Are medicine and engineering the only two feasible options for Pakistani students?

Published: March 7, 2018

Whether you want to stay in Pakistan or move abroad, medicine and engineering are two fields that offer a relatively better standing, both professionally and economically.

Till a couple of decades ago, engineering and medicine were considered the most sought-after fields for students to pursue professionally. Parents at home and teachers at school would shape the youngsters in order to make them able to qualify for the top-notch medical and engineering schools. The most common statement to hear as a child, whenever questioned about future plans in front of our parents, would be,

“Mera bacha bara ho key doctor ya engineer banay ga.”

(My child will grow up to be a doctor or an engineer.)

Young people never even get the chance to come to this realisation on their own; when it comes to their future, their parents end up taking the lead.

In the last decade or so, however, things have changed quite a bit. As the number of graduates in the medical and engineering profession continued to rise and the job market itself continued to shrink, thanks to the political and economic situation of Pakistan, people began to realise that these two options aren’t the safety net they used to be. People now accepted the reality that they needed to look beyond these two professions at more career options. The advent of social media played a crucial role in developing this mindset, as every struggling individual started using the example of Mark Zuckerberg achieving success, despite being a Harvard drop-out. A lot of new institutions popped up too, offering degrees in media sciences, business administration, mass communication, tourism, hospitality services and so on, and more and more youngsters started getting into diversified fields.

It’s perfectly alright for students to opt for fields of their interest, however, things start getting problematic when they don’t assess the market properly, and begin to live in a fairy tale as they avoid the creeping reality of looming failure. Today, it doesn’t look cool to say,

“Mujhe bara ho kar engineer ya doctor banna hai.”

(I want to become an engineer or a doctor when I grow up.)

Rather, it sounds boring, old-fashioned and out-dated. Yet, if you look at the reality, it appears that these two options are still some of the best career options with the most stability for the youth in Pakistan.

First things first, you have the best chance at immigration if you are qualified as a doctor or an engineer. Call me anti-Pakistan if you like, but the brutal reality remains that once you graduate and get some experience, what attracts you the most is the boards advertising ‘Immigration to Canada’. The hopeless situation of Pakistan pushes one to seriously consider immigration as a possibility, and honestly, I don’t see anything wrong with that. People have been moving across lands in search of a better lifestyle, jobs and security since the very beginning of the human race. In those days, people could easily say goodbye to their beloved homeland without anyone questioning their ‘patriotism’.

Immigration aside, the second factor on the list of most young graduates is having a job abroad. In that regard too, the fields of medicine and engineering are a clear winner by a long shot. Other fields, such as media sciences, business administration and law, are centred on one’s country and region, which is why you won’t find as many opportunities across the world. Yes, exceptions exist for every profession, but visiting any recruitment agency and questioning them about the professions that have the most demand and opportunities will result in the same response – medicine and engineering.

If you want to stay in Pakistan, then too these two fields offer a relatively better standing, both professionally and economically. Especially for those in the field of medicine, there is the great option of starting one’s own practice alongside other employment; a pattern that most medical graduates follow. Engineers don’t have as many options in manufacturing, as utilities are too expensive in Pakistan, while having China next door means that a copy of one’s innovation will be easily available within six months at half the price, that too in the same shop.

Am I resisting the emergence of new fields and the changing of the job market? No, I am not. But I do feel that while the youth should be passionate, they should not completely let go of their grasp on reality. Yes, be inspired by Zuckerberg, but don’t let yourself sink in his story. Remember that while Zuckerberg may be a dropout, he was a dropout from Harvard, and most of the top-notch jobs, even in the US, lie with Ivy League graduates. Do what you love and follow your dreams, but don’t forget that if you live in a developing country of Pakistan’s stature, your chances to succeed are already reduced by half.

Abdullah Ansari

Abdullah Ansari

An electrical engineer by profession, Abdullah works in the oil and gas industry. His interests include international relations, global politics and debating. He tweets @ChangingTrendz (

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Leonard Harrison

    Well written! That is exactly what happens in Pakistan.Recommend

  • Sane sid

    Indian Education system is the best in the World……. the 2, 3 , 4 yrs degree courses in Indian universities are the benchmark in international education system. IIT produces best technical leaders in the World after MIT, USA. I believe the model should be implemented by economically backward countries for the betterment of their societies. CheersRecommend

  • Keyboard Soldier

    AI mixed with Robotics will replace doctors in 20 years time.Recommend

  • Shehroz Aslam

    I don’t agree with you. Yes, the IITs are doing great in the world ranking but they aren’t sufficient to support the Indian youth. I was reading an article by an Indian news agency that around 3-5 lakh graduates are increasing yearly in India and they have no increasing job opportunities and similarly to Pakistan, the manufacturing industry is struggling to create new jobs. Moreover, the engineering graduates are also struggling as in Pakistan. Yes, there system is better to a little extent but I won’t regard it as one of the best models. There is no point of distributing degrees if you don’t provide job opportunities to graduates.Recommend

  • Bukhari

    I am a 25 and a qualified Chartered Accountant, have a six figure salary and i earn more than my doctor or engineer class fellows who completed their education before me and i have no plans to leave Pakistan. Point is these two professions are not the end of the world there are other fields as well which need to be explored. Kids need to be given the freedom to select whatever they want and for that they need some guidance thoughRecommend

  • Suchi Baat

    One should take China as a role model. What they did right about educating their masses. One of the thing, that is very plausible is creating tradesmen in abundance. They created vocation education parks in the country side which played a major role in creating manufacturing capacity. This is why the world market is flooded with Chinese goods. Can we do that ? YES…. we have the infrastructure in form of “Maddressas” that can be converted to impart technical education on top of religious education giving them government grant as an incentive. It will be matter of few years and Pakistan can have a large population of young skilled technicians and tradesmen that can add to manufacturing capacity and to the country’s GNP. Hope to see a healthy discussion here.Recommend

  • stevenson

    Who cares about the Indian educational institutions ? I don’t think most Pakistanis care at all. What is true is that most Indian professionals like most 3rd world people want to work abroad where job prospects are better.Recommend

  • Abdul moiz

    I managed to do nothing at all (schools are so boring)
    Problem is with the backward mindset of Pakistanis (and indians and aphricans), which cannot be changed through education. They are still deeply stuck in superstitions and fables and are averse to innovation and risk

    Most qualified doctors still follow their Maami’s wisdom and think that wet hair causes influenza and cold, still believe jaadu tona causes panic disorders while chartered accountants are still penny wise pound foolish (saving 2 dirhams in lunch while not investing anything from their 20,000 dirham salaries)
    Commercially the best bet appears to be making weird kurtis with japanese style umbrellas and weird colors and tight shalwars to go with it (0 innovation)
    Becoming an astrologer is also paying off more than sciences (due to the gullibility of the populace)
    I have even seen Reiki happening in Popular radio and TV channels

    The youth has to rise above the quarter to quarter market approach and adopt the principles of honesty and integrity,and tread on unknown territory to be able to sustain themselves in the long run

    Who am i kidding, lies and deceit are still the best bet to have a fat bank account and a luxurious lifeRecommend

  • sterry

    You are wrong if you think they prefer an Indian over a US citizen. The first preference is for a US candidate and if none is available for the job, only then can you look for a foreign professional – no matter what the field. Recommend

  • Khalid Masoud Rehman Rao

    I have no clue that why Pakistani students are only dying for medicine or to be a doctor. There are so many professions in Engineering specially in energy Oil sector Production, Drilling Exploration where you do not need a degree in Egineering, 6 to 8 month courses are available for brilliant students to follow and get a good job worth starting the life between 2000 to 4000 US$.per month

    One of my brother spent 60000/- US$ to make his daughter a medical doctor, now after marriage she Is paid here maximum 300 to 400 US$ per month .

    It is pity that society has no guideline even from the so called democratic government. There are so may profession worth much more credible then medical profession if one has to work for money.Recommend

  • Saj

    In another 20 years, AI + Robotics will replace AI + Robotics :)Recommend

  • Keyboard Soldier

    Sadly the human race will not exist to see that. AI may be interested in farming humans in the future for pet projects.
    And AI will become self-aware.Recommend

  • Dante

    Someone said that 20 years ago as well. Didn’t happen. Doctors still flourish. We will re-examine in 20 years.Recommend

  • Dante

    So basically IIT is a factory designed to export professionals to US?Recommend

  • Dante

    This is because medicine is probably the safest profession in terms of job market, salary, job security, and satisfaction. Unfortunately this demands hard work. Your brother’s daughter needs to specialize further. Once that happens, her salary will skyrocket to the equivalent of $5000-$10000 per month. Parents look at this and therefore decide that being a doctor is the best bet for their children.Recommend

  • Sane sid

    Well actually its a choice for IITians…… they can chose their country of work….. their hardwork paysoffRecommend

  • Faiza

    The efforts students put in becoming doctor and Engineers, they should be rewarded with extremely high paid jobs. Though I never understand how could we even compare these professions with such a pity degrees that are awarded only just by money. I’ve never seen a business student doing studies effort these are just the degrees bought by rich dad’s money.Recommend

  • Faiza

    I agree, the freedom should be given to kids but that doesn’t mean you can deny the fact, the amount of efforts put by doctors and engineers can’t even be 1% match with so called business arts students.

    Students who can’t work hard choose arts, business fields..

    P.S not everyone can be a Engineer/Doctor, we should respect these students their efforts hard work to become a one.Recommend

  • Shehroz Aslam

    What is the percentage of students in IITs to the total number of students enrolled in Indian universities? 1 percent, 5 percent, 10 percent? What about the remaining 90 percent?

    I’m not arguing about the IITs. I’m talking about the overall system. In Pakistan, the same happens with NUST, LUMS, GIKI students. Germany has the the consistent educational universities all over the country. Even if you go to university in a small village, the standard is pretty same as the the top ranked TU Munich. That’s the sort of system I’m talking about. Hope it helps!Recommend

  • Sane sid

    Are you even trying to compare all these your universities with IIT???? Wake Up…I have never heard of them…honestlyRecommend