How Useless Is Your Degree?

By Jules of Singapore

When I graduated a decade ago with a degree in Life Sciences and the government promise of a good job in a future industry, I never expected to take a month to land a job.

My first full-time job at a private education company paid a basic salary of $1,800 a month. So much for the value of a degree.

The perks of my job were being able to ghost write assessment books under other authors’ names, teaching 10 two-hour classes a week and not being able to see the sunset on a regular basis. But I also gained the humble experience of washing toilets, taking class attendance and selling stationery at the front counter, which are essential tasks to running a small business and it is hard to find enough people to do.

This is the reality of many graduates who pay tens of thousands to obtain a paper qualification because we are needed to run the future economy and fulfill the dreams of our parents.

I wonder how graduates nowadays feel when they read the news of fresh graduates earning a median monthly gross salary of $3,300 (or a monthly basic salary of $2,820) and realise they aren’t even there yet!

How accurate is the survey? I can’t say for sure, knowing that once I was informed by a university representative that we should refrain from the hassle of filling in the survey if our pay didn’t hit our expectations.

To my friends in the Financial sector, thank you for propping up the economy with higher productivity levels than the rest of us. Your pay scale and perks are enviable (7 month bonuses for a diploma holder who only joined for 2 months???), but many of you are getting retrenched and left in the cold.

Life is unfair and no one with a degree, Masters or Ph.D. is immune from being let go (I should know).

It’s not a joke that you are being retrenched now. I sincerely hope you do have enough savings because your financial background makes it easier for you to understand the importance of emergency funds and hedging your bets.

I cannot deny that having a degree is useful. But who can help graduates be ready for industry shifts, resilient when we face unexpected setbacks and stay relevant to the rapidly changing nature of jobs?

I believe Singaporeans are open to learning, but we may be unsure of exactly what we need to learn and how to forecast future job trends. Our networks may also be redundant in the future.

Have you read what Patrick Tay, a unionist for the Financial cluster, said about your 3G jobs (Going, Going, Gone!)?

He is one person who knows that degrees are not everything (in contrast to what the inflated graduate salaries imply), and he recently highlighted to the government (and anyone who reads mainstream media) about the bad practices of foreign banks releasing experienced Singaporeans “because the ones at the top making the decision are anxious to protect their own jobs”.

When foreign banks are treating their PMEs like a used piece of tissue paper, Patrick says his U PME Centre will launch a one-stop career advisory facility (Financial Industry Career Advisory Centre or FiCAC) in April 2016 to help those in the finance sector look for jobs. To be fair, the government and relevant bank associations and institutes are chipping in too.

How useless is your degree? Perhaps after the first few years, you need to learn something new or meet new people because you may not even be doing something relevant to what you learnt.

But do I regret slogging for my life sciences degree? No, I don’t, because it opened paths that I wouldn’t have had without it, even if the paths are not as straight and evergreen as I would have liked it to be.

Image Credits:, Bond cleanings, DBS, Vulcan Post, The Middle Ground.

This article first appeared on Five Stars And A Moon. It is reproduced with permission.


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