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Are you confused about colleges, fellowships and pathways that lead to general practice registration? Unsure about where you should apply? We can guide you through the process and help you to make the right choice for you.

ACRRM vs RACGP: Understanding GP colleges 101

The GP colleges set the program for the AGPT, which is the most common path to GP registration in Australia. Registered training organisations, such as GPTQ, deliver the AGPT program to registrars. We follow the curriculum set by the college, and this differs depending on which college you are with.

The Royal Australian College of General Practice (RACGP) has been around since 1958 and plays a big role on the Australian GP landscape. They offer support to their GP members, and look after the needs of medical students, recent graduates and GP registrars. With the largest membership of any medical college in Australia, they lead the way in maintaining quality clinical practice, education and training standards in general practice. They also have specialty faculties including their rural faculty as well as their indigenous medicine faculty. RACGP offers training in metropolitan and rural areas.

While the Australian College of Rural and Remote Medicine (ACRRM) is a little younger than the RACGP (born in 1997), their focus and commitment to education and training of current and upcoming GPs is no different. They focus solely on rural medicine, helping aspiring GPs with a keen interest in this area gain the skills and knowledge they need to help Australians living in rural and remote areas.

Both colleges are accredited by the Australian Medical Council so if you gain fellowship with either, you’re considered a fully qualified GP who can practice safely, unsupervised, anywhere in Australia.

Dr Sue Page, a rural GP who has held influential roles at both the RACGP and ACRRM, knows first-hand the value GP colleges offer.

“I think both the GP colleges play profoundly supportive roles. Pretty much no matter where you are, you’ll be able to find an educational event that’s near you or available online. You’ll be able to get someone on the phone. We have an amazing network from the colleges to the training organisations and workforce agencies to the practice level.”

As a registrar, you can opt to train with RACGP or ACRRM – or both.

You can choose from two different GP fellowships

RACGP offers two fellowships:

1. Fellowship of the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (FRACGP)

FRACGP leads to registration and is the most popular with the highest number of applications. It’s a three-year full-time equivalent qualification available on both the General Pathway and Rural Pathway.

2. Fellowship in Advanced Rural General Practice (FARGP)

FARGP is an additional qualification in advanced rural training available to RACGP registrars, completed alongside FRACGP. It has an extra year of advanced skills training.

ACRRM has one fellowship:

1. The Fellowship of Australian College of Rural and Remote Medicine (FACRRM)

FACRRM is a four-year full-time equivalent qualification available to registrars on the Rural Pathway. It offers registration to work as a GP anywhere in Australia (yes, even in cities).

Once you’ve accepted a training place with a college, you need to complete your training towards registration with that college. You can’t change to the other college. You can, however, add or remove an FARGP to an FRACGP if you’re completing your registration with RACGP.

This explainer video will give you some more important information about GP fellowships including other criteria and curriculum requirements.

There are two main training pathways: the General Pathway and the Rural Pathway

You can complete the AGPT program on the General Pathway or the Rural Pathway. The pathway you choose affects where you can train, but not where you can practice after you receive your fellowship.

Note: If you are subject to the moratorium under section 19AB of the Health Insurance Act, then you would be restricted to practising in a district of workforce shortage (DWS) for the duration of the moratorium.

The decision you make depends on a variety of things including, but not limited to, your medical interests or passions and your lifestyle desires. Here’s a quick rundown of both.

The General Pathway focuses on training in metropolitan practices

Traditionally, the General Pathway has enabled registrars to train anywhere within our region including metropolitan, regional and rural locations in southeast Queensland. However, as rural placements are becoming increasingly popular, many RTOs (including GPTQ) are giving first preference to rural locations to registrars on the Rural Pathway.

Metropolitan locations (Brisbane practices and hospitals) are only available on the General Pathway, making it a popular choice. The highly competitive nature means there’s usually more applicants than places.

The General Pathway is available to RACGP registrars only.

The Rural Pathway provides training in rural locations

The Rural Pathway offers the same quality training, but in rural or regional settings, with additional training in rural practice. Securing a place via the Rural Pathway is usually less competitive than the General Pathway, and you may also be eligible for a range of financial incentives. Registrars can complete any Fellowship from RACGP (with or without FARGP) or ACRRM on the Rural Pathway.

Dr Michael Rice, a Beaudesert-based GP and medical educator, shares some of the reasons rural medicine got him hooked.

“I enjoy seeing multi-generational families. I enjoy seeing babies grow up. Some I’ve vaccinated have come back with their own babies,” he says. “It’s good to live in a community where people look after each other and look out for each other. Patients become your friends; friends become your patients. Living and working in the same rural community, you develop an identity.”

One of our recently fellowed GP registrars, Fung (Terry) Cheng works in Warwick in our Darling Downs and West Moreton District. He thoroughly enjoys the unique nature of rural work.

“In a rural area, you’re a jack of all trades. You have to learn self-sufficiency as you see patients with vastly different needs,” he says. “But I don’t ever feel alone practising in the rural area. I can always phone a friend and ask for advice if I need to. Sure, it has its challenges but at the same time, it is very rewarding.”

If you need more information, we can help

GPTQ has a long history of training registrars on both pathways and completing different Fellowships. We have plenty of great information on our website on our fellowshipprogram and applicant pages. If you prefer to chat, please contact us and we’d be delighted to help.