The best aspects of a career in medicine
Many areas of specialization
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.
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.
Survey on interest in a career in medicine
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 on a career in 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. 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 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. There has also been some debate as to whether doctors should be involved in physician-assisted dying.
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:
- How long does it take to become a doctor?
- Become an anaesthetist – pathway infographic
- Become a dermatologist – pathway infographic
- Become a general practitioner – pathway infographic
- Become an intensive care physician – pathway infographic
- Become an obstetrician gynaecologist – pathway infographic
- Become an ophthalmologist – pathway infographic
- Become a pathologist – pathway infographic
- Become a psychiatrist – pathway infographic
- Become a radiologist – pathway infographic
- Become a surgeon – pathway infographic
Are doctors getting jobs?
Please refer to the “doctor” section on our employment page for detailed information for a range of medical specialties.
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. 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:
- Doctor shortages or oversupply? Conflicting headlines
- Can the redistribution of medical school solve the problems in training places shortage?
- AMA Summit on medical workforce: Too many doctors, few training opportunities in communities that need them most
Gaining a place in a medical degree
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 2020.
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 and accredited courses
ATARs and Selection Ranks – Click here for the requirements for entry into every medical school in Australia in 2022.
Accredited Courses – a career in medicine starts by completing a course accredited by the Australian Medical Council.
Click here for the latest news about a career in medicine.
Please read our scholarship listing thoroughly for this information.
How much money do doctors earn?
Go to our earnings page for detailed information.
Videos about a career in medicine
Click here to watch more videos about a career in medicine from real doctors.
Career in medicine – information from professional associations and colleges
- Australian Medical Association – how to become a doctor
- Australian Medical Students Association
- The Australian Indigenous Doctors’ Association – medical pathways
- Royal Australian College of General Practitioners
- Royal Australian College of General Practitioners – Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander
- Australasian College of Sports Physicians
- Royal College of Pathologists of Australasia
- Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Radiologists
- Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists
- Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists
- Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Ophthalmologists
- Royal Australasian College of Surgeons:
- Royal Australian College of Medical Administrators
- Royal Australian College of Physicians – become a physician
- Royal Australian College of Physicians – full list of advanced training programs including:
- Addiction medicine
- Cardiology (adult)
- Cardiology (paediatrics)
- Clinical haematology
- Clinical genetics
- Clinical immunology and allergy
- Geriatric medicine
- Infectious diseases
- Medical oncology
- Palliative medicine
- Paediatrics (general)
- Respiratory & sleep medicine
- Royal Australasian College of Dental Surgeons
- College of Intensive Care Medicine of Australia and New Zealand
- Australian and New Zealand College of Anaesthetists
- Australasian College of Dermatologists
- Australian College of Rural and Remote Medicine
- Australasian College for Emergency Medicine
This page was last updated in January 2023.