Higher education is the road to better jobs, higher salaries and improved lifestyles. It is an investment we choose to make for the sake of our futures and while some may not see the value in studying, there are others who enjoy the pursuit of knowledge.
A Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) is a postgraduate doctorate degree – the highest university degree – awarded to students who have conducted intense research and contributed to a selected field of study. Through the programme, one would develop intellectual independence while sharpening their language and analytical skills which helps them in their future endeavours as a Professor, researcher or even a scientist.
In Singapore, PhDs are offered by several local institutions:
- National University of Singapore (NUS)
- Duke University (in collaboration with NUS)
- Nanyang Technological University (NTU)
- Singapore Management University (SMU)
- Singapore University of Social Sciences (SUSS)
- Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD)
- National Institute of Education (NIE)
There are also foreign universities with branches in Singapore such as James Cook University (JCU) and Newcastle University (NCL) offering PhD programmes.
This is how much of an investment you will be making if you are considering enrolment into a PhD programme.
#1 Tuition Fees
Tuition fees differ from school to school as well as the field of study you intend to take up. Full course fees will also vary depending on the duration taken to complete the programme and your citizenship status.
* All DUKE-NUS PhD students receive financial support which covers tuition, fees and living expenses
#2 Miscellaneous Student Fees
Aside from tuition, each university stipulates miscellaneous Student Service (SSF) or Health Service (HSF) fees payable by students. These fees are typically paid annually and cover registration as well as costs for IT facilities, students’ activity, academic-related services and health insurance.
#3 Application Fees
For every programme application you submit, a non-refundable application fee may be payable.
Financing Your PhD
The financial options available to you for your postgraduate degree is similar to an undergraduate degree. You may use the Post-Secondary Education Account (PSEA), CPF Education Scheme (CPFES) or take up a Tuition Fee Loan (TFL) to fund your PhD programme.
But while the cost of a PhD is already heavily subsidised by the Ministry of Education for Singapore Citizens and Permanent Residents, taking up a PhD full-time will mean forgoing a source of income for a couple more years. This may pose a challenge for those who are planning to start a family or buy their first flat.
Fortunately, university institutions offer scholarships and opportunities for PhD students to augment their monthly income. For instance, DUKE-NUS offers a scholarship to every PhD student which not only covers their tuition but provides a monthly stipend for the duration of the programme. Other institutions offer a similar scholarship to outstanding graduate students subject to application and satisfactory progress in the programme.
There are also scholarships offered by external organisations such as A*STAR and Singapore-MIT Alliance For Research and Technology (SMART).
Is Getting A PhD Worth The Effort, Time And Money?
In this day and age, a PhD is no longer just a conveyor belt to becoming an academic but can lead you to a diverse range of careers in certain industries.
Understanding your passion and goals is the key. If you possess an inquisitive mind or a heart for academia, getting a PhD definitely puts you on the right path. Passion will be what keeps you going as a PhD is nothing like your undergraduate degree. The workload is rigorous and your research needs to be original which means you’re in the deep end alone. On the other hand, you get to push the boundaries of knowledge alongside like-minded individuals and produce work that has visible impacts.
Ultimately, a PhD is a big investment and if your passion is not driving you to stick through your programme, your RoI will be in the reds and little can make up for the lost time. Three to five years may not be long but you could be better off gaining experience instead if your PhD does not lead you to where you envisioned yourself to be.