Singapore’s civil service sector is an integral part of the country’s governance system, responsible for implementing government policies and providing essential services to its citizens. This diverse sector comprises various ministries and statutory boards, each with their own responsibilities in areas such as education, healthcare, transport, finance, and more.
The civil service sector in Singapore is all about making a positive impact on society, be it through the implementation of policies, to engaging different communities and implementing changes from the ground up. If you’re someone who shares these values and is eager to contribute to society, then a civil service job in Singapore might just be the right fit for you.
In this article, we will dive deep into the world of civil service roles and explore the ins and outs of working in the sector. We’ll discuss everything from pay and perks to career progression and development opportunities, so you can make an informed decision about whether a career in the civil service is right for you.
Civil Service vs Private Sector: What do Singaporeans think?
Civil Service roles are often thought of as “iron rice bowls”, meaning that it has guaranteed job security, at least relative to private sector roles. In the current job market climate with plenty of retrenchments, having job security may be a vital consideration for some Singaporeans.
That said, the civil service sector is also known to prize academic performance when it comes to hiring. According to a popular discussion forum in Reddit, one Redditor put it this way: “Unless you’re a scholar, be prepared to farm (i.e be ready to work in the same position) for a while before you progress.” However, according to Careers@Gov and this redditor, “Degree class is only sort of relevant for hiring and starting pay.”
In terms of work-life balance, it typically depends on the industry and role. According to one Redditor, it isn’t great: “I have had bosses that are married to their work. I see them sending emails at 11pm or 4am, and I don’t work at MFA or EDB which are notorious for poor work-life balance.”
Across many of the comments are also mentions of red tape and administrative work, so if that’s not to your liking, you might want to reconsider joining the civil service.
Of course, opinions in online discussion forums vary, and each individual experience may differ from the next. As such, it is important to take the comments from public forums like Reddit with a pinch of salt and do a bit more research on the job.
Types of Civil Service Jobs in Singapore
The Public Service in Singapore comprises 153,000 officers, which includes the Civil Service of 86,000 officers.
The Civil Service refers to individuals employed in government ministries and organisations of the state, such as:
- Ministry of Communication and Information
- Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth
- Ministry of Defence
- Ministry of Education
- Ministry of Finance
- Ministry of Foreign Affairs
- Ministry of Health
- Ministry of Home Affairs
- Ministry of Law
- Ministry of Manpower
- Ministry of National Development
- Ministry of Social and Family Development
- Ministry of Sustainability and the Environment
- Ministry of Trade and Industry
- Ministry of Transport
- Prime Minister’s Office.
Those working in statutory boards like the CPF, IRAS, and NParks are classified as “public servants” and not considered civil servants. Uniformed staff are generally not considered civil servants either.
The civil service sector offers a diverse range of job opportunities across various sectors, providing individuals with the chance to contribute to the country’s development and make a difference to the lives of its citizens.
Pay and Bonuses
Theoretically, civil servants in Singapore are paid salaries that are equivalent to that of their counterparts in the private sector.
According to Careers@Gov, all public officers receive an annual package comprising both monthly and annual salary components. Some jobs with special requirements or have a special nature may get additional remuneration from some agencies.
Typically, civil servants in Singapore receive a Non-Pensionable Annual Allowance, also known as a 13th month payment, and an Annual Variable Component (mid-year and year-end bonus). They may also receive a one-time lump sum bonus.
The amount of these bonuses is dependent on the economic climate at the time. For instance, in a good year like 2018, civil servants received more than 2.5 months’ salary in bonuses. However, during the pandemic-ridden year of 2020, they received no bonuses at all. In 2021, they received a bonus of 0.3 months’ salary in June and a year-end bonus of 1 month’s salary in December.
To ensure uniformity in pay across various departments, civil service salaries are grouped into bands. Officially, bonuses and increments are based on your performance relative to your peers with a similar job size and are not decided by academic results, nationality or years on the job.
The performance bonus in the civil service sector varies according to an individual’s performance. The range of bonus is from zero to six months. Typically, those who perform well are likely to receive three months’ bonus.
The table provided below is an estimated version of the Management Executive (MX) scheme, which is the most common career path for degree holders in the civil service. However, it is not an official source and has been derived from feedback and comments from civil servants on various forums.
Pay Range / Month
$11,110 to $17,370
|MX10 (Senior Management)|
$7,000 to $11,470
|MX11 (Middle Management)|
$4,740 to $8,305
$2,945 to $5,925
|MX13 (Fresh Graduates, Management Executive)|
$3,500 to $4,000
Source: Yahoo Finance, 2021
Other Benefits of Working in Civil Service in Singapore
Public officers in Singapore receive a variety of leave benefits.
In addition, you get medical benefits as public officers enrolled in the Medisave-cum-Subsidised Outpatient (MSO) medical benefits scheme receive an extra 2% of their gross monthly salary deposited into their Central Provident Fund Medisave Account.
Dental benefits are also available, with reimbursement of 85% of dental expenses per visit, up to a maximum of $120 per year.
Other benefits for public officers include the Long Service Award, preferential rates for Civil Service Club memberships which allows you to get discounts and preferential rates for chalets, and hotels, and access to Employee Support Services.
Information regarding career benefits can be found on Careers@Gov.
How to Land a Civil Service Job in Singapore
If you’re interested in applying for a civil service job in Singapore, there are a few things you can do to increase your chances of success.
Check for job postings on government websites
Careers@Gov is a good place to start looking for job postings. You can also check individual ministry websites, as they may have specific job vacancies.
Prepare for the application process
Once you find a job you’re interested in, read the job description carefully and ensure that your qualifications and experience fulfil the requirements. It’s also a good idea to familiarise yourself with the civil service recruitment process, which usually involves submitting an application form, attending an interview, and taking a psychometric test.
Be aware of long application times: On average, it takes 3 months from the time interviews begin to when you actually start work. If you are applying to intelligence agencies or more sensitive positions, be prepared to wait for a longer period of time.
Showcase relevant skills and experience
Civil service employers in Singapore are looking for candidates with strong analytical, communication, and problem-solving skills. Experience in areas like public policy, project management, or data analysis are also highly valued. Prior internship experience in civil or public service may help in your application, as you may be more familiar with the work culture and administrative processes.
According to job postings descriptions on Careers@Gov, here are some qualities interviewers typically seek out from civil service candidates:
- Integrity: As public servants, civil servants are expected to demonstrate high levels of integrity and ethical conduct.
- Analytical and problem-solving skills: Roles often involve complex challenges that require analytical thinking and problem-solving skills. A Business Development Manager at GovTech is required to have “strong data analysis, manipulation, and data modelling skills”.
- Communication skills: Effective communication is crucial in the civil service, as employees need to work with a wide range of stakeholders, including the public, other government agencies, and international partners.
- Adaptability: The civil service in Singapore is constantly evolving, and employees need to be able to adapt to new challenges and changing circumstances. This is especially so for a role like a Foreign Service Officer, which asks for applicants to be “versatile and adaptable to different environments”
- Public service values: A strong commitment to public service values, including a desire to make a positive impact on society, is highly valued in civil service candidates. An example would be a school counsellor with MOE, where they ask for applicants to be “aware of and sensitive to multicultural issues” and have the “passion and disposition to work with students-at-risk”.
Overall, a career in civil service can offer a wide range of benefits, including competitive pay, leave and medical benefits, and access to employee support services. If you are interested in contributing to the public sector and making a difference in people’s lives, a career in civil service in Singapore may be worth considering.