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Join Date: May 2007
Aussie Med School FAQ
Starting around this time of year, people seem to flood me with questions about Australian med schools. At this point, my IM box is starting to get full - so I figured it's about time that I just answer all the questions in one big thread, since most people tend to ask essentially the same things.
1. I didn't get into med school in the US/Canada. Can I go to Australia?
Most Australian med schools have very objective admissions policies. Most schools here will let you in with a low GPA (which is poison in North America) as long as your MCAT score is good enough to make up for it. Most schools give equal weighting to your GPA and your MCAT, and then rank applicants based on that. Some schools (currently Sydney and Queensland, but that might change) just treat the GPA as a hurdle, so as long as you're above 2.7ish, they'll only look at your MCAT score and maybe your interview.
2. Is Australia better than the Caribbean?
This is a loaded question which has been discussed thoroughly on the forum. The bottom line is this - in Australia, a world-class university will train you to practice medicine in the Australian system (more clinical-oriented, more concept-based). In the Caribbean, an offshore school will train you to practice medicine in the American system (more science-oriented, intended to make you do well on the USMLE). In other words, you have to do a bit of extra studying if you want to go to North America after graduating - but that's not such a big deal, since the first two years here are pretty lax. Also, the Aussie schools provide a much more thorough and organized training structure during 3rd/4th year, which also helps for the USMLE, since you don't have to take it at hte end of 2nd year.
3. Can I go to North America with an Australian degree?
If you want to go back to North America, you'll need to take the USMLE (just like all the American grads) or the MCCEE/MCQE (like the Canadian grads). Most Aussie schools will let you do a couple of clinical rotations in North America so that you can build up some good connections. You'll also need slightly better USMLE/MCCEE scores than the locals, so you'll have to spend a bit of time studying. In the end, most people do end up making it to North America, but you may have to compromise on your specialty.
4. Will I be able to practice in Australia after I graduate?
This is another loaded question. Starting in 2011, some states won't have enough post-graduate internships to accommodate all of the graduates, although reliable data is hard to come by. This means that non-Australians will be told to go back home. There's a chance that this situation will change, but it's impossible to be certain. Most of the international students in Australia are planning to go to North America if this situation doesn't work out (see question 3).
The number of graduates is increasing progressively every year, so even if the 2011 graduates manage to find internships somewhere in Australia, it seems unlikely that the 2012 graduates will be as lucky (unless something changes). Personally, I think that there'll be pressure on the government to fix the situation after they realize that there are Australian-trained doctors going without internships in 2011... but one thing we all agree upon is that you should definitely have a backup plan.
Addendum (4/30/2012): All of our graduates in 2011 were able to find internships somewhere in Australia. It seems like most of us will find a job in 2012 too, but it's impossible to say for sure at this stage.
5. How will I pay the exorbitant international student fees?
If you're American, you can get Stafford Loans and GradPLUS loans from the US government; the interest rates are a bit high, but that's also what most students do at private universities in the US. If you're Canadian, you'll probably have to get a loan from a bank (unless you're from Alberta, in which case you can also get government loans) - the details of this will vary depending on a wide variety of factors. Other countries have their own policies, but if you're from a developing country, you should look into AusAID scholarships.
6. What's the best medical school in Australia?
Sydney, hands-down. OK, fine, maybe I'm a bit biased...
But seriously, there's no "best" school. All of the medical schools have to match the high standards set by the federal government. It's highly unlikely that anybody in Australia will ever give you any extra respect based on where you went to medical school. On the other hand, some universities do have more name recognition internationally - part of the reason why I chose Sydney is the fact that its name will be recognized no matter what part of the world I'm in.
7. What do you think of life in Australia? Is it better/worse than the US?
"Better" and "worse" are personal preferences - Australia is certainly different, but it's not a huge difference. I love it here, and although there's a long list of pros and cons for both Australia and America, I can't say that I prefer either one over the other.
8. What's the postgraduate training like in Australia? Are the hours and pay as bad as they are in America?
Training takes longer than it does in North America, but it's also much more humane. Here's a summary:
1. Internship (1 year) - $50-60k/year plus double pay for overtime hours. After your internship, you can apply directly to specialty training, but you probably won't get in. So, you do residency for a couple of years.
2. Basic Training (residency) - (indefinite, usually 1-2 years, maybe 3 or 4) - 20% pay increase every year. After internship, you start a "residency" to get more experience. Different specialties require different amounts of time in residency - and you can keep doing more residency years if you don't get into your desired specialty training program. That sounds painful if you compare it to an American residency, but it's actually not that bad - you get paid overtime (which would double your salary if you work 60 hours) and you don't work more than 50-60 hours per week.
3. Advanced Training - (varies by specialty, usually 4-6 years) - 20% pay increase every year. Again, this sounds like it takes a long time, but you earn a junior doctor's salary, you work a full doctor's hours, and you have your own patients. You're basically a doctor at this stage, except that you're a bit lower down in the hierarchy of power.
Most Australian med students actually don't even know what postgraduate training entails until they get through a good chunk of their third year. Since the training hours/salary are so much better than in North America, students don't usually consider those factors when choosing a specialty.
I've received countless questions over the course of the last couple of years, and I've answered just about all of them - so it'd take forever for me to go through every single question here. If you do have any general questions, post them in this thread and I'll either add them to the FAQ or answer them in the thread.
I'll probably go through this list sometime in the not-too-distant future and add more questions/answers. If anybody has any specific suggestions, don't hesitate to post them here.
Last edited by shan564; 04-30-2012 at 04:25 PM.