These Are The Highest Paying Industries for Polytechnic Graduates in Singapore

By Peter Lin

I grew up in a time when people assumed JC education was superior to Polytechnic education. After almost flunking my A-Levels and spending most of my 20s in University, I sometimes wish I had the chance to go back in time and tell my younger self to go to Poly instead.

That being said, the decision to go into Polytechnic should always depend on whether you have a clue what you want to do with your life. 16-year-old me still wouldn’t have known what he wanted to do with life. All he wanted to do was make a difference in the world, and earn a fair bit of money while doing so.

I wish I had something like the Polytechnic Graduate Employment Survey back in my time. The results for the latest survey are out, and apparently fresh polytechnic graduates today can expect to earn a median salary of $2,100 a month.

But which courses lead to jobs that pay the most?

The Survey results are presented this way:

Of course the survey results wouldn’t say specifically which diplomas command the highest salaries, so here’s our educated guesses on the courses a list of the highest paying diplomas would include.

1. Diploma in Optometry

Singapore loves being number 1 in the world. Except we’re also number 1 for childhood myopia between seven and nine years of age. That’s a pretty crazy statistic but really not surprising. In the first few months of National Service I was assigned to a special platoon in BMT – we all suffered from acute myopia. An entire platoon of recruits, practically blind without our glasses.

As a result, optometrists are in high demand in Singapore. But only a 120 or so students go into the three-year Diploma in Optometry each year. Both Singapore Polytechnic and Ngee Ann Polytechnic offer this course. The interesting thing is that there currently is no full-time Degree in Optometry offered in Singapore, the only degree course shut down in 2013 when it couldn’t meet its enrolment target of 60 students.

Optometrists in Singapore today are earning a median of $3,571, based on MOM’s Occupational Wage Table for 2014. Someone starting out could possibly expect to earn about $3,000.

2. Diploma in Micro and Nanotechnology/Diploma in Nanotechnology and Materials Science

One of the few manufacturing industries that remains a driving force in Singapore is the semiconductor industry. This is despite stiff competition from countries like Malaysia and China, which enjoy lower labour costs and as a result, lower production costs. Sadly, while it once enjoyed a huge boom, the semiconductor industry is now seen as a sunset industry. In response, companies are diversifying their business, entering into other sectors while still retaining their core advanced manufacturing advantage.

It therefore still makes lots of sense to enter the nanotechnology diploma courses offered by Nanyang Polytechnic and Republic Polytechnic. Graduates of these courses usually become assistant or associate engineers in a variety of roles.

Assistant and associate engineers are earning a median of $3,310, based on MOM’s Occupational Wage Table for 2014. Someone starting out could expect to earn about $2,500.

3. Diploma in Banking and Finance

This is a no-brainer, honestly. The finance industry is generally capable of sustaining the significantly higher incomes that almost all their employees earn. Even though a diploma may not accelerate your journey up the corporate ladder as quickly as a degree, there’s no reason you can’t earn incredible salaries in your starting role – especially if that role is foreign exchange dealer/broker, one of the 10 highest paying jobs of 2015.

But even if you’re not losing sleep and putting your long-term health at risk by working as a foreign exchange broker, finance diploma graduates can look forward to a myriad of jobs, including financial planning, accountancy, corporate finance and risk management.

A credit and loans officer, for example, can earn a median of $3,510, based on MOM’s Occupational Wage Table for 2014. Someone starting out in the finance industry could expect to earn about $2,700.

One last word…

It’s interesting to note from the Survey which courses did not lead to very high-paying jobs. The category of Hybrid Courses saw the lowest median monthly salaries among the respondents. Strangely enough, this category includes courses like Aviation Management and Services, Financial Informatics and Logistics Management, that typically lead to high paying industries.

Perhaps one reason why graduates of these courses were unable to command higher salaries is because hybrid courses are a combination of 2 or more disciplines. For example, Aviation Management combines Aviation modules with Business modules. While this would be expected to lead to a more all-rounded learning experience, employers may not be willing to pay for what they perceive as a less in-depth education.

Ultimately though, you shouldn’t be choosing a course based on what pays the best – that’s a sure way to end up doing something you probably won’t like and will make you unhappy at work. If you know what you want to do in life, do it, and do it well, regardless of how much it pays at first.

This article was first published over at MoneySmart blog on 18 January 2016. It is reproduced with permission.

About The Author (Peter Lin)

I am the poster boy for reinventing one's self. I've been a broadcast journalist, a technical writer, a banking customer service officer and a Catholic friar. My life experiences have made me the most cynical idealist you'll ever meet, which is why I'm also the co-founder of a local pop culture website. I believe ignorance is not bliss, and that money is the root of all evil only if you allow it to be.


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