It is without a doubt that a university education is one of the most significant life investments someone can have in their 20s. A degree not only unlocks many doors within the corporate world, but it also builds your creativity, critical thinking and ability to work in teams.
However, the school and major that you select can make a significant impact on your return on investment which ultimately determines your ability to repay your student loans. Hence, the perennial question lies; Which business/finance-related degree in Singapore gives you the most bang for your buck?
As of 2021, the tuition fees for SMU are as follows:
Image source: smu.edu.sg
Assuming that you are a Singapore citizen that is entitled to subsidized fees, you are expected to pay about $11,450 * 4 = $45,800 over the full course of a 4-degree undergraduate degree in SMU. The fees are the same regardless of whether you pursue a Bachelor of Accountancy or a Bachelor of Business Management (with further specialization). Additionally, you have to account for the slightly more expensive meals that you are going to have in the Central Business District (CBD) area (you probably can’t have Koufu food all the time, right?).
Based on the Graduate Employment Survey released in 2019, both bachelor degrees from SMU enjoy relatively good employment prospects with more than 90% of graduates finding a job within a year of graduation. Students who study a Bachelor of Accounting at SMU tend to have a higher proportion of graduates in the labour force than those who have studied a Bachelor of Business Management. As they say, a career in accounting is like an iron rice bowl as the demand for budding accountants is always high with the big four ready to bring in throngs of graduates for their audit roles.
Image source: news.smu.edu.sg
Additionally, graduating with a Cum Laude (Honours) and above gives you better career opportunities as employers utilize that as one of the many factors in determining whether you can achieve results. For example, we can see a $1000 difference at the 75th percentile for students who have graduated with a Bachelor of Accountancy with Cum Laude and above vis-a-vis those who did not graduate with honours.
Based on the median salaries of SMU graduates, it would take about 13 to 16 months to get a positive return on your education discounting any other factors such as the time value of money or bonuses.
Months (Rounded Up)|
Bachelor of Accountancy|
45,800/3042 = 16 months (rounded up)|
Bachelor of Accountancy (Cum Laude and Above)|
Bachelor of Business Management|
Bachelor of Business Management (Cum Laude and Above)|
As of 2020, the tuition fees for NUS Business School stands at $9600 per annum for Singapore citizens that receive the MOE Tuition grant. Multiplying this by 4 gets us $9600 * 4 = $38,400. This brings us to a price that is 16% cheaper than SMU.
Image Source: nus.edu.sg
As before, this does not take into account the other expenses that you may incur when you are studying at NUS. Additional costs such as staying in the school’s hostels/halls may incur a significant amount of the cost of education at the university.
Based on the 2019 Graduate Employment Survey, the Bachelor of Business Administration (Accountancy) and Business of Business yields a relatively high employment number with 90% of students finding full-time permanent employment after graduation. We see again that graduating with Honours generally lands you a better paying job (in the ballpark of around $500 a month higher), compared to graduating without one. It certainly pays to do well in school.
Months (Rounded up)|
Bachelor of Business Administration|
Bachelor of Business Administration (Hons)|
Bachelor of Business Administration (Accountancy)|
Bachelor of Business Administration (Accountancy with honours)|
Based on the median salaries of NUS graduates, it would take the 14 to 16 months to breakeven on the investment of education.
In 2020, the tuition fees for the Bachelor of Business, Accountancy and other-related fields stand at $9,400 per year. However, we must also note that students are graded for and can obtain honours within only three years. Hence, the cost of studying a Bachelor of Business or Bachelor of Accountancy is only $9,400 * 3 = $28,200
The short duration of a Bachelor’s Degree in Nanyang Technological University (3 years), makes it easily the cheapest option out of the 3 universities.
When it comes to the 2019 Graduate Employment Survey, NTU students command a high level of employment, with 90% of students finding jobs after graduating. In terms of the median salaries, we see that Accountancy and Business students were getting $3,000 and $3,600 respectively.
Months (Rounded up)|
Bachelor of Business|
Bachelor of Accountancy|
Looking at the median salaries of NTU students, it would only take 10-12 months to earn back the cost of your education here. However, it is worth noting that NTU does not classify salaries based on whether a student has obtained honours.
While NTU students generally spend less with a three year degree, the school in the west is situated far from most of Singapore. For most Singaporean citizens that choose to enroll in NTU, staying in the school dormitories/hall is a no-brainer. However, this will definitely push back the rate at which you can recoup the costs with getting a tertiary education.
In conclusion, studying at NTU enables you to recuperate the investment in tertiary education at the fastest rate. Furthermore, graduating with honours one year earlier than your peers in SMU or NUS can allow you to get the headstart in your career to start compounding your salary. Lastly, remember that although costs constitute a significant factor in deciding where and what to study, it is still essential to see if you like the school environment, alumni connections and other clubs or societies which may guide your decision.