(Note: This was a blog entry which I wrote a while back before I completed my PhD program. I have made minor edits, but have left most of the writing intact. This entry highlights one compelling reason why I chose to work in the industry eventually. This led to a job search in Singapore, but ended up with me in US. But that's another story.)
My supervisor once voiced his concern when I started my PhD on whether I would be able to find a job upon graduation because I was not planning to study a more "popular" subject matter. Being fresh out of National Service and finally free to use my mind, I was eager to pursue my own interests and was not ready to kowtow to the perceived stifling of my academic life by such mundane economic reality. In fact, I was questioning his concern at the back of my mind - surely a computer science PhD would not have any difficulty in finding a decent IT job!
Due to stipulations of my fellowship, I am obliged to stay in Singapore for two years to work after graduation, but I was free to work anywhere, as long as it is related to computer science. So in my last year of my candidature, I started my job hunt in earnest. I prepared my resume and seeked out the usual suspects - I applied for industry and teaching positions first, and procured several job offers, each giving a fairly decent monthly salary as a first job. But, well, let's just say I was not tripping over my own feet to accept any of these job offers.
Incidentally, my wife started her job approximately the same time as I entered graduate school, and is thus rather suited to serve as a frame of reference for comparing job compensations between working after a Bachelors or doing a PhD before entering the workforce. After four years of working, she was moving up the career ladder, and was earning 25% more per month than the job offers I was getting. I like to point out that my wife is a Bachelors degree holder in a government job - so we are not talking about a really fast-tracked Masters in a blooming industry. Many a times I would hear about a supposedly "excellent", or "great" job offer from a local research institution or school, and would be informed that I was going to be paid a quarter less than my wife. The icing on the cake, the cream de le creme, the best part of it all, is that I would be drawing Bachelor's pay until my PhD degree is actually conferred. FYI, I was officially conferred my PhD degree in September after submitting my thesis in January. Let's just say I was not amused at this point in time.
The school does have much more attractive compensation, with a higher monthly salary as a postdoctoral researcher (although they do not pay annual bonus), a much more comprehensive healthcare plan, and the freedom to engage in any area of research. It seems like a no-brainer to stay in school if possible after a PhD in Singapore. However, postdoctoral research positions are contract-based for one to two years, and it does entail a need to secure a more permanent job after the contract ends. That means a tenure-track position, which is hard to obtain unless you are a super-star (but if so, you should be gunning for a position in an ivy league university).
I am disappointed at the job options of a PhD graduate in Singapore, and found them clearly lacking any attraction whatsoever. I find solace in achieving mastery of a subject matter after four years of research and study, but financially, it is a little disappointing.
Read and weep - Student to Professor: The Road to Tenure-Track [Princetonreview.com]
In a related thread, what makes sense in Singapore? People management.
People management is better rewarded than technical expertise. This differentiation between experts and middle-level managers in terms of rewards is an Asian phenomenon. Here, those who present the work seem to get the credit for it, regardless of who actually performs it. We live in a place and time where articulation is often mistaken for accomplishments.
Fast forward to today, and I am enjoying showing up at Google for work. I honestly enjoy the challenge and it pays well enough for me not to worry about money. I wished Singapore could have given me such opportunities there, but in all seriousness, I will never return to Singapore for a technical job.