Have your parents always told you to take the career path of either a doctor, a lawyer or an engineer? You are not alone. In Singapore, many locals believe that professional degrees could catapult you to a steady job that pays well.
However, is it really possible to obtain a high-paying job with reasonable office hours and excellent staff benefits without a university degree?
Read on and watch how we debunk this old wives’ tale.
Diploma and certificate holders can rejoice because getting a decent job with a high salary is actually achievable in Singapore! The idea that only doctors, lawyers or engineers can build a sustainable income is indeed only a myth. While academic qualifications may make you more competitive and marketable as a fresh graduate, it may not be enough to sustain your resume in the long run.
These days, many companies choose past work experience, dedication as well as one’s character over paper qualifications. No doubt academic achievements may beef up your resume – but ultimately, your ability to work in a team, work ethic and soft skills also play critical roles in helping you nail a high-paying job.
Last month, Minister for Education Ong Ye Kung expressed his belief that Singapore could one day have a Prime Minister who does not have a degree. While Singaporeans are well-aware that a degree is not a one-way ticket to success, the conviction that there are multiple pathways to a fulfilling career without a degree is perhaps not as strong amongst most local Singaporeans today.
But if we take a moment to look around us, we can see that there are indeed many well-paying and exciting careers that don’t require a degree for entering and excelling in. Here are 7 of our favourites.
1. Financial Adviser
As the name of the designation suggests, financial advisers are like consultants who render services to their clients based on their income level and financial situation. The financial adviser market in Singapore is massive. Personal finance is a field that a large part of the population deem to be complex and difficult. In fact, financial advisers sometimes perpetuate this perception themselves. The pitch is that with so many insurance and investment products available, financial advisers are needed to help individuals make sense of it all.
Ironically, you do not need a degree in order to enter this ‘complex and difficult’ field. You do need to be 21 and above and have either GCE ‘A’ Level certificate with three H2 passes and two H1 passes; or an International Bacclaureate (IB) diploma; or a polytechnic diploma; or equivalent academic qualifications; and then pass modules 5 to 9A from the CMFAS Exam.
The generous entry requirements should by no means be seen as diminishing the immense value a good financial adviser provides, but it is undeniably a double-edged sword.
On one hand, it opens the doors for those who wish to pursue a career as a financial adviser. One could move on into other aspects in the finance or insurance industry such as risk management, product management and also regional sales force management after starting out as a financial advisor. On the other hand, it also means that it might be hard for good agents to differentiate themselves from the competition who have just enough knowledge to pass the CMFAS papers and regurgitate sales routines they learnt.
To stand out as a financial adviser, you have to develop useful and helpful skills like communication and persuasion and also have a flair for sales. More importantly, you also have to be a people person and have the resilience to deal with rejection. Thus, the career of a financial adviser is far from a walk in the park. It’s not a career for everyone.
2. Singapore Airlines Pilot/Cabin Crew
In fact, your career as a pilot or cabin crew could take you to different locations around the world! Avid travellers might consider this a dream career – for they can build an income, enjoy cheaper flights as well as travel to various destinations around the world. The best part? Most airline positions do not require anything above a diploma.
Moreover, as far as career progression is concerned, you could be promoted to a cabin supervisor or senior cabin crew with enough experience in the field.
Try your hand in the national airline and let your career take flight!
This is not to say that entry into the prestigious ranks of a Singapore Airlines pilot or cabin crew is easy – because it is not. You will need to undergo months of rigorous training and evaluation, and candidates dropping out is not uncommon. But if you’re willing to give it a shot, then the sky’s the limit!
3. Executive Chef
Singapore’s food and beverage scene is tough work, but offers good prospects for advancement and career progression. More senior positions in a restaurant or hotel kitchen like sous chefs, head chefsand executive chefs can command salaries of up to $5,000 to $10,000.
The skills that you pick up working in a
warzone kitchen are also not easily replaced, and can be invaluable if you decide to start your own food and beverage stall.
Then again, however, the food and beverage industry can be gruelling. Besides long hours and stressful working conditions, the career progression could be a slow one. It is also extremely competitive in the food and beverage scene – some people might find it difficult to stand out among talented chefs across the country.
4. Commercial Diver
News reports of diving mishaps are bleak reminders of the dangers that commercial divers in Singapore face on a daily basis. But for those who love the sea and enjoy diving, then there really isn’t any job that compares to being a commercial diver.
According to news reports, experienced divers can earn about $10,000 a month, and there are also opportunities to travel overseas for diving assignments. These can be quite lucrative, with jobs in the Middle East going for around US$1,000 a day.
5. Automotive Mechanic
With the massive number of drivers in Singapore, there is also a high volume of vehicle breakdowns and car accidents in Singapore. In this sense, there is a growing need for more automotive mechanics who can deliver fast and efficient services.
Singaporeans regularly bemoan the high cost of cars and of maintenance that their motor vehicles require. But as long as Singaporeans continue to drive, skilled mechanics will always be in demand.
There is a shortage of Singaporean mechanics, who turns out can enjoy a rewarding career with good progression. After starting out as a rookie mechanic, they can become a senior mechanic and then a manager, earning around $5,000 a month.
6. Property Agent
A degree is not necessary to take the CEA certification to be a licensed real estate agent in Singapore. This might be tempting for those who are drawn to the commissions that property agents earn from each successful deal. But prospective candidates should speak to those who are already in this line to understand more about the business and what it takes to succeed in it.
Furthermore, the career of a property agent could also involve flexible working hours. You could choose to schedule your appointments at your convenience. If desk-bound jobs are not for you, perhaps a career in real estate could be suitable for you!
A property agent today needs a multitude of skills, including being a great communicator, an effective digital marketer, and even being a good photographer and copy writer.
You will also need certification. A career in real estate incorporates a certain degree of persuasiveness, online marketing, as well as sales. Like every career, learning will never stop even if you opt for a career in real estate.
7. Prime Minister
One of the highest paid ministers in the world, Singapore’s Prime Minister earns more than $2 million a year. Unfortunately, this occupation does not have regular openings. Nevertheless, one could always learn more about what the position of the national Prime Minister entails.
As Education Minister Ong Ye Kung observed, there is nothing to stop a non-degree holder from becoming the Prime Minister of Singapore. Theoretically, you just need to elected by the people in your constituency, and then garner the consensus and command the respect of the majority of parliament.
That’s possible on paper, but there is only one vacancy that only opens every 5 years, if the incumbent does not wish to continue. Perhaps you’ll be better off looking at the other jobs on this list.
Acquiring In-Demand Skills
As you can see, there are plenty of careers in Singapore that you can pursue, even without a degree. Having the skills that are in-demand by the job market is increasingly important.
As more companies update their hiring policies to give them access to a wider talent pool, the multitude of paths to success in Singapore will only continue to expand.
Gone are the days where the “Doctor, Lawyer or Engineer” thought reigned. Today, you can make a name for yourself even without a professional degree. Ultimately, hard work and dedication will pay off in the long run in any career. Always be humble at the start and learn from the more seasoned and experienced professionals.