Why being a clinical specialist is financially unwise?


This article is not by any means to offend any specialists. I have deep respect for them. They went through rigorous training to get them to where they are right now. They are doctors who excel in their fields of specialization. Creme de la creme, best of the best.

But my question is – is it financially wise to become a clinical specialist?

See, doctors are very smart bunch. Booksmart. Not street smart. Put a doctor out of a job for a year, he wouldn’t know what else to do in life. As doctors, we have job security, at least for now. In the future, when the gluts of doctors (4000 medical graduates a year) filled in all the slots, then doctors will start to be unemployed. The Masters program in Malaysia have very limited postgraduates seats (cater less than 1000 seats a year). That means 80% of today’s medical officers are unlikely to become specialists.

But is it such a bad thing?

Is working for the government (Ministry of health Malaysia) for long term a good thing to do?

Let’s do a little review. The numbers below are based on rough estimations only. Government has recently reviewed some salary and allowances, so the numbers below might not be totally accurate.

UD41 (Houseman)

RM3100 (gaji pokok)

RM1600 fixed allowances

RM600 flexi allowance

KGT (Kenaikan Gaji Tahunan) RM225

UD44 (New medical officer)

RM3600 gaji pokok

RM2000 fixed allowances

RM2000-4000 variable allowances

KGT RM250

UD48 (senior MO)

RM5000 gaji pokok

RM2000 fixed allowance

RM2000-4000 variable allowances

KGT RM270

UD52 (very senior MO or new specialist)

RM6000+ gaji pokok

RM2500+ fixed allowance

RM2500 specialist allowance

RM2000-5000 variable allowances

KGT RM290

UD54 (very very senior MO or senior specialist)

RM7000+ gaji pokok

RM3000 fixed allowances

RM3000 specialist allowance

RM2000-5000 variable allowances

KGT RM320

About doctors in private hospitals/ clinics, please visit pagalavan.com for more info, but roughly:

MO in chain clinics: RM8000-RM13000 (1 day off in a week)

MO A+E private hospitals (RM10000 – RM15000)

Specialist in private hospital – variable, depending on the specialty and hospital

Look at the numbers above. Please be noted that this is gross income. Take home income after EPF deduction (11%) and taxes hasn’t been included.

I am currently at UD44 (new MO). To reach UD54 (senior specialist) with an income of roughly RM15000 (give or take), will take me another 8-10 years of service in the government, not to forget the very stressful rigorous training during Master’s program. Currently RM15000 is a lot of money. I would want that payscale right now.

But what’s the value of RM15000 in the next 10 years (if I become a senior specialist)?? Given that the inflation is 3-5%annually and the Kenaikan Gaji Tahunan (KGT) barely beats the inflation, is RM15000 monthly income considered a lot in the next 10 years? Sure the government will revise the salary, allowances and KGT, but the revisions usually happen every 4-5 years, possibly before General Election!

Do you think it’s enough?

Don’t forget that for Master program postgraduates, these new specialists will be bonded for the next 6-7 years with the government, making potential loss of income from other sources. If they decided for subspecialization, they are basically bonded for life! Even those with external exams such as MRCP MRCOG FANZCA etc, although they are not bonded and can go into private sector or go internationally, the job security is probably there (as long as the competition is not too stiff) but the financial freedom is not. They may be better paid, but not well taken care of in terms of retirement. Remember, there’s no financial freedom in job security and there’s no job security in financial freedom.

Doctors, especially specialists shouldn’t become specialists for monetary gain, but to serve the people better. But when serving the sick people, the last thing any doctor should worry about is does he/she have enough money to service the car or house loans, paying multiple bills and insurance, saving for kids education, savings for retirements.

Now let’s look at the government retirement programs. In this news, the EPF money would be gone 3 years after retirement. That’s depressing. If I were to retire at age 60, I wouldn’t want to be helpless and hopeless by 63!

The pension plan gives you monthly pension based on half of the last salary you retired to (gaji pokok, not including allowances). If my last gaji pokok is RM20,000 (even Jusa A won’t receive this much gaji pokok for now FYI), my pension would only be RM10,000 monthly. I’m 27 years old this year. What do you think is the value of RM10,000 monthly pension in the next 33 years? Possibly just enough to send you off to Class C retirement homes.

How about private sector? I do not know of any retirement plans from them so far.

So is it really that bad? Should Malaysian doctors migrate in search for greener pasture? I don’t think so. The problem is worldwide, even in very developed nations. That’s the risk working for the government, we can’t control our own income.

I’m not a rich person myself. I am considered middle class. I have no credentials to talk about any financial planning. But what I know is that a young doctor like me should be financially smart and think about the future, not just the career pathway, but also the financial pathway.

That’s why young doctors should invest early in their career. Most young doctors, in fact most malaysians, when they start receiving paychecks, the first thing they want to buy is flashy cars. Then get some credit cards. They have not thought of any investment or buying assets just yet. At least with good investment, I can beat the hell out of inflation and depreciating ringgit value, enough money to serve my retirement and golden final years. Trust me, you do not want to trouble your kids with money problems when you are old and grumpy and weak!

So, I’m not saying becoming a clinical specialist is of no value in the future. It’s highly valued in fact! But look at this, the lawsuits against doctors are ever raising. If unlucky, the doctor must dig deep inside the pocket and savings to pay off the lawsuit. High risk specialties such as O+G, Orthopedic, Surgical specialties are paying high premium for insurance protection against medical lawsuits. Some possibly taking a large chunk of their specialist allowance, rendering the specialist allowance almost useless.

The lawsuit business against doctors are ever flourishing, and doesn’t show any signs of slowing down anytime soon.

So again, is it wise to become a clinical specialist? The answer is YES, if:-

  • You have solid financial foundation – means you are already filthy rich. Multiple assets giving cashflow, good investments.
  • You’re truly, and I mean truly, want to become specialist for altruistic reasons rather than financial reasons.
  • You really don’t mind the mind-raping training, very bad hours, called in to the night to attend patients. And no freedom after the specialization (bonded for the next 6 years).
  • You go for low risk specialties
  • You take external exams such as MRCP and won’t be bonded.
  • You have very good protection plans against any lawsuits.
  • The government revises salary, specialist allowance and KGT every year (highly unlikely)
  • Zero inflation for the next 10 years.

Being a clinical specialist is great, but not necessarily financially wise.

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7 comments on “Why being a clinical specialist is financially unwise?

  1. agreed, dr are not street wise. we nag and nag about or job but we are not bothered to try anything else. but i had encounter a dr who do mlm.

    the houseman salary that u’ve mentioned, is it the latest? last i checked it is 2777 something.

  2. Never be a doctor for financial reasons. You will be disappointed by the monetary returns and depressed by the effort required.
    However, how is being a GP or MO financially better than a specialist?
    Income from all sectors of private practice is dropping, GP probably worse hit.
    Investment can be done by both.
    If full time investment is contemplated, better leave medicine altogether.

  3. Your point is telling doctors to start investing…. That’s true…..
    But the title of your writing is wrong… It is not financially unwise to be a specialist….. It is just unwise not to start financial planning….. whether you are specialist or MO, doctor or non-doctor, private sector or government sector…

  4. The field of medical now is similar to engineering about 10 to 15 years ago. There are so many engineering graduates. However, if your quality is good, you still can make it. Alternatively, engineering graduates have ventured to other fields including banking, insurance, management, IT, etc.

  5. doctors are lucky in a sense because the promotion scheme looks the best gov. scheme. Teachers nurturing the children for future of the country, just because of the numbers and good promotion scheme seems to burden the gov. teachers put a lot of effort too, have to face parents, be councillors and especially those in ministry with outstation work etc..are more unfortunate…

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