Understanding junior doctor grades in Australia in 2024

Junior IMG doctors

For international doctors eyeing Australia as a career destination, navigating the Australian medical system and understanding the junior doctor grades is important. The allure of Australia's healthcare system, with its blend of public and private sectors and emphasis on work-life balance, makes it an attractive option. This article aims to demystify the grading system for junior doctors in Australia as of 2024, offering insights to doctors from the UK or other areas of the world looking to move ‘Down Under.’

Before exploring job titles and grades, it's important to understand eligibility criteria, which vary by job and dictate your application eligibility. Key aspects include:

Type of registration required:

  • "Eligible for registration" indicates IMGs, like UK doctors new to Australia, can apply. The employer supports your Provisional AHPRA registration application, offering necessary supervision.

  • "General AHPRA registration" is for doctors with General registration, including Australian graduates post-internship and IMGs with over a year of Australian experience.

  • PGY level needed: PGY stands for postgraduate years, reflecting time since graduation. Some jobs specify a minimum PGY level.

  • Accredited vs. unaccredited post: Accredited posts are formal training positions linked to a Royal College, typically reserved for permanent residents or citizens. However, exceptions exist in workforce shortage areas for IMGs with full AHPRA registration.

Junior doctor grades in Australia

In Australia, the medical hierarchy is similar to the UK but comes with its own titles and responsibilities. Australian doctor grades fall into three categories, with sub-grades denoting responsibilities and pay levels. Here’s a breakdown:

1. Interns (PGY1)

Doctors are referred to as interns the first year after graduating from medical school. This is akin to the UK Foundation Year 1 (FY1). An internship in Australia is a supervised year of practice prerequisite for full registration with the Medical Board of Australia. Interns handle ward lists, discharge summaries, and basic procedures, heavily supported by senior staff.

2. Residents (RMOs or PGY2+)

After completing their internship, doctors become Resident Medical Officers (RMOs), similar to Foundation Year 2 (FY2) in the UK. Residents have more responsibility than interns and can work in various specialties, gaining broad experience. Includes Resident Medical Officers (RMOs), Senior Resident Medical Officers (SRMOs), and Principal House Officers (PHOs), each with varying responsibilities. RMOs and SRMOs support ward operations, while PHOs may receive more responsibilities, especially in generalist fields.

3. Registrars

Registrars in Australia are doctors in training who are enrolled in a specialty training program. This is equivalent to Specialty Training (ST) years in the UK. Registrars are responsible for supervising junior doctors and making complex medical decisions. They are on the path to becoming a consultant or a specialist. Encompassing Registrars, Junior Registrars, Unaccredited Registrars, and Advanced Trainees. Responsibilities increase, with roles varying from UK-equivalent CT2/CT3 to training positions recognised by Australian Royal Colleges. Unaccredited Registrar roles are similar to the UK's Trust Grade but aim to attract strong candidates with competitive offers.

4. Senior Registrars/Fellows

Senior registrars or fellows are doctors who have completed their specialty training and are in the final stages before becoming consultants. They often undertake subspecialty training or further research.

Understanding these considerations and job grades helps navigate Australia's medical job market, aligning opportunities with your career stage and aspirations.

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Navigating the transition

For international doctors, transitioning to the Australian system requires understanding these grades and the pathways to progress through them. Doctors must navigate the registration process with the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA) and potentially undertake exams or assessments depending on their qualifications and experience.

Steps to work and live in Australia as an IMG

Eligibility for medical registration: The first step to working as a doctor in Australia is to gain eligibility for medical registration. This involves demonstrating your qualifications and experience to the relevant regulatory body.

Finding a suitable role: With a large and diverse healthcare sector, there are numerous opportunities for IMGs in Australia, including permanent positions in both urban and rural locations.

Moving to Australia: Once you've secured a job, the final step is to move to Australia. This can involve obtaining a visa, registering with the Australian Medical Council, and completing a mandatory 12-month training program.

If you completed your medical degree in the UK and Ireland, it is comparable to Australia. Australia has a lot to offer UK doctors. Modern medical systems a great lifestyle, and the ability to earn great money are just some of the reasons UK doctors look for jobs in Australia.

Finding your ideal role in Australia

Understanding the various doctor grades in Australia helps identify the most suitable position for your career stage. Let's explore what might be the best fit for you based on your experience:

  • Post-F1, Pre-F2: Opt for an RMO position, seeking PGY2-specific roles that acknowledge your one-year experience equivalent to F2.

  • F3, New to speciality: An RMO role, providing support and guidance under a Registrar, is ideal.

  • F3, Foundation Training in a Speciality: RMO positions suit those with specialty experience, though starting in this role can ease the transition into Australia’s healthcare setting despite previous specialty exposure.

  • F4, With Locum or Fellowship Experience: A PHO or Junior Registrar role matches your higher experience level, offering more responsibilities and better pay. However, consider starting in a less demanding role to adjust to the new environment.

Opportunities and challenges

The transition offers many opportunities, including exposure to diverse clinical practices, a supportive learning environment, and the chance to work in Australia's vast and varied landscapes. However, it has its challenges, such as adapting to a new healthcare system, overcoming logistical hurdles related to relocation, and meeting the registration requirements.

For international doctors considering a move to Australia in 2024, understanding the grading system is the first step toward a successful transition. With proper preparation, the journey to practising medicine in Australia can be a rewarding experience, offering both professional growth and an enviable lifestyle.

How to get started

Relocating overseas to pursue a medical career is a significant undertaking, and the backing of a medical recruitment agency can be helpful. Medrecruit features a specialised IMG team comprised of individuals who've personally navigated moving to New Zealand (Australia's neighbour), ready to provide authentic advice on transitioning to life ‘Down Under.’ What's more, our service is completely free for doctors. To find out more about working as an IMG in Australia, register, and one of our IMG team will be in touch to discuss opportunities and set you up for a successful relocation.

IMGs in Australia are in high demand, with a large and diverse healthcare sector offering numerous opportunities for professional growth and development. Whether you're looking for a metropolitan lifestyle or a peaceful rural existence, Australia has something to offer every IMG.

Medrecruit Editorial Team
29 February 2024Article by Medrecruit Editorial TeamMedrecruit Editor