With one of the most successful economies in the world, a cosmopolitan workforce and opportunities across a number of sectors, working Singapore is a smart idea
Don't be fooled by its size, economically speaking Singapore packs a punch. One of the four 'Asian Tiger' economies, along with Hong Kong, South Korea and Taiwan, it's renowned for its rapid economic growth in the second half of the twentieth century.
Crowded it may be, but Singapore is known for its safety and efficiency. Combine this with its high standard of living and welcoming multicultural society and it's not hard to see why the country is so popular with job-seeking graduates.
Jobs in Singapore
Singapore has a successful free-market economy and regularly scores well on lists of the least corrupt nations in the world. Unemployment is low at 2.2% (in 2017). The country's port is one of the busiest in the world, with exports vital to the economy, and it's also a transport hub for southeast Asia.
The Singaporean workforce is extremely multicultural and is made up of Chinese, Malay and Indian workers, with an estimated 110,000 expatriates.
Major industries in the country include:
- communications and media
- financial services
- life sciences
- oil drilling equipment
- processed food and beverages
- ship repair.
Areas such as IT, finance and software engineering have seen growth in recent years and opportunities for foreign workers exist in over 7,000 multinational companies in the country.
While the government has made some moves to reduce the country's reliance on foreign labour, particularly in unskilled roles, Singapore remains an open and diverse society that attracts many international workers at graduate level.
A number of websites are available to help you find a graduate job in Singapore. The government-maintained Contact Singapore has its own jobs board as well as a substantial A-Z of other sites that post vacancies. Other useful jobsites include:
How to get a job in Singapore
Before applying for jobs in Singapore make sure that you research the job sector that you hope to work in.
You don't need to be in the country to apply for jobs - there are plenty of websites that enable you to search for work and apply online. However, check company websites as application methods can vary from submitting a CV and cover letter, to completing an online application form.
Initial interviews may be conducted over the phone if you're not in the country, but bear in mind that large multinational companies may require you to attend an assessment centre.
English is the main language of business so all applications and interviews will be conducted in English.
You need to secure work in order to get a work permit.
The country is a tourism hotspot, so you may be able to find casual work in hotels, hostels, bars and restaurants.
If you're aged between 18 and 25, the Singapore Work Holiday Programme allows university students and recent graduates from eight countries, (including the UK), to work in the country for up to six months on a holiday visa.
There are also plenty of volunteering projects to get involved in, from working with children and the elderly to tackling community issues. You can also work on animal conservation, environmental, health, social care, sports or education projects.
For volunteering opportunities in Singapore, see:
English is the official language of education in Singapore, so if you're a native or proficient speaker you'll be able to teach in the country.
To work in public schools, you'll need to be approved by the Ministry of Education Singapore, while the large expat community means there are also opportunities in foreign schools. You'll usually need a Bachelors degree and a teaching qualification to be considered. The National Institute of Education - Singapore is the only teacher training centre in the country.
Despite English being widely spoken there is a demand for TEFL teachers, although jobs aren't as wide-spread as in other Asian countries. To teach English as a foreign language you'll usually need a TEFL qualification and some previous teaching experience.
The school year begins in January, with a month-long holiday in June. Teachers are generally hired to start training in July.
It's also possible to teach English in Singapore with the British Council.
Competition for internships and work experience opportunities is fierce. Be proactive and arrange placements directly with companies.
Apply speculatively as many opportunities aren't advertised. You should also keep checking the websites of the organisations you're interested in for any intern vacancies that do occur.
InternSG is a useful resource.
You could also complete an internship as part of the Singapore Work Holiday Programme.
In addition, AIESEC (Association Internationale des Etudiants en Sciences Economiques et Commerciales) provides students with training and internship opportunities at for-profit and non-profit organisations.
UK nationals need a valid employment pass to work in Singapore.
There are a variety of passes, which one you need will depend on your circumstances. Types of pass include:
- Employment Pass - for foreign professionals, managers and executives. You’ll need to earn at least 3,600 Singaporean dollars a month and have acceptable qualifications.
- EntrePass - for foreign entrepreneurs wanting to start a business in the country.
- Personalised Employment Pass - for high earners.
- S Pass - for mid-level skilled workers.
- Work Permit for Foreign Worker - for semi-skilled international workers. For example, those in the construction or manufacturing industries.
For more information about passes, eligibility criteria and passes for family members, visit the Ministry of Manpower (MOM).
If you're not from the UK, contact the Singaporean embassy in your home country for information about work passes, visas and permits.
There are four official languages in Singapore: English, Malay, Mandarin and Tamil. Most Singaporeans speak more than one of these. If you are a native or proficient English speaker, you'll have no trouble communicating, as it's the official language of business and education.
If English is not your native language you may have to prove your proficiency in the language from some jobs.
How to explain your qualifications to employers
Qualifications gained in the UK are widely recognised and education in Singapore closely resembles the British system, so explaining your degree should not be a problem.
In addition, the cosmopolitan nature of Singapore's workforce means that employers are used to dealing with applicants with qualifications from other countries. However, you should always check with the employer before applying for a job.
To find out more about the recognition of qualifications, see ENIC-NARIC.
What it's like to work in Singapore
The majority of businesses operate between the hours of 9am and 6pm, Monday to Friday with half a day on Saturday, although a five-day week is increasingly popular.
Employees receive seven to 14 days holiday, depending on length of service and seniority, while there are also 11 public holidays and eight major festivals.
Bear in mind that while salaries are competitive the cost of living in Singapore is high when compared to other Asian countries.
For more information on working conditions, visit the Singaporean Ministry of Manpower (MOM) - Employment practices.
Find out more
- Discover what it's like to study in Singapore.