Medical education in Australia

Medical education in Australia

Medical education in Australia is concerned with both the basic training of medical practitioners and with the post-graduate training of medical specialists.


Medical school

Various models of medical education exist in Australia. Undergraduate-entry program typically last 5–6 years, and permit entry from secondary school matriculation. Applicants are usually assessed by a combination of high school leaving certificate performance, UMAT (Undergraduate Medicine and Health Sciences Admission Test) score and interview. Graduate medical programs typically last 4 years, and require the entrant to have attained a previous bachelor degree qualification at a certain level of achievement in addition to aptitude tests and interviews. The most common selection test used is the GAMSAT (Graduate Australian Medical Schools Admission Test).

In early years, theoretical domains of study predominate, with increasing clinical focus during the program. However, early clinical exposure — in which students commence clinical skills from very early in the course, concurrently with theoretical study — is a component of many degrees, most notably the graduate medical programs. In recent years medical school learning and teaching in Australia has taken on a new direction. At most universities there has been a move away from the more traditional methods of teaching with a shift towards the Problem Based Learning (PBL) pedagogy including the use of Objective Structured Clinical Examinations (OSCEs).

Depending on the program undertaken, students graduate as Bachelor of Medicine / Bachelor of Surgery (MBBS), (BMBS), or an equivalent Bachelor of Medicine (BMed), in addition to any other degrees attained during study.

Student life is well-catered for at medical schools in Australia, with medical students generally running one of the most active societies on campus. There is also a national medical students society, AMSA (Australian Medical Students' Society), responsible for student advocacy on a national level. AMSA also runs the AMSA Convention.


All States and Territories require recently qualified medical practitioners to successfully undertake and complete at least one year of supervised practice, generally known as an internship. Internship is undertaken in hospital positions accredited for this purpose. Interns in Australia are 'undifferentiated', meaning that they undertake rotations through many different specialties. Rotations differ from hospital to hospital and state to state. However, most states require three core terms to be completed - a medical term (general or subspecialty internal medicine), general or subspecialty surgery, and emergency medicine. In some states, a general practice term is offered instead of the Emergency Medicine term.

Historically the intern year was the only postgraduate training required to obtain a Provider Number. However, since 1996 the Commonwealth Government no longer issues Provider Numbers to doctors who have not completed postgraduate training (with some notable exceptions). A Provider Number is required to bill Medicare

Aside from experience gained through working, formal educational opportunities are required to be provided by hospitals for junior doctors. Accreditation and oversight of this phase of medical education is by each State's postgraduate medical council. There has been some movement towards a national set of standards for internship.


Upon successful conclusion of the intern year, doctors qualify for full registration in the Medical Board of their State or Territory, and are licensed to engage in independent medical practice. However, because Provider Numbers are not issued to doctors who have not completed postgraduate studies, nearly all doctors continue their training as Resident Medical Officers (RMOs) in hospitals, which typically lasts two years.

Some states (e.g. New South Wales) also require junior doctors to undertake a second generalist year, which is their first RMO year. Other states permit streaming from the first RMO year.

Specialist training

Specialist training varies considerably from specialist college to college. In some specialist college training programs a trainee may continue as an RMO in their early training, whilst in most others trainees begin at registrar level.

At the same time as working in hospitals or other healthcare environments, registrars also prepare for examinations for admission into specialist medical colleges, such as the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners, the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons, etc.

Those successful in completing the requirements of their college program become fellows of that college. They are now specialists in the case of most areas of medicine (and typically work in specialist private practice and/or as a consultant in a hospital).

Continuing medical education

All professional colleges require their members to undertake continuing medical education; the requirements of each college vary.

Youth Health
Adolescent health problems are often complex and require a comprehensive, biopsychosocial approach. The GP Resource Kits outlines the skills needed for working with the young person and their family, while addressing the developmental, cultural and environmental factors that influence their health status.

Urban and rural medical education

The shortage of doctors in rural areas is an on-going problem, and, to encourage medical doctors to remain in the rural areas after qualification, the Australian Commonwealth Department of Health and Ageing has set aside considerable funding to establish rural clinical schools in every Australian State [1]. Transferring the curricula has not been an easy task, but there are reports of success [2].

See also

  • Medical Schools in Australia
  • Category:Schools of medicine in Australia
  • Category:Teaching hospitals in Australia


  1. ^ Maley M, Denz-Penhey H, Lockyer-Stevens V, Murdoch JC: Tuning medical education for rural-ready practice: designing and resourcing optimally. Medical Teacher; 2006;28(4):345-350
  2. ^ Denz-Penhey Harriet, Murdoch J Campbell (2010). "Organising a clinical curriculum in rural settings: implementing quality control". The Internet Journal of Medical Education 1 (1). 

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