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Becoming a doctor in Australia

How to become a doctor in Australia

by , 04 November, 2019
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This blog will address the difficult question of how to become a doctor in Australia. The short answer is with a lot of hard work, stress and difficulty! What will be detailed here is a brief overview of the formal pathways to becoming a fully registered and qualified doctor. Though it is very important to note that this blog will be addressing the aforementioned question in general – so that means you need to refer to the individual institution where you might want to study medicine to be fully aware of entry requirements, process, and graduation.

Further, this blog is also assuming an Australian audience, and so will not address overseas candidates and how entry as a medical practitioner proceeds for this group. Becoming a medical doctor in Australia requires students to successfully enter, and complete, medical school, prior to becoming an intern doctor, whereby completing this year allows you to be a registered medical practitioner. This blog will explore these steps.

GradReady Enrolments for September 2020 GAMSAT Courses Now Open - Early Bird SaleHowever, there will certainly be enough useful content here to provide a strong, general overview of the tedious process, and allow all medical hopefuls to be fully abreast of what they are getting themselves into! First, it is important that the baseline requirement of considering entry into medicine is the completion of grade 12 or equivalent in Australia. Despite what other blogs say on your high school studies, it does not matter at all what subjects you take at high school – a non-science background, for example, is no way determinative of your ability to pursue a career in medicine. You may need to learn a little physics or chemistry prior to application if you did not take these classes in high school (like me!), but it is certainly not a major barrier. However, the entry requirements for medical programs differ across schools and from year to year, so it's not possible to predict a "minimum" requirement from High School. 

Then, the main division of pathways going forward is attempting to get into medical school through the UCAT or GAMSAT routes. Previously, the former test was termed the UMAT, and it has recently been replaced by the University Clinical Aptitude Test (UCAT). This is an online test that is required to apply for undergraduate admission to participating medical schools in Australia. Typically, students with very high marks in high school can apply along this route, and it offers a more ‘direct’ entry into medical school. There are nine registered medical schools in Australia that accept the UCAT score, and this is a very new test that has been introduced this year! The UCAT is a 2-hour computer-based test, which consists of five separately timed subtests addressing: Verbal Reasoning; Decision Making; Quantitative Reasoning; Abstract Reasoning; and Situational Judgement Test. As this test was only introduced in 2019, there is not much more information about it for now!

The other route of how to become a doctor in Australia is through taking the Graduate Medical Schools Admission Test (GAMSAT). This is a mammoth test that you can take as a post-graduate student (i.e. you have completed, or are about to complete, a Bachelor’s degree at university). There is a treasure trove of information on the GradReady website about GAMSAT, where the test is thoroughly dissected and explained. I recommend you take a look, starting here: What is the GAMSAT?. Usually a Bachelor’s degree (completed or nearly completed) will be enough to sit the GAMSAT,  but keep in mind that some graduate programs require completion of first year subjects in anatomy, physiology and/or biochemistry.

Depending on the way you enter medical school, there are two types of medical degrees available in Australia: Five-year or six-year Undergraduate Bachelor degrees, and equivalent professional entry Masters level degree (usually called ‘MDs’ – though the undergraduate version may also be called this in some situations). The Masters qualification is, practically, not any different to a Bachelor equivalent in medicine. The Masters version is arguably a marketing ploy of most Australia medical schools to allow them to market to international students and also charge international and domestic students Masters level costs for what is, effectively, an unchanged Bachelor’s degree. For an example of some of the differences in costs, see here: Medical School Place Types.

how to become a doctor in AustraliaTypically, an interview with the medical school is part of the selection process. Candidates who are successful at the UCAT or GAMSAT stage will be invited to participate in an interview. There is more information on the interview available on the GradReady website, so please be sure to check it out: 5 Tips to help you ace the MMI interviews. Always make sure you thoroughly research each of these stages, as they have unique requirements that you must prepare for, often taking many months! The interview, for example, provides an opportunity for you to demonstrate your awareness of what studying medicine and becoming a doctor will entail. You may be asked questions about your motivation to study medicine, your understanding of the course, your study at school, hobbies, personal interests and current medical topics in the news. A key question will be your reasons for wanting to become a doctor.

Now, once you are in medical school, after many months of tests and interviews, you now have a very tough time of between four and six years of hard study to finally start working as an intern doctor! Again, please refer to the GradReady website for some unique views on Medical School, which, for some examples, can be found here: Medical School Entry Requirements; Which Medical School is right for me?

All Australian medical graduates must complete 1 year of internship in a public hospital before they can obtain full medical registration. During the final year of medical school, med students can choose their preferred hospital in which they would like to do their internship. After the internship, you are then FINALLY qualified to be a fully registered doctor! In this small blog of how to become a doctor in Australia, we have charted approximately eight years of your life, and because of the brevity of the discussion, I deeply encourage you to find the linked, additional resources to learn more! It is crucial that you adequately prepare for all stages in order to successfully come out the other side as a doctor. This blog has just given you a snapshot of what is required; now it is up to you to jump in! Now, if you’re ready to take the first steps towards becoming a doctor in Australia, check out this GAMSAT 2020 Guide and get started today!