Find out how to pursue a career in medicine, from starting out through to specialist training
We think medicine is an excellent career choice. It’s a long road from high school to stethoscope, but it’s a career that offers variety, responsibility, and the privilege of helping others.
Here’s how to do it, in four steps.
1. Get a medical degree.
You can go straight into a bachelor degree in medicine after completing high school. Places are limited and popular, so you need a high mark to get in. Alternatively, you can study a postgraduate medical degree. This means you need to complete an undergraduate degree first. Postgraduate degrees are competitive too. Most undergraduate and postgraduate courses require entrance tests and interviews to secure a place.
The entrance criteria is different for each university. There are 20 medical schools in Australia .
2. Do prevocational training
Once you’ve donned your cape and thrown your cap into the air, it’s time for on-the-job training. Medical graduates spend between one and two years working in clinical settings, usually hospitals, training in different medical specialties under the guidance of senior doctors. They generally spend a 12-week stint in one specialty before moving to the next one. You might have heard the terms ‘placement’ and ‘rotation’ to refer to this training. This is a mandatory requirement for medical graduates who want to become fully qualified doctors. The placements will differ for each prevocational doctor, and many shape their training to suit their career interests.
Prevocational doctors are referred to by different names, which often indicate their training progress. The titles include junior doctor, resident medical officer, house medical officer, intern, and sometimes their referred to by postgraduate year such as PGY1 and PGY2.
3. Train as a registrar
There are many different types of doctors. Paediatrician. Obstetrician. GP. Anaesthetist. Psychiatrist. And so on. After completing prevocational training, junior doctors need to choose a medical specialty.
There are registered organisations, regulated by the Australian Government, that deliver this specialist training. It takes between three and four years of full-time training to become a GP, and there’s a choice of nine GP training providers across Australia. There’s a different pathway for each specialty, and you can check the registrar training program with their governing body. Within each specialty there may be options for different training pathways. For example, in general practice there are three GP training pathways.
Most aspiring doctors at the point of graduation from medical school still haven’t decided on their specialty. That’s where we can help. Check out MedQuiz, a free online career tool that helps you decide which specialty suits your personality.
4. Complete your fellowship
A fellowship is the outcome of your registrar training. The ‘F’ you add to your title confirms you offer safe and high-quality care. It also enables you to access Medicare. In general practice, a fellowship is an accreditation awarded by the one of two regulatory colleges resulting in either or both: The Fellowship of the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (FRACGP) or The Fellowship of the Australian College of Rural and Remote Medicine (FACRRM). GP training organisations like General Practice Training Queensland (GPTQ) ensure that registrars follow a training pathway that meets the requirements of one or both colleges.
And now you’re a doctor
The journey to become a GP or other specialist is long and challenging compared to alternative career choices. The education and training itself is rewarding, and the final outcome is a profession that provides job satisfaction, flexibility to live almost anywhere, financial stability, and choice. General practice can provide a career path with variety, autonomy and flexibility. Find out more about GP careers by checking out some stories of real doctors, including rural GPs and experienced GPs who have become medical educators for General Practice Training Queensland (GPTQ).
Watch: A career in general practice
Dr John Buckley is a GP and medical educator and thinks general practice is a great career choice.
You might also be interested in:
- MedQuiz: Find out which specialty suits your personality
- Infographic: How to become a GP
- Where can you study medicine in Australia?
If you have any more questions check out our Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) section. You can search through questions or ask your own.