How to get a job in Singapore: 8 steps
Are you looking to find a job in Singapore? In this guide you can find 8 important tips to help you get started.
Singapore is a fantastic expat destination, offering an exciting cultural mix, great career opportunities, and world class amenities. The standard of living is high - but life in Singapore doesn’t come cheap. That said, if you’re a student or living on a fixed income, you can make some simple lifestyle changes to make the most of your money. By shopping, eating and enjoying leisure time like a local, you can cut costs and have a more authentic experience.
Whether you’re retiring, temporarily relocating, or moving to Singapore for good, it’s helpful to have a picture of what life there will cost as an expat. Here’s a quick guide to the cost of living in Singapore.
The official currency in Singapore is the Singapore dollar which is written as SGD on currency exchanges, and S$ in shops and restaurants.
You can find out the exact value of your money in SGD by using an online currency converter - but here’s a rough guide to what it is at the time of writing:¹
|Comparing basic cost of living||1 bedroom flat in city centre (monthly rent)||Meal for 2 (3 courses, mid range restaurant)||Transportation (monthly pass)|
|Singapore²||3,625 SGD||83 SGD||128 SGD|
|London, UK³||3,156 SGD||108 SGD||245 SGD|
|New York City, USA⁴||5,293 SGD||138 SGD||178 SGD|
|Berlin, Germany⁵||1,734 SGD||85 SGD||120 SGD|
|Sydney, Australia⁶||2,270 SGD||105 SGD||199 SGD|
One major factor that adds expense for expats in Singapore is the cost of converting cash to SGD from their home currency. Even if your bank says it offers fee-free money exchange, it’s most likely its cut is rolled up in the exchange rate it uses.
To get the best deal, you should consider using an exchange service such as Wise, which gives you the mid-market exchange rate - the same rate you find on Google. You can also open a Wise multi-currency account. It lets you hold over 50 currencies and the Wise international debit card can be used in 175 countries. With a quick service, and low transparent fees to transfer your money, this can be a much better deal than relying on your bank.⁷
One of the major factors determining how expensive life in Singapore will be, is where you choose to live. Rental prices are fairly high, but move outside of the city center and you can rent in Singapore for much less.
|Living expenses in Singapore (excluding rent)²||Average cost|
|Single person, per month||1,429 SGD|
|Single person, per year||17,148 SGD|
|University student, per year⁸||6,000 SGD|
|4 person family, per month||5,186 SGD|
|4 person family, per year||62,232 SGD|
The salaries in Singapore are fairly high in general. When it comes to expat earnings, according to certain surveys, it’s doing fairly well despite dropping on the list in the past year. In fact, one survey by ECA International shows Singapore to be the 22nd in the world when it comes to expat salaries.⁹
Also, one of the great things about living here is that the state is actively trying to raise the income of lower-wage workers. The idea is that “no worker is left behind as Singapore progresses”, which is why the government actively supports wage increments and boosts.Various plans and strategies, such as the 5-year Progressive Wage Credit Scheme, are being made in order to get closer to a more equal society.¹⁰
If you’re interested in knowing more about salary averages, read on. Check out what you could earn in Singapore for certain positions:
|Salary averages for Singapore¹¹||Average salary|
|Financial analyst||78,767 SGD|
|Graphic designer||37,077 SGD|
|Mobile developer||73,492 SGD|
|Product manager||77,996 SGD|
|Software engineer||66,804 SGD|
|Web developer||51,739 SGD|
As of 2022, around 90% of people in Singapore own their own homes, which is an incredibly high number.¹²
This is due to a well-developed public housing system made possible by the Housing and Development Board (HDB). Although the state apartments are eligible for a 99-year lease, Singapore citizens can also buy them.
Even though you’re a foreigner, it's still possible to find a good rental in Singapore. If you have an employment pass, a student pass or certain other documents, you have the same rights as Singapore natives.¹³
Your landlord will inform you of this, but keep in mind that you can’t rent a property for less than 3 consecutive months.¹⁴
This year, the rental costs have significantly increased. The Singapore government is trying to control the surge, but the situation is not yet stable.¹⁵ Here’s what you can expect on average when it comes to prices:
|Renting in Singapore²||Average monthly cost|
|One bedroom flat/apartment (city centre)||3,625 SGD|
|One bedroom flat/apartment (outside of city centre)||2,696 SGD|
|Three bedroom apartment (city centre)||7,211 SGD|
|Three bedroom apartment (outside of city centre)||4,725 SGD|
|Utilities (gas, electric and water for a 85m2 apartment)||196 SGD|
The healthcare system in Singapore is very strong, in both the state and private sector. It’s one of the best in the world, especially because both sectors are regulated by the government. Public healthcare revolves around Medishield, Medisave and Medifund, the first two being considered its very core. Medisave is a mandatory plan funded by 8-10.5% of each employee’s monthly salary. It covers routine care and basic services. On the other hand, Medishield is a scheme used for financing more expensive treatments and heftier bills.
However, keep in mind that low-cost public healthcare is only accessible to permanent residents. Expats will either have to get another health insurance plan to cover all medical costs or pay for treatments in public hospitals out of pocket. The good news is that public facilities have very high quality service, so if that’s your choice, you’ll still receive good care.
There are 10 public and 11 private hospitals in Singapore at the moment. Most expats opt for the private sector, due to shorter waiting time and a more high-end experience. Private insurance will cover possible hospitalization and doctor visits, while you can also customize your plan with different add-ons. The most common ones are dental insurance, vision coverage, maternity coverage and sometimes coverage for pre-existing conditions.
The prices can vary, so it’s best to check before choosing a doctor. Here’s an overview of some basic prices when it comes to Singapore healthcare:
|Healthcare service¹⁷||Average cost|
|Short visit to private doctor (15 minutes)||99 SGD|
|Cold medicine for 6 days||14 SGD|
|1 box of antibiotics (12 doses)||19 SGD|
One of the best options when getting around Singapore is using its Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) subway system. Not only is it fast, but it’s also a cheap and clean option to get you to any part of the city. Depending on the distance, tickets range from 1 SGD to 2.5 SGD. However, if you get the rechargeable EZ-Link card, you can save both time and money.
You can opt for taking the bus or taxi as well, both affordable. Bus fares depend not only on distance, but also on the time of day, so make sure you do your research before boarding. Driving around Singapore is on the more expensive side, since parking can cost quite a lot. Also, traffic jams are not unusual, so sticking to the metro might be better for everyday commutes. If you’re still one of those people who like being behind the wheel, Singapore is easy when it comes to road rules. In fact, all UK expats will find driving here easy, since people in Singapore also drive on the left-hand side of the road.
Check out the average prices you can expect when it comes to travel and transport in Singapore:
|Transportation and vehicle prices for Singapore²||Average cost|
|Gasoline (1 litre / 0.25 gallon)||3.17 SGD|
|Monthly bus/transport pass||128 SGD|
|Bus ticket, single use||2 SGD|
|Taxi start (normal tariff)||4 SGD|
|Taxi tariff 1km (normal tariff)||1 SGD|
|Toyota Corolla Sedan 1.6l 97kW Comfort (Or Equivalent New Car)||133,385 SGD|
|Volkswagen Golf 1.4 90 KW Trendline (Or Equivalent New Car)||150,000 SGD|
The main language of instruction in Singapore is English, so expat students can fit in much more seamlessly. When it comes to public schools, their fees are fixed and are usually around 30 SGD per month. However, international students can only register in the last out of three phases of the registration process, so locals do have an advantage for admission. That’s why many expats choose the private sector, even though it’s much easier to completely integrate through the public system.¹⁹
Private education in Singapore is highly valued, but it also comes at quite a cost. A year’s high school tuition in UWC South East Asia, for example, could run up to nearly 50,000 SGD.²⁰
Singapore is famous for its universities, especially when it comes to business and engineering degrees. If you plan on staying in Singapore for an extended period of time, there are some financial aids to consider. For example, some universities offer scholarships for post-graduate studies to international students that sign the Service Obligation (SO). The Service Obligation requires them to work in a Singapore-entity at least three years after getting their degree. ¹⁹
Depending on the field and level of studies, the tuition fees at the National University of Singapore can end up being over 160,000 SGD. Also, the fees can be different for international students.²¹
Unsurprisingly, standards are high - the Singaporean education system is regularly ranked as one of the best in the world.
|Preschool / kindergarten (monthly fee)²²||160-320 SGD|
|Independent schools (monthly fee)²³||1,000-2,500 SGD (international students)|
|National University of Singapore tuition (new international students, undergraduate, business, one year)²¹||20,650-32,400 SGD|
|Singapore Management University tuition (new international students, bachelor programme, one year)²⁴||44,950-47,510 SGD (non-subsidised fees)|
Singapore is an exciting place to be, whether you’re considering a permanent move, or just looking to spend a year or two exploring somewhere new. The cost of living may be a little high, but the experiences you can get here are truly memorable.
Good luck with your new life in Singapore!
Sources used for this article:
Sources checked on 21-Nov-2022.
This publication is provided for general information purposes only and is not intended to cover every aspect of the topics with which it deals. It is not intended to amount to advice on which you should rely. You must obtain professional or specialist advice before taking, or refraining from, any action on the basis of the content in this publication. The information in this publication does not constitute legal, tax or other professional advice from TransferWise Limited or its affiliates. Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome. We make no representations, warranties or guarantees, whether express or implied, that the content in the publication is accurate, complete or up to date.
Are you looking to find a job in Singapore? In this guide you can find 8 important tips to help you get started.
Singapore is a small but prosperous country. More than 33,000 babies are born there each year, and more than 16 million tourists visit each year. If you’re a...
Singapore is notorious for its high cost of living, so be prepared to pay upfront for many expenses and services when settling in. Some are incurred as part...
Boasting first-class medical facilities and expertise, Singapore regularly sees patients flying in from all over the world seeking specialist treatment....
Healthcare in Singapore may rank amongst the best in the world, but it comes at a premium price when compared to other countries in Southeast Asia. For...
Last year Wise made history by becoming the first non-bank to be licensed to send money in and out of Singapore. In celebration, we’ve gathered 52...