Leaving the paper chase behind and pursuing your passion is all well and good, but once people hit their 20s, reality bites. A degree has its uses, after all.
Take Ms Chew Wan Yi, 23, who started a fashion blog shop in 2010 after her A levels in 2008.
Five years on, she has closed the shop and is doing a business degree part-time at UniSIM while working as an administrative assistant. She still dreams of running her own business - a cafe that will also sell clothes and works by local artists. Her degree will equip her with important skills for this dream job, she says.
And yet, she maintains that a degree is not a must for a good job, but is "definitely a bonus".
Singapore has long valued a university education, so Ms Chew's laid-back approach may seem unusual.
However, the survey by The Straits Times and Degree Census Consultancy (see main story) found that 56 per cent of 501 respondents of working age feel that people do not need a degree to get a good job.
However, of the minority who believe a degree is needed, it was young folk with under three years of work experience (plus permanent residents) who tended to place more value on a degree. Over half of the respondents in their 20s felt this way - the only age group to buck the overall trend.
UniSIM president Cheong Hee Kiat, who sat on a government committee which produced a report last year on the future of university education here, notes that UniSIM is getting more young students in the 24 to 29 age band who have some work experience.
Indeed, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong told polytechnic students a few months ago they need not just aim for a degree. By working for a few years or starting a business, "you will gain experience and understand yourself better, and then be better able to decide what the next step will be".
Prof Cheong says UniSIM students with some work experience tend to be "more mature, more motivated and hungry" and have a clearer idea of what they want.
Ms Chew's story reflects this and the survey's findings about the growing aspirations of the young. Of 307 respondents without a degree, four in 10 plan to get one in the future. They were mainly under 40 years old.
It may reflect the reality of the working world, where young workers are likely to meet a glass ceiling in terms of promotion and pay if they do not have a degree.
The survey, for example, found that those without a degree but with some years of work experience were more likely to cite better pay as a reason to get a degree in the future, compared to those who got a degree before working.
Medical technologist Raudhatuljanna Hod, 30, started work immediately after graduating with a diploma in biotechnology in 2002, as she had to support her family.
After about two years at a hospital, she decided to pursue a part-time degree with Curtin University because of the better pay and prospects: After getting her degree, she got a $600 pay rise.
Then there are diploma holders like Mr Jeffrey Ng, 28, a supervisor at a biopharmaceutical firm, who fear they may not be able to move on to managerial positions without a degree.
National University of Singapore sociologist Tan Ern Ser also points to the fear of losing out, with the degree seen as "insurance". "It can be helpful, or maybe not quite, but not having one may put one at a disadvantage unless one is well to do," he says.
Ms Chew, for instance, says one reason for getting her degree was the competitive environment where "people all have at least one degree".
Still, the survey also shows that some of those going to university do so to follow their dreams.
Respondents who got a degree before starting work and those who hope to get one in the future both cited career advancement and personal enrichment and knowledge or personal growth over factors such as social expectations and better pay.
Take Mr Goh Mingwei, 25, who became a military officer after graduating with a diploma in chemical process technology in 2008. He quit this year to do a part-time degree in psychology while performing in bands and doing freelance photography. "I took the degree without looking at it as a career, but as knowledge - why humans do what they do."
The question, however, is how to find that sweet spot between people's aspirations and the reality of the job market.
One way, which the government committee had emphasised, is to ensure the quality of university education and graduates.
Mindsets will also have to change. Prof Cheong calls for continual learning that does not stop at university. Labour MP Patrick Tay suggests that "skills are more important than anything else: the ability to adapt to change and having niche skills to survive new kinds of jobs".
Just ask Ms Chew. She says the communication and planning skills she picked up on her degree course are invaluable.

Leaving the paper chase behind and pursuing your passion is all well and good, but once people hit their 20s, reality bites. A degree has its uses, after all.

Take Ms Chew Wan Yi, 23, who started a fashion blog shop in 2010 after her A levels in 2008.

Five years on, she has closed the shop and is doing a business degree part-time at UniSIM while working as an administrative assistant. She still dreams of running her own business - a cafe that will also sell clothes and works by local artists. Her degree will equip her with important skills for this dream job, she says.

And yet, she maintains that a degree is not a must for a good job, but is "definitely a bonus".

Singapore has long valued a university education, so Ms Chew's laid-back approach may seem unusual.

However, the survey by The Straits Times and Degree Census Consultancy (see main story) found that 56 per cent of 501 respondents of working age feel that people do not need a degree to get a good job.

However, of the minority who believe a degree is needed, it was young folk with under three years of work experience (plus permanent residents) who tended to place more value on a degree. Over half of the respondents in their 20s felt this way - the only age group to buck the overall trend.

UniSIM president Cheong Hee Kiat, who sat on a government committee which produced a report last year on the future of university education here, notes that UniSIM is getting more young students in the 24 to 29 age band who have some work experience.

Indeed, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong told polytechnic students a few months ago they need not just aim for a degree. By working for a few years or starting a business, "you will gain experience and understand yourself better, and then be better able to decide what the next step will be".

Prof Cheong says UniSIM students with some work experience tend to be "more mature, more motivated and hungry" and have a clearer idea of what they want.

Ms Chew's story reflects this and the survey's findings about the growing aspirations of the young. Of 307 respondents without a degree, four in 10 plan to get one in the future. They were mainly under 40 years old.

It may reflect the reality of the working world, where young workers are likely to meet a glass ceiling in terms of promotion and pay if they do not have a degree.

The survey, for example, found that those without a degree but with some years of work experience were more likely to cite better pay as a reason to get a degree in the future, compared to those who got a degree before working.

Medical technologist Raudhatuljanna Hod, 30, started work immediately after graduating with a diploma in biotechnology in 2002, as she had to support her family.

After about two years at a hospital, she decided to pursue a part-time degree with Curtin University because of the better pay and prospects: After getting her degree, she got a $600 pay rise.

Then there are diploma holders like Mr Jeffrey Ng, 28, a supervisor at a biopharmaceutical firm, who fear they may not be able to move on to managerial positions without a degree.

National University of Singapore sociologist Tan Ern Ser also points to the fear of losing out, with the degree seen as "insurance". "It can be helpful, or maybe not quite, but not having one may put one at a disadvantage unless one is well to do," he says.

Ms Chew, for instance, says one reason for getting her degree was the competitive environment where "people all have at least one degree".

Still, the survey also shows that some of those going to university do so to follow their dreams.

Respondents who got a degree before starting work and those who hope to get one in the future both cited career advancement and personal enrichment and knowledge or personal growth over factors such as social expectations and better pay.

Take Mr Goh Mingwei, 25, who became a military officer after graduating with a diploma in chemical process technology in 2008. He quit this year to do a part-time degree in psychology while performing in bands and doing freelance photography. "I took the degree without looking at it as a career, but as knowledge - why humans do what they do."

The question, however, is how to find that sweet spot between people's aspirations and the reality of the job market.

One way, which the government committee had emphasised, is to ensure the quality of university education and graduates.

Mindsets will also have to change. Prof Cheong calls for continual learning that does not stop at university. Labour MP Patrick Tay suggests that "skills are more important than anything else: the ability to adapt to change and having niche skills to survive new kinds of jobs".

Just ask Ms Chew. She says the communication and planning skills she picked up on her degree course are invaluable.