Career in medicine


The best aspects of a career in medicine

Throughout the medical training pathway, medical students and doctors in training can be exposed to many different areas of medicine and then choose a speciality area that is of interest to them. Over 75% of medical students change their first career preference during medical school. In these articles Dr Judith O’Malley-Ford discusses the role of general practitioners and Dr Craig Mitchell gives insights about being an anaesthetist.


Many medical practitioners are able to decide on whether they would like to work in the public system or in private practice. There can be the scope for unusual modes of practice such as Dr Rolf Gomes’ Heart of Australia truck.

There are many reasons why people enter a career in medicine. According to a survey, the main reasons for Gen Y being interested in a medical career were because of an interest in medicine, an interest in science, an interest in people, because their family members are doctors, experiences when younger/growing up, the prestige, the power, the money, job security, a sense of the job being ‘worthwhile’, the challenge, and because they couldn’t think of anything else would like to do.

Some medical practitioners who have an interest in writing are able to combine these two pursuits. In this video Dr Judith O’Malley-Ford talks about how she wrote the Australian Medical Dictionary:

What do doctors love about their career?

In this article, Dr Lena Attebo, Dr Tamra Warby and Dr Ryan Harvey outline what they love about their careers. Dr Warrick Bishop has shared his career journey and his love for working with people in his article “on treating individuals like a patient and not a disease”.  

Things you really need to consider before deciding to study medicine

People’s perceptions of what a doctor does can be very different to what a doctor actually does. Mimi Le, who was a final year medical student when this video was filmed talks about how her perception of what a doctor does changed throughout medical school:

A study by Australian mental health foundation beyondblue found that medical students and doctors are more likely to experience psychological distress and suicidal thoughts when compared with the general population. Following the study the Doctors’ Mental Health Program was launched.

Allegations of bullying, sexual harassment and discrimination (please note that the content in some of our articles reporting on sexual harassment may contain explicit information) towards medical students and doctors in training were aired publically, and made it to the mainstream media in 2015. As it was the main organisation implicated, the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons (RACS) (the vocational training college for surgeons in Australia), appointed an Expert Advisory Group to deal with these concerns in March 2015. The EAG’s final report showed that 49% of RACS Fellows, trainees and international medical graduates experience discrimination, bullying or sexual harassment. This has started a wider conversation about what medical students and junior doctors experience throughout their training, with the hope that there will be some culture change in the future.

Please note that there is a difference between a Bonded Medical Place (BMP) and a Medical Rural Bonded Scholarship (MRBS). The Department of Health closed the MRBS to new entrants in September 2015. There were reports of students choosing to buy their way out of the MRBS, and that it probably wasn’t possible to switch to regular enrolment once a MRBS had been taken. Rural doctor Penny Wilson has gave her insights on what it meant for her years down the track after having taken a MRBS as a teenager.

A study by Australian mental health foundation beyondblue found that medical students and doctors are more likely to experience psychological distress and suicidal thoughts when compared with the general population. Following the study the Doctors’ Mental Health Program was launched.

Burnout can be a problem for practitioners in a number of different areas of medicine, particularly where a practitioner works in a rural area. In this article rural GPs Dr Gerry Considine and Dr Melanie Considine discuss three major things they have done to have a successful career. Dr Maxine Szramka gave a scathing opinion on why doctor burnout begins younger than we think, and medical student Stephanie Pommerel gave an account on how to thrive and not just survive medical school.

As well as saving lives, there will inevitably be some patients who don’t survive. In this article med student Brooke Sachs reflects on her first experience with the death of a patient.

Some medical practitioners, particularly surgeons often get a bad rap when it comes to their personality traits, and can be perceived as arrogant. That aside, the American College of Surgeons believes that there are 7 main areas aspiring surgeons need to consider.

Former doctor Evgenia Galinskaya has said that doctors who want to leave the profession can often feel trapped as if they seek an alternative career it is often assumed that their new career path with have a medical flavour.

How long does it take to become a doctor?

It takes a minimum of 10 years to become a doctor – The shortest path from high school is a 5 year undergraduate medical degree followed by a 1 year internship, a 1 year residency and a 3 year vocational training program. However, many of the vocational training programs (that is, the specialty training program such as anaesthetics, ophthalmology or intensive care) are 4 to 6 years, and some doctors in training will spend more than 1 year as a resident before they can gain entry into a vocational training program. Follow the links for more information:


Possible future shortage of vocational training positions

You may have heard that there was an intern crisis in recent years. At this stage all graduating Australian domestic students are guaranteed an internship, but there is no guarantee in place for international students.

The main hurdle in the future could be in the vocational training section of the pathway to becoming a doctor. For example, by the year 2024 it is estimated that 3961 doctors in training will be competing for 3272 first year registrar (vocational training) positions. If the government does not provide more of these training positions, this will mean that 1/6 people who commenced medical school around 2016-2017 would be unable to complete their training to become a fully qualified doctor.

The distribution of doctors and training positions is an ongoing topic of discussion in Australia, and conflicting headlines in the media may lead to confusion. The following articles help to clarify the situation:  

Gaining a place in a medical degree (aka getting into medicine

Check with the universities you are looking at applying to for details on their entry requirements. There are generally two ways to get into medicine:

1.  The undergraduate pathway:

  • This will generally involve achieving a top ranking at high school and performing well in an interview
  • You may also need a high score in the UMAT
  • In this video Mimi Le talks about her interview to get into medical school:

 The test date for UMAT 2018 is 25th July. 

2.  The postgraduate pathway:

    • This will generally involve achieving a high Grade Point Average in an undergraduate degree and performing well in an interview
    • You may also need a high score in the GAMSAT
    • There are a number of universities in Australia which use the GEMSAS website to manage their medical school admissions
    • In this video Dr Gerry Considine talks about what he thought was the best GAMSAT preparation:

The test date for GAMSAT 2018 is 12th September.  

Where are the medical schools?

Click here for a list of medical schools in Australia. Please note that you may have to move intercity or interstate for an internship, residency or vocational training program. Some vocational training programs may be overseas (especially sub-specialty training for surgeons). Click here for an article by the spouse of a surgeon in training who moved 8 times in 9 years.


ATAR / OP for medicine

Click here for ATAR / OP information for medicine course in Australia.


Latest News

Click here for the latest news about medicine.


University scholarships

Please read our scholarship listing thoroughly for this information.

How much money do doctors earn?

In 2018 myfuture stated that the average annual income (excluding superannuation) for general practitioners and resident medical officers was $130,000.  

According to the 2012 Australian Bureau of Statistics Survey of Employee Earnings and Hours, full-time doctors in non-managerial positions earned an average of $2,862.30 per week. Male doctors earned on average $3,015.60, compared with female doctors who earned $2,644.10. Please note that the salary can vary dramatically for different medical specialties. You will also find more information in our 2013 article how much money do health professionals really earn?

In 2015 the median annual income for a medical intern was $65,000.


Videos about a career in medicine

Click here to watch more videos about a career in medicine.


Career information from professional associations

Go to this page and click on the links to organisations such as the Australian Medical Association from there.

This page was last updated in May 2018.