Job prospects for non-graduates: Degree holders 'have an edge from the get-go'

Non-grads say they lose out even with similar job responsibilities

Pedestrians in Shenton Way on Aug 30, 2013. Non-graduates say their work prospects are dimmer than those of their peers who hold degrees, even when they have similar job responsibilities. -- PHOTO: ST FILE
Pedestrians in Shenton Way on Aug 30, 2013. Non-graduates say their work prospects are dimmer than those of their peers who hold degrees, even when they have similar job responsibilities. -- PHOTO: ST FILE

Even as employers and human resource experts paint a more positive picture, non-graduates themselves are not fully convinced.

They say their work prospects are dimmer than those of their peers who hold degrees, even when they have similar job responsibilities.

Non-graduates say employers, especially the civil service, tend to favour degree holders with higher starting salaries, speedier promotions and more opportunities.

This may soon change.

The Public Service Division said on Tuesday that non-degree holders will soon have better career progression in terms of faster promotions and higher pay.

It is also looking at how to merge graduate and non-graduate schemes to give all officers a chance to progress based on their performance and potential.

Non-graduates say they now lose out to graduates right from the start.

A 26-year-old polytechnic graduate who worked at an airline for five years said: "Degree holders were my bosses. They had titles like supervisor and team leader, even though some came in later and were younger than me.

"They had a lot more attention to build up their career, like overseas postings and job rotations."

She went for a part-time degree course by the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology offered via the Singapore Institute of Management, hoping she could cross over to the graduate track.

"Even after that, it was still so difficult to transfer. I was asked what my grade point average was and whether my degree had honours," she said.

She quit this year and joined an American firm as a business analyst. "It's much better, I'm earning more and they're not so hung up on certificates," she said.

A 25-year-old aerospace avionics polytechnic graduate left the civil service this year for a bank after he saw how promotions were hard to come by.

"Fresh degree holders come in three ranks higher than us, and the highest rank a poly graduate can reach is usually still lower than a degree holder," he said, adding that it would take at least eight years to attain that level.

"You have to put in more effort to be recognised."

Another polytechnic graduate working in a ministry said: "Those with degrees do the same job as we do. But I'm an executive, and they come in straight as manager or assistant manager."

The 25-year-old is starting a part-time Murdoch University degree course offered by Kaplan next month as she felt pressured to get a degree to level up.

A non-graduate former secondary school art teacher said she was promoted once in three years, but degree holders got "almost automatic promotion" every year.

"The school said it would fully support me if I wanted to get a degree so that I could have better prospects," said the 26-year-old.

The distinction between non-graduates and graduates seems less evident outside the civil service, employees said.

Mr Patrick Chan, 37, who holds a fine arts diploma from Lasalle College of the Arts, said he did not feel disadvantaged in his last 10 years of working experience. He was a project manager in a design firm for four years before taking up his current marketing executive position in a Dutch multinational company. These two companies, he said, focused more on skills than on credentials.

"I had applied to government agencies and private firms but the response wasn't great," he said. "It's fairer if everyone is assessed based on abilities, but non-graduates may still have to work harder to prove their worth." ateng@sph.com.sg

Register here to get free digital access to The Straits Times until Aug 9, 2015.
Comments