TL;DR

Why: Wages at the 75th percentile of graduates of certain faculties are close enough to $7,000

Why a $7,000 Starting Pay May Not Be Unrealistic

Asking for a high salary? Make sure you're worth it.

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Published:   |   Updated:   |   Posted in ,

In March 2019, Seedly reported that “the average annual salary in Singapore is S$67,152”. When you divide it, this works out to be S$5,596 per month inclusive of employer’s CPF contributions.

In fact, with zero working experience, I don’t think [asking for a high starting pay] is a wise idea at all.

Now, compare this figure with the S$7000 starting salary that apparently graduates are expecting, this makes the asking sum outrageously unrealistic, right? Well, it may be more plausible than you think.

How this S$7,000 figure could have come about

Before you burst into flames and start questioning my sanity, please hear me out. I am NOT an advocate for asking for such a high starting salary. In fact, with zero working experience, I don’t think it is a wise idea at all.

So why would a first class honours graduate come to expect a S$7,000 starting salary? Here are some possible reasons:

#1: There ARE companies paying fresh graduates close to such an amount
Based on a 2018 Singapore Management University (SMU) graduate employment survey, graduates in the 75th percentile from the School of Economics and the School of Information Systems commanded a starting salary of S$5,200 while those who graduated from the School of Law commanded S$6,000.

The 2018 graduate employment survey for National University of Singapore (NUS) reported the 75th percentile of graduates with the Bachelor of Science with Honours from Yale-NUS commanded a sky-high salary of S$6,435.

These numbers indicate that a S$7,000 starting salary is not far from reach and may be possible for certain companies in certain industries. However, we all know that this does not apply across the board.

#2: They believe that they have the necessary skillsets

their internship achievements do not guarantee their ability to perform in their job as an employee.

There are graduates who believe that they have the necessary skillset and are worth the money. This belief may have stemmed from their achievements in their past internships where they had proven their ability to bring great value even as interns. They are aware of what they can bring to the table and the results that they are able to deliver.

However, we all know that such beliefs may not necessarily reflect their actual job performance and their internship achievements do not guarantee their ability to perform in their job as an employee.

#3: They believe that they are the crème de la crème
Not everyone graduates with first class honours. In fact, only the top five to ten per cent of the cohort graduates with that academic achievement. Although it is not the be-all-end-all, it is still, to a certain extent, a testament to an individual’s ability to deliver results (albeit not work-related). Since they are the best of the best, they believe that they can command the highest starting pay.

#4: They were misinformed by their peers or seniors

Unfortunately, there are also graduates who had seniors paint an overly rosy picture for them. Some graduates would be told that a first class honours graduate would naturally command a S$7,000 starting pay. This group of misinformed graduates would most likely fit the sample of graduates that were interviewed by the anonymous interviewer.

So should you ask for such a high starting pay?

Even though I mentioned that such a sky-high starting pay is plausible, it is NOT common.

Well… it depends. Even though I mentioned that such a sky-high starting pay is plausible, it is NOT common. If you are a fresh graduate requesting for such high starting pay, you are sending these messages to your employer:

  1. You are not an ordinary fresh graduate. Unlike any other fresh graduates, you don’t need any hand-holding or training to excel at work.
  2. You understand the industry well and have had several internship experiences in companies in same the industry.
  3. You can assimilate into the company quickly.
  4. You are ready to be tasked with important responsibilities and can perform under pressure.
  5. You are prepared to put your work above everything else and deliver results.

If these statements apply to you, go for it. If not, be realistic.

Not all graduates expect a S$7,000 starting pay

Such unfair over-generalisation of the graduates not only perpetuates a toxic label of entitlement but it also prevents individuals who have the ability to command such a salary from asking for it, in fear of being viewed as entitled or unrealistic.

This brings me to an important message: not all graduates have such a mentality. What was mentioned by that interviewer was only reflective of that sample of graduates. I don’t think that many fresh graduates applying for jobs in other industries would expect a S$7,000 starting salary. Such unfair over-generalisation of the graduates not only perpetuates a toxic label of entitlement but it also prevents individuals who have the ability to command such a salary from asking for it, in fear of being viewed as entitled or unrealistic.

Given the lack of information, I can only assume from the context (or rather, the lack thereof) that those individuals simply responded that they “graduated from a local university with first class honours” when asked why they are worth S$7,000 without further elaboration. And that’s such a waste of an opportunity to stand out.

Heed the advice

Regardless, to my fellow undergraduates and to all the fresh graduates out there, heed the advice given by the anonymous interviewer. There are a lot of merits to what he or she said. I would like to highlight these two points:

#1: It’s not all about the grades

If you did well academically, good for you and congratulations. But be sure to justify your worth beyond your grades. Make sure that you stay humble and demonstrate the right attitude. Never have the “know-it-all” attitude. There are a lot of things to learn and most of which are never taught in school.

#2: With great money, comes great responsibility

If you still feel that you are worth a S$7,000 starting pay, then I’d like to caution you to be prepared. Should a company give you such an offer, be prepared to work without much hand-holding or training and still be able to deliver results immediately.

Be realistic but never undermine yourself.

As much as I hate to agree, there are graduates out there who have their heads in the clouds and are biting off more than they can chew. It’s definitely important to know what your strengths are and how you can add value to the company before thinking about what your starting salary can be. Be realistic but never undermine yourself.

But what do I know? I am just a first-year undergraduate.

Emphasis ours.

Featured image by Erik Mclean on Unsplash


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I am a first-year undergrad and an aspiring digital marketer. I love to write about issues I feel strongly about but on most days, I'd rather write about issues that matter.
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