What’s Plan B if you don’t get into medical school, what’s life like as a medical student and other questions. How the AMA (Australian Medical Association) can help you with information.
So you’ve decided you want to study medicine and practise as a doctor.
But there’s a lot more to this than just studying the right subjects and getting the marks you need at school or university…
Here’s some helpful information to key questions that might be on your mind. The Australian Medical Association (AMA) is a helpful and highly credible resource where you can find detailed advice. See either the relevant links to the AMA (the AMA also links to Study Medicine) or follow the links to further detailed, university-specific information sections in Study Medicine.
How do I increase my chances to get into medical school?
Getting into a medical program in Australia is highly competitive. Even if you’re a top student academically, medical program applicants increasingly also need to demonstrate a range of other skills - as examined through various testing regimes such as UCAT etc, interviews and often through provision of additional information such as portfolios.
So what are your options to increase you chance of success? These are, basically -
Increase your number of medical school applications
You can apply for all the medical programs that are applicable to you to increase your chances - this means doing your research and also determining any interstate medical schools you are able to apply for (see the University Selection section for details about all the available Australian medical programs).
Reduce your likelihood of being rejected
Ensure you are fully aware of all the selection criteria and application requirements so you’re not rejected for silly or administrative reasons. For can find more information about the selection criteria used for each university’s medicine program, including the specific definitions and any applicable hurdle requirements (see the University Selection section and University Details sections for selection criteria details).
It’s also important to know how to apply (see the University Selection section and University Details sections for relevant domestic, international, rural and Indigenous requirements application processes) and when to apply (see the Deadlines section for current deadlines).
Improve your score in all selection criteria (academic - ATAR/GPA, aptitude/psychometric - UCAT/MCAT/ISAT/GAMSAT, other - interview, portfolio etc)
This basically comes down to not only studying hard but also doing your homework regarding what is required by doing past exam papers etc and thinking about your technique in things such as how you read questions and approaches in how you give your answer. There are a range of free resources (such as the UCAT website) as well as a large number of organisations that offer paid support such as practice papers and/or tutoring (interview technique, UCAT/MCAT/ISAT/GAMSAT preparation, subject tutors).
What’s Plan B if I don’t get in to medical school?
The reality of applying to university to do medicine is, unfortunately, that most applicants will not be accepted. For example, UNSW medical school received 2262 applications for 138 domestic places and 331 applications for 51 rural places in 2018. The odds for these applicants were a 6% chance of being accepted into a domestic place and a 15% chance for those applying for a rural place.
If you’re applying for medicine straight from high school and aren’t accepted, the options available to you are:
Either to pursue a different path (including applying for other university courses), or
You could choose to apply for medicine again.
Medicine entry after Year 12 entry (ie again)
You could try for undergraduate medicine again and this raises the question of what are you going to do differently to increase your chances this time? Have you understood all the entrance requirements and have you determined how you are going to optimise your ability to be accepted in a subsequent attempt? Do you need to improve either your ATAR or UCAT result?
UCAT can be repeated - it is valid for 1 year and can be undertaken any number of times (a maximum of once per year). Year 12 subjects can also be repeated (noting that this means both Unit 3 and Unit 4). Universities/Admissions Centres will use your most recent ATAR for selection purposes. If you are seriously contemplating repeating Year 12, check with your school careers counsellor or your State Curriculum and Assessment Authority to ensure you are fully aware of the various requirements and what this means in terms of ATAR outcomes.
Or you could commence an undergraduate degree and then apply for either undergraduate or postgraduate medicine. There’s a lot to consider under either of these approaches.
You may try to transfer from another (incomplete) degree into medicine (generally known as lateral transfers). This is not as easy as it sounds, as all undergraduate medicine degrees have very clear rules regarding whether or not they accept non-Year 12/lateral transfers, and if accepted, which degrees, what universities and what incomplete degree length of study is possible. There are usually only a small number of transfers that are accepted (if at all). For more information, go to the University Selection page or the University Details section for information about each university’s medical degree pathways to see whether lateral entry is accepted.
Your Plan B might be starting a non-medical university degree and applying for entry into undergraduate medicine again. Some undergraduate medical programs, however, will not accept students who have any record of university study. So again, do your homework to determine what the specific requirements are for each university you have in mind to check whether your Plan B is viable (see the University Selection section and University Details sections for all the available Australian medical programs and details regarding entry criteria).
If you’re looking to apply later for a postgraduate medical program, make sure you know which undergraduate degrees are accepted by the university. Some postgraduate medical degrees just require you to have completed an undergraduate degree. Other postgraduate programs require specific undergraduate degrees to have been completed. Some universities go one step further and also require undergraduate degrees to have been completed at that same university - for example; Monash medicine will only accept Monash university graduates, and specifically only those graduates who have certain, specified degrees. For more information, go to the University Selection page or the University Details section for information about each university’s medical degree pathways and what undergraduate degrees are accepted.
It’s also worth remembering that many universities have what is colloquially known as the 10 Year Rule. The 10 Year Rule refers to the age of your previous degree/s, in terms of whether it will be accepted as a valid prior degree. Each university will have specific rules regarding this (including if there is a time limit of validity for previous degrees, whether additional studies to “refresh” your degree need to be undertaken, what types of study are required to appropriately “refresh” and the period of time this is required - ie a year, semester etc). For more information, go to the University Selection page or the University Details section for any commentary about 10 Year Rules.
Other aspects to consider in the case of postgraduate degree applications is ensuring you have the required prerequisites (for example, Grade Point Average from your undergraduate degree, GAMSAT results, any other requirements, etc) for the particular medicine program. For more information, go to the University Selection page or the University Details section for details about selection criteria including definitions as well as information about how each university determines offers of an interview and offers of the place.
These are the reasons why it is important to think ahead and determine which undergraduate degrees lead to medicine, in case your first attempt to be accepted into undergraduate medicine is unsuccessful.
What’s Plan C if I don’t get into medical school?
Unlike high school, university studies can be continued by undertaking further degree studies (Master, PhD, etc). Again, it’s worth determining whether the postgraduate medical programs you may be considering will accept students with higher university studies and whether any further studies will positively contribute to Grade Point Average calculations (see the University Selection section and University Details sections for all the available Australian medical programs and details regarding which higher degrees are accepted and how Grade Point Averages are calculated).
GAMSAT can be undertaken on multiple occasions (there are 2 sittings per year) and the best result out of these can be used. GAMSAT is valid for up to 2 consecutive years.
Life as a medical student
Each university has a student medical society and these societies not only support students currently studying medicine, but they are a great source of information about what it’s like to be a medical student. The Australian Medical Students’ Association, a medical student body with representatives recruited from medical schools across Australia also has medical student resources. The AMA also has resources for students and actively supports student doctors to become members of the AMA by providing free AMA Student Membership.
Resources for international students
Places at Australian university medical programs include both Commonwealth Supported Places as well as full-fee paying/international student places. The number of full fee paying/international students places at each university is usually disclosed (see the University Selection section and University Details sections for each university).
Medical school application processes for international students are specified by each university (see the University Selection section and University Details sections for each university) and these involve both international assessment requirements (Year 12 as well as ISAT/MCAT expectations) and the specific application processes through which international students are to apply.
There are some additional key considerations international students also need to be aware of with regard to future training and employment in Australia post their degree, including important aspects such as the ability to secure an internship. The AMA International Medical Students and Graduates page provides further important information and links to information sources.
Rural and remote medicine
The Australian Government requires 27.5% of medical students to come from remote and rural locations. To qualify as a rural applicant, you must have resided (based on your principal home address) for at least 5 years consecutively or 10 years cumulatively in an area classified as RA 2-5 since birth (ASGS-RA: Australian Statistical Geography Standard - Remoteness Areas). The RA classification of many towns can be checked by consulting the Doctor Connect website.
Students applying for medicine through the rural entry scheme often need to apply through separate and specific processes (see the University Selection section and University Details sections for each university).
Changes to medicine programs to further encourage rural medicine practice and support training of students from rural backgrounds were introduced in the 2018 Federal Budget. Additional training programs have been provided through the Murray Darling Medical School Network that introduces La Trobe University (through the University of Melbourne medical program) and Charles Sturt University as part of a new rural medical school network.
Bonded Medical Places (BMP) under the Federal Government’s Bonded Medical Places Scheme aims to provide more trained doctors particularly in rural and remote areas. More information about practising in these locations can be found at AMA Preparing for Rural and Remote Medical Practice.
Am I really cut out for medicine?
Undergraduate medicine degrees take between 4 years 8 months and 6 years to complete (go to the University Selection page or the University Details section for information about each university’s medical degree duration). You wouldn’t want to go through all that study only to find out it’s really not for you. AMA Real Life Advice is where you can find out more about what it’s really like to be a doctor.
What happens after medical school?
It takes more than just qualifying for your university medical degree to become a doctor. For a start, you need to progress through a variety of additional stages to fully qualify. These stages are:
Internship - 1 year of training that includes hospital rotations. At the end of this period, you are able to hold a general registration, which means you are able to practise as a doctor (within your training limits).
The key thing to be aware of here, is that you have to apply for internship positions (the medical equivalent of applying for your first job). The number of internship positions are limited, so this means it’s not a guarantee that once you’ve finished medical school you can automatically move into an internship and be on the path to practising. You apply for State Government or Federal Government funded internship positions through each State’s Health Department (see the AMA What’s Next After Graduation).
Once you’ve completed your internship and qualified with a general registration, it’s still not the end of your training…
Residency - 1 or more years. As a House Medical Officer or Resident Medical Officer you may be involved in conducting further research or you may do further training - particularly if you’re looking to specialise (remembering that General Practice is also a specialisation). If you don’t want to specialise, you can progress along the path of becoming a Career Medical Officer.
Registrar - undertaken once you’ve been accepted into a specialty training program. Specialty training areas include:
GP Registrar - 2 years
Medical Registrar - 3 years
Surgical Registrar - depends on the specific specialty you are training in (eg general surgery, neurosurgery)
There are over 64 areas of specialisation with training undertaken through the commensurate specialist College. Specialist training usually takes a further 3 to 6 years (for more information see the AMA Specialty Training Pathway Guide).
So when you add all of this up, after finishing medical school you are up for a minimum of 2 years to qualify as a Career Medical Officer or will train for up to a further 8 years or more to qualify as a specialist.
What types of jobs for doctors are there, where are they and how do I find a job?
There are a surprisingly large number of organisations that employ doctors. The AMA provides an AMA Junior doctor employment guide. The AMA Medical Employment Opportunities and the Jobs Board gives an comprehensive list of employers and current job opportunities.
How do I go about working overseas?
Medicine is an international profession and there are great opportunities to both study as a medical student and practise as a qualified doctor in overseas locations. The AMA has an AMA Guide to Working Abroad and also provides useful links to a range of international medical organisations, such as Medicines Sans Frontieres and others.
AN IMPORTANT QUALIFICATION
Study Medicine information has been compiled from Australian university and other reputable public information sources and therefore is a guide. Authoritative information is provided by the university only. Make sure you obtain information directly from the university before making any decisions.
The above information is intended to help you understand common medical degree application terms. Remember, information can always change, so ensure you keep up to date by regularly checking directly with the appropriate university.