Skip to main content

Your free guide to a career in medicine

The best aspects of a career in medicine

Throughout the medical training pathway, medical students and doctors in training will 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 different specialties are discussed, with Dr Judith O’Malley-Ford giving insights about the role of general practitioners and Dr Craig Mitchell giving insights about being an anaesthetist. Dr Warrick Bishop has shared his career journey as a cardiologist and his love for working with people in his article “on treating individuals like a patient and not a disease”.

In this article three doctors talk about what they love about their career, which included the ability to be involved in early diagnosis and prevention, the diversity of roles available in any area of specialty in medicine, and making an immediate difference in people’s lives.

CPD-CERTIFIED HEALTH WRITING COURSEMany 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:


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:

Psychological distress – 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. The World Medical Association has updated its physician pledge to include physican self-care.

Bullying, sexual harassment and discrimination – 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.

Moving for training – 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.

Burnout – 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.

Patient death – 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. There has also been some debate as to whether doctors should be involved in physician-assisted dying.

Personality traits – Some medical practitioners, particularly surgeons can 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.

Alternative careers – 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 as it can be highly competitive to get into a vocational training program.

Following is a sample infographic for general practice:

Follow the links for more information:

Possible future shortage of vocational training positions

You may have heard that there was an intern crisis a number of years ago. 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. In March 2019 an announcement was made by COAG Health Ministers about a more streamlined approach to medical training, and it is hoped that this will alleviate the bottlenecks in the system.

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)

Click here for the ATARs and requirements for undergraduate entry, as well as the postgraduate entry requirements for entry into every medical school in Australia in 2018.

Check with the universities you are looking at applying to for details on their entry requirements. Some will give priority to students from a rural or Indigenous background.

There are generally two ways to get into medicine, these being the undergraduate and postgraduate pathways.

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 University Clinical Aptitude Test (UCAT)
  • In this video Mimi Le talks about her interview to get into medical school:


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:

ATAR for medicine

Click here for the ATARs and requirements for undergraduate entry, as well as the postgraduate entry requirements for entry into every medical school in Australia in 2018.

Latest News

Click here for the latest news about medicine.

University scholarships

Please read our scholarship listing thoroughly for this information.

Please note that there is a difference between a Bonded Medical Place (BMP) and a Medical Rural Bonded Scholarship (MRBS). A Bonded Medical Place is not a scholarship. 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.

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 2018 Graduate Outcomes Survey medical graduates completing their intern year in 2019 had a median annual income of $73,000, and those further postgraduate training $78,300 per year.

According to the Australian Job Outlook in early 2019, general practitioners and resident medical officers have an annual income of $96,200.

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.

Videos about a career in medicine

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

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 March 2019.