We are approaching that time of the year again in Australia. The time where the majority of trainee doctors go up one step of responsibility on the ladder. It’s also the time that our newly graduated medical students commence their first paid position as a doctor. Commonly referred to as the internship. You might be keen to know how much you are going to be paid and how this compares to other States and Territories. How much do interns make? You may be surprised how much it actually varies.
Interns across Australia are paid according to State or Territory based Awards or Enterprise Agreements. The annual rate of Intern pay varies considerably with NSW Interns being paid the worst and Western Australian Interns being paid the best. In order of ascending annual Intern salaries are as follows: New South Wales $71,283, Tasmania $73,586, Australian Capital Territory $74,826, South Australia $77,084, Northern Territory $78,757, Queensland $78,941, Victoria $79,138, Western Australia $79,479
|as of Jul 2021||as of Jul 2021||as of Dec 2020||as of Apr 2020||as of Jan 2021||as of Jul 2021||as of Jan 2021||as of Oct 2020|
How Much Do Interns Make? There Is A Wide Variation In the Entry Doctor Pay Rate
The results above reveal that there is a wide variation of $8,196 or a 9.5% difference between the lowest paid annual salary and the best paid annual salary. Interestingly this gap has closed somewhat since we looked at it a couple of years ago.
The reason for the large variation is that each State and Territory sets its wages for public employees separately through something called an Award or an Agreement. These are formal documents that state the conditions of employment. They include matters such as the hours of work, the leave available and of course how much you get paid.
These Awards or Agreements are generally only comprehensively reviewed every few years at best. In the meantime State and Territory governments generally negotiate with the employee’s unions for an across the board annual wage increase somewhere around the rate of inflation.
Doctors like other public employees do not generally contract as individuals for their services with hospitals. So everyone gets the same conditions based on what role they are employed in and what year they are at.
According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics Full Time Adult Average Annual Ordinary Earnings was $93,729 in 2021. So bearing in mind that it takes a minimum of 5 years of university study (with a fair collection of higher education debt to pay off) to get to this point we can certainly not consider Interns to be extremely well paid.
But it’s not all that doom and gloom. Whilst, Interns certainly do not work the amount of overtime they used to 10 or 20 years ago. Overtime provisions, as well as loadings (working rostered hours on an evening, night or weekend) under most Awards and Agreements, can lift the annual take-home pay of an Intern significantly. For e.g. most overtime starts off being paid at 150% and rapidly goes to 200%.
So, if we take this into account when asking the question how much do interns make. If an Intern works on average 50 hours per week they are likely to hit Full-Time Adult Average Annual Ordinary Earnings, even in a State such as NSW.
It Goes Up From Here
And, of course, it does improve significantly from this position. By the time a doctor becomes a Registrar in Victoria, for example, their regular pay has increased to $120,000 per annum (after a period of 2 or 3 years). And as we have recently pointed out in another post. Salaries and incomes for specialist doctors in Australia are amongst the best of all occupations in Australia.
A Special Bonus For Interns
An additional bonus for Interns comes at the first tax time. In Australia, the Financial Tax Year runs from July to June. So, because you have not been paying much in the way of taxes for the first half of the financial year, you end up paying more tax than you need to in your first 6 months of Internship and get a reasonable return come tax time. For this reason, some Interns seek to work extra overtime before 30th June.
What’s Going On in NSW?
NSW has the highest number of intern positions in the country. So it may be that you came to this blog post wondering how much do interns make in NSW.
When I was an Intern, NSW paid some of the best salaries for trainee doctors in the country. States like Western Australia (which is now first) were actually towards the bottom of this list.
Given that NSW is the biggest State in Australia by population and one of the richest States economically. And given that Sydney (NSW’s capital city) is probably the least affordable place in Australia to live it makes little sense that NSW Interns get paid the least.
It’s hard to know exactly why this situation has occurred. It is possible that the industrial groups that represent doctors in other States and Territories have been more successful in representing trainee doctors over the years.
This certainly seems to be the case if one looks at the Enterprise Agreement for doctors in Victoria. Which even includes an allowance for continuing medical education, as well as separate provisions for internal training leave, examination leave and conference leave.
So whilst the question of how much do interns make is an important factor in determining which State or Territory is the best to be an intern. We do need to take into consideration a range of other factors.