Growing up in the Asian community and background, we are often misguided by the idea that the noble profession of a doctor guarantees success and financial security. Koon Yew Yin, founder of IJM and Gamuda, who offers scholarships to students with financial difficulties, has blatantly stated on his blog to inform students who wish to study medicine not to apply for his financial assistance. He believes that the return of investment from pursuing a medical degree in Malaysia may not be worth the time and money. While the virtuous profession may be glamorous to many, it is important for young Malaysians to understand the prospects that come with a medical degree.
1) Oversupply of doctors in Malaysia
The Malaysian Medical Association (MMA) has stated that there are currently too many doctors with no jobs and is all for the reduction in students entering medical faculties in institutes of higher learning. Given that all medical graduates require a government posting before being able to practice, graduates may find themselves in a rut if they are not given a posting due to the lack of vacancies.
2) Long working hours
Working through the night and having a 30-hour work shift is not unheard of for fresh graduates and typically housemen would have to work 12-15 hours a day. Due to most medical staff working on a shift basis, you may bid goodbye the luxury of having weekends or public holidays off and abandon the idea of taking annual leave during major festive seasons.
3) Financial security may take a while
It is compulsory for all medical graduates to practice in a government hospital for five years to complete their housemanship. During this period their monthly salary may range between RM2,600-RM4,000 before gradually increasing to RM5,000 after being promoted to medical officers. However, after spending an enormous sum of money in university tuition fees and investing approximately 12 years of hard work, is it worth just to earn RM5,000-RM6,000 per month as a doctor? Career breakthrough as a medical doctor may potentially be achieved after being a specialist.
4) Lengthy periods of studying
Referring to my previous point, significant career advancement may materialise after obtaining a specialisation. Prior to that success, it involves countless hours of studying and numerous examinations, while having a full time job as a medical doctor. Some may even be juggling added responsibilities of starting a family. If the thought of studying while working is abhorring, and if you aren’t one to handle stress well, this point may be the obvious deal-breaker.
5) Narrower job scope
Obtaining a Bachelor of Medicine, Bachelor of Surgery (MBBS) qualification will finally give you the dream career you are after! However, you may find yourself stuck in hospitals, clinics, or various government departments with predefined job scope. In comparison, peers who took on other degrees such as accounting or marketing appear to be hopping from one industry to another. Some may even have the opportunity of being posted overseas without having to undergo an additional examination as an evidence of competency.
While it is not wrong to pursue this honourable career, young Malaysians who decide to venture onto the medical pathway should be chasing this dream only for the right reasons that extends beyond financial security. Passion is a necessary driving force when the job entails much more than blood, sweat and tears. Be sure to give it thorough consideration before it is too late to fix the situation.