RE-CONSIDER: School leavers should be prescribed other equally respectable career options
IN Malaysia, a medical degree is more coveted than yak cheese is to Himalayan herdsmen. Every year, the public university intake announcement will be met with grouses and recriminations when students fail to secure places, especially for medical degrees.
Many of those not allotted places seek alternative routes to their ambition.
This huge demand has led to a mushrooming of private medical colleges, almost 40 now for a population of about 28 million "probably one of the highest per capita in the world", the Malaysian Medical Association told the New Sunday Times last week.
MMA president Datuk Dr N.K.S. Tharmaseelan said with an astronomical 5,000 medical graduates every year and only 132 hospitals, there would no place for these graduates to undergo training by next year.
It's bloodcurdling, but unlikely to deter the legions of students, and their parents, intent on a medical education. It's not difficult to comprehend why many are willing to give their eye teeth to become doctors.
It's a noble and selfless profession, after all.
Doctors are put on a pedestal by society at large, and more importantly, by prospective in-laws.
And the money can be good. Surgeons and specialists are highly-placed in annual lists of top-paying jobs, with salary levels and career advancement depending on the years of practice, skills and reputation.
A doctor's job can, however, also be stress-inducing and soul-sapping.
There are those who don't want to be doctors but are goaded or threatened by persistent parents to join the medical assembly line.
This is unhealthy. School leavers should be made aware that there are other equally respectable career options. Many blindly chase a medical degree the way zombies would a group of screaming humans, without considering whether other offerings might be even more palatable.
Nothing else is notable or interesting except those options that have been drummed into their heads by well-meaning parents from childhood.
The nation does not only need doctors, or indeed, dentists, and pharmacists, but also those with the skills to maintain machines and construct homes. It needs teachers, scientists, and artists. And yes, it also needs lawyers and journalists.
Students need to know that the world is their oyster, and that there are jobs beyond those they have been conditioned to covet from childhood.
At the top of the heap on the Forbes' best jobs for 2013 list: actuary.
Highly-paid actuaries analyse statistical data on mortality, accident, sickness, disability and retirement rates, and construct probability tables to forecast risk and liability for payment of future benefits.
The second and third spots belong to the biomedical engineer, a "hot, new profession" requiring work with physicians and medical experts in designing new equipment, and the software engineer, "a low stress profession with good pay and a positive hiring outlook", thanks to our infatuation with apps and cloud computing.
If it's all about the money, then students should take a look at these other career options, which according to job placement agencies, are the top three highest paying in Malaysia: pilot, strategy director (business planning), and senior accountant.
Others professions that are capable of fattening up wallets include geotechnical engineer, data architect and chief executive officer.
Educationists advice students to take into cognisance fields such as information and communications technology, engineering (oil and gas, telecommunication, aviation and marine), and sales and marketing. Besides these more conventional options, there are those that are less so but have been described as being among the most fulfilling in the world.
They may sound quirky, but do exist -- chocolate consultants, Lego sculptors, television watchers and bounty hunters.
Those with a penchant for sleeping on their jobs can contemplate becoming professional sleepers.
Typically, professional sleepers participate in university studies on sleep or dreams, but others make sure beds are comfortable in hotels.
And then, there's "the best job in the world": an island caretaker. The role was created in 2009 by Australia's Queensland Tourism Board to help promote the Islands of the Great Barrier Reef to the world.
Briton Ben Southall secured the job, and was paid STG73,400 (RM374,000) to live on an island in the Great Barrier Reef for six months, swimming, exploring and generally enjoying himself while filming and blogging about all the fun he was having.
So, do you still want to be a doctor?
Chok Suat Ling | Instagram@suatling27 New Straits Times Online Columnist 14 November 2013