Category: Consultant/Specialists

Attention International Medical Graduates in Australia!

Good morning Possums!

This notice is for IMGs/OTDs who have migrated to Australia. I am interested in hearing your experiences, stories and testimonials of your personal and professional transition into a new country and health system. The struggles, challenges, joys and inspirations. Thoughts on AoN/DWS especially would be really interesting – did you feel isolated, supported, depressed or rejuvenated? Was your employer supportive, were you welcomed into the community? Did you experience racism or were your expectations exceeded in how well you and your family settled in Australia?

You can DM me on whichever platform you are reading this or you can email

All notes to me will be kept in the strictest of confidences.

We are on twitter @Drsdownunder

We are on LinkedIn  and Facebook ! Check us out!

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interesting stats about IMG consultant/specialists in australia.

Working in medical workforce has some advantages. Not many. But a few. You don’t get many thanks. Your salary is shit. The public sees you as an entitled public servant. From time to time you have to work out how to terminate an individual’s employment. Don’t get me wrong, that can be fun – dependent on who’s about to be speared. You also have to deal with the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency on a daily basis – chewing your own arm off is more fun.

But from time to time it can be fun. You meet the odd stakeholder who slips you the odd snippet of interesting information. I’m not normal though. I’m a bit of a geek when it comes to statistics. I like to see my work and the people I recruit into the service to represented in graphs and percentage. Sad. So, behold! Fresh from the horses mouth that is an Australian Medical Council employee entertained over a flat white in a bland global cafe chain, are some interesting stats about international medical graduates who have sought specialist registration in Australia!

In the calendar year that was 2016, IMGs secured their specialist quals in a range of countries around the world.

  • The highest number of applications came from the UK, India and South Africa! Gday mateys!


  • The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) got the highest number of applications from IMGs with 292 and the Royal Australasian College of Physicians (RACGP) with 204. They must have a shitload of money! 


  • The Australasian College of Sport and Exercise Physicians (wait, who??!!) got the lowest with three applications.


  • 86 % of IMGs from the UK and Ireland whose training and experience were assessed as ‘substantially comparable’ to an Australian trained consultant/specialist. Kudos. 


  • 78% of RACGP applications came from the UK. Are things that bad there?


  • The Royal Australian College of Psychiatry (RANZCP) received 58 applications – most from India 48%! Interesting! The Royal College of Dermatologists, College of Pathologists were the only other colleges where another country had more applications then the UK and on each occasion India provided more. Interesting! It must be the quality of cricket here.

If you’re good possums, you’ll get more stats in the future.


Picture credit:

William Iven

English language requirements for medical registration in Australia.

This post is in response to a query via the website from a very nice young anatomical pathologist in South Africa. If any other people have specific questions I will try and answer them. Please feel to DM me on twitter @Drsdownunder or via the website.

Its a fairly dull topic but an important one.

It will come as no surprise to learn that your medical registration and working in Australia depends on how well you speak, read and write english.

The medical board in Australia revises its english language standards every 3 years. The next review is due July 2018.

Since the last revision in 2015, language proficiency is demonstrated by the following methods.

You can do it by proving english is your first language and you were taught and assessed in english at high school in either Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Republic of Ireland, South Africa, UK and USA; and your tertiary qualifications were taught and assessed in English.

Now, I’m going to quote directly from the medical board of Australia:

“OR 2. You have a combination of secondary education and tertiary qualifications, where you have undertaken and satisfactorily completed: a. at least two years of your secondary education which was taught and assessed solely in English in a recognised country, b. tertiary qualifications in the relevant professional discipline, which you are relying on to support your eligibility for registration under the National Law, which were taught and assessed solely in English in a recognised country. OR 3. You have undertaken and satisfactorily completed at least six years’ (full-time equivalent) continuous education taught and assessed solely in English, in any of the recognised countries, which includes tertiary qualifications in the relevant professional discipline which you are relying on to support your eligibility for registration under the National Law.”

The other alternative is that you sit a test, such as IELTS.

IELTS (the academic module) tends to be the most popular and recognised testing system that doctors submit themselves too.

For all levels of doctors (except med students) seeking to work in Australia the IELTS score needed is a minimum overall score of 7 (out of 9) and then a minimum score of 7 in each of the 4 communication skills which are listening, reading, writing and speaking.

You will not need to sit a new language test if you passed a test (IELTS or the others listed below) within 2 years before the date of your application for medical registration.

Or, if you have taken IELTS already, and I quote:

“ a. have been in continuous employment as a registered health practitioner in the medical profession (which commenced within 12 months of the date of the test) in one of the recognised countries where English was the primary language of practice, and

b. lodge your application for registration within 12 months of finishing your last period of employment..”

I know doctors who worked in the NHS in the UK for 20 years, with Australian job offers, who have failed their IELTS test on their first sitting

Don’t take your fluency for granted in an IELTS context.

All of the doctors I have known who have failed it in the first setting, pass the second.

There are criticisms of IELTS. It isn’t geared towards the medical profession, for example. However, it is the most recognised one and has a reputation with recruiters, hiring managers and statutory bodies.

Here are estimated costs for IELTS as of August 2017:

GBP160-GBP200 in the UK
R3200-R3900 in South Africa.
CA$300-320 in Canada.
US$215-250 in USA.
€160-€200 in Ireland.
Up to RM845 in Malaysia.
Up to S$365 in Singapore.
Up to Rs11300 in India.
Up to Rs28,000 in Pakistan.

I won’t go into detail of the following testing systems but suffice to note the Australian Medical Council also recognises: OET, PTE Academic, TOEFL iBT.

When you actually take the test depends what level you are at in your career. You can read more on that in my upcoming blogs about process.

The medical board will also accept successful completion of the New Zealand Registration Examination (NZREX) administered by the New Zealand Medical Council; and the PLAB test administered by the Professional and Linguistic Assessments Board of the GMC.


Photo credit:

Kelly Sikkema

did you know? all drs in one hospital in oz were migrants!

In late 2015, in a regional hospital in Western Australia. All 17 of the Consultant/Specialists employed full time there were migrants to Australia. How cool is that!!

Photo credit:

Ethan Weil

should I use an medical recruiter to find me a job in australia? why yes. yes, I should.

Disclosure. The scribblers at DDU have worked/do work in agency medical recruitment as well as for medical health services.

Also, I swear in this post. Sorry.

As a Consultant/Specialist or GP, choosing to work with an agency medical recruiter to facilitate your move to Australia will have important implications. Choosing the right one is critical as we’re all in it together.

Just like surgeons, you get the odd crap recruiter but if you follow my advice,  you’ll see the benefits of using one and how to choose a reasonably decent one. A medical recruiter I mean, not a surgeon.

By medical recruiter I don’t mean some old Mavis or Reg in a small workforce management unit of some backwater health service. I mean an agency medical recruiter. A well coiffured,  smart young thing desperate to earn some commission to pay for their breakfast avo on toast, Friday night shots or childcare.  

How do you go about choosing one? Aren’t they all the same? Most of the agency recruiters bringing OTDs (overseas trained doctors) into Australia tend to advertise the same job, offering the world. How do they differentiate? What is the make up of a good medical recruiter?

A good recruiter will be your workhorse and advocate along all the steps of this shitty process to get you to Australia. A good recruiter will have experience of the country or at least be extremely knowledgeable to advise re housing, education, tax etc. or point you in the right direction if they don’t have a clue.

The medical recruitment agency you use will need to have a dedicated medical & college registration team. A decent agency will have this resource to protect their commercial investment – the investment being you (once you have secured a job through them).

Employers appreciate this particular service as they don’t have people in their own workforce/HR units to provide it. Agencies build the cost of this service into the fees they charge their client – your employer. There is no cost to you then if you have accepted a job through them.

For Consultant/Specialists, the medical registration and college assessment process ahead is fraught, labyrinthian and Kafkaesque. Having a third party whose shoulder you can sob on, who will project manage you to meet your deadlines, spend literally hours on the telephone (mostly on hold) on your behalf to various statutory bodies and generally be your dogsbody for a year, is ESSENTIAL.

Ask the agency once they help you find a job if they will navigate you through the primary qualification verification, college assessment, Australian Health Practitioner Regulatory Agency (APHRA) and visa stage. Ask how much experience the agency has with the particular college assessment of your specialty.

I believe to be a competent medical recruiter in the Australian system, a recruiter will need at least 18 months of medical recruitment experience and at least 18 months of servicing Australian health care services.

Once you make contact, gauge if you have a good rapport  – enough to trust them with helping you make arguably the biggest decision of your life. You’ll be chatting with them for approx. a year so you need to have a good relationship.

Ask them about their track record in your specialism, have they been to Australia? What do they know about the school system, geography and the political climate. How do they present your cv to employers, at what point do they contact your referees? Is the recruiter in your timezone so they they can be easily reached?

If you do end up with a job offer independent of a recruitment agency, it is worth paying an agency for their medical registration and college assessment service. Expect to negotiate and pay anything up to AU$1000 – cost will be dependent on their existing workload.

Like a mild dose of oxycodone, it won’t eliminate all the pain but it sure as shit will help.

Those Consultant/Specialists who do make it to Australia without using the services of an international medical recruiter must be crazier than a cut snake! Sure, you can do it. You’re scientists, top of your profession. You can do anything. You can also choose to chew your own arm off. Do you really want to face the shitfight that lies ahead alone? Spending hours on a recruitment portal only for it to crash. Dealing with the medical college, interpreting and filling in the paperwork. Will you have the energy to follow up where you’ve sent your cv? To make late night phone calls? Can you manage the ennui inducing , soul sapping process of form filling, wrangling and negotiating with faceless bureaucratic automatons? Do you really want to do that without professional help?

Good luck to you if you do.

All you’re doing is making a rod for your own back, jumping into quicksand, exposing your professional scars and years of experience to potentially unmotivated health service medical administrators who couldn’t give a fudge when you put your application in or if your special interests are indeed very, very special and you just need a decision from them so you can move on with your life. 

An agency recruiter’s happiness depends on your happiness. Your pain is their pain. Their family holiday to Bali may depend on your happiness and well being. Getting you a job may determine if they eat stuffed or pitted olives. They are commercially incentivised to get you a job, within the quickest available time, with the least amount of hassle for all stakeholders. When you start work in your new life, they get their commission – everyone’s a winner baby.

what are consultant/specialist salaries like in queensland, australia?

This post tells you how much you can in earn in Queensland at Consultant/Specialist level in medicine.

I’ll use the term Staff Specialist as this is the terminology Queensland uses re Consultant/Specialist as such.

Now, I’m sure everyone reading this knows someone who is working as a doctor in Australia. I’m sure they give you an opinion on this hospital, that college, those salaries – on bloody well everything.

You’re probably sick of hearing about it. I get it. The phrase most dreaded in medical workforce is “I have a friend in Australia who tells me he gets paid x” or worse “my friend, a psychiatrist, lives also in ****** and she tells me the town is a shithole.” etc.

It may seem obvious but worth stressing – few things are negotiable with a public health service when it comes to your remuneration. It is unlikely a Staff Specialist in the same job with the same level of experience, the same town will get a different deal from you. The industrial agreement, set in Queensland industrial relations law, is what it is. Other than deciding what level to decide your base salary (which is based on experience) and your relocation/accommodation benefits everything else is set in stone.

So next time you hear from a friend who tells you otherwise just remember this. Trust me, the figures below are correct and appropriate for an OTD’s first job in Australia. If you don’t trust me Possum feel free to trawl through the 45 odd page industrial agreement yourself and then report back me to when you’re done.

Also refer to the glossary for this post after my spiel. It explains some Australian employment vernacular that you may not be familiar with in respect to standard benefits awarded to Aussie workers.

So, Queensland. Generally regarded as the highest paying state for OTD Staff Specialists in Australia. Also famous for its bananas, beautiful beaches, lifestyle, political corruption, ginger beer, coal seam gas fields and bikie gangs. To be fair to “The Sunshine State”, I’d live there, especially the Sunshine Coast. It is beautiful. There is a brand spanking new hospital there by the way. I’d also give Brisbane or “Brisvegas” a nudge as well. Nice clean city. Can be a bit dull but this is exactly what the international airport is for.

Back to the terms.

The Moca. No, it is not a steaming hot chocolate with a shot of espresso. It is the industrial agreement which governs your salary and benefits in Queensland. It is known as the Medical Officers’ Certified Agreement (No.4) 2015 or Moca for short.

Your contracted hours in Queensland for a Staff Specialist are 80 hours per fortnight.

Staff Specialists note: your on-call is negotiated when you start work based on your own preferences and service demands. Unlike NSW, where your on-call is paid as an allowance set out in your letter of offer, or in Victoria where your on-call compensation is included in your weekly salary, Queensland makes no mention of on-call allowances in your letter of offer. The % on-call rate is set out in the award and is 12% of your hourly rate. This means the salary package in Queensland for a public health position looks sensational – a generous package PLUS an undetermined on-call component. Yippee!

Obviously, you can calculate your potential on-call earnings yourself. Find out likely roster, work out how much on-call you’d like to work, refer to your L band of experience, convert into an hourly rate and apply the on-call %.

The following figures are based on the Moca as it was July 2017. A new Moca will likely need to be renegotiated in time for 1st July 2018. I don’t predict any major changes other a standard 2.5% increase on base salary amounts. Either way, I’ll be all over it like a hungry kid on a cupcake and will bring you news of major changes.

For Staff Specialists, salary bands are based on number of years of consultant/specialist level experience one has after the completion of your specialist training,  In Queensland they use the following coding in correspondence relating to base salary amounts. So L18 = 1 year experience as a staff specialist, L27 = 10 years plus.

L18 – AU171,044

L19 – AU175,628

L20 – AU180,885

L21 – AU184,788

L22 – AU189,369

L23 – AU193,956

L24 – AU198,678

L25 – AU204,543

L26 – AU210,747

L27 – AU216, 865

L28 – AU226,019

L29 – AU238,242

L28 & L29 are “eminent” or “pre-eminent” status. I won’t go into management allowances as chances are few for a migrating Staff Specialist to secure a management position.

So lucky you, you’ll get offered one of these bands. As well as this base salary you will also get an:

Attraction and Retention Incentive Allowance (4.14.1).

This is 50% of your offered base salary level. This applies to all levels of experience for Staff Specialists.

This allowance also doubles as your private practise allowance (see glossary at the end).

Queensland Regional and Rural Attraction Allowance (4.14.2).

5% of your base salary amount for Staff Specialists employed in Cairns and Hinterland, Townsville (excluding Palm Island) and Darling Downs services.

10% of base salary for Staff Specialists employed on Palm Island, or in Central West, Mackay, Central Queensland, Wide Bay, and South West health services.

15% of base salary for SMOs employed in Torres – Cape York and North West regions.

There are additional remote allowances for specific locations. These vary between AU6900 – and AU48,300. It  would be very unlikely for an OTD to secure a position in these places so we won’t factor these into our example remunerations packages below, OK?

Professional Development Allowance (4.9.3).

For Staff Specialists at all levels the allowance is AU20,000. Professional development leave is 3.6 weeks per annum.

Motor Vehicle Allowance (4.19).

This tasty little allowance also gets Queensland Health’s noses in front of who pays the most. This gets paid fortnightly along with your base salary and other allowances. For Staff Specialists L18-L24 the Motor Vehicle Allowance is AU21,000 per annum. For L25 up, it is AU25,500.


Superannuation is 9.5%. It is calculated on base salary and the attraction and retention allowance only. Super is also paid on on-call etc.

Annual leave loading allowance.

17.5% of your base salary earned during your annual leave (see glossary below).

Overtime (4.4.2).

270% of your base salary for such excess duty hours after 80hrs per fortnight.

Oncall (4.11.3).

All Staff Specialists at all levels will be paid a rate equivalent to 12% of their hourly base pay rate level.

Annual leave

4 weeks. There is also maternity and paternity leave. Sick leave and carers leave. Quite generous actually.

Relocation and accommodation benefits.

Generally, Queensland Health services will pay AU10,000-AU15,000 as an allowance payable to you upon presentation of relocation receipts when you start work. Expect to negotiate 4 – 12 weeks of accommodation – whether it be a serviced apartment or a weekly stipend. Don’t worry, if for whatever reason you haven’t found the house or apartment of your dreams, I haven’t heard of a service that throws you out. It easily extended. Relocation and accommodation are the only things the hiring manager has the discretion to decide but they must do this within guidelines.

I dusted off my abacus and calculated the following examples for Staff Specialists with 1, 5 and 10 year levels of experience. So you didn’t have to. Aren’t I the cat’s whiskers?

Don’t forget though, I cannot guarantee these are the figures you will get offered – they are educated estimates!

Tax? You’ll be taxed at approx. 40%.

Example total package of specialist with 1 year experience.

Total: AU324,242 plus on-call.

Cash component: AU299,868.

Super: AU24,374.

Example total package with 1 year experience 5% location allowance.

Total: AU332,794 plus on-call.

Salary and allowance component: AU308,420.

Super: AU24,374.

Example total package specialist with 1 year experience & 10% location allowance.

Total: AU341,346. plus on-call.

Salary and allowance component: AU316,973.

Super: AU24,374.

Example total package with 5 years experience.

Total: AU354,587 plus on-call.

Salary and allowance component: AU327,602.

Super: AU26,985.

Example total package with 5 years experience 5% location allowance.

Total: AU364,055 plus on-call.

Cash component: AU337,070.

Super: AU26,985.

Example total package with 5 years experience & 10% location allowance.

Total: AU373,524 plus on-call.

Salary and allowance component: AU346,539..

Super: AU26,985

Example total package with 10 years experience.

Total: AU404,620 plus on-call.

Salary and allowance component: AU373,717.

Super: AU30,903.

Example total package with 10 years experience 5% location allowance.

Total: AU415,463 plus on-call.

Salary and allowance component: AU384,560.

Super: AU30,903.

Example total package with 10 years experience 10% location allowance.

Total: AU426,307 plus on-call.

Salary and allowance component: AU395,404.

Super: AU30,903.

I haven’t included leadership amounts as 9 times out of 10 they tend to require local Fellows of respective colleges.

Here is the brief glossary for Australian remuneration package terminology which are all used throughout Australia states and territories.

Annual Leave Loading Allowance.

This is a brilliant allowance. It doesn’t come to much but I love the fact it still exists, thumbing its nose at the bosses. This allowance was designed back in the day when there was no paid annual leave for workers. It compensated them whilst they are away on holiday. 17.5% of your weekly wage x weeks annual leave = annual leave loading cash. The existence of this allowance is testimony to the importance of unions. Word.

Long service leave.

A retention strategy. Designed to keep you working for your employer for as long as possible. Hit a target of years of employment (normally between 8 -15 years) and you will qualify for paid annual leave of between 3-6months. Each health service has a different long service leave policy but they all have one. You also have the option of taking this as a cash payment which I think a lot of people do who are in less well paid jobs.

Private practise allowance

These are your fees for treating people with private health insurance who present to at a public hospital. The Attraction and Retention Allowance doubles as your Private Practice Allowance. In WA, there is no Attraction and Retention Allowance – just a 50% Private Practise Allowance. FYI In Queensland, private practice arrangements have aimed to address the following key objectives relevant to your individual situation. Mainly, to compensate Consultant/Specialists in Queensland at a competitive level,  to address medical workforce shortages in the public sector, in Queensland – predominantly in diagnostic specialties by letting Consultant/Specialists retain some of their billings.


Aussie’s like to shorten every word so lets refer to superannuation as ‘super’. Super is your employer pension fund. By law, every employer has to make contributions to an employees fund fund of choice or a default one set up by the employer. The minimum amount your employer has to make is 9.5% of base salary.  What additional allowances it is calculated on is subjective to the employer – some pay on base salary, others include an allowance or two. Queensland Health base theirs on base salary and the Attraction and Retention Incentive Allowance whilst Victorian health services apply it to base salary only. You get the picture. You can also make voluntary contributions from your salary to top this up. To what level you can top up to is dependent on your employer’s policy. You can do it via your employer’s salary sacrifice scheme (definition below) which provides tax benefits. You can choose your own super fund, choose which sector/s to invest in – just like a stock portfolio, or just use the default one chosen by your employer which will be designed for and marketed to health professionals. You can only access your super when you reach the age of 60 and it is not taxed when you withdraw it. Please seek professional financial advice regarding your super.

Salary sacrifice/salary packaging.

This is a deal between and employer and employee – an approved way for the employee to receive benefits like additional super, motor vehicle, CPD fees etc. rent, mortgage, by way of a pre-tax salary payment – by paying for these items with a pre-tax deduction means you will be taxed on your remaining income thereby actually lowering your taxable income = you pay less tax.

If I’ve missed something I’m sure some pedant will correct me.

Photo credit

Ethan Robertson

consultant/specialist money introduction.

These next series of posts will be about remuneration and associated benefits for Consultant/Specialists in Australia. This is a quick primer (love that word) for you.

The famous Australian public sector medical salaries and allowances. Juicy.

Admit it, this is the stuff you want to know above all else. If you’ve clicked through other pages to assuage the guilt that you’re nothing more than a materialistic, money hungry wage slave. I get it. It’s human nature.  Even for a doctor. After all, no-one goes to work in a private hospital in Saudi Arabia for social justice reasons.

I’ll do a state or territory each post for Consultants/ Specialists. Then a post for GPs, then one junior and middle grade.

Why do doctors move to Australia? Why does anybody migrate anywhere? With Brexit, a ravaged NHS, political upheaval pretty much everywhere, politics in the USA dangerously dysfunctional, the Middle East in turmoil, there are a lot of reasons Doctors hightail it to a peaceful, affluent, country that has a well resourced, well respected first class health system delivering universal healthcare which pays well with added sunshine.

In a previous post I mentioned that health operations are devolved to the states and territory governments in Australia. This means remuneration and benefits policy is localised to these administrative governments and why salaries and allowances vary depending on which state or territory you work in.

Remuneration within the public system for Consultant/Specialists is managed by an industrial agreement referred to as the ‘award’. The Australian Medical Association (AMA) negotiates the ‘award’ with each state and territory government. Each A ward has a lifespan of approx.  3 years before it is renegotiated with agreed increases each year in the document. If you get offered a job by a service in September and it will take 12 months to get you to Australia, your base salary offered in September will be different to what you will get paid when you start because of the scheduled agreed annual increase in base salary amounts stated in the specific state or territory’s Award. 

Note that contract lengths vary between state and territory. Australia does not offer OTD (overseas trained doctor) 6 or 12 month contracts that the New Zealand Health Boards do. You can’t locum as a Consultant/Specialist in Australia without fellowship of your specialist college in Australia.

The fact the medical registration and college assessment process can take 9-12 months makes short contracts redundant. Contract lengths range 2-5 years and give you all the benefits of a substantive/permanent/fixed term contract job e.g. annual leave, sick leave etc.

Please note, there are no penalties in any state or territory if you leave during your contract term – except if you leave within 12 months and then they only ask for you to pay your moving costs back. A health service will normally have a clause in your contract that you pay a pro-rata’d amount of your relocation costs back if you leave within a year. 

In most of the states and territories a remuneration committee will decide what level of base salary to pay you on once you have been selected by the interview panel as the preferred candidate. You can push back if you feel the base salary is too low based on your understanding of the award in that state or territory but you need to have a very good case and have considered the potential impact of such a negotiation. A helpful agency medical recruiter can assist here.

My next post will detail Queensland remuneration & all allowances, benefits for consultant/specialists. Watch this space chooks.

Photo credit:
Faris Kassim

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