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Postgraduate surgery: Study options explained

James Davis

Careers Commentator
Surgery can solve all manner of health conditions from superficial to critical. With a postgraduate qualification, you can hone your surgical knowledge and abilities.

Having completed your undergraduate medicine qualifications, you’re likely very familiar with many intricacies surrounding surgery. However, there’s far more to learn that can help you grow in your career. This article will cover some of the postgraduate study options available, what they cover, what their purpose is and how you can get into them.

Graduate certificates and diplomas

These are six month and one year full time programs respectively, or up to one year and two years part time. They serve a variety of different purposes. For example, the Graduate Diploma in Surgical Anatomy from the University of Melbourne allows students to perform a supervised dissection on a cadaver and prepare for the SET Surgical Sciences Examination of the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons. The Graduate Certificate in Surgical Sciences from the University of Sydney allows students who are currently doing their undergraduate medical studies to refine their surgical skills and eventually earn this postgraduate qualification concurrently. Others prepare medical professionals to teach others, whilst more still enhance the general clinical skills of graduates. As such, these qualifications are unusually diverse for AQF level 8; most other subjects will provide specialisation within the field rather than ‘meta-skills’ dependent on the program. This makes them a great way to succinctly develop a particular area of surgical expertise and bolster any perceived weaknesses.

Getting into these programs requires you to either be holding a bachelor of medicine or currently be studying toward one in the case of USYD’s certificate in surgical sciences. A successful application requires more than proving this however. Most institutions will require you to sit an interview for these programs. Despite what you may instinctively feel, you shouldn’t hold your academic achievements aloft and talk about your accomplishments too much. The selection committee likely have your academic transcript already. What they’re looking for is character. Show them why you’re interested in surgery and what about it draws your interest and compassion. This will work well in your favour when it comes to getting into these courses.

Master’s degrees

In medicine, master’s degrees allow you to branch out into interdisciplinary fields. Take the Master of Science (Assisted Reproductive Technology) from Edith Cowan. This allows students of medicine to learn how technology can help people who would otherwise struggle to have children. Another can help medical graduates specialise in MRI. Others like the Master of Rural and Remote Medicine at James Cook University can help students become more familiar with the nuances of practicing in outback Australia. No matter your ambition, there’s likely a master’s degree available to help you get there. They take two years of full time study to complete, or up to four years part time.

There’s also the option of getting into a research master. These allow students to take up a topic of their choosing under the guidance of a supervisor and write a thesis on the matter. This provides a medium by which they can contribute to a medical field of choice.

Entry requirements are similar to those of graduate certificate and diplomas, with proof of a bachelor of medicine and interview in many cases. For a research master, you’ll need to provide proof that you’ve conducted sufficient research before. A good way to do this is via honours degree, as these consist of exactly the sort of research selection committees want to see. Some graduate certificate and diplomas may provide substantial research units, in which case this is an alternate method of generating some original research, but is fairly uncommon. Undergoing research positions and relevant internships of this nature are another great way of getting some research experience.


There’s an important distinction among doctorates in medicine. A Doctor of Medicine and Surgery for instance is an AQF level 9 qualification based on furthering medical knowledge, which is something you’re likely familiar with if you’ve completed a bachelor of medicine or are on track to do so. Level 9 means it’s technically on the same level as a master’s degree and doesn’t involve the traditional research pursuits of its level 10 equivalent, known as a PhD. Indeed, a PhD in medicine is all about research and not about developing your professional abilities. It requires you to undergo research over the course of roughly three years full time or eight years part, culminating in a thesis between 70,000 - 100,000 words. It’s also possible to do a PhD by publication, which you can learn more about here.

Admission requirements are somewhat different as a result of the distinction. The former qualification requires students to have at least a GPA of 5.6/7, an overall GAMSAT score of 55 and attend an interview. In ANU’s case, the interview is actually weighted at 50% of the consideration, but getting that 5.6 is the minimum required to get an interview. The latter will need you to prove you’ve got some level of research expertise in the manner we described in the previous section. If you’ve got a master’s by research, this is an additional way to prove your research acumen.

Hopefully this article has given you a better idea of what you’re able to apply for and what you’ll need in medicine. Wherever you decide to take your future qualification and whichever manner you use it, we wish you all the best!