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BMC Med Educ. 2019 Jul 5;19(1):247. doi: 10.1186/s12909-019-1686-8.

Additional qualifications of trainees in specialist training programs in Australia.

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St. Vincent's Hospital Melbourne, 41 Victoria Parade, Fitzroy, Melbourne, Victoria, 3065, Australia.
Port Macquarie Eye Centre, 35 Ackroyd Street, Port Macquarie, New South Wales, 2444, Australia.
Children's Hospital at Westmead Clinical School, University of Sydney, Level 2, Charles Perkins Centre D17, Camperdown, NSW, 2006, Australia.
Sydney Medical School, University of Sydney, Rm 213B Edward Ford Building A27, Sydney, New South Wales, 2006, Australia.



In Australia, the number of medical graduates per year has increased at a greater rate than the increase in the number of specialist training places. Consequently, competition for training positions is intensifying. There is anecdotal evidence to suggest that medical graduates are acquiring additional qualifications to compete with their peers Stevenson 2017 ( ). Our study investigates this phenomenon of additional credentialing and demonstrates the number and type of postgraduate and research qualifications obtained by specialists in training in Australia. This is the first study to assess the number and type of credentials acquired by registrars in each specialty and to provide insight into differences between specialities.


Information on specialists in training was obtained through the Medicine in Australia: Balancing Employment and Life (MABEL) survey conducted between 2008 and 2014. The number of any additional qualifications and specific PhD, Master's degree, postgraduate diploma/certificate and research degrees from medical school were assessed for each specialist training scheme in the database.


Overall, 995 registrars representing 13 specialties were included. Just under a third (30.4%) completed a research-based degree during their medical degree and almost half (46.7%) of specialist registrars obtained further qualifications after completing medicine. A significantly higher proportion of ophthalmology (78.6%) and paediatric (67.5%) registrars, and a lower percentage of emergency medicine (36.7%) registrars, held postgraduate qualifications. Overall, 2.4% of registrars held a PhD and 10.1% held a Master's degree. A higher percentage of either PhD or Master's was held by ophthalmology (64.3%) and surgical (30.6%) trainees and a lower percentage by anaesthetics (6.3%) and physician trainees (7.9%). Postgraduate diplomas or certificates were most common among paediatric (41.2%) and obstetrics and gynaecology (25.6%) registrars.


This is the first study to investigate the additional qualifications of specialists in training in Australia. Almost half of specialists in training surveyed (46.7%) have completed some form of additional study, whether it is a PhD, Master's, postgraduate diploma/certificate or research degree from medical school. Trainees of specialist training schemes are more qualified than specialists who trained in the past Aust Fam Physician 32:92-4, 2003.


Medical education; Postgraduate education; Registrar; Specialist training; Surgical training

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