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Health & Medical Sciences

How to become a GP in Australia

Become a general practitioner and make a difference in primary healthcare.


General practitioners (GPs) are doctors who have completed training in general practice. They provide comprehensive and continuous medical care to Australians of all ages, serving as the first point of contact for individuals seeking healthcare services.

Working in a variety of settings, including private practices, community health centres and clinics, GPs develop long-term relationships with their patients. They offer preventive care, health promotion and disease prevention strategies. GPs address a wide range of health concerns, provide referrals to specialists when needed and coordinate care for their patients.

General practice offers promising career prospects, with approximately 42,600 Australians currently employed in the field. As Australia’s population grows, so too does the demand for primary healthcare services.

If you're passionate about providing holistic care, fostering patient-doctor relationships, and being at the forefront of primary healthcare, then general practice may be the ideal career for you. In this article, we cover the educational pathway, practical experience needed, registration requirements and professional growth opportunities in the field.

What is a GP and what does a GP do?

GPs play a vital role in promoting overall health and wellbeing. They manage routine check-ups, provide specialist referrals, diagnose and treat common illnesses, and manage chronic conditions. They also administer vaccinations, and perform basic first aid, skin cancer removal, stitching, wound dressing and minor surgical procedures.

GPs have a broad knowledge base across various medical specialties, allowing them to offer holistic and patient-centred care. They consider physical, emotional, and social factors to provide personalised treatment plans and referrals to specialists when necessary.

As the backbone of primary healthcare, general practitioners play a vital role in health promotion, disease prevention and early intervention. They collaborate with other medical professionals, including nurses and allied health practitioners like pharmacists, audiologists, occupational therapists, chiropractors, dietitians, podiatrists, physiologists, social workers and counsellors.

Continuing professional development is a key aspect of being a GP. General practitioners must stay up to date with the latest medical research, advancements in treatment modalities and changes in healthcare policies and guidelines. This allows them to provide evidence-based and high-quality care to their patients.

What are the roles and responsibilities of a GP?

GPs are primary care providers who address patients seeking medical assistance for a broad spectrum of health concerns and conditions. They are responsible for: 

  • the diagnosis and treatment of medical conditions, ordering diagnostic tests and developing personalised treatment plans to address patient health needs
  • preventive care and health promotion, including routine check-ups, screenings, vaccinations and health education to help patients maintain optimal health
  • chronic disease management for conditions like diabetes, hypertension, asthma and heart disease, including the development of long-term care plans, monitoring patient progress and adjusting treatment strategies as needed
  • providing referrals to appropriate specialists and other healthcare professionals to ensure coordinated and holistic care for patients
  • addressing mental health concerns and providing initial assessment and treatment for common mental health conditions such as anxiety and depression
  • promoting healthy lifestyles and educating patients about various health topics, including nutrition, exercise and disease prevention
  • providing immediate medical care for acute illnesses and injuries, including emergency situations that occur outside of hospital settings
  • offering compassionate care for patients with life-limiting illnesses, including pain management and support for patients and their families
  • engaging in ongoing learning and professional development to stay up to date with medical advancements, research and best practices

How much do GPs earn in Australia?

The salary of a GP can vary based on several factors, including experience, location and type of practice.

Average GP salary

GP jobs can be found on SEEK, Indeed and LinkedIn. On average, the annual GP salary in Australia is approximately $370,000.

GPs who work in regional or remote areas may be eligible for additional financial incentives and benefits as part of government initiatives to improve healthcare access in underserved regions.

The demand for GPs remains strong, and job prospects are favourable, particularly in areas with a shortage of primary care services. GP job growth of more than 10 per cent is projected over the next five years, and according to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, around 90 per cent of Australians saw a GP in 2021-2022.

In addition to the financial rewards, being a GP offers the opportunity to profoundly impact the health and wellbeing of individuals and communities. GPs build lasting relationships with their patients and contribute to the overall improvement of population health outcomes.

5 steps to becoming a GP

Embarking on a career as a general practitioner is both rewarding and challenging, and the entire process can take up to ten years. To become a GP, follow these five steps:

  1. Decide if a career in general practice is right for you
    Before pursuing a career as a GP, gain exposure to the healthcare field. You can volunteer or work in medical settings to gain valuable experience and assess your interest and aptitude for providing comprehensive primary healthcare.
  2. Complete the necessary education
    Start by completing a Bachelor of Medical Studies / Doctor of Medicine. This process usually takes five or six years of full-time study. Entry will require passing a University Clinical Aptitude Test and interview.

    Alternatively, you may obtain an undergraduate degree in a related field, and then undertake a Doctor of Medicine. Entry will require passing a Graduate Australian Medical School Admissions Test and interview.
  3. Complete an internship
    After obtaining your medical degree, complete an intern year in an accredited setting, where you will rotate through various departments and gain practical experience in a range of medical specialties. As an intern, you will typically be employed by one facility, such as a public or private hospital, general practice or community-based facility.
  4. Obtain registration and residency
    To practise as a GP, you need to be registered with the Medical Board of Australia. Then you can complete one or two more years of training as a resident before entering a specialist training program.
  5. Attain Fellowship and seek employment
    After completing your intern and residency training, you can apply to become a fellow of the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners. To achieve Fellowship, you’ll need to complete the Australian General Practice Training Program — an additional three years of GP training followed by an exam. You may opt to include rural practice training, which requires an additional year.

    Once you attain Fellowship, you can explore job search sites like Seek and Indeed, and look for opportunities in GP clinics, community health centres, and other healthcare settings. Alternatively, you can start your own private practice. 

General practice: a rewarding career path

Becoming a general practitioner is a fulfilling career choice that offers tremendous opportunities for personal and professional growth. GPs serve as trusted healthcare partners for individuals and families, promoting health and wellbeing within the community. They play a critical role in providing comprehensive healthcare to patients, serving as their primary point of contact for medical concerns.

By reflecting on your career aspirations, pursuing a comprehensive education in general medicine, gaining practical experience and actively seeking employment opportunities, you can embark on a successful journey as a GP and make a significant impact on the health and wellbeing of people in Australia.

Are you interested in pursuing a postgraduate health course? Check out the various courses offered by our partner universities across nursing, psychology, public health, counselling, leadershippsychology and social work.