OzTREKK Ambassadors: Should I stay, or should I go? What are the options post-MD?

4 September 2020

One question I get asked a lot is, “Will you be able to get a job in Australia?” or, less politely, “Isn’t it risky to do an MD abroad?”

While I don’t have all the answers and every year is probability different, the short answer is yes, I can continue my training in Australia after my degree—or I could apply back home.

In this blog I hope to untangle some of that information and explore how and why I am comfortable training in Australia even though it’s not a guaranteed pathway. Before we get started, I do want to preface a few details:

medical students at Macquarie University
Emma B, second-year medical student at Macquarie University

1. I am a second-year medical student, so even though I do I know a bit about the process, I have not succeeded in getting into an internship/residency in Australia.

2. OzTREKK cannot give any guarantee about your “odds” of employment, but they can—and do—share the data they have access to, but they can’t guarantee anything (and neither can I). Ultimately, it’s a risk. Previous students, myself included, have found it to be a worthy risk, but the decision is up to you.

Okay, now that I have scared you completely, let’s actually get into reassuring you that this dream is still possible!

So let’s fast-forward to the end of my degree… what are my options? After finishing my Doctor of Medicine degree at Macquarie University, I actually have a lot of options. They boil down to staying in Australia or going back home, with some sub-categories.

Staying in Australia

During the final year of your Aussie MD you’ll be able to apply to internship.* There are a few options available to international citizens.

1) The Standard Pathway

This would mean you are applying to the same positions open to all. Please note every state does things differently and I know New South Wales the best. In NSW, internships are allocated similar to the “Match” in the USA, but it is not merit based. You rank the hospitals and an algorithm allocates the interns (bit of a game of chance). Now it’s Australian citizens educated in NSW that are the first to be allocated, then Australian’s educated from other states etc. etc. It changes every couple years but international citizens educated in NSW are (as you guessed it) closer to the bottom of the pile when it comes to allocating. So, it’s not often a pathway international students pursue. (Victoria is merit based, but I understand international applicants are still looked at after nationals.)

2) Rural Preferential Pathway

This is a program dedicated to allocating interns to rural/remote hospitals. Again, international students aren’t up at the top of the allocation but fewer local students pursue this pathway, so the chances are better for internationals than they are with the standard pathway.

3) The Junior Doctor Program Private Health Stream

As the name states, this is the pathway to fill up internships at private hospitals. Guess who is top of the list this time? International students. This program has recently had an overhaul and more hospitals are opting into the program, but through this stream Australian-educated international citizens (people like me!) are first!

Coming Home to Canada

The timing in this option gets a little tricky. Remember, Aussie degrees run with the calendar year (it’s actually really handy) but the Canadian Residency Matching Service (CaRMS) is done in the spring. So, there will be a few months not allocated. International Medical Graduates or IMGs (so Aussie-educated citizens) are similarly not the first preference through allocation.

Important to note is that CaRMS is merit based, so you will have to provide your Australian transcript and be able to commute home for interviews (to the best of my knowledge). You will also have to take the relevant tests (akin to “Step” in the US).

That being said, Canadians educated in Australia have a comparatively high rate of coming back and finding a residency in Canada. “High” is not a guarantee though, when I last checked I believe it was 50% (usually Table 50, CaRMS Data and Reports). Have a look at CaRMS stats and CaRMS reports (the regional IMG match rates are what we speak to most).

So, while none of these paths are a guarantee, there are lots of options!

Risks and Benefits?

Well I think the risk is pretty clear: you could graduate and not get a job. I think it is important that any international student is aware of that. Does that scare me? Sometimes! But most of the time I am too focused on my degree, my life here, and having too good of a time to think about it.

Is it worth the risk? I think so. For me it is a really “safe” risk for a few reasons:

  • There is a pathway here in Australia for which I am first in line.
  • NSW isn’t merit based. On one hand I’m relying on luck, but on the other I don’t have the weight of my future on my shoulders going into every exam.
  • Australia has a very respected MD accreditation and that is recognized. If I am applying back home, I have a “respected” degree and I know that my training has been enough.
  • There are numerous options for me here.
  • There is more to do with an MD than immediately entering residency. Is this something I would want to do? No, it’s scary but it is there. (Such as research, clinical trials, and advising).

How Can OzTREKK Help?

So how did I figure all of this out? I’ve done a lot of googling and a lot of talking while here (could have done more beforehand 😅). But OzTREKK provided the framework. OzTREKK hosts Medical Licensing Webinars that help you straighten out the various pathways to training (in Canada, Australia, and the US). They are able to provide the latest statistics and developments as well—for me this was the final “it’ll be okay” I needed to commit.

Final Thoughts

In general, I think it’s important to recognize it is a risk, there is no guarantee. Whenever someone gets a little too nosy about that, I like to remind them that there is no guarantee for Canadian MD grads either 💁🏼‍♀️ (I do have respect for Aus in that they guarantee every citizen educated in Aus an internship).

I think this is 100% a decision you have to make for yourself. Rely on data more than you rely on forums. Different premed forums like to throw around the words “internship crisis” or “residency crisis” and in my opinion that is a bit of fear mongering. Take the data OzTREKK can provide, do more research, and make the decision you are comfortable with. If you know where you want to attend look up their internship pathway specifically and see what their statistics provide. The Australian Medical Student Association (AMSA) also has info available for international students as well.

So, in summary, it’s a risk, sure—one I was willing to take—but it’s also an adventure and also, hopefully, an opportunity to chase your dreams.

*Internship is your first and second year of postgraduate education. This is not connected to a specialty or “residency” training program in Australia.  


 Emma’s a second-year student in Macquarie University’s Doctor of Medicine program! Follow her on Instagram for more tips and info!  

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