The smallest continent but sixth largest country in the world is a true multi-cultural “melting pot”, and a popular destination for overseas-trained doctors. Australia’s healthcare system enjoys a very good reputation, and the life expectancy for the country’s over 23 million inhabitants is one of the highest on Earth. With most of the population living in the big cities and by the sea, there is a structural lack of doctors in rural and remote areas. Targeted policies and programmes have therefore been developed to direct doctors into such regions, also known as “areas of need” or “districts of workforce shortage (DWS)”; this is also reflected in specific immigration and registration rules for doctors coming from abroad.
English language proficiency is of course mandatory and its proof is a prerequisite for medical registration of overseas-trained doctors. According to the Medical Board of Australia applicants for registration must demonstrate English language skills at IELTS academic level 7 or the equivalent.
How to start off as an overseas-trained doctor?
The first point of contact for overseas-trained doctors (international medical graduates – IMGs) is the Australian Medical Council (AMC). The AMC coordinates the assessment of medical qualifications of IMGs seeking registration to practice in Australia.
There are three assessment pathways for IMGs:
1. Competent Authority Pathway – This “easiest” route is applicable, if you have acquired medical qualifications through an AMC-approved authority, i.e. currently: Medical councils in Canada (LMCC), Ireland, New Zealand (NZREX), UK (GMC) or the Educational Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates of the United States (USMLE). If this pathway applies, the AMC issues an Advanced Standing Certificate. It allows you to apply to the Medical Board of Australia for limited registration and complete one year supervised practice with an accredited provider. Subsequently, the AMC can issue an AMC Certificate for general registration.
2. Standard Pathway (AMC examinations) – This is the “normal” route for non-specialist IMGs, if the Competent Authority Pathway does not apply. In a first step you have to pass a Multiple-Choice Question (MCQ) Examination. It takes 3.5 hours and can be done in examination centres globally, e.g. in the EU in Athens, Frankfurt, London, Madrid and Paris. If you have passed this exam, there is another Clinical Examination. This is a 16-station assessment taking place in teaching hospitals in Australia. According to the AMC the success rates for both exams have been in the area of 50% in 2012. Upon successful completion the candidate receives an AMC Certificate for general registration with the Medical Board of Australia. The alternative “workplace-based assessment” is currently still of limited availability.
3. Specialist Pathway – This is mainly the route for overseas-trained specialists. Specialist recognition requires a successful assessment of comparability, otherwise further training or exams. In addition, this pathway is open for overseas specialists-in-training and specialists applying for an area of need position.
Detailed practical information on all these pathways can be found on the AMC website or in the AMC application guide for international medical graduates
Further steps before work can commence
- Registration – Once you’ve got your AMC certificate, you still have to apply for the applicable registration with the Medical Board of Australia, which is supported by the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA) in the State or Territory where you intend to work.
- Visa – You also need to apply to the Australian Government – Department of Immigration and Border Protection – for visa with work rights. There are a number of visa options available for doctors.
- Medicare Provider Number – Once you’ve got your visa, you must apply to Medicare Australia for such a number if you will be working in general practice or prescribing drugs.
- AMC application guide for international medical graduates
- DoctorConnect website
- Rural Workforce Agencies (RWA) – for GPs (family physicians) interested in working in rural and remote areas of Australia.
- Australian Medical Association (AMA)
- The Medical Journal of Australia
- Recruitment and Consulting Services Association (RCSA) Australia & New Zealand – RCSA includes the Association of Medical Recruiters Australia & New Zealand (AMRANZ).
- Australian Government – Department of Immigration and Border Protection – for detailed information on visas and other immigration issues.
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