Choosing a specialty

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Choosing a specialty 2017-06-10T14:13:30+00:00
After graduating with a medical degree, you will structure a career path based on your skills and disposition. For the majority of graduates, this path will be the same. However, there are always exceptions to rules, and your circumstances and experience may differ.

For the first three years following graduation, you can become a Resident Medical Officer (RMO). As an RMO, you will work in teams led by senior medical staff but can also be supported by Registrars in specific medical specialties where applicable. There are three tiers to this, as outlined by the Queensland Government:

  • Intern: Interns are in their first year of practise after completing their medical degree. During this time, you will need to successfully complete various rotations under clinical supervision. You can use this time to try out different specialties and think about what feels like a good fit.
  • Junior House Officer (JHO): A JHO is a medical practitioner in their first year of service after eligibility for full registration as a medical practitioner. If you successfully complete your internship you will automatically advance to become a JHO in your second postgraduate year.
  • Senior House Officer (SHO): An SHO is a medical practitioner in the second or later year of practical experience after eligibility for full registration as a medical practitioner and who has not been appointed as a Registrar or Principal House Officer. If you successfully complete your year as a JOH you will automatically advance to become an SHO in your third postgraduate year.

People in their fourth or later postgraduate year can still work towards specialisation. They can do this in one of the following two positions:

  • Principal House Officer (PHO): A PHO is a medical practitioner in their third or later postgraduate year who is not undertaking an accredited course of study leading to a higher medical qualification. A PHO position is on the same level as a Registrar.
  • Registrars: Registrars are doctors who have been accepted into an accredited specialist training program in a clinical specialty with a nominated college.

Once you have completed specialist training, you will become a Senior Medical Officer (SMO) or Visiting Medical Officer (VMO) in a hospital environment.​

As a specialist doctor, you will work within a specific area of medicine after being accepted into the appropriate college. You will first need to complete your education and training as a medical practitioner or doctor, ensuring you have your basic medical qualifications. Your entry into the college will rely on postgraduate study, experience and examinations.

As of 2013, the Medical Board of Australia listed 23 specialties available for selection. Within each specialty are various possible fields and titles.

Once you have chosen a specialty, you can contact the relevant college for information about postgraduate training and assessment and how to gain fellowship and registration as a specialist doctor in your chosen field. The Queensland Government have published the following list of contact pages for each college:

The sheer number of specialties can make it difficult for you to choose only one. To help you decide, you may want to consider the following factors that can differ depending on specialty:

  • The type and range of problems you will encounter with patients
  • Remuneration and benefits
  • Patient diversity
  • Opportunities for community involvement
  • How intellectually challenging the specialty will be
  • Job opportunities following accreditation
  • How the specialty might affect your lifestyle (e.g., will you need to work outside your comfort zone?)
  • How much time you will need to spend and how difficult it will be to obtain fellowship to the relevant college

Knowing how you handle stress, how you seek satisfaction and fulfilment and your community spirit are all factors of your personality that will affect your effectiveness in a particular specialty.

You will likely have taken a Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) during university, so will likely have a good idea already of your personality type, but you can also use our personality tests to help determine if you are a good fit for general practice.

Beyond knowing yourself, get to know the doctors with whom you will interact during courses, rotations and placements. They are the best sources of information about a particular specialty and can provide useful insights to help you make your decision. Find out more about making the most of your rotations in our GP section.​