3 Well-Paying Industries Fresh Grads Might Want to Think Twice about Entering


Joanne Poh



Every fresh grad’s dream is to clinch a job offer that puts them on the fast-track to the high life. As you send out your resume, you fantasise about receiving a starting pay higher than your own parents’ salary after 30 years in the workforce. With starry eyes, you read newspaper articles about young whippersnappers just like yourself making their first million, like this 26-year-old property agent.

Imagine the shock, then, when after three or four years of university you emerge into the real world, only to realise that fresh grads in your industry are struggling, shattering your dreams of a smooth-sailing start to your career. Here are 3 traditionally high-paying industries you might want to shy away from if you’re allergic to hardship.



Once upon a time, law graduates in Singapore were pretty much guaranteed a job paying at least $4,500, with many receiving much more, upon getting called to the bar. Firms were so desperate for trainee lawyers that most law students received multiple training contract offers before graduating university.

But recently, things took a drastic about-turn, and don’t look like they’ll be getting better anytime soon. There is now an over-supply of lawyers, which has led firms to cut their starting pay by a significant $1,000 to $2,000. These days, even law graduates with above-average grades are finding it hard to get a spot at one of the big-four firms, or indeed any firm at all

The upshot is that while the legal services industry is growing, getting a job at a “prestigious” firm, or any job at all as a fresh grad, is way harder than before. And even if you do get a job fresh out of uni, when you’re pulling 16 hour work days for the same wages as your friends in less stressful industries, don’t say we didn’t warn you.


Real estate

Every Singaporean has that one real estate agent friend who never seems to work, but is always opening bottles at clubs and generally living the high life. It doesn’t help that the local newspapers seem to love publishing stories about real estate agents either making it big, or running amok with their money.

Becoming a property agent is also a favourite mid-career choice for disillusioned former PMETs, perceived as one of the only jobs that allows a capable newbie a shot at attaining a 6 figure annual income.

Unfortunately, the Singapore property market has been in a slump since the first round of cooling measures, and many property agents in Singapore are throwing in the towel and moving on to other trades. Sure, it’s still possible to succeed, but at this point in time it’s way, way easier to fail, especially if you’re a rookie with few contacts.



Save for those who study business and finance, most Singaporeans tend to prefer professional degrees because they offer a more clearly-defined career path, preferably one that leads to a high-paying job. While medicine, dentistry and law are the most obvious choices, engineering is a hot favourite amongst those students who like math. Just graduate, become an engineer, work at it for a few decades and finally retire in senior management. Right?

Well, these days engineers are feeling the heat from overseas, as the engineering industry is one of the readiest to take in overseas graduates who can do the same job, sometimes for less, especially in fields like civil engineering.

In addition, a lot of would-be engineers have little idea what the job really entails. I’ve met engineers who quit their jobs because they didn’t realise that they’d have to wear jumpsuits and be in  a hot, stuffy, unglamorous environment for long periods of time, or stand under the hot sun on a construction site. The hours can often be gruelling and a 5.5 or 6 day work week is not uncommon. A friend of mine became a civil engineer for a while, working 6 days a week with only 7 days of annual leave, until he finally quit in frustration.

Do you work in one of the above industries? Tell us whether you made the right choice in the comments!

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Joanne Poh

In my previous life, I was a property lawyer who spent most of my time struggling to get out of bed or stuck in peak hour traffic. These days, as a freelance commercial writer, I work in bed, on the beach, in parks and at cafes, all while being really frugal. I like helping other people save money so they can stop living lives they don't like.

  • lyw

    How bout be an insurance agent? Was it a tough career too? Please comment or write an article about this career.

  • Seherezada Onur

    Living in Singapore is getting hard. Food prices has gone up quite a bit . I could not understand why a upgraded hawker centre that was renovated few years back get a renewal renovation so soon. And guess what happened after the renovation. We used to be able to get a $2 to $2.50 mee pok. Now after the renovation, no more. Prices went up to $3 and $4 dollars. I used to tell my friend living in old estate is cheaper with good cheap hawker food. Now there is not much difference between them vs new town which boost air con food court that mee pok are selling at $3.50 to $4.50 even $5 in some case. Though the news say inflation has somewhat been flat. In my opinion , more items price is not in that regime. They are definitely inflated.

  • Seherezada Onur

    I am looking for ways to earn money. Even how little they are. I tried selling old newspaper that pile up in the storeroom. Guess what the boss that own the garang guni shop gave me , $0.10 per kg. I rode my bicycle carrying about 13 kg a time and I earned $3.90 . The boss that paid me does not look local to me. They are the new immigrant from China.