All You Need To Know About The Engineering Industry in Singapore (2018)

Mr. 15HWW has recently posted an article about The Booming Electronics Sector. I made some comments on that article but honestly, there was so much more that I wanted to say but couldn’t in a small text box. It actually kinda made me pretty motivated to talk about how it’s like being an engineer, and where else can I talk to people that I don’t know? Thus, the birth of this post. (Thank you 15HWW for the inspiration!)

This post would be perfect for polytechnic/university undergrads that want to know more about their potential career in the engineering industry. At the same time, working adults that are thinking of coming over to engineering will have some extra points to contemplate on. We will discuss about what you can expect and touch on some sensitive topics that you can’t ever discuss with any of your colleagues (ka-ching!).

Of course, these experiences are based on my own. Having being quite “fresh” myself with about 4 and a half years working in 3 different companies, I believe that not all of the information might be relevant to you. So just take everything I said with a teaspoon of salt. And don’t forget to keep your blood pressure in check. πŸ˜‰

First things first.

Who Are We, Exactly?

We are in the category of Professionals, Executive, Managers and Technicians (PMETs). So yes, I am supposed to be a “professional”, and so is every other engineer in my company. In recent years (and sadly only after I graduated), the Singapore government has been actively promoting engineering and also increased the basic salary for fresh graduates that start their careers as engineers by 20% in the public sector.

Why so? Because the world needs engineers, and Singapore wants to increase her technical competence as a whole. Without this expertise, it would be hard for Singapore to make herself prominent in the world map. Also, the world would be a boring place. No computers, no iPhones and you can’t even take a hot shower!

There are many types of engineering and we comes in many forms (and shapes and sizes :p). You can take a quick glance across the list of courses that are offered in the university to know what kind of engineers there are. For me, I work as an Electrical Engineer in R&D. My main job is to design electrical boards called Printed Circuit Boards. Email me if you’re interested to know more.

The Stigma of Engineers

If you’ve graduated from a local university like me, it would be common for you to find that many of your peers are being forced to study engineering due to poor grades. The cut off points to enter engineering are a lot more than business and finance courses.

And you will also realized that a big bunch of graduates will not continue with engineering and choose to pursue other industries where the pay checks would seem more promising.

I will now tell you that this is absolutely not true. There are engineers who can earn as well, if not, higher than finance industries. The best part? It is easier for engineers to change industry even after many years of experience than vice versa.

So Tell Me How Much Already!

You can check out the salary guide here from Adecco (they are a HR recruiter for many of the big MNCs) and the numbers are quite relevant to mine as well. Here are some numbers for the salary range of my friends and mine (basic pay, excluding 17% employer contribution to CPF), and you can use them as guide.

Year 1 to 2: Fresh graduate and enthusiastic to earn my first real pay check! Absolutely zero value and would be elated if any company wanted me. Junior positions start with an annual salary of just $33,000 to $50,000.

Year 2 to 4: Got promoted! Gained some experience, as well as confidence. Realized that I could ask for more and I was adjusting pretty well to work life. Job hopped for better career prospects. The typical annual salary for this stage will be bumped up to about $45,000 to $55,000.

Year 4 to Present: Was expecting a promotion but I got headhunted by a recruitment agent before that could happen. Went for the interview and they loved me very much. Was willing to offer slightly lesser than what I’ve asked. Be expected to be drawing around $50,000 to $65,000.

While typing this, I realized that my income increased by 60% to 70% after 4.5 years. This was definitely a nice surprise, and with the added element of luck. And yes, job hopping really helps to significantly improve in your income, as compared to what you get with a normal increment.

You can expect a much higher pay scale (>20%) if you are in the public sector, or working in the government.

Mountain Climbing

Career progression in engineering? Unfortunately, we’re not too big on titles. Here’s a typical chain of command that you can find in almost all MNCs and SMEs.

Technician/Assistant Engineer (Minimum Diploma) –> Engineer (Minimum Degree onwards) –> Senior Engineer –> Principal Engineer / Manager –> Director

Usually, a normal employee can stay in a position for 3-10 years. Don’t get discouraged however, because some companies offer multiple promotions within one position (jump in grade rather than title), and promotion is quite predictable. Some engineers with more experience could even be earning more than their managers.

If you’re planning to do the big shift from another industry, I would say that it would be very difficult to enter as a Senior Engineer and above without any relevant experience. An internal transfer might yield higher chances of parallel movement within companies but for external hires, you can virtually forget about it. So I do not recommend coming into the industry half way, unless you can live with a significant cut in your pay check and a junior title.

Work, And More Work?

Most of our work are project based and the busy periods come in waves. When you’re busy, you can be really busy but when you’re free, you can also be shaking leg for quite some time in office.

Now, I mentioned earlier that we were PMETs, so most of our overtime will be not eligible for claim. But this varies from company to company so do check with your HR to know what applies to you.

In general, most offices now incorporate flexible working hours and I have to say that I’ve enjoyed a healthy balance between work and personal time from all companies. So actually, it would be good to be an engineer (especially in MNCs) if you have a life outside of work.

Conclusion

Having being an engineer myself, I would encourage you to be one if you are thinking about entering the industry. The skills that you can learn from engineering holds no boundaries. Many problem solving tools and thought processes that we use on a daily basis can be used in other industries as well. You will also get a sense of achievement after completion of a project.

I hope this article was useful for you. If you’re an engineer yourself and would like to point out some of your own opinions, share them in the comments below. I would love to hear them.

Thank you for reading!

Miss Niao.

Author: Miss Niao

Hello! I blog about financial matters and things that average people can do to have a better retirement. I want to inspire people to take control of their money and have a better understanding about it. If you are interested to know more, follow me @ missniao.wordpress.com! :)

9 thoughts on “All You Need To Know About The Engineering Industry in Singapore (2018)”

  1. Hi Miss Niao,

    Interesting. Thanks for sharing.

    Psych researchers still have a lower pay though πŸ˜›

    I’ll see whether the other Elec Engineer finance bloggers comment or not. Good to hear their perspectives as well.

    Like

  2. Hi Miss Niao,

    Your post about engineers is close to my heart. I went on to read several of your past posts on your blog. Very glad to have you as a blogger.

    We are in the same field as R&D electronics engineer, although I write firmware/software. I see you are a hardware engineer that does PCB design. What kind of electronic products do you make? Industrial, consumer or the safety-critical medical type? My experience is more on the consumer type which I think is the easiest. Something goes wrong, just reset the device. Nothing serious. Maybe someone will be cursing me for the bugs but I can sleep well knowing that the bugs will never seriously harm someone. If you are doing the safety-critical applications, that is hard-core engineering. 99.999% reliability expected but fortunately, the project duration is far longer than consumer applications.

    There are several bloggers in financial blogosphere who studied engineering. One of them, GH chua (https://ghchua.blogspot.sg) was from my generation. At the top left corner of his blog, he gave the reason why he left engineering. “I didn’t leave because it was hard. I left because it was no longer worth it.” During our time (engineers born in the 1970s), the best students went into engineering. Naturally, smart minds will expect higher rewards. After working for about 3 to 5 years, the smart ones could see the rewards are not materializing and are not likely to materialize even if they stay on. The smart ones with drive to succeed but no real passion in engineering will leave engineering. Other smart ones who love engineering will stay on and hope that things like turn around.

    Like investing, it is easy to be passionate about engineering. How else do you explain the Open Source movement where lots of engineers work for free to build world-beating software such as the Linux kernel which powers Android phones today? Both are intellectual games which involve solving puzzles. In engineering, when you solve the puzzle, you build something useful. In investing, when you solve the puzzle, you make money.

    I would like to see more engineers among Singaporeans. However, I have to tell the truth and be honest about the fact that many engineers of my generation, including me, are losers when compared to those who went into banking and finance. No matter what, the newer generation of engineers must not let the bad experiences suffered by my generation of engineers discourage them. Precisely because many of my generation of engineers were losers, the next generation of engineers like you will likely be winners. It is a cyclical phenomenon. Reversion to the mean. I cannot fathom how a developed economy can progress if the engineering profession is shunned by the young people. True wealth creation lies in productivity and productivity is driven by science and technology. Therefore, engineering will surely make a comeback. Otherwise, Singapore will be in very serious trouble.

    I wish you all the best in your engineering career. Please update us on the progress. Do not be humble if you get a raise and am earning a lot. Lots of Singaporeans need inspiring examples, especially on the money aspect, that engineers are not losers.

    Like

    1. Hello Hyom,
      I am glad that you chanced upon my blog. In the midst of typing this, I have opened your blog in another Chrome tab and am eager to read your blog too.

      Unfortunately, I do not design consumer electronics. My industry is kinda niche, and yes the products that I design have a lot to do with safety management in many areas. Keep guessing – or you could drop me an email and we can chat more privately there. πŸ™‚

      I have many seniors that I’ve worked with whom inspire me to be like them in future. They have dedicated many years of their youth to bring value to the world, and I hope to be able to do that too. I believe that you might also be one of them and if fate allows, I hope to be able to work with you one day.

      Perhaps the engineering industry is different a decade ago, but I am glad that Singapore is finally taking a huge step to see that our profession is essential. Not just for herself, but also from a global standpoint.

      Your encouragement really helps too! I haven’t thanked you for your comment ^_^

      P.S. I think engineers make great investors, don’t you think so? It’s easier to understand the numbers and also thoughts pass through a more logical and rational process before any decision making.

      Like

  3. Hi Miss Niao,

    There are some differences between engineering and investing, although the thought process is quite similar.

    Engineering is difficult to learn but easy to execute. Investing is easy to learn but very difficult to execute.

    It is easy for an engineer to pick up accounting concepts. The accounting equation (Equity = Assets – Liabilities) is far easier to grasp than Maxwell’s equations in electromagnetic theory. Basic arithmetic is adequate to learn accounting and understand financial statements. There is no need to know partial differential equations and vector calculus. Once an engineer masters his engineering concepts, he can get things right 99% of the time. Otherwise, nobody dares to drive cars or ride in trains designed by engineers. A very experienced investor is right around 50% of the time, though he compensates by earning more when he is right and losing less when he is wrong. I think it is easier to be a good engineer compared to being a good investor. I believe the failure rate for the latter is higher.

    For someone whose personality is suited to engineering, he will be naturally drawn to investing. Both are intellectual games that appeal to introverted characters who love puzzles. If you like engineering, you probably will like investing too. However, given a choice, I would prefer to earn my pot of gold as an engineer. The emotional satisfaction is greater. Besides earning money, one gets to build something tangible as well.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Hi Miss Niao,

    Have been following your blog for quite sometimes and read almost every article in it.
    I am an engineer too, in the construction industry. Looking at the salary range, I could only say my pay is pathetic, definitely underpaid. Totally agree with you, JOB HOPPING is a must. At least it’s a more viable way for pay increment, rather than staying in a single company, hoping for increment that may never come. T.T

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hello CK,

      Thank you for following my blog. I appreciate it very much. ^_^
      Ah, are you a civil engineer then?
      Job hopping depends on your job too, salary is not the only consideration. I know some people who job hop because of other reasons (e.g. boss, work life balance, career progression). But of course, having a bump up in your salary would be the almost perfect incentive :p

      Like

  5. Hi Miss Niao,

    Nice post here. Coming from a different industry, I have always wondered how it’s like to be on an engineer’s career path (it was actually quite a popular choice for uni during my time).

    I read that you started this blog and stocks investing last year – it is easy to invest in a bull market but not easy to pick investments which can survive into a bear market. Keep learning in your journey. Look forward to more posts from you. πŸ™‚

    Like

    1. You have a nice blog too!
      I saw one of your post that is very relatable to me. That is I am usually not a person who follows the news. I am also very heavy in my war chest at the moment. Waiting for the right opportunity! πŸ™‚

      Like

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