: Formal or friendly approach, standing up or sitting down, rushed or not rushed, listening or interrupting, speaking with words that the patient can understand or speaking medical jargon or speaking in patient’s primary language if it is not English
  • How do I feel when there is no “cure” or treatment options?
  • How do I feel about chronic problems compared with acute problems?
  • How do I feel when I see patients who do not listen to advice or who do not take good care of their health?
  • Did all patients with the same diagnosis seem the same? If not, how and why might they have been different from one another?
  • Do I like situations in which a decision has to be made quickly?
  • Do I like the pace of this type of healthcare setting?
  • What did the healthcare practitioner do when s/he did not know the answer to something?

Obtaining a Health Professions/Medical Shadowing Opportunity

It is your responsibility as a student to initiate contact with healthcare professionals to inquire about a a health professions shadowing opportunity.

  1. Conduct Outreach
  • Create a list of different healthcare professions and/or medical specialties that interest you.  Remain open-minded and consider including adjacent services or specialties. For example, consider shadowing a pharmacist as all healthcare professionals prescribe or administer medication.
    • Utilize current connections in your personal life, such as a family doctor, to begin conversations.  Your family doctor may decline your request to job shadow, but may be able to share recommendations or make connections to other healthcare professionals.
    • Research hospitals and medical clinics near you to see if they have a preset shadowing program.
    • Consider connecting with health profession-related on-campus student organizations that may have a database of local healthcare professionals open to hosting students for medical job shadowing. A list of registered student organizations at FSU can be found here:
  • Send your request to the healthcare professional directly via email, phone or in-person to express your genuine interest in medical job shadowing and provide a copy of your résumé.
    • Be sure you have practiced and prepared your elevator pitch that explains why their medical or healthcare specialty aligns with your career goals or exploration. Helpful hints for preparing your elevator speech can be found in the following guide: Preparing for a Career Fair
  • Network for job shadow opportunities by getting involved in the healthcare field through volunteering at a hospital, hospice or nursing home, working as a phlebotomist, certified nursing assistant (CNA), emergency medical technician (EMT) or medical scribe, as well as getting involved with an on-campus healthcare-related student organization or pre-professional healthcare profession society.
    • Examples of other experience that qualifies: nurse (LPN, RN, BSN, NP, CRNA), patient care attendant, athletic trainer, physical therapist, respiratory therapist, x-ray technician, medical assistant, military medical technician/corpsman, international medical graduates, chiropractor, licensed massage therapist, optometrist and pharmacist.
  1. Arrange the Job Shadow Opportunity
  • Complete any required pre-paperwork and requested tasks before you show up to the job shadow, such as HIPAA training, background checks and proof of immunizations.
  • Pre-arrange with the healthcare professional the length and specific schedule of your job shadow.
  • Learn about the policies, regulations and preferences in place for job shadow participants at the site. For example, some healthcare professionals may welcome questions during interactions with patients while others expect total silence.
  • Determine what the expected attire will be. For some healthcare settings, business attire with closed toed shoes is acceptable while others will expect scrubs and sneakers.
  • Ask ahead of time if you can utilize a tablet or notepad to note observations.
  • Identify if there will be time at the end of the job shadow for you to ask follow-up questions about your observations.
  1. Participate in the Job Shadow Opportunity
  • Come prepared to listen and observe in order to learn as much as possible from your medical job shadowing opportunity.
  • Maintain a log detailing the dates, locations, medical professional name and specialty, as well as the total hours completed for each shadowing opportunity you complete.

Resources for Obtaining a Health Professions/Medical Shadowing Opportunity

Shadowing Resources

Florida State University:




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