Volunteering, on-site visits and shadowing

"Try on" various career paths

Real-world experience and exploration can help you identify your interests, values and skills outside of what you learn at VCU. Through shadowing, on-site visits, and volunteering, you can “try on” the various career pathways to see if you are on the right track.


Volunteering is a vital component to understanding more about a professional field of interest. While shadowing involves simply observing, volunteering allows you to actively perform tasks and make contributions to a workplace or organization.

For health care fields especially, experiences that offer direct patient contact are highly regarded by most admissions representatives. Most pre-health admissions representatives want to see that you give freely of your time to support your community as well.

There are numerous places where volunteer positions are posted. Here is a selection of some websites from VCU and VCU Health to aid you in your search.

On-site visits

Have you ever wondered what it is actually like to work for an employer or in a specific industry? Requesting a tour or an on-site visit with an employer is a great place to start. You can also use some of the informational interview questions while you are on-site to help guide the conversation. These visits allow you the opportunity to learn more about how the organization functions and, hopefully, the part-time, experiential, and full-time opportunities available to undergraduate, graduate, and professional students. Not sure where to start? Check out our list of employers interested in hearing from you.


Shadowing helps you understand more about a professional field of interest. It involves following a professional throughout their day, observing the ins-and-outs of the profession as a whole.

Most graduate and professional programs in health sciences require a minimum number of hours of shadowing experience.

After a day of shadowing, ask yourself:

  • What is the most surprising thing you learned or observed today?
  • Why did it surprise you?
  • How does this experience shape and mature your understanding of the profession?


Why should I volunteer, set up on-site visits, or job shadow?

Gaining experience during your undergraduate career serves two important purposes. It allows you to explore and determine if it is a good career path for you, and it can enhance your credentials for applying to a professional or graduate program. Shadowing can be valuable in any field and some graduate school programs in health care require you to complete a minimum number of volunteer or shadowing hours to be considered for admission.

Visa-related Authorization

If you are in the U.S. on a visa (any kind), you may need to obtain visa-related authorization before starting an internship of any kind, including micro-internships and shadowing.    Authorization types, eligibility, procedures, and timelines vary.  Detailed visa-related guidance about internships for VCU students on F-1 visas is online at GEO's website at Internships and Volunteering and Immigration Guidance for VCU Real  For more information, please email GEO Immigration Services.

Informational interviews

Want another avenue to get to know a particular career? Try an informational interview.

This type of interview allows you to learn from another person’s career path, discover how they gained experience in the field, and learn the strategies and advice they have for someone entering the field today. Best of all, you get to direct the questions to a person of your choice who is doing work in a field or industry that interests you.

Candid Career

Watch video testimonials from professionals in various roles and industries. Learn more from an interviewee by clicking their name to visit their Candid Career page.