Connect with us

Business & Career

Getting a higher starting salary

Salary, one of the biggest deciding factors in selecting a job for young graduates, is constantly compared. But how do you get to know the market rates, what you are worth, and what you can possibly get? Here are some common questions, answered.

How do I find the market rates?

The Internet is a great place to start. If you are looking for an average gross salary for your course of study, has summarized a great list of starting salaries based on school and course with information provided by MOE. View it at This covers NUS, NTU, and SMU courses, and note that gross salary as discussed here includes base salary, allowances, overtime pay, and commissions.

Of course, graduating from a school does not limit you to the companies you could work in or even the industry. If you would like to find out about the pay range for a specific position in a specific company, might be useful for you. Glassdoor relies on individuals to declare their salaries and collects this data worldwide. The figures may not be verified and may not be representative of the Singapore employment market, but it gives you a good ballpark figure to start with.

Besides reading up online, a great way to find out what salary figures are is to talk to others. Those who have recently entered the work force would be able to paint you an updated inside picture of not just the salary but also the total compensation package of their respective firms.

What am I worth?

This is dependent on the job market and how you compare to your peers. What internships have you had? What is your leadership track record and GPA? What else have you accomplished or have been awarded?

Different companies place different value on these factors. For example, Singapore’s public sector and various large Singapore companies, recognize the contribution of those who have completed National Service and may add an additional few hundred dollars to your monthly salary. Some organizations also tend to give a higher starting salary to those graduates with a higher class of honours. Do consider these variances when making your comparisons. Investigate online and query insiders to find out what your target employers value.

What can I possibly get?

The starting salary you end up being offered depends a great deal on the company’s profits and performance in recent times. Even large global banks are offering substantially lower starting salaries in this period of diminished profits within the sector. Many companies also have a variable component within the salary structure, which affects your salary monthly, quarterly, or annually based on company performance.

During the application and interview process, the question is bound to surface: “What is your expected salary?” Asking for too much may reduce your chances of getting the job, especially in today’s cost-conscious times. On the other hand, you might fear getting less than what you could possibly get if you give a low expected salary. What seems to work best is to avoid giving an absolute figure if possible and mention, instead, that you believe the company would be fair in offering a salary commensurable to your experience and capability. After all, most companies would have already decided on the salary they would be willing to pay to fill the position. Furthermore, guidelines and policies are in place to determine what they could offer, given your qualifications. However, you might be able to negotiate for a slightly higher salary when the company has made you an offer. At this point, negotiation would not jeopardize your chances of getting an offer nor cause you to accept a lower figure than what the firm would have offered.

The bottom line

Doing research and talking to people is necessary in determining the salary range you can expect to be in, given your qualifications and experiences, coupled with the job function and company you are applying to. Try not to be dissatisfied when simply comparing your salary to others, even with those in the same company, as there are many factors involved. Similarly, there is much more to a job than starting salary. Consider the total compensation package, which includes bonuses, commissions, medical and insurance benefits, days of annual leave, and other variable and additional privileges. The company culture, business ethics, and social responsibility also do play a very important role in your job satisfaction.


Original photo by Benjamin Lim. Used with permission. aims to provide interesting, bite-sized and relevant financial articles.

Learn together with like-minded Singaporeans at the Personal Finance Discussion SG Facebook Group by discussing a range of personal finance topics.

If you have not done so, subscribe to our free e-newsletter to receive exclusive content not available anywhere else.