Starting salaries of fresh graduates only get lower

The next salary survey will be out soon enough so I want to get my prediction in first!

I am shocked that the average starting salaries of fresh graduates in Singapore (published in 2010 [see starting salaries here]) has not increased at all since the time I graduated! In fact, my starting salary many years ago was higher than the median starting salary of fresh graduates from my course now, and I did not even practice in my area of specialised study.

Taking into account inflation, this means that the fresh graduates are earning less now. That's sad!


The relatively low salary is because of the increase in supply of graduates. Now, before we blame the foreigners, do consider this: almost anyone in Singapore can get a degree unlike in the past.

Higher education in Singapore was limited to the public schools (that time only the National University of Singapore and Nanyang Technological University) and a few private schools. After liberalisation of the education sector, there are many private schools (some phonies) and more vacancies than students in the private schools. As a result, the cost of education in private schools have gone down. In fact, the cost of getting a degree in private schools can be lower than that in public schools.

(It's interesting to note that 50% of the people polled (scroll down to bottom of that page) say they don't trust the results of the survey. About 6 months after I graduated, I received a survey form from my school asking me to fill in my salary. I gladly completed it and sent it back because I knew my salary was above the average. Had it been lower, I would have dumped the form into the recycle bin.)

What can we learn?
- Don't worry too much about starting salaries. Those with the highest starting salaries may not be the ones who get the last laugh.
- Exam results only count when you're getting your first job. Nobody cares what grades you got after you get a job (unless it's in a government or government-linked company).
- With the (over-?) supply of graduates, graduates have a greater need to differentiate themselves by making a good first impression, acquiring better resume-writing skill and interview skills to get the job, and doing not just good work but an excellent work once they get the job.
- Some things can be double-edged swords. Asking the government to make more places available in universities may end up hurting the graduates in the long run.

I predict that the median salaries will remain the same next year. But since we have experienced inflation, the salaries actually decline.

You know how older people like to say, "In our days, salaries were very low... only $x". I doubt I will be able to say that to the next generation of Singaporeans.

Visit for essential interview tips. If you are seeking employment (as a fresh graduate or experienced professional), the specialist recruiters there can help!

Related post:
[Paper qualifications are just paper qualifications]


this new layout looks better than old one! Nice!

Anonymous said...

hey..what faculty were u from previously? NTU , NUS?

David said...


It appears that lower wages for current graudates is indeed a global occurence.

The same is happening in the States and Europe.

It is interesting that in SG, which is particapating in Asia's rising economic tide that jobs are in short supply.

Has anyone looked at SGs job market an realize that a island nation will always have a limited number of jobs.

Yu-Kym, worked a a U.S. based company. Likely if she had stayed with that employer and opportunity to work in the States or another nation would become available.

YK is indeed correct with her opening comments.

Get a first job even if it pays a bit less than one would like, build experiences that counts.

Network in professional organizations. Mingle and meet those who make decisions to listen and learn.


I am certainly not one of those who need to be prodded. In fact, if anything, I am the prod.

Winston Churchill

Anonymous said...

You must be wrong. Our Great Leader said our economy is the bestest in the world, we are the top 1st world country, impossible to have 3rd world pay in Singapore!

Have we been fooled?

Anonymous said...

No one will want an opportunity to work in the States where you wee people living in tents in public parks because their house have been foreclosed, people living in cardboard boxes just like what you see in Mumbai India.

Yu-Kym said...

Anon, NUS Engineering. How about you?

David, there isn't a shortage of jobs here but the salaries may be low and the nature of work more demanding. If a person is willing to work hard and take a lower than expected salary, there are many jobs available. For the better jobs, competition is stiff.

Anon, in Singapore some people live in tents too. And a family near my old place lives in the amphi-theatre.

Anonymous said...

Was from NTU din practise as an engineer after you grad??

Yu-Kym said...

1 year before graduation, I already decided not to practise. Did you practise and are you practising now?

Anonymous said...

yup, had been an electrical engineer since graduating from NTU.... :) U din like EE stuff? :)

David said...


There a few unfortunate who have chosen to live in tents.

Most who have lost homes during thre recent economic downturn have been able to find aid for lowcost housing.

Many now live in apartments where rent is much lower than mortgage payments. The truth is when the economy was booming, far to many people purchased homes they could barlely afford, when jobs began to cut back, hours were cut many lost the income needed to pay for a home more expensive than they could or should have purchased.

Many people lost second or vacation homes because they needed to pay for a primary residence.


Character may be manifested in the great moments, but it is made
in the small ones.

-- Phillips Brooks

Yu-Kym said...

David, this is one more reason why Singaporeans should be grateful: the property value here never goes down and owners of HDB public housing cannot be kicked out by the banks even if the owners are bankrupt.