A question we get asked reasonably frequently is whether medical interns get paid in Australia. Often this comes from doctors working in other countries. We think the main confusion occurs around the concept of an intern in a medical setting and an intern in the corporate setting.

In relation to the question of whether medical interns get paid in Australia. The answer is an unequivocal yes. Medical Interns are paid a salary of between $68,000 AUD and $79,000 AUD base salary per annum for full-time work, depending on which State or Territory of Australia they are in. The majority of interns are employed on a full-time basis and they can often earn significantly more due to working shifts and overtime.

So the question then arises as to why medical interns are paid and other interns are not. As well as whether there are other situations where a doctor might be employed in a non-paid capacity. Feel free to read on further where we answer these questions and more.

Why are medical interns paid and other interns in the corporate sector not paid?

According to the online etymology dictionary the word intern comes from the French word “interner“, meaning send to the interior or confine, which itself derives from the Latin word “internus“, meaning within or internal.

the French word “interne” means ‘assistant doctor’ and the word means onw working under supervision as part of professional training”

So it seems that the concept of the medical intern or doctor intern came first. This, in turn, stems from the concept of an apprenticeship, which arose in the middle ages under the guild system. Agricultural methods and technology had become more advanced, requiring fewer workers in the fields. So people started leaving the farm to take up trades in their early to mid-teens. Apprentices would pay a guild master to teach them the trade. Apprentices typically lived with the master for a decade, if not longer, and couldn’t marry or earn wages during the apprenticeship. At the end of the apprenticeship, the apprentice became a member of the guild and a “journeyman”, which meant he could earn his own wages.

Medical Interns Were Probably Not Paid At Some Point.

Therefore its likely at some point even medical interns were unpaid. The apprenticeship model in medicine evolved into the concept of a medical internship year probably sometime in the early 1900s. And intern doctors became doctors who were recent graduates of medical schools who were unlicensed but able to work under supervision strictly in hospitals. You generally needed to complete your intern year to be able to go out on your own and start a practice. But many doctors stayed on longer and these trainees were often housed by the hospitals. This is where the term resident comes from.

For some time now. Since the end of the second world war at least medical interns have been paid. This is a reasonable proposition as they have already undertaken a large degree of unpaid higher education (generally more than any other profession) to get to this point and they now contribute significantly to the operation of many hospitals.

According to Taylor Research group corporate intern programs originated in the United States in the 1960s as both businesses and government agencies saw the merit of providing short term opportunities for prospective future employers to gain some work experience in their summer breaks. However, it has only been in the late 1990s that government and corporate internships have become common in college campuses in the United States and also only in the last couple of decades have they started to become more common in other countries.

Because these internships are generally shorter and limited in time and focused around providing current students with a work experience opportunity most internships have been offered on a voluntary basis. This is not to say that no corporate internship provides payment or other benefits. In some cases there may be allowances for things like travel or accommodation or other expenses. And of course the premise of an internship in the corporate sector is that one receives free on the job training.

Are there situations where you might not get paid for working as a doctor in Australia?

There should really be no situation where a doctor performs work in Australia and is not paid for this. Certainly all true medical internship positions are paid under an Award based system. Which is a set of rules that are commonly applied to a group of employees across a certain industry sector and by which the employer must abide.

Sometimes the concept of a clinical placement or clinical observership can be confused with a medical internship. These are actually quite different things.

A clinical placement in medicine in Australia normally occurs as part of the formal requirement for workplace-based experience in a medical school program. Students are assigned to placements under supervision in hospitals, general practices, and other settings.

A clinical observership is a period of time where a doctor observes another doctor or clinical team in a non-active capacity. The most common reason for this is to permit doctors from other countries to familiarise themselves with the Australian health care system and gain exposure to patients. Most such placements last around 4 to 8 weeks.

How do I find a Clinical Observership?

If you are an international medical graduate a clinical observership is not only a great opportunity to gain exposure to the medical system in Australia but it may provide you an opportunity to make connections with potential future employers. So its not surprising then that clinical observerships are highly sought after.

Most clinical observersihps tend to be arranged through personal connections. For example, you may know a senior clinican in a hospital who is able to arrange a clinical observership for you. Some hospitals may offer formal observership programs such as Northern Health in Melbourne, in which case the criteria for gaining an observership is quite high.

Be aware that the hospital may be using observerships to test out potential employees. So its probably best to have some grounding in what sort of things employers look for in medical officers before embarking on an observership.

Where is the best place to work as a medical Intern in Australia?

In order to work out where the best place to work as a medical intern in Australia is we would need to take a number of factors into consideration including remuneration, career opportunities, work conditions, desirability of location and cost of living.

If we are to look just at remuneration then Western Australia is definitely the best place to work in Australia as an intern as the wages for interns in Western Australia are the best in the country.

Coupled to this Western Australia has some very nice places to live and has recently become a far better prospect for cost of living, in particular renting and buying a house, since the decline in the mining boom that grossly affected housing prices there.

Where is the worst place to work as a medical Intern in Australia?

If we were to use the same factors that make Western Australia the best place to work in Australia then New South Wales, in particular, Sydney would be easily the worst place to work as a medical intern in Australia. The pay rates for interns in NSW are the worst in the country and it doesn’t get better as you progress as a trainee. And, of course, Sydney is the most expensive city to live in Australia.

But its not all bad. New South Wales has a lot of training opportunities and Interns in NSW are offered a 2 year contract, whereas Interns in other parts of the country are only given one year. This makes a great difference as it can take the pressure off in your first year because you are not worried about impressing your employer to get another job the following year.

Related Questions

Exactly how much can medical interns make from shift-work and overtime?

Whilst the base salary of an intern in Australia is somewhere between $68,000 and $79,000 AUD it is possible to do considerably better than this. Most interns are required to do a level of overtime and what is called shift work (work outside the normal hours) both of which are paid at a higher level than normal work. For example most overtime (work in excess of 40 hours) is paid at double time in Australia.

So you can see that that base salary can improve quite significantly. But of course it also means you are working longer hours, which may not necessarily be a good thing.

How much does a Resident Medical Officer earn?

A Resident Medical Officer is someone who is at least a year more senior to an Intern. In their first year a Resident Medical Officer will earn considerably more money than an Intern. For example in NSW interns earn a base salary of around $66,000 AUD and first year residents earn a base salary of around $77,000 AUD.

Do corporate Interns ever get paid?

Corporate internships are sometimes paid. Using non-paid employees to do the work of employed workers can get employers into trouble with regulator authorities, particularly in countries like Australia. So generally corporate internships that are of a longer duration do tend to get paid.

Is there somewhere I can find out more information about pay rates for doctors in Australia?

Interestingly there is no one place to find out about doctor pay rates across the country. We have written a blog post that summarizes the pay rates for interns across Australia here and we hope to have the time to summarize the rest for you. Check back regularly.

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