How to Get a Job In Australia or New Zealand

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A few days ago we looked at why it’s getting more difficult to get a job in Australia.
Then after I’d shown you that, I tormented you with why Australia is so great!
Now, here is the official almostadoctor guide to moving downunder.

The popular idea is to take ‘a year out’. Work for a few months here, travel for a few months there, work for a few more months here. And it’s a great idea! But I’m just not sure quite how feasible it is these days. Many of the places where I applied wouldn’t look at any applications of less than 12 months. Some people I know have got 6 months placements and do plan to do the travelling thing. But I was more into the idea of emigrating permanently, so this didn’t bother me too much. Just be aware when applying, you may want to make yourself available for 12 months (at least initially, once you’ve got the job, you could always quit early… (you didn’t hear that here).

Now, being medics, we are generally the organized, planning, goal setting types. And the problem with applying for a job in Australia and New Zealand, is that their schedule just doesn’t tie in with ours very well.

The ‘doctor year’ in the UK generally runs August to August, with perhaps a few exceptions here and there. In Australia it runs January to January, and in New Zealand, its November to November.
This means it’s difficult to get something to start in August. There are some positions, but not many. It’s like trying to get a 3 or 6-month job to start in April in the UK.
The different start date also means that you might not get any jobs or job offers until July or August – just weeks or days before your current UK job finishes.
So, rule number one:
1)    Do not panic!
Right about now (November/December) you friends (and maybe you too) will all be applying for various specialties, allover the place. People will be talking about it a lot. Deadlines. CVs. Portfolios. Audits. Interviews. Exams. It can get a bit stressful, if you are seemingly doing nothing whilst your peers are running at full speed competing against each other. So chill out. Your plan isn’t to apply right now. You aren’t competing against these people. But you can still use this time to prepare your CV and start firing out some emails. You’re going to be sending a lot of emails.

Don’t panic even if you haven’t got a job come next August. From August to Christmas, the job offers come in thick and fast. Many of my friends who had nothing lined up when their FY2 job finished subsequently secured something and moved out by November. And my inbox is flooded with job offers from all the agencies I signed up to almost every day at the moment.

Where to start?!
As we saw last week, it’s going to be competitive. So decide where you want to go. Or you can just go for the blanket approach and apply everywhere (this is what I did)…

  • Write directly to the hospitals – Google them. Find who is in charge of admissions. Send them your CV and covering letter. Tell them when you’re available from and to. Be as flexible as possible. Tell them why you want to come to their country. Have you been before? Mention it. Have you worked at that hospital before (e.g. on elective) – then play up to it. Read up about the region / town / hospital. Say why you want to move to that region. Read up about the hospital / any job offers they have on their website. Say why you want to do that placement.
  • I couldn’t find any kind of list of hospital details for Australia, but for New Zealand, there is this incredible website that lists all the regions and their application details. Its . Go to ‘I’m an RMO’ and then ‘Apply Now’ and you’ll get this amazing screen with a map of New Zealand, all the districts, and all the email addresses for who is in charge of admission for that district. Many of the hospitals have an online application system for their annual applications, which opens in June. Some of them link to that from here too (more on this later).

  • Know the lingo. The systems for doctor training are similar to here, as they essentially based on an old-fashioned English system, but they’re not exactly the same. In Australia there are:
    • Interns – fresh out of medical school. Same as FY1s
    • RMO (Resident Medical Officer) – called RMO2 (FY2) and RMO3 depending on what year you are. Many places don’t offer RMO3 jobs
    • Registrar – yeah that’s right. No SHO. Straight from RMO to Registrar. Sometimes that means straight from FY2 equivalent to registrar. They kind of divide registrar into junior and senior registrars, and junior reg’s may not have the same rota (e.g. alone at nights) as seniors. But they might do. When I was applying I was encouraged to apply for registrar positions by the recruitment people. Some of my friends are working in rural NZ as the ‘Medical Registrar’ or ‘ED registrar’ and they are the most senior person on site on their night shift. If (like me) you think that’s scary, you might want to hold off applying for registrar jobs. In the end I applied for RMO and registrar positions in most of the hospitals I applied to
  • Use Agencies. They get paid by the hospital to find you. They take a lot of the hard work out of all the visa applications and doctory registration bits (I’ll go into this next week), and they don’t pay you any less. Make friend with your agent. Call them up often. Pester them. Let them know how keen you are. Be their friend. Make their lives a misery so that they are so desperate to find you a job to get you off their back. I signed up for a lot of agencies. Some were more useful than others. Here’s a few to get you started:

Wavelength They got me my job! Very friendly. Helpful with all the visa and paperwork stuff. Did take a while to find out if I’d actually got the job after the interview.

Vista Based in the USA. Really helpful and persistent staff. They would call me up every week with an update, always readily available to chat, and very honest about what options they had (mostly stuff in Perth, not good for NZ). I wasn’t really interested in Perth, but got the impression that if I was, they could have got me something pretty quick.

Challis send out lots of very promising looking emails with their offers (often several placements a week in various locations in Australia and NZ), but I found when I replied that they weren’t particularly helpful and nothing came of anything I put my name to.

International Medical Recruitment when I spoke to them around November 2012 they said it was too early. Call back in spring.  When I spoke to them in March 2013 they said they didn’t have much on offer. Did get a lovely phone call from a rep one day, but basically said that I would be looking at jobs starting in Feb 2014.

So, after looking at the options, you basically have got three good avenues:

  1. Through an agency
  2. By writing to the hospital directly (for New Zealand, details on the Health Careers Website)
  3. Through New Zealand’s nation recruitment scheme which opens in June, interviews in July, and offers in August. Details on the Health Careers Website.

The New Zealand National Recruitment scheme
All the regions offer all of their SHO and Registrar jobs to start in November to any applicant who applies through the Health Careers Website. So, literally, each hospital in NZ will require SHOs and Registrars in all their specialties. That’s a lot of jobs. And on that website you can see them all and apply to them. I applied maybe to 20 different jobs at various places and specialties.

I didn’t have anything lined up in June. I was getting worried. Then I got an interview for the job I got in Australia. And I also applied to New Zealand’s national recruitment scheme. I got the job in Australia, and accepted it. Then about 2 weeks later I had 4 interview offers from my applications to New Zealand. So it all came good. But it took until July.

In summary, my top tips are:

  1. Don’t panic if you can’t get your dream job in Melbourne (everyone wants Melbourne) starting on the 8th August (who wants to locum at home before they go away?) lined up by this Christmas (planned well in advance). Get your expectations in order. A few people will get something starting in August. A few more in October / November. If you really want to go, you’ll get something that starts in or before January somewhere in Australia or New Zealand.
  2. Write to everyone you can find. Be persistent. Make sure they know your name and how keen you are.
  3. Tailor your applications to the place / hospital / placement you are applying to. Read up about where you are going. If you don’t want to be in the outback, then don’t apply there and then get disappointed when you arrive. Your visa is often sponsored by your hospital and isn’t easily transferrable if you don’t like it when you get there.

Well, good luck guys! I’ll probably be competing against you all again next year if I decided to stay / or go to New Zealand, so please put in a good word for me!

Any questions, use the comments!

Junior Doctors guide to moving to Australia and New Zealand
Part of the Moving to Australia series

Dr Tom Leach

Dr Tom Leach MBChB DCH EMCert(ACEM) FRACGP currently works as a GP and an Emergency Department CMO in Australia. He is also a Clinical Associate Lecturer at the Australian National University, and is studying for a Masters of Sports Medicine at the University of Queensland. After graduating from his medical degree at the University of Manchester in 2011, Tom completed his Foundation Training at Bolton Royal Hospital, before moving to Australia in 2013. He started almostadoctor whilst a third year medical student in 2009. Read full bio

This Post Has 9 Comments

  1. MrsTayto

    Hi Tom,
    I know it’s been 3 years … any updates on the Australian experience?
    My main concern about coming back to OZ is whether I can train there then come home and have that training apply.
    If you have any insight on this I’d really appreciate it! Thank you!

  2. Dr Tom Leach

    My advice would be to speak to the college (in the UK) of whichever training programme you are planning on doing and ask them what their process is.

    My anecdotal experience from others in a similar position is that the training is usually accepted but it is not ‘automatic’ – you have to go through a portfolio review / reaccreditation type process upon your return to the UK, but it seems fairly straight forward.

    Before I started my GP training in Australia I emailed the RCGP in the UK and they advised me very similarly to my friends experiences as described above.
    In particular they said I would have to demonstrate how my training was applicable to the UK / similar to the UK training – which they also said is usually a straightforward process for doctors who have trained in Australia.

    If you only do part of the training in Australia, the process may be similar – in some instances it seems to have been easier and in others harder.

    I’m any case, once you are here you might not want to go back!

    I hope this helps,

  3. doc2020

    Hi Tom
    just piggybacking off of the training q – what is the training pathway in australia like for anaesthetics? where can one find this information if one was planning a permanent move from the uk?

    1. Dr Tom Leach

      Hi, I am not very familiar with the training pathway for anaesthetics – you could speak to the college to ask them some specific details –

      Generally in Australia you apply directly to an individual hospital for a 12 month contract that would include the rotations required for your stage of training. Be aware that many posts are “unaccredited” and don’t count towards training time – particularly in more competitive specialties (surgical specialties in particular – I’m not sure about anaesthetics). You then separately apply to your specialist college to be accepted onto a training programme, and you have to ensure that the jobs you apply for are appropriate for your stage of training.

      Most hospitals have two intakes per year, but the ‘main’ intake applications are usually around June (there might still be some open now), with jobs starting in January / February time. There is a secondary smaller intake later in the year.

      I hope this helps! Usually the college websites have detailed plans of their training programmes.

  4. Harriet

    Hello, apologies if I’ve missed an article about this but if you have any further info around trying to move from the UK to Australia/ NZ in the covid era that would be much appreciated – I’m trying to find out as much as I can about visa restrictions and quarantine costs but its not hugely clear. Thanks in advance !

  5. Julia

    Hi Tom,
    just wondering whether it would be possible to move to NZ straight from medical school (and complete foundation years in NZ), if you weren’t thinking about coming back to work in the UK in the future. Thanks for this very useful article!

  6. Dr Tom Leach

    Hi Harriet, I’m sorry its been so long now since I moved that I’m not very uptodate. Contacting one of the agencies would probably be your best bet to get more information. It is definitely still possible – in the Emergency Department where I work we have recently just accepted several new UK doctors who are post FY-2 level.

  7. Dr Tom Leach

    Hi Julia – I imagine it would be possible, but might be tricky. I have come across a couple of doctors in Australia who were doing their FY2 year in Australia (but not FY1). I think it may limit your future options though as future registration with the GMC would be more difficult if you didn’t already have it from doing foundation training in the UK – and your plans might change!

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