Work or Degree First? Pros and Cons to Consider |

work or study
via Pexels

As you approach a crucial juncture in life, you might find yourself facing a tough decision: should you go for a degree or jump right into the job market after JC or poly? It’s a big choice with pros and cons whether you choose to work or study first. There are potential benefits and challenges of each path.

The Pros of Getting a Degree First

Pursuing a degree means gaining in-depth knowledge and specialised skills in a subject you’re passionate about. It’s an opportunity to explore fascinating subjects and expand your intellectual horizons. Certain industries have stringent educational requirements due to the nature of the work or regulatory standards. For example, professions such as medicine, law, or engineering typically require specific qualifications, and not having a degree may limit entry into these fields. For other jobs, having a degree opens doors to a broader range of job opportunities and increases your chances of landing a desirable job.

On average, individuals with a degree tend to earn higher salaries compared to those without higher education qualifications. It can lead to better financial stability and more options for your future earlier on in life.

However, pursuing a degree takes time—usually a few years—and comes with financial costs like tuition fees and living expenses. It requires commitment and planning. In addition, while studying, you’ll enter the job market later than those who start working immediately after high school. This delay means a temporary loss of income and professional experience.

In some industries, there might be intense competition among degree holders. It can be challenging to secure your dream job right after graduation, especially if the market is saturated and it’s a kind of job that many young people want.

What most people don’t really consider is that university life offers a chance to grow personally and become more independent. You’ll meet new people, encounter diverse perspectives, and develop crucial life skills that go beyond academics.

The Pros of Entering the Job Market

Opting for a job right after high school means gaining practical experience early on. You’ll develop important skills, build a professional network, and get a taste of the real-world work environment. By starting work earlier, you’ll begin earning a steady income and gain financial independence sooner. It also allows you to support yourself and start planning for your future.

In addition, jumping into the job market right away lets you explore various industries, roles, and work environments. It helps you figure out what you enjoy and what career path aligns with your interests, so you if you decide to pursue higher education, you’ll know exactly what you want to study.

Of course, without a degree, you may face limitations in terms of the choice of jobs, and especially career advancement. Some employers prioritise candidates with higher qualifications for specialised or managerial roles.

Immediate employment provides income, but it may not offer the same earning potential as positions requiring higher education. It’s important to consider long-term financial growth and opportunities. Starting work right away might also result in skill gaps and limited specialised knowledge compared to degree holders. It could hinder your chances for career progression in certain fields.

To do or not to do?

In Singapore, there is generally a societal emphasis on education and academic qualifications. While it’s not accurate to say there is a widespread stigma against individuals without a diploma or degree, there can be certain perceptions and challenges faced by those who don’t possess higher qualifications.

Some employers and individuals may perceive those without higher qualifications as having less competence or expertise in comparison to degree holders. This perception can influence job opportunities, career advancement prospects, and salary considerations.

Obtaining a degree is often seen as a personal achievement and a validation of one’s intellectual capabilities. Not having higher qualifications may result in individuals feeling a sense of being left out or undervalued in terms of societal recognition.

However, there are various pathways to success and fulfilling careers beyond formal education. Vocational training, industry certifications, skill development, and relevant work experience can also contribute to professional growth and advancement.

Singapore’s SkillsFuture initiative and the emphasis on lifelong learning aim to recognise and support individuals at different stages of their careers, regardless of their initial educational qualifications. The focus is shifting towards skills, capabilities, and continuous learning rather than solely relying on academic credentials.

Ultimately, the decision between getting a degree or entering the job market directly is a significant one. Take the time to consider your interests, financial circumstances, and long-term goals. There’s no one-size-fits-all answer—choose the path that aligns with your aspirations and values. Both routes offer unique opportunities for growth and success. Your journey is yours to shape, so make the decision that feels right for you.