Pros and cons of work vs degree after poly in Singapore

Yee Hwee Tee
May 22, 2018 · 5 min read

So, you’ve done it — you’ve got your diploma. You’re officially a polytechnic graduate! It’s time to make a decision many have made before you: work or university? The thought surrounding the issue of work vs degree has always been a matter of debate.

Both pathways lead to different experiences, and it’s not uncommon to feel torn between the two. If you’re someone struggling with this dilemma, we’ve got you covered. There are many implications that come from choosing one over the other, so we’ve created a quick comparison guide with pros and cons to help you in your decision-making.

Bear in mind that there is no superior choice here — the decision you make ultimately depends on you. But let’s get into the comparison first before anything else!

The University Route

PRO #1: Knowledge expansion

The most apparent thing about a university is that it’s a whole new platform for you to learn new things. You’re placed in an environment with professors — industry experts and passionate academics — and peers where you can expand your knowledge. If you’re someone who’s certain about the type of career you eventually want to build, and you feel it is in your best interests to learn all you can about it before jumping in, then university could be good for you. Essentially, choosing university contributes greatly to job preparation.

PRO #2: Networking opportunities

University is a continuation of forging a network of professional contacts. Whether or not you chose to do an internship at the end of your diploma course, you can look forward to the chance of dipping your toes in the working world all the same as an undergraduate. Internships, career fairs, and networking opportunities will come your way and give you a leg up in the industry you’re eyeing. It all comes down to job preparation — you simply have more time to get ready to be a professional.

CON #1: Missing out on work experience

Naturally, setting aside four more years to pursuing a degree means you’re giving up four whole years of gaining invaluable work experience. Some people prioritise being book smart over being exposed to the rigours of the workplace, but such a decision may, at times, set you back. Building a career when you’re younger gives you more time to learn and build on your skillset. Conversely, attending university means that you’ll be older when you take on your first full-time job.

CON #2: Unhappiness due to familial expectations

This one is a little tricky and may not apply to everyone. But before you decide to enrol in university, think first about why you’re making the decision. It’s often unwise to simply give in to external factors pushing you towards getting a degree, especially if it’s pressure coming from your parents or relatives. Doing something because someone wants you to do it won’t help you in the way of personal satisfaction, since you’re not doing this for yourself. University is stressful enough on its own, so think carefully before sending in your applications.

The Work Experience Route

PRO #1: Levelling up with industry experience

Choosing work after poly will also open you up to more knowledge — just not in the way universities provide. On-the-job training and real working experience will shape you into a full-fledged professional — provided you have the desire for it. Some poly graduates regard working experience as more of a priority than a degree and have gone on to succeed in their chosen fields too. If you’re someone who’s already set on a certain career direction, and if your career doesn’t necessarily demand higher qualifications for a chance at success, why not? Besides, should you ever decide to enter university at a later time, most institutions genuinely appreciate taking on an experienced undergraduate.

PRO #2: Gaining a financial advantage

Taking on a job after poly instead of going to university also means that you’re going to be earning money sooner than other peers. Instead of slogging it out for lengthy term papers and gruelling presentations, you’ll be getting a monthly salary for your effort. This is a great choice for those who don’t yet have the resources to go to university — unless, of course, you’re blowing your savings on things you don’t really need. Yes, yes — Lazada’s birthday just passed and the huge discounts were all you could think about. We know!

CON #1: The age disparity

For those who decide to work before entering university, you’ll be facing two fates: being the youngest person in the office (with less knowledge on hand than a university graduate) and much later, being the oldest in your university classes. Granted, this won’t get in the way of you forging friendships both in the workplace and in your lectures, but it might make you feel like a bit of an oddball. By the time you enter university (if you ever decide to), you might be way past the age where you enjoy going to clubs or partying hard over the weekend. Does this really matter, in the end? It really just depends on who you are as a person!

CON #2: A steep learning curve

You’re going to know less than the other newbie in the office, who just graduated from NUS. Grasping your work might prove a challenge if you’re not ready to learn fast from your mistakes. As a poly graduate, you’re burdened with the task of proving yourself in the workplace through thick and thin. Consider the steep learning curve you will have to endure if you decide to postpone university for several years of genuine work experience. If you find an employer who is able to mentor you and help you grow, you’re definitely luckier for it.

As you weigh the pros and cons of choosing work or university, you should also consider what you truly want for yourself in the long run. There is no right or wrong here, and you won’t be a lesser person if you decide to forgo university.

While there is still societal pressure egging young millennials to take up four years of undergraduate work, it is not always in your best interest to give in to it. Consider things broadly and realise that whatever decision you make next will have to be something you genuinely believe will work for you. And whether you get into building a career or chasing an honours degree, a bright future still waits!

Written by: Sophia Lee

Edited by: Hazel Teng

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Yee Hwee Tee

Written by

Intern at Glints Singapore

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