Not earning enough? Time to upgrade yourself, exhorts the government! But before you run to the nearest Workforce Development Agency-approved centre to sign up for a course, we’ve got bad news for you.
Short courses, even at university level, may not necessarily increase your salary, at least not directly. In fact, a recent study by Time revealed that short-term college certificate programmes almost never result in a higher salary. We assess some types of short courses in Singapore for their effectiveness in boosting salaries.
With virtually all office jobs requiring computer literacy and many requiring specialised knowledge of applications like Excel and Photoshop, taking a computing course can sound like a good way to boost your salary.
Unfortunately, while knowing how to use a computer is no doubt mandatory in today’s job market, being computer savvy won’t necessarily get you a raise. That’s because to hiring managers of most positions, the ability to use certain computer applications is a minimum requirement. Apply to become a web designer without being able to work with HTML and CSS and you’ll be shown the door faster than the SMRT bus races off when you’re running to the bus stop.
While placing a computing course on your resume sure isn’t going to get you a raise, acquiring kickass computing skills can turn you into an in-demand tech employee. Unfortunately, becoming a competent programmer or web developer takes a lot more than just attending a WDA-approved course, and you’ll need a portfolio to prove to prospective employers how good you are.
In addition, employers are certainly not going to pay you more just for being knowledgeable. Eunice Tan, CEO of recruitment firm Career Shine, says, “If you are very strong in Java but the job doesn’t require you to use it, the employer actually won’t care about your skills, even if you’re interviewing for a tech post.”
Verdict: The certificate won’t get you a raise, and you’ll need to work on your skills and make them awesome in order to profit from them. Worst of all, computing courses don’t come cheap. Bearing in mind that a three day web design crash course can cost well over $1,000, it will be a lot cheaper, and possibly more effective, to study on your own using Internet resources.
Singaporeans know better than anyone else that just because you’ve attended years of classes in a particular language sure as hell doesn’t mean you can call yourself fluent. That’s why a Singaporean employer will never assume you’re fluent in English, Mandarin, Malay, Tamil or what have you just because you’ve passed the O level subject.
The same goes for language courses. Saying that you’ve studied ten languages at a basic level is going to get you a grand total of $0 more at your job. If your job requires particular language skills, the only way you can prove yourself is to show your prospective boss you can converse fluently, not whip out certificates from some language school.
In fact, even if you’ve become fluent in another language, you’ll need to be strategic about looking for a job that will let you capitalise on your skill.
Eunice says, “If you join a Japanese MNC, being fluent in Japanese may be an added value, and might also increase your opportunities to travel for work or get overseas job postings.”
This also means that if you’re a bank executive who’s fluent in French, you’re probably better off trying to get a job at a multinational than trying to sell credit cards from a local bank at an HDB estate in Jurong.
Verdict: A certificate says nothing about how fluent you are. If you are fluent in a language, you’ll have to choose a job that lets you use it. Weekly language classes generally cost at least $200 a month and are most definitely not enough to enable you to become fluent without intensive self study.
If you work in finance and need to understand balance sheets, getting ACCA-certified can sound like a no-brainer. Right? Well, if you’re going to work in accounting, congratulations, because the ACCA qualification means you’re on the way to becoming a full-fledged certified public accountant. As an employee in an accounting firm or accounting department, you can probably expect a raise.
However, if you work in other areas of finance, don’t don’t be surprised if your new qualification doesn’t exactly translate to higher pay.
Eunice says, “If you have ACCA and are looking for a non-accounting job, than it’ll not help you to get a higher salary. Relevant working experience will be the only thing you can use to get a higher salary.”
For instance, lawyers are often required to understand accounting documents in the course of their job, and having an ACCA qualification can certainly be an advantage. However, I have yet to hear of a lawyer who’s gotten a raise on the strength of his ACCA accreditation. The same goes for most bank executives and HR staff.
Verdict: The ACCA preparatory course at Kaplan costs $215 to $390 per module, and you have to take about 14. This is an investment that will only pay off directly if you’re going to work in accounting.
In a bid to “upgrade” your skills, there’s any number of courses you might have come across—from crash courses in social media marketing and human resources to hospitality and counselling. Unfortunately, if yours is a short course, meaning it doesn’t culminate in a diploma or degree, you might be barking up the wrong tree.
“Employers still value degrees and diplomas as these are viewed as basic educational qualifications,” says Eunice. “Besides that, they are more concerned about candidates having work experience, and those without the necessary experience will be at a disadvantage even if they have taken short courses.”
Verdict: With generous WDA discounts, taking random short courses can be very affordable and a fun thing to do to boost your own knowledge. But don’t expect to see any appreciable increases in income.
Have you ever taken a short course and how has it helped you in your career? Share your stories in the comments!