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4 Areas of Study for Singaporean Students Who Aspire to Become Freelancers

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Joanne Poh

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Singaporean students have long flocked to courses that can easily funnel them into high paying jobs—that’s why there’s so much competition for courses like medicine, business, law and accounting.

But what happens if, at an early age, you realise you don’t want a traditional job, and would rather be your own boss? Here are five courses of study that students who want to dive straight into freelance work after (or even before) graduation can consider.

 

1. Translation

If the bilingual education system worked for you and you’re actually fluent in both English and the “mother tongue” language you took at school, you might have a shot at becoming a translator. While some professional translators work in agencies or in-house for companies, a great number work on a freelance basis from home.

The demand for professional translators in Singapore is on the rise, so students who are interested in going this route should have no problems finding work.

Translators have a huge competitive edge if they have expertise in a particular field such as science, tech or law. For this reason, students who want to go this route are advised to combine a degree in another field with courses or electives in translation.

It is possible to obtain professional translation jobs with a degree in a field other than translation. The most important thing is that you obtain true mastery in English as well as your language of choice. Aspiring translators who wish to specialise in a language other than Chinese, which is the only language formally offered in translation degree courses at NTU and SIM University, can still find a decent amount of work so long as they have the requisite language skills.

 

2. Programming and web development  skills

When kiasu parents start sending their kids for coding classes, you know it’s the next big thing. While programmers’ salaries in Singapore still lag behind those in the US and Western Europe, it’s a skill that becomes very attractive for those who want to work on a freelance basis.

That’s because good freelancers can compete for high paying remote jobs from companies based abroad, instead of competing for work from local SMEs who may be looking for the lowest bidder. Freelance jobs whether local or abroad pay much more per hour than what employees earn.

While enrolling in a computer science or software engineering course can give you the skills to learn to become a good programmer or web developer through self-study, it’s totally possible to learn on your own given the overwhelming number of online materials and courses, both on the internet or IRL.

There are also numerous pathways one can take depending on his or her interests. An aspiring web developer will want to be well-versed in HTML and CSS, as well as JavaScript, while a software engineer needs to become proficient in a few languages like C++ and Java.

 

3. Graphic design

It’s difficult for artists to make money in Singapore, but freelance graphic design tends to be one of the better paying options for creative types. Note that this applies only to freelancers—graphic designers can charge a lot more per hour than they earn slogging away in-house or for an agency.

A good freelance graphic designer can charge $100 to $200 an hour for small scale projects. That is way more than you’ll ever earn as an employee unless you become the creative director of your own agency. Thanks to the nature of the work, it’s not difficult to find work remotely or on the Internet if you build a strong online presence and have a great portfolio.

Lasalle offers diploma and degree courses in design communication, while NAFA has diploma and degree courses in graphic communication. While it’s possible to learn independently, if you’re sure you want to become a freelance designer learning from the pros can make things easier for you.

 

4. Music teaching

There are lots of under-qualified music teachers in Singapore, but those who are actually masters at their instruments and have degrees in music can charge top dollar. We’re not talking about those people who took a Grade 8 exam when they were in secondary school, but those who can perform and teach at a professional level.

Music teachers in Singapore who give private lessons at home can often command over $100 an hour, and the job is a lot more enjoyable and less tiring than giving tuition in math.

To get to that level, however, takes years of study and practice that people who enter other courses of study simply don’t have the time for. The Yong Siew Toh Conservatory of Music at NUS offers degrees in music, as do NAFA and Lasalle, although many Singaporean musicians eventually go abroad for further studies.

Are you considering studies in any of the above? Share your thoughts 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.