SINGAPORE: Initiatives to improve the career prospects for non-degree-holders working in the Public Service are in the pipeline. The Public Service Division (PSD) on Tuesday (Aug 26) announced in a news release that Management Support Officers who perform well – including non-graduates – can expect faster career progression. More graduate and non-graduate schemes will also be merged, so officers can progress on the same career track.


From October, Management Support Officers who are deemed ready to take on larger responsibilities can expect to receive their first promotion in two to four years, compared to the current three to six years. If they continue to do well, their subsequent promotions will also be faster.

The present system already allows Management Support Officers with the required capabilities to take on similar jobs as graduates, with comparable salaries.


Most non-graduates in the civil service (Singapore’s largest employer, with nearly 140,000 officers) are currently hired under the Management Support Scheme. Most graduates, however, join the Public Service under the Management Executive Scheme. PSD is currently studying the merging of the Management Executive Scheme and the Management Support Scheme, so that officers are able to progress on the same career track.

Single career schemes have already been introduced in several public agencies, such as the People’s Association, the Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore, and the Home Team Specialist Scheme. In these agencies, graduates and graduates enter at different points of their respective schemes and progress in the same career scheme based on their performance.

Mr Sim See Choon, for example, joined IRAS as a polytechnic graduate in the year 2000. Since then, he has been promoted five times and is now a manager with a team of tax officers under him.

He says he never felt the invisible barrier of a salary ceiling, or stalled career progression, thanks to bosses who walk the talk. “We don’t feel like we are held back to contribute in whatever way we can. I think that’s the most important thing,” said Mr Sim. “No matter how good the structure is, if the organisation, the management, don’t lead in that sense, you don’t have the buy-in. But because of the way the management has interacted with every single staff member, it really gives us the confidence that it really doesn’t matter what type of paper qualification you have. It’s about how much effort you put in and how much you are prepared to contribute.”

IRAS started its Single Scheme of Service in 2005, allowing graduates and non-graduates to be given equal opportunities to move up the career ladder, on the same pay scale. In Mr Sim’s case, he was placed on a structured training programme to deepen his knowledge of the various tax structures, enabling his progress within the organisation.

This system of skills progression is something the Public Service Division wants to see across all public sector agencies. National water agency PUB is currently developing a single engineering career path that will enable diploma-holders and ITE graduates to eventually take on more engineering or managerial responsibilities.

Other ways to support the development of good officers include giving them opportunities to manage projects and teams, and to further their education and training, said Mr James Wong, Deputy Secretary for Policy at the Public Service Division in the Prime Minister’s Office.

“While fresh graduate and non-graduate officers are appointed at different starting salaries, it is their job performance and relevant skills that determine their career progression. As long as an officer does his work well and shows the potential to take on larger responsibilities, he will move up the ranks whether or not he is a graduate,” Mr Wong said.

“Graduates and non-graduates can now progress at similar rates, based on their level of performance and potential.”

The PSD announcement comes a day after the Applied Study in Polytechnics and ITE Review (ASPIRE) Committee released 10 recommendations to boost career progression for polytechnic and Institute of Technical Education (ITE) students. Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong had also said in his National Day Rally speech on Aug 17 that the civil service will do more to support the aspirations of non-graduates.

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