• Survey completed over Circuit Breaker, Phase One and Two in 2020, show optimism in the mid-to long-term impressions of student about scholarships, sectors and jobs
  • Healthcare, Government and Software sectors are deemed most attractive by students reflecting a shift to roles where passion and achievement can work together

11 January 2021, Singapore – Graduates and students are highly confident of their future career prospects, demonstrating optimism in the Government, their management of the pandemic and its subsequent recovery periods. This is one of the main findings in the BrightSparks Scholarship and Education Survey 2020 by CareerBuilder Singapore.

Other key findings include a ‘pandemic shift’ where COVID-19 strongly influenced students’ selection of majors, and by extension, their future career choices. Safety, security, and stability are key to students and graduates looking for career opportunities. Careers in Healthcare and Government sectors were the most desired. Salary expectations amongst Junior Colleges (JC), Polytechnic and International Baccalaureate (IB) students have also declined overall.  Careers in the airline industry did not make the top 10 careers in 2020 for JC/IB students and dropped in preference by Polytechnic students.

A total of 3,260 JC, Polytechnic, and IB students as well as 749 mid-term undergraduates from universities around Singapore participated in this survey. 

Students hold a positive mindset about the Singapore economy
Almost all the JC, IB, and Polytechnic students surveyed are considering further education, which means they will only start looking for a job four-to-five years later. Their ideal job attributes include Career Growth and Opportunities, Job Scope and Job Security. This demonstrates the confidence they have that the economy will recover by the time they graduate; and they are being pragmatic about their career selections.

In particular, undergraduates who will start a job within the next one to two years expect higher starting salaries of SGD 3,501 – 4,000, with nearly 51 percent looking for a role with the Government, statutory board or Non-Governmental Organizations (NGO). These imply confidence that the job market will experience a quick recovery and growth.

Possible pandemic shift influencing study and career options
There is a continuing trend towards safety, security and stability that has been accelerated by the pandemic, reflecting a ‘pandemic shift’ in the 2020 Survey results.

JC/IB Students are considering working in Healthcare and Government or Public Service sectors (54 percent in 2020 vs.  50 percent in 2019) reflecting preference for a stable industry and career.

Polytechnic students are looking at growth sectors with good long-term stability or high potential areas with 62 percent selecting software, healthcare and engineering sectors. This is a difference from the 2019 survey with the Airline/Travel and Government sectors being replaced in rankings.

Starting salary expectations of polytechnic students were also lower. In 2019, the majority of the respondents chose SGD 3,001 to 3,500 as their starting salary while in 2020, the majority opted for lower, at SGD 2,501 to 3,000. This may be due to the current economic landscape, which may be steering polytechnic students towards balancing securing employment opportunities and financial aspirations.

Polytechnic students listed job security as more important (95 percent in 2020 vs. 92 percent in 2019) in the survey with the top two attributes most important to them being job security and career growth and opportunities.

Vinay Dua, Managing Director of CareerBuilder Singapore, shared “2020 has reinforced the need for stable careers amidst all the uncertainty. We have seen this preference for job security accelerate in 2020.  As such, healthcare and government roles are coveted more than ever, with students eager and excited to join these sectors. It is especially encouraging that healthcare workers and their contributions are acknowledged by our youth, and might even go beyond the pandemic, into supporting medical research and the ageing population.”   

Important factors when applying for scholarships (university undergraduates)

For undergraduates, career opportunities with the scholarship provider (93 percent in 2020 vs. 90 percent in 2019) and job security (87 percent in 2020 vs. 73 percent in 2019) upon graduation were the top two considerations when applying for a scholarship. These two factors continued to grow in importance in 2020.

Across the board, students stated job security upon graduation as an important factor when selecting scholarships. The importance of Job security and Career opportunities with scholarship providers increased in tandem, year-on-year.


Supporting organisations preparing for a future talent pipeline
The BrightSparks Scholarship & Education Survey has run for 13 years and reflects the choices JC/IB/Polytechnic graduates make in relation to their majors in Institutes of Higher Learning (IHLs) and indirectly their future careers.

By understanding the needs and aspirations of these young minds, scholarship providers will be better able to offer attractive scholarship packages that can attract budding talent by understanding their attributes, aspirations, factors and needs, as well as the most effective channels to communicate information to them.

Through the 2020 survey, we observe:
  • Over 90 percent of respondents are planning to further their education locally or overseas reflecting that studying is regarded as capability-building in a pandemic recovery market that will help them in the future.
  • Committing several years to pursuing a scholarship requires a pay-off with many respondents insisting that recognition of the certificate and the course syllabus are the most important factors. This demonstrates a long-term view that their present-day decisions will impact their future career paths and choices.
  • Reflecting independence, most respondents are looking for a scholarship to pay their way. For those that did not qualify or apply for scholarships, they look to continue furthering their studies by relying on their families as well as their own savings to help pay for their course of study. This demonstrates that education is very important to respondents and their families in Singapore.
  • Preferences for scholarships are changing as seen by undergraduates’ choices of scholarship providers as well their preferences for bonds. ESG and IMDA have moved up in the provider ranking in 2020 vs. 2019 (up 38 and 9 places respectively), which could reflect how the pandemic has changed the impression of what these organisations do. Career opportunities with scholarship providers and Job security upon graduation grew in importance in 2020 vs. 2019.

It is important for education providers, the public sector, as well as Singapore-based MNCs and SMEs to know and understand such findings in order to plan strategy, make long-term resourcing decisions and prepare for a future talent pipeline.

“For 13 years, the BrightSparks Scholarship & Education Survey by CareerBuilder continues to serve education providers, the public and private sectors by partnering with them to manage strategy, resourcing and talent management.” Vinay explained. “We do so through the provision of information about the career choices and preferences of young Singapore talent as they build their skills and competencies and navigate their way towards becoming career-ready.”

Methodology and approach

A total of 4,009 participated in the survey this year. This is an increase of 25 percent more respondents (794 more respondents) than 2019.

The 2020 survey was conducted from April to August 2020. The survey was conducted online through questionnaires.

For more information about BrightSparks and CareerBuilder Singapore, please visit or .

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About BrightSparks

BrightSparks (, by CareerBuilder Singapore, is Singapore’s #1 Scholarship and Higher Education portal. The niche portal offers Junior College (JC), Polytechnic and Undergraduate students a wealth of comprehensive information on personal improvement, as well as the latest scholarships and higher education choices. Established in 2004, the portal has since evolved into a one-stop online destination where aspiring scholars can research, compare and apply for scholarships. In addition to the portal, BrightSparks organises scholarship networking events and publishes the biannual BrightSparks magazine as well as the annual BrightSparks Scholarship and Education Survey Report. Its flagship event, the BrightSparks Scholarship and Higher Education Fair, evolved to the virtual environment in 2020. 

About CareerBuilder Singapore

CareerBuilder Singapore is part of the world’s leading human capital solutions provider, CareerBuilder LLC.

Established in 2000, CareerBuilder Singapore has grown into a regional industry frontrunner that is backed by its global resources and expertise in the Southeast Asian talent recruitment arena.

CareerBuilder Singapore’s suite of offerings includes niche portals BrightSparks, BrightMinds and JobsCentral Learning as well as career portal JobsCentral. CareerBuilder Singapore also provides a holistic suite of recruitment software that helps facilitate an end-to-end ecosystem.

To learn more about CareerBuilder Singapore and its suite of products, visit:

CareerBuilder is a global technology company that provides end-to-end talent acquisition solutions to help employers find, hire and onboard great talent, and helps job seekers build new skills and progressive careers as the modern world of work changes. A known disruptor for nearly 25 years, CareerBuilder is the only company that offers both software and services to cover every step of the hiring process, enabling its customers to free up valuable resources across their HR tech supply chain to drive their business forward. Specialising in talent acquisition recruiting platforms, employment screening and human capital management, CareerBuilder is the largest provider of AI-powered hiring solutions serving the majority of the Fortune 500 across five specialised markets. CareerBuilder is majority-owned by funds managed by affiliates of Apollo Global Management, LLC and operates in the United States, Canada, Europe and Asia.

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Ong Cheow Eng
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