How To Become A Surgeon In Australia: A Complete Guide

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Students want to know how they can become surgeons in Australia and how long it takes.


Do you love learning, have a passion for medicine and like helping people? If yes, a career as a Surgeon might be ideal for you.


Surgeons are skilled medical professionals who perform surgery to correct abnormalities, treat diseases, repair injuries, and enhance human functioning and overall appearance.


To work as a registered Surgeon in Australia, you must become a qualified Medical Practitioner and complete further training with the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons.


In this article, you learn about becoming a surgeon in Australia, how long it takes, what they do daily, what ATAR you need, courses, qualifications, eligibility requirements, specialisation options, average salary, and steps to get started.



1. What Is A Surgeon?


Surgery is a highly specialised and demanding medical field involving treating illnesses and fixing injuries. Surgeons are highly trained medical doctors who specialise in specific organs or procedures.


They conduct internal invasive operations in the patient's body to treat various issues that result from an injury or a disease. They mostly perform delicate surgical procedures to treat diseased hearts, brain tumours, broken bones, and eye conditions such as cataracts and glaucoma.


Surgeons use specialised techniques and instruments and closely work with a team of medical professionals to execute surgical procedures in healthcare settings.



2. Tasks And Duties Of A Surgeon


Surgeons spend a lot of time in their offices consulting with patients to discuss their cases and plan the surgery. The following are some of the tasks:


  • Consult with patients and examine their reports to understand their medical history, present health conditions, allergies, and medical challenges to identify the need for surgery and determine the appropriate surgical procedure

  • Discuss the case with other specialised surgeons 

  • Study various surgical techniques that can be useful to upcoming operations

  • Perform surgeries to repair injuries, treat ailments, and correct deformities

  • Stay current with modern surgical technologies and methods, such as nanotechnology and imaging systems.

  • Be a mentor for budding professionals. 

  • Use specialised equipment to operate on patients to treat injuries, diseases, and deformities. 

  • Oversee the operating room, equipment, and instruments to ensure sterility

  • Recommend suitable post-operative care, follow up with the patient, and complete medical records

  • Consult with anaesthetists to determine the suitable anaesthesia for patients

  • Supervise the activities of medical staff, including nurses, assistants, and specialists

  • Train other nursing, medical, and associated staff to prepare the patient, instruments, and equipment for surgery



3. What Skills Do You Need To Become A Surgeon?


Is a career as a surgeon right for you? You need a combination of the following technical and non-technical skills to work in this role:



Technical Skills


  • In-depth knowledge of the human body and its biology

  • Specialist expertise for precise diagnosis 

  • Able to read diagnostic images such as ultrasounds, MRIs, X-rays, etc.

  • Good understanding of pre-and post-operative care



Soft Skills


  • A steady hand

  • Precision

  • Quick decision-making skills

  • Strategic mind

  • Clear communication

  • Problem-solving

  • Compassion

  • Critical-thinking skills

  • Organisational skills 

  • Manual dexterity

  • Leadership skills

  • Diagnosis and analysis skills

  • Emotional resilience 

  • Ability to support the team

  • Eager mind

  • Commitment and enthusiasm to learn new techniques and skills 

  • Adaptability to a changing environment



4. Surgeon Qualifications In Australia


Before starting to work as a registered Surgeon, you need several years of formal training, including a medical degree and work experience in a hospital.


  1. Gain your Higher School Certificate or equivalent in pre-requisite subjects such as high-level mathematics, physics, biology, chemistry, and English.

  2. Complete an accredited medical degree such as six years of full-time Bachelor of Medical Studies / Doctor of Medicine degree. Alternatively, if you have completed a relevant undergraduate degree, complete four years of a full-time Doctor of Medicine degree.

  3. Complete a one-year internship to apply for general registration with the Medical Board of Australia.

  4. Complete 1 to 2 years of training as a Resident.

  5. Apply for the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons' Surgical Education and Training program in any of the nine surgical specialities: Cardiothoracic Surgery, General Surgery, Neurosurgery, Orthopaedical Surgery, Otolaryngology (ENT), Paediatric Surgery, Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, Urology, and Vascular Surgery. It is a 5 or 6 years training program that includes clinical placements, short courses, research, and examination.


Those who complete the speciality training become Fellow of the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons. They are accredited to practice as an independent Surgeon.



5. Steps To Become A General Surgeon In Australia



Step 1: Complete Year 12 Pre-requisites


There are two ways students can enrol in a medicine program: Right after high school or after completing a bachelor's degree.


The first pathway requires applicants to pass high school studies in one or more subjects such as English, advanced mathematics, biology, physics, and chemistry and gain an ATAR of 99.95.


Graduates from high school can apply for an undergraduate medicine course at a university. Evaluate universities on reputation, location, course fee, and medical program to find the one that best suits your career aspirations.



Step 2: Complete A Bachelor's Degree


The other way to enter a medical degree is to complete the HSC and a bachelor's degree in arts, commerce, science, or pharmacy with an impressive Australian Tertiary Admission Rank (ATAR). Most medical schools grant guaranteed entry to students with an ATAR of 99 or above.


Next, the undergraduate applicants must pass the Undergraduate Clinical Aptitude Test with a high score. This exam assesses the student's knowledge of verbal reasoning, situational judgment, abstract reasoning, and decision management.



Step 3: Gain Some Work Experience


Work experience is not required to get into a medical school. However, gaining work experience shows you are committed to studying medicine and gives you valuable insight into the medical field.


To gain work experience, you can take on leadership roles in your community and school or volunteer at a charity organisation, hospital, clinic, or physician's office.



Step 4: Take The GAMSAT


Students in their final year of a bachelor's degree can take the Graduate Australian Medical School Admissions Test. The test evaluates the students' capabilities to study a university-level medicine course. 


Those who meet the satisfactory GAMSAT score come for an interview for entry into a Doctor of Medicine program.



Step 5: Study for A Doctor of Medicine


Students who have passed the interview stage will qualify for a four-year Doctor of Medicine program. Several top Australian universities, such as UNSW, University of Melbourne, and Deakin University, offer the degree course. 


The degree prepares students to work confidently and comfortably in community and hospital settings.


The duration of medical degrees ranges between 4 and 6 years, depending on whether you enter as a high school student or a university undergraduate.



Step 6: Complete An Intern Year


On completing the medical degree, you will obtain provisional registration with the Australian Medical Board and start working as an intern


Students will undergo 12 months of training in public, private, or community-based settings. They must complete all essential core rotations and two non-core rotations. 



Step 7: Gain General Medical Registration


After completing the accredited intern year, graduates are awarded general registration with the Medical Board of Australia. 


It enables them to work in clinical and non-clinical settings. Practising graduates must maintain registration for their entire careers.



Step 8: Obtain a Fellowship Of The Royal Australasian College Of Surgeons


After completing training as an intern and RMO, you can apply for a 5–6-year medical speciality training program and obtain a fellowship from the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons


The speciality program involves several assessments, including written, practical, and clinical examinations that may vary from one college to another.


Students can also gain membership in the Australian Medical Association for networking and access to career opportunities and vast learning resources. The organisation represents registered medical professionals and medical students in Australia.


Industry bodies:




6. How To Become A Doctor In Australia For International Students?


Suppose you are an international medical graduate wanting to practice medicine in Australia or an overseas-trained doctor wishing to work in Australia. In that case, you need to complete different stages to get registered and employed as a General Surgeon.


The Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency and the Australian Medical Council are the industry bodies that provide the path. They help obtain accreditation for the medical degree and registration essential to practising medicine in Australia.


Here is how an international student can study medicine in Australia:


  • Step 1: Apply to take admission into the Doctor of Medicine degree Online (via the International Online Application System)



  • Step 3: Meet the Academic Eligibility Criteria (ATAR = 93.5 for International Applicants)


  • Step 4: Register and take the 3-hour International Student Admission Test that measures quantitative and critical reasoning. The test scores will help rank applicants and find the most eligible ones.



7. How Long Does It Take To Become A Surgeon In Australia?


Becoming a surgeon in Australia requires a lot of study, training, dedication, and patience. You can enter this profession directly from high school or after completing an undergraduate course.


The total time to become a surgeon in Australia depends on your chosen study pathway.


  • Six years of high school

  • 3 to 4 years of undergraduate medical course 

  • 4 to 6 years of a graduate medical school 

  • 1-Year internship

  • One or more years of the residency training program



8. What Subjects Are Needed To Become A Surgeon?


High school students who wish to become surgeons must complete certain subjects to get admission into medical courses. These subjects include chemistry, physics, biology, and advanced mathematics.


Aspiring students study biomedical sciences, medical ethics, public health, clinical reasoning, clinical sciences, and applied clinical sciences during the Doctor of Medicine post-graduation course.



9. Surgeon Courses In Australia





The University of Melbourne offers a Doctor of Medicine degree to students across Australia.


Do you want to find out how to become a doctor in QLD? You can complete the Doctor of Medicine at The University of Queensland.



10. Where Does A Surgeon Work?


Surgeons work in various clinical and non-clinical settings, such as hospitals, physicians' offices, community health settings, private surgical practices, government agencies, insurance companies, and non-profit organisations.



11. Work Environment For Surgeons


Surgeons work within a hospital or health system that houses a surgical theatre. They spend most of their time performing outpatient procedures. They may have stand-alone offices either in or close to the hospital.


Surgeons usually perform operations on a fixed schedule. They are also operating on a patient on an emergency basis. Surgeons in the military often need to work shifts to provide immediate treatment to patients.



12. How To Become A Doctor In Australia As A Mature Student?


Students who finish their undergraduate medical course must take the Graduate Medical Schools Admissions Test. The examination tests the candidates' proficiency in biology, chemistry, physics, humanities, written communication, and social sciences.


Those who pass the test and meet the criteria are eligible to study for a 4 to 6 years medical degree. Medical students can join the Australian Medical Association as a student members to access the resources, guidance, and support they need to pursue this career.


Additionally, they can join their university's medical society to meet new colleagues, gain much-needed direction, and participate in medical events and internships.


To further expand their knowledge and skills, medical students can read the latest research articles, journals, and reports, on the application of surgeries and medicines.


Medical degree graduates must spend a year in an internship and fulfil rotations within the hospital and its departments. They will have to complete a year-long residency training program in the hospital.


After finishing the residency program at a hospital, aspiring students finally enter surgical education. Surgical students must study one of the nine specialisations under the Surgical Education and Training program run by the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons. 


After completing this 5-6 years program, students will become a member of the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons and be authorised to perform surgeries and operations.



13. How Much Does A Surgeon Earn In Australia?


Being a Surgeon is a highly lucrative and rewarding career. Surgeons earn the highest income in the entire medical industry. The average surgeon's salary in Australia is AU$209,524 per year or AU$50.00 hourly. 


On top of the salary, they also enjoy great health benefits, financial incentives, and bonuses from their employer. Surgeons may expect to earn more with experience and expertise.


  • Experienced Surgeons with 10 to 19 years of experience earn an average compensation of AU$200,000 per year. 

  • Surgeons with over 20 years of experience can earn an average salary of AU$350,000.


Queensland and NSW are the highest-paying states for Surgeons in Australia.


  • Brisbane, Queensland: $203,756 per year

  • Wide Bay, Queensland: $185,947 per year

  • Sydney, NSW: $144,971 per year



14. Job Outlook For Surgeons In Australia


Considering the rapidly ageing Australian population and the increasing possibility of injuries, the need for surgeons is rising. Additionally, as long as birth deformities, diseases, and injuries occur, the demand for competent surgeons will stay strong. 


According to the Job Outlook service, the number of Surgeons increased over the past five years, and this trend will continue. The number of workers will increase from 9,800 (in 2020) to 10,800 (by 2025).


Surgeons work in the Health Care and Social Assistance industry. Around 87% of surgeons work full-time, showing fewer part-time opportunities—those who work full-time work for 56 hours per week. The average working age in this profession is 44 years, and only 18% of workers are female.



15. Potential Career Paths For A Surgeon


Aspiring surgeons have a myriad of options available for specialisation:


  • Neurosurgeons: Neurosurgeons, also called brain surgeons, perform delicate operations on the nervous system, including the brain and the spinal cord. Neurosurgeons can specialise in vascular nerves, oncology, paediatrics, or epilepsy.


  • Plastic SurgeonsThey perform cosmetic procedures on patients to improve their looks or treat any abnormalities they are born with.


  • Heart Surgeons: These surgeons perform heart surgeries to help people overcome various health issues, including blockages in the heart.


  • Orthopaedic Surgeons: These surgeons help repair broken bones after injury or replace joints with artificial body parts or prosthetics.


  • Paediatric Surgeons: Paediatric surgeons operate on infants, children, and young adults with common and complex surgical requirements.


  • Oral Surgeons: These surgeons help create healthy mouths for patients, including extracting wisdom teeth, fixing dental implants, and repairing injured mouths.


  • Ophthalmic Surgeons: Ophthalmic Surgeons perform surgical operations related to the most delicate organs in the body, such as the eye. They help people restore their normal vision through Laser procedures or help patients with eye issues such as glaucoma or cataracts.



16. Alternative Career Paths


You may take on other duties that can help you generate a healthy flow of income. It involves opening your practice or working on a hospital's board.


You can use your knowledge and expertise to become a medical equipment manufacturing business consultant. Some Surgeons even enter the military working in battle zones to operate on injured soldiers that demand immediate attention.



17. Conclusion


Becoming a Surgeon is an intellectually demanding, rewarding and challenging career that requires commitment, compassion, and discipline. Respect, status, high salaries, and the knowledge to save people's lives inspire many aspiring surgeons to enter the field of surgery.


Prospects must understand that pursuing this career will be rigorous and highly competitive. Your preparedness to learn a great deal, an intense desire to help people and the right personality for the job will make you successful in this role.


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