What Does A Medical Career Involve?

Last updated: 1/11/20

A doctor is someone who is qualified to treat people who are ill or injured. If a doctor is a qualified surgeon, they are able to operate on those who are ill or injured. Doctors can choose to specialise in different fields. For example, a doctor can specialise in the care of the elderly, geriatrics, or choose to focus on the care of children, paediatrics. Doctors can choose to become general practitioners or general surgeons, which means they are respectively equipped to deal with a wide range of medical and surgical issues.

Doctors face the challenge of trying to heal people and to keep people as healthy as possible on a daily basis. They do this by using their communication skills to understand what the problem is and their scientific knowledge to know how best to fix it. Doctors have some of the most diverse and challenging careers available.

A doctor with a stethoscope inside a speech bubble

Types Of Doctors

  • General Practitioners: General practitioners work in the community and see patients of all ages and backgrounds. They are faced with the formidable task of being the frontline of healthcare by acting as the first point of contact in a patient’s care. They diagnose and treat a great deal of patients independently and refer them onto appropriate specialist doctors in hospitals for further medical opinions and advice.
  • Specialists: Specialists are medical doctors who have completed advanced clinical training in a specialty. There are a diverse range of areas that you can specialise in, with many subspecialities within them. For example, you could train to become an obstetrician and then within this become a sub-specialist in gestational diabetes in high-risk pregnancies.
  • Others: 

- You can choose not to undertake a fellowship specialist training (following residency) and choose to work as a non-vocational career medical officer.

- You can pursue a career in academia, which primarily involves doing research and teaching other students and medical professionals. You can also do research outside the academic setting. For example, you could work for a pharmaceutical company.

- You can use their medical degree as a starting point for further study. For example, progressing to a dental degree and becoming a maxillofacial surgeon. 

The options at the end of a medical degree are vast and diverse and thus the day-to-day life of a doctor greatly varies. You will see and hear more about various career options during your time at medical school and as a junior doctor and have ample opportunity to consider what type of doctor you would like to become.

A question mark floating on top of a hand

Career Pathway

For those who take the usual route to become a GP or a specialist, you will go through the following education and training:

  • Medical School
    A student’s time in medical school usually lasts 4-6 years, depending on the nature of entry (direct or graduate) and the medical school. This involves a heavy commitment in terms of time, effort, and finance. The early pre-clinical years equip you with basic medical and scientific knowledge and the later clinical years are more hands-on and spent in clinical settings.
  • After Medical School
    After graduating from a medical school, you can apply for provisional registration and undertake a year of training (as an intern in Australia and a house officer in New Zealand), after which you become eligible for general registration. You will then typically spend another 1~2 years as a resident (Australia) or a house officer (New Zealand), then choose and apply for a specialty (there are over 60 specialties in Australia). You will undergo 3-6 years of training and examinations as a GP registrar or a specialist registrar. Once you fulfill all the requirements, you will become elected to a fellowship. Your official training will be finally completed, but you are expected to continually upskill yourself and keep up-to-date with the latest advances in medicine.
A lightbulb floating on top of a hand.

The Positives Of Being A Doctor

  • Respect: Doctors are well respected among all professions.
  • Satisfaction: The use of your knowledge to directly help people and be responsible for their care.
  • Knowledge: The understanding the workings of the human body.
  • Salary: The potential to earn a reasonable salary.
  • Job Security: Opportunities to change specialities or work abroad.
A woman holding a hand up to chin with arms folded

The Negatives Of Being A Doctor

  • Exams: The stress of examinations, which can be non-stop until you are a consultant.
  • Stress: The responsibilities can be overwhelming, especially when there are lots of them, some of which can potentially involve life-threatening outcomes for your patients.
  • Workload: It is hard work, with long, unsociable hours.
  • Transfer: The requirement to move around to different hospitals during training.
A female student

Would I make a good doctor?

Medicine is a wide-ranging field that requires a diverse skillset and huge knowledge base of its practitioners. Almost anyone can fit into a particular branch of medicine, no matter their background. However, there are characteristics common to all good doctors.

A Good Doctor is:

  • Caring: The skill of being approachable and treating patients as human beings rather than solely as a symptom or collection of symptoms.
  • An Effective Communicator: The willingness to take time to listen and communicate honestly and effectively with patients, relatives and staff teams; managers and peers, while pitching at the appropriate level while putting everyone at ease.
Doctors have the enormous privilege of changing lives. Through all the changes driven by research and public expectations, some of the art and science of medicine has endured down the ages and defines medicine as a profession. - Sir Peter Rubin, Chair of the General Medical Council, 2009–2014

Are you interested in attending a medical school in the UK instead of Australia or New Zealand? Check out Medify’s UK Medical School Admissions Guide.

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