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How long does it take to become a doctor?


We are well and truly in the middle of “careers expo season”, and at many of the events I attend, there are high school students who are surprised by how long it takes to become a doctor. It’s an absolute minimum of 10 years following entry from high school….. but it’s not unusual to take 12 to 14 years.

Here’s an outline of the pathway in the table below assuming a you attend a university which incorporates a 2 year undergraduate degree followed by a 4 year postgraduate medical degree in its medical training program.

Year 0

This is when you are completing high school. You need to register for and sit the Undergraduate Clinical Aptitude Test. The university you are applying to will have an interview process, so be sure to check with them directly regarding the details and any other entry requirements.

Years 1 and 2

If you are successful in gaining a position, most universities will give you entry into a two year accelerated degree called something such as medical science or biomedical science, with a provisional entry into the medical degree upon successful completion of your undergraduate degree.

Years 3 to 6

4 year medical degree – this is the university component of the medical training. This degree may be known as a Doctor of Medicine or a Bachelor of Medicine/Bachelor of Surgery. Universities tend to teach the degree with a “problem based learning” approach. There are also practical placements which are mainly in hospitals.

Please note that instead of the 2+4 pathway described above, some undergraduate medical degrees are 5-6 years.

Years 7 and 8

Intern year and residency year – junior doctors generally spend two years rotating through different departments in the public hospital setting. It is not unusual to move to a different town or city for a few months at a time during these years. Please also note that some people do more than one residency year.

Years 9 to 11/12/13 (and beyond in some cases)

Vocational training – The time comes when you need to choose which specialty training program/s you would like to apply for. That is, do you want to become an eye surgeon, dermatologist, anaesthetist etc. For example, it takes 5 years to complete a fellowship of the Australian and New Zealand College of Anaesthetists to become an anaesthetist.  It takes 5 years to complete a fellowship with The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Ophthalmologists. It takes 3-4 years to complete the vocational training to become a general practitioner. It takes 4 years to complete the fellowship of The Australasian College of Dermatologists. If you choose to sub-specialize within a particular area within medicine, then the vocational training can take around 8 years.

It is worth noting that positions for vocational training in some specialties are hotly contested. For example, in 2015 we heard that rumours that in Queensland there were 7 places available for surgical training with the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons, and that 80 junior doctors were interviewed for these places. If you are not successful in gaining entry into the vocational training program of your choice, you would need to re-apply the following year.

The Medical Journal of Australia interviewed a heart surgeon who took 17 years to qualify in his area of expertise on whether the training pathway was too long.

Here’s an outline of the pathway in the table below assuming a you attend a university which offers an undergraduate medical degree that is 5 or 6 years:


12 replies to “How long does it take to become a doctor?”

  1. Hey,
    if you choose a medical science degree for the university stage, are you able to get into medical school and continue to become a GP from this degree?
    Thanks in advance, I don’t have many study course options where I am.

  2. I am intrested in biomedical sciemce or mbbs. What are the criteria to get admission. Is there any fees help for this course??
    I have completed biology in Diploma and also done Diploma in Disabity management.

  3. I want to start my bachelor of medicine next year . How long doest it take to become a doctor? I need detailed guide for my course. Thanks

  4. Haha based on how bad most of them are i believe that.
    It’s no coincidence that the good doctors have three week waiting lists and the bad ones accept walk-ins

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