When it comes to pursuing a career, becoming a doctor or physician is one of the most popular choices. Being able to enrol in a medical school and call yourself a medical student is considered an achievement in itself. However, despite the popularity of this career choice, many medical students seem to have some misconceptions about the job.

1. A doctor is guaranteed a job

Whether they are working in a hospital or opening their own clinics, becoming a doctor seem to be synonymous with never facing the prospect of unemployment. Recent developments, however, are debunking that belief. There are a lot of general practitioners these days, and it has become very competitive to stay in the system. An MBBS holder is not longer good enough; you need to be a specialist, or at least have some other sort of added value, to be recognised.

For a postgraduate degree, a medical student should expect to continue studying for at least 7-10 years. Furthermore, getting a place for postgraduate study is increasingly difficult as only a few universities are able to accommodate this. Even though there are alternatives such as MRCP (UK) – internal medicine, MRCPCH (UK) – paediatric, MRCOG – Obstetric, and etc to increase their value, passing these exams or taking the programmes is no walk in the park.

The popularity of this career choice means that there would be an influx of medical graduates, be it from local universities or overseas, and this would create a surplus of doctors in the coming future. Already, in Malaysia, the government has just announced a reduction of houseman trainings due to an oversupply of medical graduates. While the arrangement is intended to be implemented for a short duration, for the time being, it would certainly make it more competitive to find and remain in a permanent post.

2. Becoming a doctor is a great way to get rich

As a general practitioner, you will live a comfortable life, so this belief is true to a certain level. However, to be able to “really make money”, you need to become a specialist or a consultant. Furthermore, as a trainee again, you will have to start from the bottom before slowly climbing to the top of “food chain”. There are also other financial issues that need to be considered before pursuing a study. As such, not all medical officers are eager to further their studies, thereby remaining in their position and earning the same salary that might not make them rich.

Opening a medical practice also requires a large amount of money, and keeping your practice open is another great challenge. The Malaysian Medical Association (MMA) estimates that more than 500 private clinics have closed down in the past four years. Many medical practices cited the increasing cost of maintenance as the reason for closing, including a minimum wage for employees, costs of medical equipment and supplies, and the implementation of a Goods and Services Tax (GST). With the current gloomy outlook for the economy, opening a practice might seem a bit risky. As more patients tend to seek out a specialist directly, it will also be even more difficult for a general practitioner to survive in the private sector, let alone get rich in a quick manner.

3. Only a super genius can be a great doctor

The popularity of the career choice means that many students are fighting for limited vacancies in a medical school, which might lead to a belief that only geniuses can become doctors. However, this is a misconception. Intelligence plays a relatively minor role in becoming a doctor, and other attributes such as passion, hard work and attitude are the more important. While intelligence does help in your pursuit of the career, without true passion you will never reach the finishing line and become a doctor in your own right. A good doctor should have sound judgment and a great set of skill, but a great doctor, in addition to those qualities, has empathy and humility– essential qualities in an industry that sees humans at their most vulnerable state of health.

Despite these misconceptions, just remember that with a right attitude and clear intentions, becoming a good doctor is not at all impossible for all aspiring medical students. MIMS

Read more:
Addressing the challenges facing Malaysia’s medical students
Malaysia: Unqualified medical students get degrees overseas
5 traits prospective medical school students needs to develop