I used to think that I absolutely did not want to further my studies at university after I completed my Diploma in Polytechnic. And a part of me still feels this way. After 14 continuous years of going to school, uni seems like another burden that I do not want to bear. I was never the studious type, and although I get average grades, studying just does not seem like my calling. 

However, typically in Singapore, having a degree equals higher pay and job opportunities. Do I want to start work earlier with my Diploma and slowly work my way up or do I want to start with a higher salary after 4 years of uni?

It is important to consider this: Will getting a degree be compulsory in landing a job in the future? Or will gaining experience in the workplace as soon as possible be a better plan?

Whether I further my education at uni depends on the industry of work I am looking to pursue. However, I still have zero idea on what I want to do, and I felt pressured that I am “running out of time” to decide as I am graduating in a year’s time.

Do you have similar thoughts as I do? What are some of the options I have? In this article, I will share with you the 4 options that I am currently thinking of for my life after attaining my Diploma. 

#1 – Taking A Gap Year

A gap year seems to be the most suitable choice for someone in my predicament. 

There are a few things I can do while taking a gap year, such as:

  1. Travelling;
  2. Internships;
  3. Working full-time and more.

All of these options will allow me to gain invaluable experience and meet new people, while giving me time to think about what I truly desire to pursue as a ca

This is likely what I will do after graduating from Poly, since I have yet to decide my future career. Hence, I intend to take on short internships in various industries to lay out all the pros and cons of each industry I am interested in. Hopefully, I will be able to narrow the choices down to one area that I genuinely want to pursue a career in.

internship-apprenticeship-1.pngSource: NEXT Academy on Unsplash

In creative industries like advertising and fashion and textiles, university degrees are often not a requirement. Instead, experiences, relevant skills and creativity are more important in these fields. Creative companies often offer internships, apprenticeships and traineeships, which can help you gain working experience in an industry that you might lack the appropriate skills to land a job in. Personally, I would like to work in a creative industry, and hence I will explore some of the internships and other opportunities available in various creative fields.

Other than self sought employment opportunities, SGUnited has a Traineeships Programme for fresh graduates from ITE, Poly, Uni, and other private educational institutions. The traineeship aims to help graduates to hone their skills in a professional setting, with industry professionals, especially during the current economic climate. Lasting up to 6 months, these traineeships will equip the youths of Singapore with valuable industry experience and enable them to gain a competitive edge in the job market. Participating in one or two of such programmes will be incredibly useful and time will be used wisely during the gap year!

Many companies offer internships as well, typically lasting 3 to 6 months. Co-operatives like ourselves, SNCF, offer customized internships to groom talents from our federation and promising individuals as well. 

Taking a gap year can also mean a time of self-reflection, rest and catharsis. In the current Covid-19 pandemic situation, it is hard to travel overseas. However, self-reflection can take place anywhere and at any time! 

self-reflection-gap-year-1.pngSource: nine koepfer on Unsplash

Taking the time to think about what I want to do regarding my education and career, without any distractions or pressure, will hopefully be productive in making my final decision. 

This might not be the conventional way for many, but volunteering for various social and environmental causes can help with this process as well. Volunteering allows you to meet new people from all walks of life, exchange experiences, and do something meaningful. It can thus inspire you in many different ways!

maesot-volunteer-trip-1.png

You might also find a particular cause that you are extremely passionate about, and consider taking an education or career path that will allow you to help the particular community! For myself, I am zealous about helping animals and environmental issues such as textile wastage and deforestation. Hence, I might consider a career in designing and producing sustainable clothing! 

paaintnugget_patchwork_bagPatchwork bag that I made out of denim scraps

With that, I have taken a step towards this, by starting a small Instagram shop selling thrifted clothing and handmade or upcycled clothes. I highly encourage you to try something similar, to figure out if you actually enjoy what you think you want to do! Even if it ends up being a side hobby-business, I think that it is worth it to experiment with your options. 

#2 – Work-Study Programme

Various organizations offer work-study programmes that allow you to work in a job that is matched to your area of study in ITE, Poly, JC, Uni, and working adults as well. Mentorship is provided during the programme. 

SkillsFuture’s Work-Study Programmes provide opportunities for Singaporeans to pursue a pathway of both work and study, from Diplomas to Post-Graduate and Degree levels that are offered by the Institutes of Higher Learning (IHLs). Private providers from SkillsFuture Singapore and the industry are also involved in the programmes. Partner companies come from various sectors and include both Multinational Corporations and Small to Medium Enterprises. In 2020, 1,700 individuals participated in the Work-Study Programmes and there were 590 companies who offered placements!

SkillsFuture also has a Work-Study Degree Programme that allows students to acquire deep, relevant skills in the field of work, which will help them better transit to the workplace upon graduation. By integrating classroom learning (Degree) with structured on-the-job training, the companies and universities co-create a suitable environment for the students to have an enriching experience. Participating universities are National University of Singapore (NUS) with 6 eligible degrees, Nanyang Technological University (NTU) with 11 eligible degrees, Singapore Institute of Technology (SIT) with 15 eligible degrees, and Singapore University of Social Sciences (SUSS) with 8 eligible degrees. 

Additionally, NUS also has a similar programme, named The Co-Operative Education Programme (Co-Op). Students under the programme will complete multiple industry attachments alternating with normal academic semesters over their 4-year schooling at NUS. This Co-Op Education Programme is only offered to students taking a Bachelor of Science (Business Analytics) or Bachelor of Computing (Information Security)

#3 – Work Full-Time With No Degree

If my next career path which I decided on does not require degree certification, I will likely not go to uni. I would like to gain working experience and start right away after graduation from Poly before pursuing a degree if needed. 

I am fearful that by not having a degree,  I might not be considered for a managerial role should I plan to work for more than 3 years after my graduation from Poly. However, I came to realise that this should not be  a major concern of mine, since I can make up for the lack of a degree with my years of working experience. 

#4 – Enroll In University

Lastly, one of the options is to simply move forward with Uni! I am leaning more towards Business, Humanities, and Arts programmes courses. Since my Diploma is in Business and Social Enterprise, I might even be able to receive exemptions from certain modules in the uni course too. 


Ultimately, whichever path I take, there will be things to learn and that I can benefit from. To even be able to have a choice is a privilege in its own, for that, I am extremely grateful. If you are also struggling to make your choices after graduation from Poly, I hope that my sharing in this article has helped you, or at the very least provided some comfort in knowing that there are others who feel the same way too. 


This article is brought to you by Loh Jae Yee. Jae Yee is a third-year student in Ngee Ann Polytechnic. She is currently interning with SNCF from March 2021 to August 2021. She is also constantly experimenting with fashion and making her own clothes and jewelry.

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