Medical Training Review Panel: thirteenth report

Royal College of Pathologists of Australasia

Page last updated: April 2010

Training Program

The Royal College of Pathologists of Australia (RCPA) advanced training program requires five years. There is no basic training.

The following subjects are studied: anatomical pathology, chemical pathology, clinical pathology, forensic pathology, general pathology, genetic pathology, haematology, immunopathology and microbiology. Courses offered are not compulsory.

Some programs are joint programs with the Royal Australasian College of Physicians. These include haematology, immunopathology, endocrinology/chemical pathology and microbiology/ infectious diseases.

Part-time training is supported, as long as the trainee is employed for a minimum of eight hours per week on average. Interrupted training is also supported and the college places no limit on the time taken to achieve fellowship.

Trainee Selection

The college accredits laboratories for training, but not the actual positions. As a consequence, the college is not directly involved in selecting trainees for positions. The college does have a guideline for the selection of trainees based on the Brennan principles, which it encourages all laboratories to use.

Trainee Assessment

All trainees are expected to demonstrate knowledge of basic scientific and pathological principles and laboratory management as it relates to their discipline. Trainees must pass three examinations:
  • a basic pathological sciences examination;
  • a Part 1 examination, usually undertaken during the third year of training; and
  • a final examination, usually undertaken in the fifth and final year of training.
The RCPA 2008 Trainee Handbook contains discipline specific information on assessment and examinations and is available from the college’s website.

Overseas Trained Doctors

The college receives applications from the Australian Medical College (AMC). The board of censors makes an independent assessment following interview by, and on the advice of, an overseas trained specialist assessment subcommittee as described below. At the same time the assessment applicant will be provided with training determinations as to any additional training time or examinations they would need to undertake should they wish to attain the fellowship of the RCPA.

The college follows the nationally consistent approach to assessing overseas trained specialists in relation to accepting them for assessment via the overseas trained specialist pathway; that is, they must be deemed to be a specialist in their original country and not need more than two years of top-up training/assessment before being eligible for the Australasian fellowship.


The college accredits both public and private sector laboratories for training. In order to be accredited, a laboratory must first be accredited from a quality perspective by the separate NATA/RCPA accreditation process. If the laboratory has this accreditation, it may apply for RCPA training accreditation to assess if the laboratory is able to provide training in pathology. This accreditation examines whether the laboratory has appropriate staffing and equipment, has an appropriate selection system in place for trainees, and has training programs and supervision processes in place in accordance with the college’s requirements.

The college conducts site inspections to ensure that standards of training are in accordance with college requirements. Each accredited laboratory is visited ideally once in every five-year accreditation period, provided there is a trainee in position, or as the need arises. Visits may be carried out in collaboration with representatives of the Royal Australasian College of Physicians where joint training programs are in place.