Jan 142011


The Specialist Pathway and General Pathway (e.g- going through the training pathway via gaining general registration then joining a training program) are two different things.


The specialist pathway entails having had previous training from your country AND being recognized by the specialty college (e.g. Royal Australasian College of Surgery/ Physicians/ EM/ GP). Being recognized as a specialist by the various colleges is very difficult, but NOT IMPOSSIBLE.

The steps involved: (from what I have seen with my friends who came here as specialists and have been recognized by the colleges)

1. Obtain a fellowship in one of the hospitals under your speciality. (This is perhaps one of the most important because it allows you to meet the big bosses of the colleges who will ultimately decide if you are comparable to the rest of the graduates in Australia. Fellowships may take 1 or 2 years, but most will be paid work. Some hospitals now require you to pass the AMC MCQ before you can apply (similar to the US where the USMLE step 1 is required).

2. Submit your credentials to the specialty college who will either do one of 2 things:

a. Approve you outright as a comparable specialist but you need to take the specialty boards

b. Ask you to train a bit more (another 1 or 2 years more) but then you still need to take the specialty boards

3. After the specialty college gives you full accreditation, you can then apply for the Specialist Pathway via the AMC.

4. Once you get the Specialist Certificate from the AMC, you can then apply for permanent residency.

This process may take around 3 to 4 years… if everything goes well!

GENERAL PATHWAY  (a.k.a – going through general registration and then applying to a specialist college for further training)

Compared to the specialist pathway, the general pathway involves having to go through the bottom rung (e.g. – junior doctor) and then qualifying for general registration through the AMC and then applying for the specialty of your choice.


  1. Apply for and pass the AMC MCQ and IELTS (all bands above 7.5).
  2. Apply to an Australian hospital and start work as a junior doctor. Being a junior doctor can mean just finished internship (Post-graduate year 2) OR you already have previous training in a specialty and the hospital is accepting you as a registrar in a specialty (commonly medicine and emergency medicine, but people get into surgery and paediatrics as well)
  3. Ask for rotations in Emergency Medicine, Medicine and Surgery – the 3 required specialties for general registration with APHRA.
  4. Pass the AMC Clinicals exam! (It takes 1 to 1.5 years to get a schedule, but some people have passed the AMC clinical exams first before doing the required rotations in number 3 above.
  5. Obtain permanent residency. This may not apply to some of you who might have received your permanent residency through other means.
  6. Apply to the specialty college of your choice. (Most colleges now are asking for full registration, hence this is step 6, but previously, you could apply to the college of physicians and college of emergency medicine before you pass the AMC exams and obtain full registration.) The College of Surgery and College of Anaesthetics require permanent residency. It is one of the first questions on their application.
  7. Pass the specialty primary and then fellowship exams. Some of the colleges only have 1 exam (RACP) some have the primary and fellowship (ACEM).

This process, from passing the AMC exams to becoming a consultant specialist may take around 10 years… or more!

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  15 Responses to “Specialist vs General Pathway: A Comparison”

  1. Any advice about dermatology in Australia? I am a Philippine board-certified dermatologist and currently preparing for the AMC MCQ exam. I would like to undergo residency training in derm there. Would it be wiser to undergo specialist assessment or take the general pathway?

  2. Good Day Admin.

    I would like to ask if you could direct me to any website or part of your website regarding how to do an Aussie CV. Could you also direct me to a link that has a glossary of terms (ex. registrar = ?)? Thank you very much for your help. I have currently passed my AMC MCQ and IELTS. Thank you very much.


  3. Hi Kristine,

    Dermatology is a very competitive specialty to be accepted in their training program. That said, there might be a chance of being able to get in via a fellowship route (e.g. research). There are fellowships being offered in hospitals in Melbourne and Sydney. One specific place that should have the links for the fellowships would be the Dermatology Society or College here.


  4. Hi!

    Thank you for your reply above.

    I am thinking of applying for fellowship training in my specialty. For this, the AMC said I could get the Occupational Trainee Visa, should I be accepted for fellowship. If I want to apply for residency training after fellowship, do I need to have a skilled independent migrant visa first before I can apply?

    I am also studying for the AMC MCQ exam to be able to be eligible to apply for the skilled independent migrant visa or a temporary visa. Any advice on visa applications?

    Thank you!

  5. I’m not sure what the requirements are to get into a derma training program, but I think they require being a permanent resident of Australia. To be eligible for the skilled migrant independent visa, you need to have either been assessed to be a specialist by the College of Physicians, or, you have gained full registration with the Medical Board of Australia.

  6. Dear admin,
    after passing PGY2 and achieving PR , what will happen if I could not get a admission in specialty program? can i continue on public hospital? how many years can I continue ?
    what will happen to these systems of application in 5 years later? It goes more worse for IMG certainly? the Australian government will lock the gates for IMG? shall they got less IMGs ?

  7. hi admin, my apologies if im posting something that has not much to do with your topic, but i really need your help.

    im a foreigner who will be graduating from med sch (not in AU) in about 2 years, after that, am i able to intern in NSW? i did email the AMC and they said i can apply under the standard pathway once i get my MBBS cert. is it true? or do i need to do my internship year, then i can apply to work in NSW as a JMO? thanks so much, tigf.

    (if nsw doesn’t accept foreign interns, do u know which AU states do?) – im quite bent on going to AU soon enough cos my bf is aussie and we’re thinking to tie the knot soon. thanks heaps.

  8. Hello,

    I believe I am in a similar spot as the previous poster (tgif2012).

    Upon graduating from medical school, I entered the work force instead of going into residency (United States). Because of family hardships, I had to work to help support the family.

    Now that things are better, I’ve restarted my medical career. Along the way, I fell in love with an Australian and we’re now engaged. So the thought of starting a life in Australia sounds very appealing.

    But things have been a bit rocky. From my searches, it seems getting an internship is out of the question? So what am I supposed to do? How do I get my foot into the Australian medical field?

    I recently passed the AMC MCQ Part 1 exam. I hold a MD degree as well as a DC (chiropractic degree). I have the passed the United States Medical licensing exams (USMLE) Part 1, Part 2 CS, and Part 2 CK. Does any of this make a difference? I feel like maybe I’ve made a big mistake in pursuing a medical career in Australia.

    Please help. Thank you

  9. I forgot to mention that I will be taking the IELTS in a few weeks.

  10. Hi! I’ve recently sent in my application for the specialist pathway in dermatology to the AMC. Any idea what is the textbook in dermatology that is being used in Australia? We use Fitzpatrick, Andrews and Bolognia in the Philippines. Thanks!

  11. Hi Kristine

    I’m working on preparing my application for the specialist pathway. Do you have some news about your application?. Ielts exam is mandatory?

  12. hi kristin , i’m also applying to the amc specialist pathway i’m from jordan , i’m reading with bolognia as i was told its more than enough , it would be great if we could contact eachother and share information regarding the pathway?

  13. no single comment since last year !!! , any dermatologist specialist may share their experiences with us?? other IMG specialist here who are applying also ?

  14. Hi CoolDoc, sorry I haven’t logged in since I last posted a question. I submitted my application to the Australasian College of Derm last year but backed out. I am planning to reapply but in a few years. I’m glad to know Bolognia is good for the review. I haven’t heard from anybody else if there are other books to read and I’m still searching on Google.

    I did hear from a foreign GP there that it’s easier for foreign grads to take the AMC MCQ rather than pass the specialist pathway. (I’m still inclined more towards specialist pathway though, haha.) Anyway, good luck to you!

  15. Hi LawCam, yes IELTS is mandatory. I passed mine in 2013 and it will expire next year. i’ll have to take it again because I’m not yet applying for registration.

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