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.

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