intensive care emergency room

How to become an intensive care specialist

Find out everything you need to know to become an intensive care specialist
Intensive care specialists play a critical role in managing and providing advanced medical care to patients with severe and life-threatening illnesses. Their expertise is essential for optimising patient outcomes in the challenging and high-stakes environment of the Intensive Care Unit (ICU).

1. Complete a medical degree

The journey to becoming an intensive care specialist starts with gaining a medical degree.

Our Doctor of Medicine (MD) program is a masters-level degree that provides students with world-class clinical and research training. This is a four-year full-time program undertaken after satisfactory performance in an eligible bachelor’s degree.*

The Doctor of Medicine can also be taken as part of a combined degree in the Bachelor of Science and Doctor of Medicine, or Bachelor of Arts and Doctor of Medicine.

On completion of the Doctor of Medicine, graduates are eligible for provisional registration with the Medical Board of Australia as a medical practitioner.

2. Already completed a medical degree?

The first three years after medical school is spent gaining general registration and hospital experience. This can be done in conjunction with our postgraduate coursework degrees in critical care medicine, which are offered at differing levels to suit a range of career needs. These include a: 

Our range of critical care postgraduate coursework degrees have been designed by critical care clinicians for doctors interested in intensive care medicine, as well as emergency medicine and aesthetics. These degrees allow you to gain a holistic understanding of these areas of medicine before specialising or can be undertaken by doctors who want to build on existing knowledge and skills.

There is a wide range of subject areas to choose from and you can develop valuable non-technical skills in teaching, simulation and research.

Our coursework degrees include basic sciences, retrieval medicine and pain management, teaching in simulation and clinical communication and decision making relevant to the practice of critical care. You will gain insights and understanding of how research informs practice and undertake a critical appraisal of the evidence guiding practice in an area of critical care medicine.

There is also the option of specialising in intensive care research where you could choose to undertake a Master of Philosophy (MPhil) or Doctor of Philosophy (PhD).

3. Learn in a distinctive teaching environment

As teachers, academics and practising physicians, we are committed to enriching students in an experiential teaching environment. We are focused on producing intensivists with excellent patient care and the ability to promote positive multidisciplinary team interactions.

Our coursework degrees have been designed to connect our students with clinical and academic leaders in this field, allowing you to stand out in a competitive profession. They allow you to enhance the knowledge and skills you will be expected to learn once registered with the College of Intensive are Medicine (CICM) (Australia and New Zealand),

4. Register with the College of Intensive Care Medicine (CICM)

Undertaking postgraduate study in our Critical Care Medicine courses can strengthen your application and assist you in passing the entry examinations for the CICM.

Admission to the training program at CICM occurs after the completion of your third year of residency (PGY3), which needs to include the completion of six months of rotations in an Intensive Care Unit (ICU). You can then sign up to the training program with two structured references.

The training program takes a minimum of five years and consists of 24 months of core training as well as 12 months each of anaesthesia and medicine, six months of rural exposure and between three and six months of work in a paediatric ICU. Our range of critical care degrees can give you a step up in your overall knowledge of the specialisation, before beginning, or while undertaking the training program.

5. Start your new career

Intensive care specialists are highly sought after and can be found in a wide range of areas. These encompass hospital-based positions as an intensivist providing direct patient care in the ICU, to clinical research with the aim of advancing medical knowledge and patient care.

Graduates of our coursework degrees are also in demand as consultants, academics and in hospital administration.

 *The Doctor of Medicine (MD) replaced the University of Sydney’s previously offered Bachelor of Medicine/Bachelor of Surgery (MBBS) in 2014. Graduates of the MBBS also meet the requirements to undertake our postgraduate coursework degrees in Critical Care Medicine.

20 November 2023

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