Working in Singapore

Singapore is widely admired as a global hub of banking and commerce, making working in Singapore a personal goal for professionals from around the world. 

The benefits of working in Singapore

Singapore boasts a prosperous economy whose multicultural community offers a true mixing pot of nationalities. An impressive concentration of multinational companies have offices in the region, which can make working in Singapore an excellent way to gain exposure to some of the world’s largest companies, while broadening your skills and adding international experience to your resume.

However, like any major life change, your goal of gaining employment in Singapore should be backed by well-laid plans to streamline the experience and maximise the career benefits. 

Navigating the system of work passes

Singapore has a long history of welcoming foreign expats to its workforce. Reflecting this, Singapore doesn’t offer one-size-fits-all work visas. Instead, a range of different work passes and permits are issued, and you need to decide which type of work pass is best suited to your needs.

Professionals are typically required to hold an Employment Pass. This requires earning a base salary of at least $3,600 per month – potentially more for senior-level candidates, as well as holding suitable qualifications. 

The different categories of work pass are explained on the website of Singapore’s Ministry of Manpower (MOM - the government department responsible for workplace matters and employment). The MOM site also features an online Self Assessment Tool (SAT) that can help you check your eligibility for an Employment Pass and other categories of work passes.

Are your qualifications recognised in Singapore? 

In terms of the qualifications needed to secure an Employment Pass, MOM doesn’t follow a list of approved institutions but rather evaluates each application individually using a number of criteria including the enrolment standards of the tertiary institution where you studied.  

That said, the Singaporean government takes the view that employers are best-placed to decide whether a job candidate’s qualifications are suitable for the role being filled. Reflecting this, there is no single authority in Singapore that grants recognition for degrees obtained overseas. 

As a global hub, many professional bodies have affiliate organisations in Singapore, and qualifications you have gained overseas will often be recognised in Singapore.

Working in Singapore – is it financially viable?

Along with benefits for your career, Singapore is a very safe country with a low crime rate, and an extremely stable political environment. 

While this makes Singapore a great place to live, according to the Economist Intelligence Unit’s Worldwide Cost of Living Report, Singapore consistently ranks as the most expensive city in the world. So it’s important to be sure that working in Singapore is financially viable for you. 

The Robert Half Salary Guide is a useful resource to learn more about salary levels and other types of remuneration for a range of roles in Singapore. Be sure to back this up with additional research on key living expenses, especially housing costs, to be sure you can live comfortably while in Singapore.

Working Holiday Programme

If you are aged 18-25 years and you want to work and holiday in Singapore, you may be eligible for Singapore’s Work Holiday Programme. 

This scheme is open to eligible students and young graduates from universities in Australia, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Japan, New Zealand, Switzerland, the United Kingdom or United States. You will only be able to stay in Singapore for up to six months, and at any given time, the Work Holiday Programme has a capacity of 2,000 applicants so places can be hotly contested. 

How to apply for a job in Singapore

The job market in Singapore is competitive, and employers look for strong communication and English skills. However, companies are generally very receptive about employing foreign nationals.

If you have skills or qualifications that are in high demand in Singapore, it may be possible to receive an offer of employment while you are overseas. Applying for positions now can give you a head-start in your job search.