This blog post addresses some points you need to consider if you should get a part-time degree.
I went on a trip to Japan for a holiday late last year with The BF after completing my part time studies of 4 years. While sitting on this “romantic train”, I did a self reflection on what I did for the past few years. Basically, my life have revolved around work and study, and maybe a once a week yoga session.
“What have I gained?”, I ask myself this question everyday after getting the degree. Well, an engineering degree certificate, a chance to wear the square hat, make more friends, and … that’s it.
4 years ago, I registered myself under the Part Time Degree programme in National University of Singapore (NUS). We call it Bachelor of Technology (B. Tech). It is a course which offers multiple fields of engineering, including the most common field, Mechanical Engineering. As most of us know, a Mechanical Engineering degree can be used generally in the engineering and finance industry.
At that point of time, I took up the Engineering Degree thinking that I can easily switch to other industries or job scopes if the current one is not doing well. Furthermore, I am able to get government subsidy of 55%. The rest of the amount will be paid by the company which I took loan from. Sounds great? That’s what I thought so too.
In Singapore, companies encourage upgrading yourselves by taking night classes. Most of the companies are willing to sponsor these studies, with the condition of signing a bond with them after graduating. Before you sign that agreement, do consider the following:
Are You Willing to Sacrifice Your Time or Your Youth to get this Degree?
Think about it. Time after work will be spent on lessons in school. Lessons usually start at 6pm and ends at 9pm. By the time you reach home, you have to go to bed. Weekends are spent studying, which I skipped, because I want to go pak tor with the BF. My results aren’t fantastic, mostly just passes. I have friends who skipped almost every lesson, go to class only when there is a quiz and probably attend the last lesson where the professor will give “exam tips”.
You are expected to go back on a Saturday if you have to take up some modules just to clear non-elective modules. These are the modules which are like a secondary school CCA. You just have to sit through a 3 hour session and sign on the attendance sheet. Sometimes, there are remedial lessons conducted by the PHD students. I believe this is their chance to earn Part Time money to give us tuition class.
School holidays are short, probably just 2 weeks as you have to clear the modules given in the “Special Term”. “Special Term” means these modules offered by other schools are only available during the school holidays. It is mandatory to complete these courses as fast as possible, in order to graduate within 4 years. Which means, long holidays are absolutely impossible during these 4 years.
Get a Specific Degree
Mechanical Engineering, Accountancy, Finance. All these degrees are too general. If you want to upgrade yourself, spend time researching on the schools specializing in these fields. Nowadays companies look specifically for candidates specializing in specific degrees, not those general ones anymore. Look through the hiring page, take note of the criteria of application and the degrees companies are asking for.
Are You an “A” student?
Are you an “A” student? If you are thinking these super graders only appear in Full Time classes, you are wrong. In Part Time school, these top students are there as well. They can even compete with the full time students in getting into Dean’s list. What I have learnt throughout the 4 years is, if you are constantly an A student in the first year, you will probably get an A for the rest of the years, no matter how badly you have done in your projects or presentation. If you are a mediocre student and only does well in certain modules, you will just get a B+ no matter how well you think you have done. This statement is an actual confession by a professor.
You might be thinking: “‘Grades are not important. What is important is the experience.”
No, I will not spend my 4 years of youth just to get ‘experience’. It is too expensive!
Don’t Forget the Debt!
Most of the companies provide sponsorship to their workers, in return, they must be bonded to the company after graduating. Sounds great?
Think about this: What happens if your company does not give you the promotion you look forward to after graduating? You are unable to resign, unless you have the money to pay back the tuition fees to the company. Even after the subsidy, the total amount can reach as high as $20,000 for a Singaporean. The only advantage you have in this case, is that you will have a stable job.
Deemed as a cheap labour, you are in no position to negotiate, until your bond period is up.
Take for an example for my case. I am working in an MNC company in the Oil & Gas industry. I graduated when there is a down turn in this industry, and therefore I am expected to take up additional job scopes with no pay increment. Retrenchment exercises are carried out on a quarterly basis and there is a freeze in hiring and yearly pay adjustment.
Though I did request for promotion, various reasons are given to me on why there is a delay. Those reasons are not justifiable. I think it’s just excuses to keep me as a cheap labor. They have been giving excuses one after another, just to stall my promotion and increment. I did not see this coming 4 years ago, and now all I can do is sit back and wait for my bond to be over. I’m in debt to the company.
Are you in a Cyclical Industry?
Which industry are you working in? Could this industry suffer a downturn after you graduate?
My classmates who were in the Oil & Gas industry suffered the most. Some of them got retrenched when they were halfway to getting their degrees. Most of them who did not take up loan from the company got retrenched after completing their studies. However, those who are in the semi-con industries are doing well.
No doubt, after graduating, I have aged quite a bit, Stress has sped up on my aging process and given me a nearly rotten face full of pimples. After graduating, I spent quite an effort in getting rid of those pimples and maintaining my looks. White hair also appeared during that time and I can’t really do anything about it. If you don’t mind a balding head, wrinkly pale yellow skin and a fat wobbly belly, then go ahead and register yourself!
Questions I have been asking myself
What could happen if I pay the company back $20k? I could have switched job easily and could have received a well deserved pay. My skin and hair could have aged much slower. Most importantly, I could have used the money for other investments.
What could I have done if I did not take up the bond from company and take up Part Time studies? I could be happier working at the current company with my previous job scope. I would not have been so stressed in my life. I could have spent the time going for holidays, and gain exposure by seeing the world. I could have spent more time with my friends, and make more friends.
I believe that university is only a been-there, done-that thing, just for an experience. It can also help to build up your self-confidence and presentation capability. 4 years is a long time, and I feel it could have been better spent. After graduating, I make it a point to learn something new every year, to make up for loss of time I had.
Well, this Japan trip was a well rewarding one.
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