Becoming a Medical Doctor/Australia

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There are 19 medical schools in Australia, typically offering the Bachelor of Medicine/Bachelor of Surgery (MBBS) degree, though some may offer a Bachelor of Medicine (BMed) instead. There is the opportunity to pursue research towards a higher Doctor of Medicine (MD) degree, but this degree is higher than and not equivalent to the standard qualification in the United States.

Australia's medical programs are divided into two types, Undergraduate Entry and Graduate Entry. Undergraduate entry degrees are typically 6 years in duration and are commonly entered directly from high school, while Graduate entry degrees are typically 4 years in length, and a current Bachelor's degree is required for entry. Note however that the Graduate entry programs still confer a Bachelor degree in Medicine, they are graduate entry, not postgraduate degrees themselves.

The undergraduate-entry programs tend to draw more from school-leavers, while the graduate-entry programs draw a wider age range of entrants, from diverse academic backgrounds.

Universities with undergraduate-entry medical programs only

  • Bond University
  • James Cook University
  • University of Adelaide
  • University of Newcastle
  • University of New South Wales*
  • University of Tasmania
  • University of Western Sydney

* UNSW offers a limited number of places for graduates of its Bachelor of Medical Science program only.

University with both undergraduate and graduate-entry

  • Monash University

Universities with graduate-entry medical programs only

  • Australian National University
  • Deakin University
  • Flinders University
  • Griffith University
  • Notre Dame University, Fremantle
  • Notre Dame University, Sydney
  • University of Melbourne
  • University of Queensland
  • University of Sydney
  • University of Wollongong
  • University of Western Australia

Undergraduate entry process

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The processes involved in gaining entry into an undergraduate medical course in Australia vary between universities and states. Typically an application must be made to the relevant state tertiary admission centre.

Whether an applicant is successful or not depends upon their performance

Most universities require applicants to sit an aptitude test called the Undergraduate Medicine and Health Sciences Admission Test (UMAT). The Australian Council of Educational Research (ACER) developed UMAT The UMAT is divided into three sections:

  1. Section 1 tests problem solving, logical reasoning
  2. Section 2 tests empathy
  3. Section 3 tests visual spatial skills.

Applicants are then ranked according to their score. The

Several training courses have been created in response to the competitiveness of the UMAT.

Universities which require applicants to sit the UMAT for entry into their course:

  • Monash University
  • University of Queensland
  • University of New South Wales
  • University of Tasmania
  • Bond University
  • University of Adelaide
  • University of Western Sydney


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Many universities require applicants to sit an interview for the purpose of ascertaining their suitability to medical school

Graduate entry process

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All the graduate entry programs share a similar application process at this time. Candidates are first required to sit the GAMSAT (Graduate Australian Medical Schools Admission Test), which is held yearly in March. Candidates typically sit the test in the year prior to the one they wish to start their medical degree, and the cutoff for the exam is typically in January. The GAMSAT is conducted by ACER (the Australian Council for Educational Research), which also handles the subsequent admissions process. When candidates receive their GAMSAT scores (typically in June), they apply centrally through ACER, listing their preferences for courses, and ACER forwards their applications to the relevant universities. If the applicants meet the requirements set by individual universities they are offered interviews. The interviews typically take place in September or October. Universities notify candidates of their success in October or November, and the programs start in the new year.

Bachelor degree

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The GAMSAT is divided into three sections:

  • Section 1: Reasoning in Humanities and Social Sciences (100 minutes)
  • Section 2: Written Communication (60 minutes)
  • Section 3: Reasoning in Biological and Physical Sciences (170 minutes)

Sections 1 and 3 are multiple choice exams, while Section 2 involves the production of two essays. The GAMSAT is about 6 hrs in total duration, and is held on one day in a central location. Testing centres are limited to the capital cities and Townsville (and a few overseas locations), so some travel may be involved.

Choosing a program

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Though they share the same application process, the individual universities set varying criteria for selecting candidates. Most take into account three factors: GAMSAT score, GPA (Grade Point Average) and performance in the interview. A few of the programs require additional material, such as a portfolio of extracurricular activities or a personal statement. Candidates should make their preferences based on which combination of factors will best help in their individual case, but should also take into account the location of the school (particularly the challenges of relocation) and their personal preference for a particular university's program, university life, campus or reputation. Visiting a number of schools before choosing preferences is a good idea.

Selection criteria by university
University Location Criteria for interview offer Criteria for entry
Australian National University Canberra, ACT 50% GAMSAT, 50% weighted GPA (minimum GAMSAT pass Sec. I,II,III) GAMSAT, interview
University of Queensland GAMSAT (minimum required GPA: 5.0) 50% GAMSAT, 50% interview (GPA used as tiebreaker)
University of Sydney Camperdown, NSW GAMSAT (minimum required GPA: 5, GAMSAT: 50 each Sec. I,II,III) performance in interview only (GAMSAT, GPA used as tiebreaker)
University of Wollongong Wollongong, NSW GPA, GAMSAT, portfolio (minimum required GPA: 5.0, GAMSAT: 50 each Sec. I,II,III)

The interview

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After graduation

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Internship & residency

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All Australian medical graduates are required to complete 1 year of internship in a public hospital in order to obtain full medical registration. Choice of hospital to complete internship depends on individuals preferences during their final year of medical school. The exact mechanism varies by state and territory. Most recent medical graduates complete internship in the state of their medical school, though individuals can apply for internship in any state or territory.

Prior to 1997, medical graduates received a provider number entitlement at the completion of internship. A provider number is required in Australia for medical practitioners to be able to access Medicare, the universal health system in Australia. Patients are able to see medical practitioners with a provider and use medicare to cover the cost of the consultation. Legislative changes in 1997 resulted in cessation of access such that graduates are now only able to gain provider number entitlements after completion of vocational post graduate medical training, a further 4 - 6 years of study after internship. The heads of Australia's biggest medical schools say a lack of hospital internships for their student doctors has huge implications for the country.

According to the Sydney Medical School web site, in Australia, State Health Departments are responsible for the funding of, and placement of students for, internships. Internships are therefore determined by the relevant State Health Departments, not universities. These Departments have made it clear that no student is guaranteed an internship upon graduation from a medical program.

Medical internship in Australia is NOT guaranteed Each state, such as New South Wales (NSW), sets its own priority categories for allocating the limited # of internship positions.

NSW Health Priority List for 2015 Intern Recruitment

GUARANTEED Priority category 1 Medical graduates of NSW universities who are Australian/New Zealand citizens or Australian permanent residents (Commonwealth Supported Place and Domestic Full Fee paying. This priority category is guaranteed an intern position in NSW.

NOT GUARANTEED Priority category 2 Medical graduates of interstate or New Zealand universities who completed Year 12 studies in NSW who are Australian/New Zealand citizens or Australian permanent residents (Commonwealth Supported Place, Domestic Full Fee paying or NZ equivalent). Priority category 3 Medical graduates of interstate or New Zealand universities who completed Year 12 studies outside of NSW who are Australian/New Zealand citizens or Australian permanent residents (Commonwealth Supported Place, Domestic Full Fee paying or NZ equivalent). Priority category 4 Medical graduates of NSW universities who are not Australian/New Zealand citizens or Australian permanent residents and who hold a visa that allows them to work or are able to obtain a visa to work. Priority category 5 Medical graduates of interstate or New Zealand universities who are not Australian/New Zealand citizens or Australian permanent residents and who hold a visa that allows them to work or are able to obtain a visa to work. Priority category 6 Medical graduates of Australian Medical Council accredited campuses that are located outside of Australia or New Zealand who are not Australian/New Zealand citizens or Australian permanent residents and who hold a visa that allows them to work or are able to obtain a visa to work.

An article by Bronwyn Herbert Updated 25 Aug 2010, 9:52am on ABC News had the following to say: Hundreds of overseas students studying medicine in Australia have missed out on internships in already stretched public hospitals.Medical deans say it is not only a disaster for financially strained universities, but a missed opportunity for Australia's health workforce.Over the past decade, the number of students studying to become a doctor has more than doubled.But Queensland University's dean of medicine Professor David Wilkinson says a key element of the training - a hospital internship - is missing. "The [Queensland] Government guarantees intern places for Australian students, but doesn't make those guarantees for international students," he said."We are coming to the crunch now, we're expecting this year there will be graduates from our medical school who will not be able to get an internship. "And that's a tragedy for them personally and it's also a dreadful waste for our health system. "

General practice

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Specialist training

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Medical specialist training in Australia is conducted by the various professional colleges. Registered medical practitioners must generally complete at least two years of postgraduate residency before they can enter a training program with one of the colleges. After completing training, and passing examinations they become eligible for fellowship as a medical specialist. A fellowship is the last year before you become a fully fledged doctor.

The professional colleges include:

  • Royal Australasian College of Surgeons
  • Royal Australasian College of Physicians
  • Australian and New Zealand College of Anesthetists
  • Royal College of Pathologists of Australia
  • Royal Australian College of General Practice