National Service in Singapore - NSF ranks, pay and other benefits

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I’ve obviously never served National Service (NS), but from what I gather, it’s pretty serious business. I’ve seen my male peers transform from innocent Ah Boys to grown-up Men who can drink, smoke, cuss in fluent Hokkien… and of course, learn and train how to defend the country.

NS is a rite of passage in every Singaporean man’s life. Whether you’re a soon-to-enlist teen, an over-protective mum or just a kaypoh person, here’s a useful guide to the Singapore NS pay scale (i.e. the monthly allowance), as well as the medical, dental and insurance coverage benefits NSFs are entitled to.

About National Service (NS) in Singapore

First of all, what exactly is NS? For non-Singaporeans (or other cave people) who may be reading this, NS is a mandatory conscription to the Singapore Singapore Armed Forces (SAF), Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) or Singapore Police Force (SPF). Here’s a timeline of the NS journey.

1. Full-time National Servicemen (NSF)

  • Compulsory for all male Singaporeans and PRs
  • To enlist at 18 years old
  • Two years of training, including three months basic military training (BMT)

2. Operationally ready national servicemen (NSman)

  • Includes SAF national servicemen who have completed NS, and currently serving their 10-year ORNS training 
  • Required to attend ICT (up to 40 days a year)
  • Required to attempt and pass IPPT
  • Can be activated to report to Mobilisation Centre
  • Must apply for Exit Permit if travelling for more than 6 months

3. MINDEF Reserve 

  • After completing the NS training cycle
  • Usually no reservist, but can be mobilised in emergency or war
  • You complete NS upon reaching age 40 (non-officers) or 50 (officers)

For this article, we are zooming in the first two years of NS. During this time, all NSFs are given a monthly allowance for their service. They’re also covered by insurance and have various medical and dental benefits.

NSF pay scale for SAF, SCDF and SPF

As mentioned, all NSFs are given a monthly allowance for their service. How much you get depends on whether you end up with the SAF, SCDF or SPF, as well as your rank and vocation.

SAF NSF pay

For those in SAF, your NSF allowance is made up of your monthly rank allowance + vocation allowance (previously known as combat allowance). The higher your rank, the more responsibilities you presumably have, and therefore the higher your allowance.

NSF monthly rank allowance

Rank Starting rank allowance
Recruit or Private (PTE) $580
Lance Corporal $600
Corporal $650
Corporal First Class $690
Specialist Cadet $670
Third Sergeant $900
Second Sergeant $1,000
First Sergeant $1,070
Officer Cadet $860
Second Lieutenant $1,100
Lieutenant $1,280

NSF monthly vocation allowance (previously combat allowance)

Vocations Monthly allowance
Service and Technical vocations $50
Aircrew; Armour, Guards, Infantry; Combat Medics, Specialists or Officers in the Medical Response Force or deployed on the SCDF ambulances; Seagoing $225
Chemical, Biological, Radiological Defence or Explosive Ordinance Disposal; Commando; Naval Diver $400
All other combatants (except those under S/N 3 and 4) $175

SCDF NSF pay

For SCDF NSFs, your allowance depends on your rank only.

Rank Starting rank allowance
Recruit or Private (PTE) $580
Lance Corporal $600
Corporal $650
Specialist Cadet $670
Sergeant 1 $900
Sergeant 2 $1,000
Officer Cadet $860
Second Lieutenant $1,100
Lieutenant $1,280

That said, depending on your vocation and unit, you may also be eligible for operational allowance of $100 to $300 in addition to your monthly pay.

SPF NSF pay

For SPF NSFs, you will get your monthly rank allowance + monthly vocation allowance.

SPF NSF monthly allowance

Rank Monthly allowance
Trainee Special Constabulary Constable or Trainee Vigilante Corps $580
Special Constabulary Constable or Vigilante Corps $580
Special Constabulary Constable 2 or Vigilante Corps 2 $600
Special Constabulary Constable or Vigilante Corps Corporal $650
Special Constabulary Sergeant 1 $900
Special Constabulary Sergeant 2 $1,000
Officer Cadet $860
National Service Probationary Inspector $1,100
National Service Inspector $1,280

SPF NSF monthly vocation allowance

Operation vocations Monthly vocation allowance
Trainee Special Constables (TSC), Company Commander, Training Development Officer, Assistant Compliance Manager, Assistant Manpower Officer, Operations Officer, Staff Officer to Head Ops, Assistant Trainer, Staff Assistant, S&T Staff Assistant, Bandsmen $50
Officer Cadet Trainees, Division Security Officer, Assistant Ops Officer, Dog Handler, Person-in-Custody Officer, Ops Support Officer, C3 Operation, Community Engagement Officer $175
Assistant Navigation Officer, TransCom Deputy Team Leader, ProCom DOC Trooper, Checkpoint Security Officer, Ground Response Force Officer, Police Coast Guard Officer, TransCom Officer, ProCom Officer, Division Special Taskforce Officer $225
Police Tactical Trooper (NSI), Police Tactical Trooper $400

After you graduate from the Home Team Academy, you will also receive a monthly meal allowance of either $100 (non-shift work) or $142 (shift work).

NSF medical benefits

As with any respectable job, all NSFs are entitled to medical benefits during their two-year gig.

Where Medical benefit entitlement
In-house medical centre Free
Public polyclinics Free
Public / restructured hospitals (upon referral) Free
Private clinics and hospitals Up to $20 per visit (capped at $350 per year)

In camp, you can receive free medical treatment at the in-house Medical Centre. If you’re referred to a public hospital for follow-up, it will be fully subsidised.

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If you are an outpatient, you can go to public hospital or polyclinic for free too. But do note that if you 1) don’t have a referral, 2) were referred by a private doctor or three) are referred to a consultant by name, then you’ll need to pay for your first visit.

If you want to go to a private clinic or hospital, you can only claim up to $20 per visit; capped at $350 per calendar year. Unfortunately, TCM clinics are not included.

Hospitalisation benefits

If hospitalisation is required, NSFs are entitled to 80% subsidy of the hospital ward and meal charges, and 100 per cent subsidy of the treatment charges.

This is only for public hospitals, for the NSF’s eligible ward (based on rank).

Rank Ward eligibility
Recruit to Lance Corporal Class C ward
Corporal to First Sergeant Class B2 ward (6-bed ward at NUH)
Officer Cadet to Lieutenant Class B1 and B2+ (4-bed ward at NUH)

If you want, you can upgrade your ward class. However, your subsidy will be pegged to the original ward class level, so you’ll need to pay more. You’ll also need to co-pay for your treatment charges instead of having it fully covered by SAF.

For married servicemen, the benefit is extended to your wife and children too, but you’ll need to get a Civil Service Benefits Card from the unit’s S1. Most of the medical benefits are the same, except the hospitalisation subsidy for ward and meal charges (for dependents, it is 50 per cent instead of 80 per cent).

If you get hurt on the job, it is considered a service injury, and your treatment will be fully paid for. If needed, you’ll be covered by MINDEF/SAF even after you ORD.

Don’t say I say lah, but these benefits are really quite shiok. Many NSFs take this chance to seek treatment for whatever conditions they may have, however trivial.

It’s heavily subsidised and got MC, who don’t want?

NSF dental benefits

NSFs also receive free dental treatment at SAF dental clinics. If it’s beyond the useful clean-up stuff and you need to be referred to a restructured hospital for a follow-up, you will be subsidised.

Under SAF Dental Subsidy Scheme, you are entitled 85 per cent reimbursement (capped at $120 per calendar year) at any dental clinic, including private ones.

You can claim for all types of dental treatment, except those involving precious metals. So if you make say, a gold crown, you’ll have to pay for that out of your own pocket.

NSF Singlife with Aviva insurance coverage

On top of the medical and dental benefits, NSFs are covered by $150,000 group term life and $150,000 group personal accident insurance coverage. It’s free during your service (the premiums are paid for by MINDEF), but if you want to continue with it after the 2 years, you can do so for just a few dollars per year.

Additionally, if you super kiasu, you can also pay for add-on riders to increase your coverage (Voluntary Scheme). You can get extra coverage for critical illnesses and disability, but it’s entirely optional and you will need to pay for it.

There’s quite a bit to talk about, and we’ve covered the key details more comprehensively in a separate article: NS Insurance in Singapore – How Much Coverage Do NSFs Get with MINDEF/MHA Group Insurance?

Best savings accounts & credit cards for NSFs

Now that you’ll be getting a regular “paycheck”, this is the perfect time to rethink your savings account situation.

Your old POSB savings account from primary school might no longer cut it with its 0.05 per cent interest rate — consider switching to one of these accounts with higher interest instead.

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Not sure which to pick? We recommend going with DBS/POSB as this allows you to sign up for the POSB Save As You Serve (SAYS) programme.

SAYS lets you set up a recurring savings action (e.g. $100 a month) into a separate account. If you don’t touch your savings for two years, you earn 2 per cent p.a. interest.

Most NSFs will find the debit card that comes with their savings accounts perfectly serviceable, but if you’d like a credit card, you can get a student credit card with a small credit limit.

Make sure you pay your credit card bills on time and in full though!

This article was first published in MoneySmart.