Applying for an Elective in Australia

So you want to go to Australia. This is a great choice for an elective that will impact your practice for the rest of your career. With a public-private health care system, all citizens of the country can access free or lost cost services, and many choose to supplement this with private insurance. Medicare is available to Australian and New Zealand citizens and has an added advantage of low-cost pharmaceuticals through a Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme. Their government spend just over 10% of their GDP on healthcare and therefore are a leading system to study and benefit from as a visiting student.  

Applying for your elective can be a scary or confusing time. Australia has various processes for placement applications that apply to both internal and external students. Here is everything you need to know before you begin your application, and to help you decide if Australia is the right location for you.

University Bound

One of the main things to consider when applying for an elective in Australia is the requirements. Each institution will have its own criteria and process that you will need to fully understand before submitting your interest. Many hospitals that welcome elective students are attached to a local university. Therefore, you will not be able to apply directly but must go through an academic portal. Read all the information available on their website very carefully before you set your heart on one particular elective. There’s nothing worse than getting your hopes up and then realising you are not eligible.  

Timing is Everything

Be aware that Australia is a very competitive country for elective placements. You will need to be prepared to apply anywhere between 18 and 12 months before you plan to depart for your placement. Different institutions will have different expectations so make sure you know the deadlines for application and have your paperwork ready well ahead of time.  

The competitive nature of placements also mean you will need to have a very strong CV and cover letter ready to show why they should pick you over other candidates. If you’re struggling for ideas or how to go about writing these documents, check out our planning section. You’ll find helpful how-to guides plus extra resources which will give your application that little spark that selection committees are looking for.  

Take your time and be prepared in advance so the whole process can be as stress free as possible.


Unsurprisingly, there will be a few costs to consider before you apply to Australia for your elective. Depending on which institution you choose to apply to, these fees will vary. You may be expected to pay an application fee, followed by an acceptance fee should you be successful. Always check the university electives page as they will have all the necessary information. For example, all electives at the Royal Melbourne Hospital Clinical School cost $100 per week of placement. It can also vary by hospital, as well as university. St Vincent's Hospital & Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre through the Melbourne Medical School has a $100 application fee plus $600 administrative fee for 4 weeks (these examples are as of 2022 but may be subject to change).

We offer an extensive range of resources to help you fund and budget for your elective. Wherever you plan on going for your placement, we recommend taking a look at our guides and tips to make the process less stressful.  

In the end, applying to Australia can be a worthwhile and life change opportunity. There are still plenty of tasks to complete prior to application and you must research first to find out if a placement there is viable. It is also worth considering a non-clinical elective or placement at a charity, advocacy group, or similar. These can help you learn so much, not just about medical practices, but community projects and how they benefit health systems. Take a look at our database for more inspiration on non-clinical opportunities in Australia and beyond.    


Remember, we are always here should you have any queries or problems.  


Good luck!