Best Skills Courses for Students in Singapore (2013)

Ryan Ong



So you’re a student, living on student wages, in one of the most expensive cities in the world (i.e. this one). And between bites of your cardboard sandwich, you’re probably wondering: Is there a course that can help me? Is there an upgrade that will raise my income? And how long can I live on leftovers and spam before my last kidney quits? I have good news. We’ve dug up the skills courses that will fatten your wallet:

Best Courses for Students

Here’s what our criteria, when we say “for students”:

  • We refer to tertiary level students
  • The courses do not exceed $300 per month, or require lump sum payments above $1,000
  • The courses can be done before or after school
  • No serious harm results from attempting course activities after the third beer tower on a Saturday night, assuming you vomit in the right direction

Courses are picked based on demand in the job market (as of 2011 to early 2013). These are skills many employers require. They’ll help in job interviews and earning a side income.


1. App Development Courses


Smartphone app screen with 796 e-mails
No, I didn’t get any messages about your app requirements.


Do you see anyone within three meters without a smartphone or tablet?

If you do, keep calm. Embassy staff will shortly find a find a way to get you past the North Korean border. But if you’re in the 99% of the world where everyone and their house-pet has an appetite for apps, you want this course. Career Counsellor Gideon Wang says:

With the proliferation of smartphones, a lot of companies suddenly realize they need apps as marketing tools. And since this is a a recent development, most do not have in-house teams; so they will outsource the job. That’s a ready market for part-timers and freelancers.

There are plenty of courses in app development. But Gideon suggests you check offers on-campus first (these are usually cheaper).

Employers have been known to pay anything from $500 (sad) to over $10,000 for app development. The range is highly variable. But more importantly, you’ll have no shortage of side-income jobs to choose from.


2. Social Media Marketing


Dog looking at pictures of dog bodybuilders
Most searched keywords were fitness, abs, pets, and lifestyle. Here’s your stationery company’s front page.


These courses are short, which is great for students. You can even find “condensed” versions, like two day workshops. But if the blood in your veins in Singaporean, you probably want something with a certificate. (That’s also cheap. And comes with free refreshments. And all the seats are massage chairs. And…)

Gideon says:

SMEs face a conundrum when it comes to social media. On the one hand, they don’t have the time to manage it in-house. On the other, they don’t have the budget to employ full time staff for it.

So like app development, outsourcing has become a common solution. The best part about social media is that, as a job, students can do it ‘on the go’. They can also use these skills to promote themselves, or to run their own e-commerce business.”

Plenty of tech colleges offer these courses right now. For an earnings estimate, I spoke to Sales Officer Lim Han Hui, who hires a social media manager:

We do hire part-timers to do it. To put links on Facebook, answer comments, put up some Pinterest pictures, and all that.

We’ve hired two people so far; the first we paid around $800 a month, the second one around $1,100. The workload is not heavy, our current guy does it between breaks or in the morning before school.”

You might also need this to earn side-income. We’ll talk more about this, when we tell you how to earn $1k a month running a blogshop. That’s coming up soon, so follow us on Facebook.


3. Business English


Unless you’re a banker or lawyer. Then you have no use for English.


You don’t need to be poet to handle business correspondence. But if you’re the sort who can’t tell between “they’re” and “their”, and your proposals look like a five year old and the house-cat fought over the keyboard, you need a Business English course.

Gideon adds that Business English helps in personal promotion, like when you’re writing a resume:

Answering client-emails, writing CVs, composing instructional material…these things are probably not as emphasized in schools as they should be. I have seen university students who cannot type simple letters of apology.

If I tell you to write a report or proposal, and this makes you panic, you better do something about it.”

Do note that these courses cost more than the others on the list. The most recognized one, from the British Council, costs over $1,500.

We don’t provide an earnings capacity, for the same reason you don’t know how much basic maths lessons have “earned” you. Here’s an estimate though: Sounding like a half-literate caveman will generate MINUS one high-paying job.


4. Photography Courses


Giant camera
It has every function known to man, and two more that aren’t.


On our list since last year, photography courses seem to be the side-income earners. Why is this market never saturated?

HR and Recruitment consultant Angeline Seah offers a possible explanation:

The amateurs are still better than completely untrained photographers. But on the other hand, small businesses can’t afford the professionals at the very top. Student photographers fill a gap in the market between the two.”

Photography courses are affordable and plentiful. What’s painful is the initial investment. Gideon points out that:

Yes, the courses are affordable. And I have known students who make from $60 to $110 an hour. But the equipment is very costly. Students can make money after learning photography, but they must have some business sense so they don’t go overboard and blow it all on more equipment.”

Wedding photography’s old hat, and dominated by professionals. But students can make money in areas like food photography, or mall and small concert events.


Image Credits:
The Master Shake Signal, Benton Wyemji, Out.of.Focus, HowardLake, Sherlock77

Ever done a skills course that made you money? Comment and let us know!

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Ryan Ong

I was a freelance writer for over a decade, and covered topics from music to super-contagious foot diseases. I took this job because I believe financial news should be accessible and fun to read. Also, because the assignments don't involve shouting teenagers and debilitating plagues.