Medical Training and Qualifications

Information about Australian medical training and qualifications.

Basic medical training

In Australia basic medical training at university is 5 or 6 years in duration. It usually begins with pre-clinical years where exposure to patients is limited. During this time junior medical students will learn about the normal functioning of the human body as well as the many conditions that can affect it. The clinical years involve students seeing patients with all sorts of illnesses and learning communication skills, examination skills, treatment options. Teaching generally involves a mixture of lectures, group discussions, hospital based work with specialist doctors and patients, community GP work and a large amount of self-directed learning. The teaching method is rapidly evolving and currently problem based learning techniques are popular. Examinations, both written and clinical are taken every year to ensure that students have an adequate understanding of what they are meant to have learned.


After completing medical school new doctors are not allowed to practice independently. They undertake a year of closely supervised training usually in a number of areas including general medicine, emergency medicine and general surgery. The specialists they work for as well as the other more senior trainees carefully help the junior doctor through this apprenticeship-like year.


After successful completion of the intern year doctors proceed to residency. Between one and three years is spent working in hospitals developing areas of interest prior to embarking on specialist training. Residents usually work as part of a team in the hospital and will be supervised by a registrar (specialist in training) and a consultant in whatever specialty they are working in at the time. They will be given more responsibility than interns and will perform some invasive procedures under supervision.

Specialty training

Training to become a specialist in any field of medicine takes longer than an entire school career, averaging about 13 years! Having completed 6 years of university, a year of internship and several years of residency a doctor may apply for specialty training in any desired field. They usually have to pass initial examinations and then if successful compete with many other young doctors for limited specialist training positions. Three to seven (average 5) years of specialty training follows. Trainees work under the supervision of a consultant / specialist in that speciality field. The period of specialty training may end with a fellowship examination although in many specialties rather than a final examination ongoing assessment and review throughout training is used to provide feedback and quality assurance for that trainee’s performance. Research is often mandatory in the specialty training period. Only having successfully completed all this training can a doctor practice independently as a medical specialist.


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This article is for informational purposes only and should not be taken as medical advice. If in doubt, HealthEngine recommends consulting with a registered health practitioner.

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