6 in-demand engineering streams to prepare you for Singapore’s Smart Nation

By Kareyst Lin Posted 4yr(s) ago Reading Time: A few minutes

“Singapore was built on the back of engineers,” said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong in a 2016 speech.

Indeed, engineers have built infrastructure, industrialized the economy, and helped Singapore address many national needs over the years. However, Lee also noted how it has become harder for the sector to attract talent.

With the country’s Smart Nation initiative in full swing, Singapore will need 1,000 new engineers every year just for public infrastructure projects.

Interested but not sure where to start? Here are six streams of engineering and the corresponding diplomas and degrees that could equip you with the knowledge you need.

1. Robotics and automation

As Singapore transitions into a “smart” nation, work processes will be automated. Robotics and automation are not only expected to address manpower shortage and increase productivity, but also create safer working conditions.

One example would be Changi Airport’s new Terminal 4, which relies extensively on automated systems. Travellers are able to move through check-in, immigration clearance, and all the way to the boarding gate with almost no human interaction.

This approach will free up human workers so they can concentrate on doing more meaningful work. Consequently, this boosts the career prospects of engineers, as their jobs will focus more on programming machine to complete more complex processes.


Both Singapore Polytechnic (SP) and Nanyang Polytechnic (NYP) offer diplomas in robotics and mechatronics for students from O Levels or Institute of Technical Education (ITE) backgrounds.

Robotics is also one of the tracks in the Engineering Product Development course at the Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD).

2. Additive manufacturing a.k.a. 3D printing

Major shoe companies such as Nike, Adidas, and New Balance have stepped into a new arena: 3D-printed shoes.

Additive technology allows mass customization, so you can have your sports shoes and many other products customized for you on the spot.

It looks set to be the future of the consumer market, and the industry is creating a 3D-printer that can print almost anything, even a house.

Singapore has land and talent constraints, and this technology will help the country leverage on highly skilled labor without deploying long assembly lines. 3D printing had also been identified as an essential enabler in the Advanced Manufacturing and Engineering technology domain under Singapore’s Research, Innovation, and Enterprise (RIE) 2020 Plan.


NYP is the only institution offering a Diploma in Digital and Precision Engineering at the tertiary level, with additive manufacturing as a subject covered in the third year.

3. Microelectronics

The internet of things (IoT) is an essential element in the Smart Nation project. As Lee said during the National Day Rally 2017, Singapore will make “every lamp post a smart lamp post” with sensors.

The test bedding of autonomous vehicles is also picking up speed in Singapore, and these self-driving cars are set to be the future of transport. Such vehicles rely on various sensors and large amounts of data processed in real time, which they use to navigate safely and efficiently.

These IoT devices are usually designed to be tiny and energy-efficient as well as equipped with intelligent sensing functions. As the brain of these small devices, microelectronics has a key role to play.


Temasek Polytechnic’s program (TP) takes students through a general first-year engineering curriculum, after which they enroll in specialized modules and graduate with a Diploma in Microelectronics.

On the other hand, SP’s Diploma in Electrical and Electronic Engineering offers a double-specialization track in microelectronics, and robotics and control. Both courses will give you up to a year’s worth of exemption from subsequent relevant degree programs in most local universities.

At the university level, the National University of Singapore’s degree in Electrical Engineering (NUS) offers students the option to specialize in Microelectronics Technologies and Devices through the electives offered.

Image credit: Tech in Asia

4. Computer and software engineering

Various government agencies in Singapore have allowed public access to their data. This openness encourages software developers and entrepreneurs to use more government data to develop their own solutions. Bus Uncle, the “most Singaporean” public transport app, delivers your bus arrival timings with a touch of Singlish and actually draws data from the Land Transport Authority’s (LTA) DataMall.

Bus Uncle is just one example of the many creative app solutions that are improving the lives of Singaporeans in small yet meaningful ways.


Both SP and TP offer diplomas in Computer Engineering.

NUS, ranked as the eighth-best university in the world for engineering, offers a degree in Computer Engineering.

Students in the Computing degree program can also opt for a computer science focus, which landed NUS in 13th place globally.

5. Biomedical engineering

The convergence of healthcare and technology is an important area for Singapore, which is facing an ageing population. As such, innovative healthcare solutions are poised to take a slice of the industry pie.

Local firms have been encouraged to look into eldercare solutions and medical robotics to assist caretakers who are overworked due to a labor crunch. From reminding dementia patients to take their medications to helping stroke patients exercise, the possibilities are endless.


Check out the biomedical engineering diplomas by SP and NYP.

There are degree programs by NUS, NTU, and Singapore University of Social Sciences (SUSS).

6. Chemical engineering

Singapore’s energy and chemicals sectors contribute to one-third of the country’s total manufacturing output. This makes it a key driver of economic growth, with Jurong Island serving as home to some of the world’s largest chemical plants.

At the mention of oil refineries and chemical plants, you might imagine workers braving it out in the field, under the scorching sun on Jurong Island. But in reality, the industry is highly automated, thanks to various technological advances. Plant operations are largely maintained by engineers working from air-conditioned rooms, and people are only dispatched to the sites to do quality checks, rectify problems, and other necessary tasks.

The Industry Transformation Map (ITM) launched last October also revealed plans to transform the existing chemical manufacturing processes through the adoption of innovative technologies. According to estimates, 1,400 new jobs will be created within the industry by 2025.


At the polytechnic level, SP and TP offer diplomas in chemical engineering.

You can also look into NP’s Diploma in Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, which carries an interesting specialization option involving Pharma and Biopharmaceuticals.

With a variety of engineering degrees and qualifications available in multiple institutions, the future of technology in Singapore looks promising. It’s up to engineers to take on the challenge of building a future-ready nation.

This article first appeared on TechInAsia.

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