Two years ago, a survey conducted by JobStreet.com showed surprising, yet encouraging, results, in which fresh graduates with pharmacy backgrounds were among the top earners compared to graduates from other professions. These graduates could expect to earn up to RM 3,600 per month, which is an additional 80% compare to the national average of RM2,100 (1).

However, with the recent liberalization of Provisionally-Registered Pharmacist (PRP) Training Programme, a large proportion of our pharmacy graduates were unable to take up employment within the government sector. This in turn, drove a large influx of qualified graduates into the job market, and compete for the limited number of training opportunities available in the private sector. Consequently, this has impacted the starting salary of pharmacy graduates to a significant extent.

These recent changes have thus raised questions as to whether the pharmacy profession is still the best career choice to pursue. Inevitably, one of the factors that comes into play would be salaries earned by pharmacists in Malaysia. So let’s delve into how our pharmacists fare in comparison to other countries with regards to income earned.

Pharmacists in the Public Sector in Malaysia


In the public sector, PRPs will begin their career as “Pharmacy Officer Grade U41" or as it’s said in the Malay language, "Pegawai Farmasi Gred U41”, with a monthly basic salary of approximately RM2,500 (NOT including allowances) (2).

They will retain at grade U41 after completing their PRP training successfully, but will enjoy an annual salary increment. From there on, their career progression will be relatively linear with a time-based promotion within the public sector.

The majority of pharmacists will achieve the grade of U52 within approximately 11 years of continuous service in the public sector, from which they will receive a monthly basic salary of approximately RM5,000 – RM6,400. On top of the basic salary, a U52 Pharmacy Officer is entitled to other allowances amounting to around RM 2,000 per month. Further progression in grade (i.e. promotion onto grade U54 or further) depends on the availability of the position and other considerations (3).

Pharmacists in the Private Sector in Malaysia


For graduates who choose to venture into the private sector, they can expect a more variable salary from one company to another. Till date, there is no standardized salary scheme across the profession in the private sector.

Anecdotal reports from existing PRPs showed that one can safely expect a minimum salary of approximately RM 2,600. Certain companies provide a slightly higher payment at RM 3,000 per month, but this is not common.

The biggest difference between pharmacists in the public sector and private sector is the career progression after qualification as FRP. In the private sector, there are many options, and advancement does not necessarily follow a linear order. One can choose to climb the corporate ladder, or attempt to build his/her own business. For example, a successful retail pharmacy owner may earn a 5-figure income per month.

So, how do we fare against our counterparts in the United Kingdom?


Pharmacy practice in Malaysia is very similar to that of the UK. In fact, many of our current practices evolved from the colonial era (4). Pharmacists in the United Kingdom have to undertake a similar one-year training as Pre-registration Pharmacists before being allowed to practice. This is very similar to our PRP Training Programme. According to Prospect – a career organization that provides advice and information relating to different professions in the UK – the salary of a newly qualified pharmacist working for the National Health Service (NHS) ranges between £26,041 to £34,876 (MYR 138,893 – 186,015) per annum. Their salary will be further increased to around £41,000 (MYR 218,679) with further training and qualification. The most senior pharmacists in the service can expect to earn up to £98,000 (MYR 522,696) per annum (5).

However, different salary schemes prevail within the community setting. Newly qualified pharmacists can earn from £20,000 (MYR 106,672) to £25,000 (MYR 133,340) per annum depending on their location and employer. Typically, chain pharmacies tend to pay higher than independent pharmacies. Senior pharmacists can expect their annual salary to range between £40,000 (MYR 213,345) to £68,000 (MYR 362,687).

A third employment option for pharmacists is to become locum pharmacists. As the name suggests, locum pharmacists are not tied to any particular employer, nor do they have any commitment to companies. Payment is calculated by the hour and ranges from £18 (MYR 96) to £30 (MYR 160) per hour (hourly rate for weekends or holidays can be higher) (6).

Based on the figures above, one may be tempted to convert the figure into similar currency to make a comparison. Superficially, a pharmacist working in the UK might appear to earn a much higher monthly income as compared to his/her counterpart in Malaysia with similar qualification and experience. However, it is important to remember that the costs of living are vastly different in both countries, and there are numerous other contributing factors that influence salaries. It may thus be misleading, and unfair, to make a direct comparison, neglecting to consider other variables. MIMS

Reference:
1. JobStreet.com. Top 10 Best Paying Jobs in Malaysia [Internet]. 2014 [cited 2016 May 1]. Available from: http://www.jobstreet.com.my/career-resources/top-10-best-paying-jobs-in-malaysia/#.VyWX_j8y5_s
2. Suruhanjaya Perkhidmatan Awam. Pegawai Farmasi Gred U41 [Internet]. Ministry of Health Malaysia. 2016 [cited 2016 Apr 30]. Available from: http://www.spa.gov.my/deskripsi-tugas/ijazah/1128
3. Ministry of Health Malaysia. Pembangunan Kerjaya: Pegawai Farmasi di Kementerian Kesihatan Malaysia. Ministry of Health Malaysia. Putrajaya; 2007.
4. Ooi GL. British Colonial Health Care Development and the Persistence of Ethnic Medicine in Peninsular Malaysia and Singapore. Southeast Asian Stud. 1991;29(2).
5. AGCAS. Job Profiles: Hospital Pharmacist [Internet]. Prospect. 2016 [cited 2016 Apr 30]. Available from: https://www.prospects.ac.uk/job-profiles/hospital-pharmacist
6. AGCAS. Job Profiles: Community Pharmacist [Internet]. Prospect. 2016 [cited 2016 Apr 30]. Available from: https://www.prospects.ac.uk/job-profiles/community-pharmacist

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