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Another 10 Reasons to Skip Your Degree and Start Working

Following up Part I, here are another 8 reasons to join the workforce before going for your undergraduate studies.

1. It's easier to get your foot into the industry

Companies are profit-driven, and the ever-rising cost of human resources is an area the company will want to control, even cut down when the economy goes down. A diploma holder will be paid lower than a graduate despite doing the same job, which is why apprenticeships that hire diploma/ A-Level holders are increasingly popular not only in Singapore but also in UK and US. 

There are also too many graduates out there seeking positions in reputable companies. Those companies can afford to select candidates who are the cream of the crop in their cohort. Don't forget, your competitors are those scholars and graduates from those Ivy League universities whom you can't even beat them in academics.

Given that most graduates in Singapore could eventually get a job (over 90% of graduates found employment within six months), it is not impossible to beat the competition and get a job. It's just a matter of how well are you compensated and how lucrative your career prospect will be.

On the other hand, competition is more friendly at diploma/A Level 's playing field. The requirements are also less stringent and expectations are lower during the interview. The entry barrier is definitely lower for you to get a job in reputable investment banks/ trading firms/ tech firms as a diploma/ A Level holder rather than an average graduate.

Even though you may start off with an entry level position, there are many opportunities for you to progress in your career. Once you get your foot into the company, you get to prove what your are worth of.

I was average. I graduated from poly with mediocre grades and average CCA records. I was the type who needs to study really really hard just to be decent. Competing with those amazingly brilliant, innately talented and charismatic peers in the job market seems just impractical for me. So I worked towards my strength and picked my battle by choosing the path of least resistance.


2. Some graduates are getting the same pay as a diploma holder anyway

Surprise! Many people overestimate how much a graduate gets and underestimates how much a diploma/ A level holders get. 

From the people I personally know, the highest starting pay for a diploma/A Level holder is $3,750, and the lowest starting pay for a graduate is $2,300. Go figure.

Of course, those are outliers as according to the salary survey, there seems to be always a correlation between your qualification and your starting pay. However, even among the same industry, your pay scale is entirely dependent on how the company perceive the value they think you can bring, and how much they are willing and/or afford to pay.


3. You can still pursue a degree while having a job

There's always the option of part-time degrees offered by both local and private universities. Some universities even offer full-time degrees with a flexible schedule. 

Nonetheless, be warned that this is not an easy path and sacrifices have to be made. Pursuing a part-time degree will mean kissing goodbye to a huge chunk of your time after work and on weekends, and getting stressed over managing commitment from both work and school. 

Most people get taunted by this commitment, thinking that they are sacrificing their social life, hobby time and travel plans.

Then again, people are having a misconception about 'sacrifice'. 

Sacrifice originally means to give up something in exchange for a better position. For example, in chess, you sacrifice a pawn so that you gain a particularly favourable positioning of your pieces which you hope to capitalize on later in the game. 

Nowadays sacrifice has come to mean: Giving up something that you want. Period.

As I have mentioned in the previous post, I still think that a degree is a valuable asset that is worth some sacrifices. Furthermore, with proper management, it is entirely feasible to work full time, socialise, workout, have a hobby, pick up new skills and make travel plans all while pursuing your degree.

You never know how capable and productive you can be until you push yourself to the limits.


4. You will earn more than a graduate by the time you graduate

As far as I am aware of, this applies to all the people I know who chose to work full time after their diploma/ A level and read a degree on the go. One of my friends even tripled her starting salary before she finished her final papers for her NUS part-time degree.

It takes years to complete a degree, and within this period of time, you will grow not only as a person but also as a professional, gaining both working experience and opportunities for career advancement.

You will also develop excellent management skill by the time you graduate, and this soft skill will be one of the most valuable assets you take away from those years.


5. Your company may sponsor your degree

Some companies provide sponsorship for degree and professional qualifications for qualified employees, coupled with paid study leaves. Those with bonds can usually be served concurrently during your full-time employment + part-time studies. Check with your HR on their policies. You don't get what you don't ask for.


6. You get free insurance coverage

Good companies provide sufficient coverage for their employees to give them peace of mind. The employees can then devote more to their work if they have one less thing to worry.

Needless to say, depending solely on the company insurance is a risk, because you no longer get such coverage once you leave the firm.

Still, it's a great incentive for younger employees who choose to take a calculated risk and delay their insurance commitment to a few years later when they have more financial capacity.

And always keep in mind: Live a healthy lifestyle, develop good habits, do your job well and make yourself valuable to the company.


7. The government provides incentives to encourage diploma holders to join the workforce

The government has rolled out the SkillsFuture Work-Study Post-Diploma, a work-learn study programme that gives fresh graduates from polytechnics a head-start in careers related to their discipline of study. 

Not only will you receive a competitive starting salary and full-time employment, but you will also attain a industry-recognised qualification and a sign-on incentive of $5,000

A stable job with a competitive salary package, free specialist/advanced diploma sponsored by the government, and $5,000 cash. 

Don't you think this is a deal that is too good to miss?


8. It's easier to apply for a degree

Some local and overseas universities have a category for mature applicants with certain years of working experience, even for full-time courses. This is useful for those who missed the boat to gain admission to university in their early years.


That's it from me. Including Part I, that's a total of 18 reasons why I think it makes better sense to leap into the workforce before your undergraduate studies. Do you think it's sensible? Or am I too naive to make those assumptions? If given another chance, would you want to take a gap year or get an apprenticeship before going for your undergraduate studies? What would you recommend to your children if they approach you for advice? 

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