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Should you be a developer in Singapore or Malaysia?

Sigma School
21st August 2023

Choosing a career path in the software development industry involves numerous considerations, one of which is the geographical location. This becomes particularly relevant when considering destinations such as Singapore and Malaysia, which offer distinctive opportunities and challenges.

This article examines various factors associated with building a career in these two countries. These include evaluating the impacts of their respective economic landscapes, the cultural norms within their tech industries, and the aspects of work-life balance and mandatory national service in Singapore.

Sigma Guide: Careers in Coding: Full Stack vs Front End vs Back End Developers

Choosing The Right Location

Choosing the optimal location for a software development career can be critical, with Singapore and Malaysia presenting unique advantages.

Singapore is recognized as a hub for technology, finance, and innovative research, whereas Malaysia is predominantly operationally focused. Singapore offers more exposure to high-impact work, ground-breaking technologies, and research development - factors that significantly enhance career growth. Besides, the robust Singaporean currency enables higher earnings and international travel opportunities.

Conversely, Malaysia boasts a more relaxed lifestyle, more affordable cost of living, and access to skilled professionals at a lower cost. Thus, while Singapore provides a prime platform for earning and learning, Malaysia is attractive for its business-friendly operations and laid-back lifestyle.

Related: 5 tips on how to become a Software Developer

Compensation and Salaries

Compensations and salaries in Singapore and Malaysia are deeply influenced by various economic factors like GDP and purchasing power. Despite both countries having a comparable overall GDP, Singapore's GDP per capita is about seven times higher, resulting in superior entry-level salaries.

Coupled with a tendency to spend less, Singaporeans enjoy greater spending power. The cost of living in Singapore may be high, but with good earnings, Singaporeans can lead a comfortable lifestyle and afford better opportunities for overseas travel because of their stronger currency.

The tech industry in Singapore is highly competitive, pulling in global talent and consequently raising the entry barrier. There are laws that ensure a minimum salary to maintain fair compensation, but high living costs can still be a challenge. Interestingly, most Singaporeans show a preference to stay rather than relocate to Malaysia, even if offered similar earnings, largely due to Singapore's convenience and superior infrastructure.

Working Environment

The tech industry culture in Malaysia has some significant differences from Singapore, with a major one being the comparatively lower levels of funding and grants. In contrast, Singapore offers abundant grants and facilitates easier access to them, while Malaysia tends to have a more competitive environment with numerous hurdles.

Singapore's tech ecosystem also fosters a vibrant networking scene with frequent meetups and engaging events that provide valuable exposure and experiences. The country's position as a magnet for businesses, attracting many global tech headquarters, gives individuals access to industry leaders and decision-makers. This presence of international companies, combined with Singapore's reputation for safety, makes it an appealing location for career development in the tech industry.

Work-life Balance

Work-life balance varies significantly between Singapore and Malaysia. In Singapore, the perception is that work-life balance is often not prioritised, leading to burnout, although this experience isn't universal and may depend on factors like the company and role. However, Singapore government agencies reportedly provide a manageable work pace and healthier work-life balance.

Meanwhile, Malaysia is reported as one of the most overworked countries globally, with work intensity varying by industry and company. Despite the opportunities offered by Singapore's competitive environment, it may not suit everyone's lifestyle or happiness path. Some individuals may prefer a more relaxed lifestyle found elsewhere, like Australia or Malaysia. This "golden handcuffs" scenario, wherein comfort and high salary prevent exploring different life paths, is more prevalent in Singapore.

In contrast, discomfort and dissatisfaction with work situations in Malaysia often stimulate people to seek better alternatives. Ultimately, where one chooses to work will depend on their personal priorities and aspirations.

Serving National Service

In Singapore, mandatory national service impacts individuals' career timelines, as it takes up two years during a person's prime age, delaying their entry into full-time employment or university education. Some Singaporeans view this as a significant setback, considering the opportunity cost of those two years. National service also imposes a financial challenge as the remuneration is comparatively low, starting at approximately SGD 400 per month.

However, there is a positive aspect to this service as well. It provides the opportunity to build a robust network since the majority of those serving are university-bound. These connections made during national service can potentially aid in securing future job opportunities.


In conclusion, the choice between Singapore and Malaysia for pursuing a software development career is influenced by a multitude of factors, varying from individual aspirations, lifestyle preferences, compensation expectations, and work-life balance.

Singapore offers a competitive, high-growth environment, excellent compensation, and international exposure, but it comes with the challenges of higher living costs and mandatory national service.

On the other hand, Malaysia offers a more relaxed lifestyle, a lower cost of living, and less demanding work hours, albeit with lesser opportunities for high-impact work. Thus, the final choice would essentially depend on what aspects individuals prioritize in their professional and personal lives.

No matter where you set your sights on a coding career, Singapore or Malaysia, Sigma School's coding bootcamp in Malaysia has you covered. They offer both online and onsite options, so you can choose the learning environment that best suits your location and start your coding journey towards a fulfilling tech career today.

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