About medical doctors and specialists

Medical doctors and specialists become qualified to diagnose and treat illnesses, disorders and injuries after completing a medical course. They can specialise in different fields. They can access Medicare rebates, which reduces the cost of health care to patients.

What a medical practitioner is

Medical practitioners play a critical role in providing high-quality health care for Australians.

We often refer to medical practitioners as ‘doctors’. They are responsible for:

  • diagnosing and treating physical and mental illnesses, disorders and injuries
  • recommending preventative action
  • referring patients to specialists, other health care workers, and social, welfare and support workers.

Doctors complete at least 4 years in a university medical school accredited by the Australian Medical Council. This is followed by compulsory 12-month internships to gain general registration. Most doctors then spend several years training in a medical specialty, such as general practice, surgery or psychiatry.

The Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency’s (Ahpra) Medical Board of Australia regulates doctors and specialists. All medical practitioners must be registered with the board and meet registration standards.

Read more about medical doctors and specialists regulation and education requirements.

International medical doctors and specialists

To gain medical registration in Australia, international medical graduates who have medical qualifications from outside of Australia or New Zealand must meet the requirements for either the:

  • competent authority pathway – usually for non-specialists, but also specialists with qualifications from the UK, Ireland, USA, New Zealand and Canada
  • specialist pathway – for specialists seeking specialist recognition or applying for an area-of-need specialist position
  • standard pathway – for doctors not eligible for the other 2 pathways.

Check which pathway you’re eligible for with the Medical Board of Australia.

Medicare access for doctors and specialists

Doctors and specialists charge patients, who can then claim all or part of this fee from the Medicare Benefits Scheme (MBS).

To bill under Medicare, doctors must:

Recent policy reforms support and encourage doctors working in general practice to achieve specialist qualifications.

Vocationally recognised doctors

To get a Medicare provider number and access Medicare rebates, doctors who are permanent residents or citizens of Australia must become vocationally recognised in a medical speciality.

They must gain fellowship with either:

Being vocationally recognised gives doctors access to higher Medicare rebates.

Non-vocationally recognised doctors

Non-vocationally recognised doctors are those who don’t have a fellowship. These doctors attract a lower Medicare rebate. 

We support doctors to gain fellowship through the Non-vocationally Registered Fellowship Support Program, so that they can claim the full Medicare rebates.

International medical graduates

Overseas-trained doctors and foreign graduates of an accredited medical school can access Medicare benefits if they work in certain locations and meet eligibility requirements under section 19AB of the Health Insurance Act 1973.

Last updated: 
24 November 2021

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