Any doctor who has worked for more than a few months in Australia will likely have worked alongside a UK doctor who has decided to work in Australia. Whether this is for a short-term working holiday or a permanent move. As someone who has worked in Medical HR for more than two decades, I have found that UK doctors on the whole to be a really good group to work with. So let’s talk about UK Doctors Australia.
Can UK doctors work in Australia? The answer is, of course, yes. The United Kingdom provides the largest source of overseas doctors or International Medical Graduates (IMGs) working in Australia. Of course, no doctor coming from another country is absolutely guaranteed to be able to work in Australia.
But because the UK medical training system is recognized by the Medical Board of Australia as being on par, UK doctors have good success with either becoming generally registered through what is called the competent authority pathway or being recognized as a specialist through the specialist pathway. In 2017 (the latest year we have figures for) 430 UK doctors were recommended for specialist registration, with many more achieving general registration.
So the prospects for working in Australia as a UK doctor are extremely good. But it’s important to give you a little bit more detail. As I have highlighted there are two main options for getting registered. So we will talk about these first and then go into some other common questions.
The Competent Authority Pathway. The Option For Trainee UK Doctors Australia.
If you are a trainee doctor in the UK. Then you are looking at the competent authority pathway for working in Australia.
The competent authority pathway assigns a preferential status to any doctor who has completed their primary medical training in one of the following countries: the United Kingdom, Canada, the United States, and the Republic of Ireland.
There is largely
New Zealand is not included in the list above as its medical schools are accredited by the same body as Australian medical schools, the Australian Medical Council. So doctors from New Zealand in Australia are generally treated identically as those from Australia.
If you are an international medical graduate and you have achieved general registration in the United States, Canada, or the United Kingdom (but not the Republic of Ireland) you are also eligible for the competent authority pathway.
What are the steps involved for the competent authority pathway.
You can find out more about the competent authority pathway on the Medical Board of Australia website.
The key steps are as follows:
- Securing an employment offer
- Applying to the Australian Medical Council for primary source verification
- Applying for registration to the Medical Board of Australia
- Completing 12 months supervised practice
- Applying again to the Medical Board of Australia for general registration.
Eligibility for Competent Authority
You can do a “self-assessment of your eligibility for the competent authority pathway on the Medical Board of Australia website here.
The essential requirements are:
You need to be a graduate of a medical course conducted by a medical school in the United Kingdom which is accredited by the General Medical Council
Successfully complete Foundation Year 1, or complete 12 months supervised training (internship equivalent) in the United Kingdom, or complete 12 months supervised training (internship equivalent) another Medical Board of Australia approved competent authority country, which is also approved by the GMC.
OR if you are an IMG who has been working in the United Kingdom you need to
Successfully complete the Professional and Linguistic Assessments Board (PLAB) test
Successfully complete the Foundation Year 1, or 12 months supervised training (internship equivalent) in the United Kingdom, or 12 months supervised training (internship equivalent) completed in another Medical Board Australia approved competent authority country, approved by the GMC.
For this reason, doctors who have completed medical school in another European Union country are often unable to get registered in Australia via working in the United Kingdom as they are often not required to complete the PLAB.
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What types of jobs can I apply for as a UK Trainee?
You can pretty much apply for any sort of trainee job. There are often a number of postgraduate year 2 or 3 general jobs on offer. They are generally termed Resident Medical Officer in most States and Territories, but may also be called House Officer or Hospital Medical Officer in some places.
Above these sorts of posts, come the specialty training positions. Australia’s specialty training system is fairly much in parallel with the United Kingdom. So you tend to enter specialty training around postgraduate year 3. These positions are generally referred to as Registrar positions. But you might also see advertised as Senior House Officer or Trainee or Advanced Trainee.
One key thing to look out for is that most of these jobs will not accept an overseas applicant.
A key thing to look for is the phrase “eligible for registration” in the selection criteria.
It is very important to try and secure an employment offer. Whilst you can apply to the Australian Medical Council to check your primary medical degree at any stage. You won’t be able to gain registration until you have an offer of employment. This is because the Medical Board needs to see a supervision plan from your employer.
Outside of general practice, the majority of employment opportunities for trainee doctors occur within public hospitals. So your best places for finding suitable job postings are on the State and Territory health department recruitment sites. We have a listing of these on our international doctors’ resource page.
What Type of Supervision Will I Need Or Get?
The Medical Board of Australia is very vigilant around supervision standards for IMG doctors. What sort of supervision you receive will depend on a number of factors, including:
- your qualifications
- your previous experience, especially in the type of position for which you have applied
- whether you have practiced recently and the scope of your recent practice
- the requirements of the position including the type of skills required for the position
- the position itself, including the level of risk, the location of the hospital or practice and the availability of supports (supervisors)
- the seniority of the position, for hospital position
In general, you will either be approved for Level 1 or Level 2 Supervision. There are 4 Levels and the higher up you go the less direct oversight you require.
Level 1 Supervision.
Level 1 Supervision requires your supervisor (or alternative supervisor) to be present in the hospital or practice with you at all times and you must consult with them about all patients. Remote supervision (for e.g. by telephone) is not permitted. This type of supervision is generally recommended when you are very junior yourself or entering a junior role with which you are not very familiar with. In Australian major public hospitals, there are many layers of other doctors from who you can get supervision from. So Level 1 is not too much of an issue in these circumstances.
Level 2 Supervision.
Level 2 Supervision, which is what most UK trainees approved to work in Australia will normally be approved for is a step up from Level 1 Supervision. Supervision must primarily be in person but your supervisor can leave you to do work on your own and you can discuss by phone. You should discuss with them on a regular (daily) basis what you have been doing with patients. But do not need to discuss every case.
Level 3 Supervision.
Level 3 Supervision, is what you might receive if you are working in an Advanced Trainee role in the UK and transferring to something similar in Australia. In this case, you have much more primary responsibility for the patient. Your supervisor needs to make regular contact with you but can be working elsewhere and available by phone or video.
What happens after I commence my position?
Once you are approved for registration and you have your visa issues sorted you will be able to commence work. Generally, your employer helps you out with all these things. You will be working under what is called “provisional registration” by the Medical Board of Australia. Generally, all you need to do for these 12 months is to pay attention, show that you can learn and grow and get regular feedback from your supervisors. Your supervisors will need to complete regular reports for the Medical Board of Australia and it is your responsibility, not theirs to see that they are completed and returned on time. If all the reports go well you will be able to be recommended at the end of the 12 months for general registration.
You will probably be starting to look for another job or negotiating an extension around this time. With general registration, you may be able to apply for a skilled visa, as well as be looking at applying for permanent residency.
Permanent residency is crucial for applying for most specialty training programs. See below.
The Specialist Pathway. The Option For UK Specialists
For UK specialists your option for working in Australia is what is called the Specialist Pathway.
Once again this starts with becoming verified as a doctor with the Australian Medical Council and should again coincide with an active search for a position.
You may be lucky enough to be in a targeted specialty area where you might successfully be approved for what is called an Area of Need position, in which case the employer or recruitment agent will provide you a lot of support and will likely pick up the costs of being assessed.
For most International Doctor specialists however these days you will be approaching the college directly to be assessed for specialist recognition. This is not something to be trifled with. The paperwork requirements and the cost (generally around $10,000 AUD or more) are considerable.
On the plus side, the colleges all have reasonably helpful information on their websites, including the application forms and a little bit about their criteria for assessment.
Finding Out What You Need To Do.
We have saved you the trouble of finding those pages by putting them on our International Doctors resource page here.
The majority of UK specialties (but not all) map to a similar college or specialty in Australia. So working out which specialty goes into which Australian college is generally not too confusing. We have put together a summary of the Australian specialist medical colleges here.
After you go through your specialist assessment you are given an outcome.
In the majority of cases for UK specialists, you will be deemed substantially comparable. This essentially means that you will need to work under some form of peer review for up to 12 months and so long as your reports are satisfactory you will be recommended for specialist registration at the end.
Occasionally UK specialists are deemed to be partially comparable (a situation where this may occur is if you have just recently finished specialty training but have not worked as a specialist for very long). In this
Rarely are UK specialists deemed not to be comparable by the college. This only happened to 6 out of 409 UK doctors in 2017 (less than 1%). If you are deemed to be not comparable, this means you cannot directly become a specialist in Australia. You will probably have to go through the competent authority route and re-enter training in Australia.
How to Maximize Your Chances of Getting a Substantially Comparable Outcome.
To ensure that you are seen as substantially comparable by the relevant college I would recommend the following:
- You should have your Certificate of Completion of Training and relevant college Fellowship
- You should ideally have worked substantively at a Consultant level in your field for 3 years or more
- You should be able to demonstrate good standing with the GMC and your employers
- You should be able to demonstrate ongoing continuing professional development
- You should prepare for your interview with the college as if it were an important job interview
Can you enter training in Australia if you are a UK doctor?
To undertake formal specialty training in Australia you need to be accepted into a college training program. In all circumstances, you will need general registration and in many cases permanent residency or citizenship.
After receiving your general registration UK doctors can apply for specialty training in the same way that Australian trained doctors do. And if accepted will go through the exact training program and experience. Some colleges may offer recognition of prior learning for any UK training you have done already. But this is often quite limited and may at best normally shave one year off of your training.
An Alternative But Limited Option.
There is an alternative but time-limited pathway for UK doctors who are just seeking a short-term experience in Australia to add to their training in the UK. This is called the Short Term Training in a Medical Specialty Pathway. To do this you must be offered a training position first and you must have either completed your training in the UK or be less than two years from completion. So this is a program mainly for early-career specialists or advanced trainees.
In this pathway, you go through the same steps with the AMC as per the competent authority pathway to gain registration. You will not, however, be able to apply for specialist assessment as part of this pathway. But if you gain general registration you may then be able to apply for another position and then apply for specialist assessment.
Can you do your internship in Australia as a UK doctor?
Basically no. Internship in Australia is a provisional year that only applies to medical graduates from medical schools in Australia and New Zealand. There is a “loophole” that only applies to doctors who have not been able to complete an internship or equivalent in their own country. But the Medical Board warns that this is not a great option and is only granted in limited cases. You are far better off applying for the Foundation Program in the UK and completing at least Foundation Year 1.
How many UK doctors are working in Australia?
There is no one public data source to tell us how many UK doctors are currently working in Australia.
From data collected by the Australian Government, we know that for 2017 (latest available year):
- 718 applications were made for provisional registration via the competent authority pathway by UK doctors with 701 granted provisional registration
- An additional 43 applications were made for provisional registration via the competent authority pathway by doctors who had completed the PLAB in the UK, with 31 being granted provisional registration
- 409 applications were made for specialist assessment, only 6 of which were deemed not comparable, 36 partially comparable and 367 substantially comparable.
- 430 UK doctors were recommended for specialist recognition with 12 not being recommended
How hard is it to become a specialist in Australia if you are from the UK?
Specialist doctors from the United Kingdom are not automatically granted specialist recognition. However, most are. As you can see from above in 2017 there were 409 applications made for specialist assessment to the Australian colleges by UK doctors and of these, the majority were deemed substantially comparable.
UK doctors tend to get a very
We hope that you found this summary about how UK doctors can work in Australia useful. If you have any questions or queries or just want to relate your experience. Please feel free to leave a comment below. We would love to hear from UK doctors who have made the journey to Australia.
Are there any particular specialties that are easier to apply for?
The majority of specialties have some vacancies and will provide opportunities for the UK and other IMG doctors from time to time. This is particularly the case if you are prepared to go outside of the major cities. Some areas of medicine are more popular and so finding jobs in areas such as most surgical fields, as well as other fields such as cardiology can be quite difficult.
On the other end of the spectrum general practice, psychiatry and most parts of critical care medicine are often always looking for doctors.
Costs of Moving To Australia and Working As a Doctor.
There are lots of costs to consider when thinking about moving to Australia to work as a doctor.
There are some direct costs to consider. Most of which relate to the bureaucratic process of being assessed and gaining registration.
Some of the costs you may be up for, include:
|AUD (unless otherwise noted)|
|Establish Portfolio with Australian Medical Council||$500|
|Registering with EPIC and having one primary degree checked||$125 USD + $80 USD|
|Medical Board Application Fee for Provisional Registration||$382|
|Medical Board Application Fee for Specialist or General Registration||$764|
|Medical Board Provisional Registration Fee||$382|
|Medical Board General or Specialist Registration Fee||$764|
|College Specialist Assessment Fees||$6,000-$11,000|
|College Placement Fees (for a period of supervision)||$8,000-$24,000|
Further, if you are required to undertake further exams there will be a cost for this as well. As an example, RACS charges an exam fee is $8,495.
The Cost of Your Time and Effort.
To all of this cost, you will need to factor in the cost of your own time. It takes a lot of effort and persistence to deal with the paperwork and track down the records you need.
In addition, you are probably going to have to pay costs in your own country for things like records of schooling and certificates of good standing.
There are also visa costs.
And then there is the cost of airfares and transporting your belongings halfway across the world.
Depending on where you work in Australia you may find that the cost of living is higher or lower than you are used to. House prices and therefore house rental rates have gone through the roof in Australia in the last decade or so but are starting to come down.
You will probably have to factor in some initial extra hotel or short-term rental charges whilst settling in and you may find if you have children that you have to pay to enroll them in school as public schooling is only generally free if you are a citizen or permanent resident.
If you are lucky and in one of the specialty areas of demand your employer may offer to pay for some of these costs. It’s certainly worth asking about it.
Question: Are there any other options for working as a UK doctor in Australia?
Answer. Some doctors just want to come to Australia for a limited period of time as an opportunity to train in another country.
As we have highlighted above there is an alternative but time-limited pathway for US doctors who are just seeking a short-term experience in Australia to add to their training in the US. This is called the Short Term Training in a Medical Specialty Pathway. To do this you must be offered a training position first and you must have either completed your training in the US or be less than two years from completion. So this is a program mainly for early-career specialists or advanced trainees.
Question: Should I use a medical recruitment company if I am considering working in Australia?
Answer. It is possible to deal directly with employers in Australia as a UK doctor. In general, however, when moving from one country to another most doctors find it useful to engage with a medical recruitment company as they can tend to take some of the stress out of the planning for you and help with all the paperwork and negotiating with prospective employers. Some medical recruitment companies also provide migration services and relocation services as well. We have written more on this subject here. And a list of medical recruitment companies is available here.
This post is also part of a Free Introductory course about Working As A Doctor In Australia. Please click to go to the next lesson.
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