As graduate numbers grow, a hard truth: Not all degrees are equal

By Ng Jing Yng/TODAY/23 May 2015

SINGAPORE: After graduating with a second-class upper degree in human resource management, Mr Tan, 30, took some time to land a full-time job and he is currently doing administrative work – buying office supplies and processing claims. “I wished that we were taught more skills in university instead,” he said.

Another graduate, Mr Tang, 27, who has a chemistry degree, has been working in an admin support temporary position for the past 18 months. “Unlike our parents’ time, it seems like there are many people holding a degree now but the fact is there are many jobs out there that do not require a degree holder to do the work.”

On the other hand, there are graduates who have, by their own volition, ventured into careers that have little to do with what they had studied for in university. A PhD holder in biomedical sciences, Dr Christopher Yang, was a research fellow at the National University of Singapore’s Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine when he made the switch into the financial sector four years ago.

The 41-year-old said his biomedical career was going well, having received a grant to advance immunology research. But a series of circumstances – including the outlook of the industry, and the birth of his fourth child – led to him making the career switch. “I had to seriously think about my career path and prospects,” said Dr Yang, who is now an accredited financial adviser.

In Asia, Taiwan and South Korea have been experiencing an oversupply of graduates, with double-digit youth unemployment rates. In contrast, Singapore enjoys close to full employment, and more than 80 per cent of graduates from publicly-funded universities and the more-established private institutions are able to find jobs within six months of graduation. Read More