Should I study for a PhD?

Have you ever wondered if getting a PhD in Singapore is really worth all the time and effort? You’re not alone in thinking this way. It’s a big decision to make, and there are many factors to consider.

Here are a few things to keep in mind when weighing the value of a PhD.

Why do people pursue PhDs?
Who is eligible for a PhD?
Potential Drawbacks
PhD options

Why do people pursue PhDs?

A PhD allows you to specialize and become an expert in your chosen field. You’ll delve deeply into a topic and conduct original research that contributes new knowledge and ideas. This can be deeply fulfilling if you enjoy pushing the boundaries of your chosen discipline.

PhDs also open doors to academia and research-focused careers. If you want to be a university professor or work in a research lab, a PhD is often required. It shows employers you have the skills and experience for these roles.

Who is eligible for a PhD?

If you often get confused, here’s the order of progression:

Associate degree (undergraduate)
Not offered in Singapore

Bachelor’s degree (undergraduate)

Master’s degree (graduate)

Doctoral degree (graduate)

A Master’s degree differs from a Doctoral degree in its focus and duration.

Master’s Degree

Doctoral Degree

· Shorter (usually 1–2 years)
· Career-oriented
· Easier to gain entry
· Typically, coursework-heavy
· Shorter thesis
· Longer (usually 4–8 years)
· Research-oriented
· Harder to gain entry (more competitive)
· Limited coursework component
· Dissertation (peer-reviewed and viva voce)

Both qualifications require you to submit scores for graduate tests during applications, such as the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) test.

Potential Drawbacks

What are the downsides (if any) to studying for these qualifications?

Well, here they are, so that you know what exactly you’re getting into:

Graduate programs tend to be very demanding. Pair this with full-time jobs and personal responsibilities, and this leaves little room for a work-life balance, especially in the earlier years of a PhD. If you don’t have good time management skills, you may experience exceptionally high stress levels.

Another important issue is funding: while some programs offer scholarships, teaching assistantships, or research assistantships, and there are government grants to help, these opportunities are still quite limited and competitive. You may need to self-fund part of your degree, which can be expensive.

Third, the opportunity cost of advanced studies can be significant. Master’s and PhD students often give up two to five years of full-time salary, and career progression. Upon graduation, they may also face stiffer competition in the job market as they seek employment: there are fewer job openings in academia or specialised fields, for example.

Finally, not completing the degree is a real risk. Our contributor did not finish her PhD studies, and you can check out his/her sharing here. Many students do not finish their program due to challenges with research, supervisor relationships, funding issues, or personal circumstances. This means investing years of time and money without getting the degree, which can be frustrating and discouraging.

PhD options

Now that we’ve covered the important parts, here are some educational institutions offering a PhD in Singapore! There are many types, as you will see below with the help of NTU and SMU*.

Nanyang Technological University (NTU)

  • Art, Design and Media
    • Research areas:
      • Southeast Asian Art, Design, and Media,
      • Art, Design and Media Histories and Criticism
      • Cultural Identity and Heritage
      • Visual Art and Digital Humanities
      • Audiovisual Art
      • Design Studies
  • Arts, Education and Sciences
    • Research areas:
      • Asian Languages and Cultures
      • English Language and Literature
      • Humanities and Social Studies Education
      • Learning Sciences and Assessment
      • Mathematics and Mathematics Education
      • Natural Sciences and Science Education
      • Physical Education and Sports Science
      • Policy, Curriculum and Leadership
      • Psychology and Child & Human Development
      • Visual and Performing Arts
  • Biological Sciences
    • Research areas:
      • Biological Data Science 
      • Cancer and Cell Biology
      • Genes, Genetics & Genomics
      • Microbiology & Immunology
      • Neuroscience
      • Plant Biology
      • Proteomics and Protein Chemistry
      • Structural Biology & Drug Discovery
      • Traditional Chinese Medicine​
  • Business
    • Research Areas:
      • Accounting
      • Banking & Finance
      • Information Systems
      • Leadership, Management & Organisation
      • Marketing
      • Operations Management
      • Strategy, International Business & Entrepreneurship
  • Engineering:

    • Fields
      • Chemical and Biomedical Engineering
      • Civil and Environmental Engineering
      • Electrical and Electronic Engineering
      • Material Sciences and Engineering
      • Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering
      • Computer Science and Engineering
  • Humanities
    • Fields:
      • Art History
      • Chinese
      • English
      • Linguistics & Multilingual Studies
      • History
      • Philosophy
      • Interdisciplinary Research
  • Social Sciences
      • Economics
      • Psychology
      • Sociology
      • Public Policy & Global Affairs
  • Medicine
  • Communication and Information
  • Earth and Environmental Sciences
  • Physics
  • Mathematical Sciences

Singapore Management University (SMU)

  • PhD in Accounting
  • PhD in Business
  • PhD in Economics
  • PhD in Psychology
  • PhD in Computer Science
  • PhD in Information Systems
  • PhD in Law, Commerce and Technology
  • PhD in Asian Urbanisms

*List is up-to-date as of 2023. This is not an exhaustive list.

 Other institutions offering PhD programmes here include NUS, SUTD, SUSS, SIT, JCU, Newcastle University and PSB Academy. You can check out their websites for more information!


There are a few scholarships and grants you can look at, aside from the ones universities offer, if you are studying a PhD in Singapore. Competition, however, will be fierce.

1) Lee Kuan Yew Scholarship

  • Open to Singaporean citizens exploring postgraduate studies locally or internationally
  • Bond-free
  • Provides annual allowance of S$50,000 for private sector awardees (up to 5 years of sponsorship for a PhD degree), or a one-off sum of S$10,000 for public sector awardees, if they are concurrently sponsored by their agencies.

2) A*STAR Graduate Scholarship

  • Finances up to four years of PhD studies at a local autonomous university in Biomedical Sciences, Computing and Information Sciences, Engineering and Technology, and Physical Sciences
  • Bond-free for Singaporeans and Permanent Residents, 3-year service in Singapore-based companies for international candidates
  • Covers full tuition fees, allowances

3) Singapore International Graduate Award

  • Offered by A*STAR and open to international students studying in Singapore for the first time. Fields include Biomedical Sciences, Computing and Information Sciences, Engineering and Technology, and Physical Science
  • PhD training is carried out in English at a student’s chosen lab at A*STAR research institutes and NTU/NUS/SUTD/SMU
  • Covers tuition fees, stipend, one-time airfare grant and settling-in allowance

4) Tan Kah Kee Scholarships

  • Various postgraduate scholarships available (application period is in May)
  • Open to Singaporeans and Permanent Residents
  • One-off sum of S$12,000; successful applicants may re-apply annually

5) ISEAS PhD Scholarship

  • Open to Singaporeans pursuing PhDs in Economics, History, Political Science, International Relations, Sociology, Anthropology, and other relevant humanities and social science subjects
  • Five-year bond with ISEAS – Yusof Ishak Institute after completion
  • Covers tuition fees, various allowances, medical insurance, return airfare if applicable

6) SG Digital Scholarship (Postgraduate)

  • Open to Singaporeans pursuing PhD studies in tech or media-related fields offered by a local autonomous university, local arts institution or a renowned overseas university
  • Bond-free if studying locally, 3–5 year bond if studying overseas
  • Covers tuition fees, stipend, various allowances

If the idea of pushing research forward and contributing new knowledge appeals to you, exploring PhD programs further may be worthwhile. We hope this article has given you a better understanding of what you’ll be signing up for, especially if you are an undergraduate student planning your future career/studying path!


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