Need to choose a specialty? Your steps to pursuing specialty medicine in Australia

Steps junior doctors need to take to specialise in Australia

7 min | Medical Careers

Are you eager to kickstart your medical career in Australia but feel lost in the complex regulations and requirements? Figuring out which specialty to pursue can be tough, especially if you’re not sure which one is the right fit for you. But we have you covered. We’ve outlined the process, the challenges and how to get your medical career off to a flying start.  

The internship challenge 

The first step after graduating medical school is to complete an internship at an accredited hospital to obtain general registration from the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA). However, this phase comes with its own challenges. 

Location and Specialisation 

Choosing your preferred hospital and location for your internship might not be as straightforward as it seems. Some hospitals may be in high demand, requiring you to relocate. Not all hospitals offer exposure to every clinical area, which can make it difficult for you to decide on your preferred specialisation.  

Be open to exploring opportunities in different locations. This could be your chance to experience diverse healthcare settings and broaden your experience. Check out our ‘Discover Regional Australia’ series, where you can read a taste of what each state has to offer. Connecting with experienced doctors can also give insight into different hospitals and specialities.  

Navigating medical training 

Once you’ve successfully completed your internship and gained general registration, you can work as a resident in the hospital system. You may encounter some obstacles on the way. 

Training program hurdles 

Getting accepted into a training program is a significant challenge. Dr Ashe Coxon, founder of Medical Career Planning writes in her article, “The length of training and commitment to training is lengthy, time consuming and expensive, so many doctors really want to be sure before they pursue a training program”, as success is not guaranteed. Some programs limit the number of attempts a doctor can make, and the competition is fierce.  

Persistence, preparation, and persistence is key. Understand that the process may take time, so make sure to use any unsuccessful attempts as experiences to learn from and seek feedback to improve your application. Exploring alternative training programs and diversifying your options could also improve your chances of being accepted.  

Changing paths 

If you’re unsuccessful in your attempts to get into your preferred training programs, you may find yourself reconsidering your career path. Pursuing an alternative training program means starting from scratch with its own set of pre-requisites, which may be daunting. It’s important to remember you’re always learning; identifying transferrable skills and knowledge from your previous focus is important, because these could make you a stronger candidate for different specialities. Seeking guidance from a mentor or career counsellor will also be invaluable when you’re uncertain what to do next. Ashe offers in-depth courses and workshops to help you plan and work through your career concerns that you can check out here 

Overcoming career indecision 

Given the number of speciality options available (over 80!), it’s common for doctors to find it hard to decide. The limited exposure to specialities, with only 5 rotations per year, can leave you unaware of all the available options. Ashe writes, “As a career development practitioner, one of my main goals is to build awareness of all the careers that a doctor can train in … I ask the client to consider the skills, interests and attributes that all of the specialities require and if they can see themselves pursuing in”. 

To get a better understanding of your options, have a look at the comprehensive list of specialties provided by the Medical Board of Australia. You can also actively explore specialties by attending workshops and conferences or taking opportunities to shadow experienced doctors. 

Tackling ‘career season’ 

Job applications for resident positions and training programs typically open from June to August. This period demands crucial decisions on hospital preferences, training programs, and likely rotations. Being able to navigate these choices wisely is essential. Start preparing your applications well in advance, and make sure to strategically prioritise your preferences and consider factors like available rotations and career advancement. You can always reach out to our recruiters who are experts at navigating through career season.    

Making your career sustainable 

The road from qualification to becoming a specialist can take anywhere from 10 to 20 years. While career satisfaction is the goal, some doctors may find themselves feeling unfulfilled, and seek guidance. Experiencing burnout is common in medicine, so it can be beneficial to seek advice and support from a career counsellor. Read our tips to address and overcome burnout on our blog here. 


If you need more guidance, Medical Career Planning offers a specialised course outlining all specialties, required skills, general information and brief descriptions of training and pre-requisites. Check them out here.  

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