6 degrees (and a PhD) of education

Mr and Mrs Roy Chew have four Master's degrees and one PhD between them, on top of the Bachelor's degrees they each hold. And they're not done yet. There are more degrees in the offing.

These qualifications are not formal requirements of their jobs. Instead, they are a result of their love for learning, which the newlyweds consider a hobby of sorts.

"There have been times when I became so engrossed in reading and studying that I neglected her (Mrs Chew Shan-Wei, his girlfriend then).

"She would call and chide me. Sometimes, she would even ask if I love my books more than her," jokes Mr Chew, 35, a workforce development specialist in a semiconductor firm.

The couple, who are in the midst of moving into their four-room Woodlands flat, met while working at a Taiwan semiconductor firm in 2009.

Mrs Chew, 31, is a housewife now. The Taiwan-native moved to Singapore last month and is now a permanent resident here.


Mrs Chew has a Bachelor's degree in materials science and three postgraduate degrees - two in materials science and engineering, from the National Tsing Hua University in Taiwan and Northwestern University in Illinois, US; and the third in Management Science and Engineering from Columbia University, New York.

Mr Chew was from St Joseph's Institution and National Junior College. He has a degree in electrical engineering from the National University of Singapore (NUS), and a PhD from the department of Advanced Materials in Micro and Nano Science of the same university. He graduated from with an impressive GPA of 4.86 out of 5.

Then, he did a Master's of Business Administration issued by the Management Development Institute of Singapore (Bradford University).


Mrs Chew's parents generously paid for her pursuit of education. She reckons it cost them more than $100,000.

Mr Chew's PhD was completed under scholarship given out by the Singapore-MIT Alliance, an engineering and life science educational and research collaboration among NUS, Nanyang Technological University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

He paid $27,000 for his Master's.


Mrs Chew says: "I had been working in a semiconductor firm doing pretty technical work and I wanted to study something which allowed me to interact with people."

She concedes that having three Master's degrees is unusual - most of her friends have only one.

For Mr Chew, studying was a conscious and joyful choice.

After all, he has spent more than a decade of his life pursuing knowledge.

Mr Chew says: "I don't come from a very rich family and as a child, I enjoyed going to the library to borrow books and enjoy the free air-con.

"The love for learning continued, so when this opportunity to study more came up, I jumped at the chance."

He adds: "To me, studying is an effective way of learning new things. The degrees are not that big a deal. They're like going for courses."

The couple claim they did not influence each other's decision to pursue their studies, but that it was a coincidence.


Mrs Chew was a consultant for an electronics industry consulting firm, a market analyst for Taiwan's Industrial Technology Research Institute, among others.

She is also an author of an academic paper.

Mr Chew's previous jobs include a managing position in STMicroelectronics, and as a principal integration engineer at the Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company.

He has authored academic journal articles, and holds several patents.

He is also a published fiction writer - his book, Stargazer S.T., about a boy's journey of love and life in a fairy tale land through the seasons is sold online.


Mrs Chew has her mind on having a family.

Their flat was sparse when The New Paper on Sunday visited, as most of their furniture had yet to arrive. But an empty dark-coloured bookshelf stood prominently in their living room.

It's for the hundreds of books he owns, explains Mr Chew.

A voracious and varied reader, his collection ranges from how to implement lean manufacturing to one on inspiration for baking pastries.


While the couple are undoubtedly high-flying achievers when it comes to academics, they say the expectations for their future kids are not high.

"We just want them to be happy. As long as they follow their passion, pick up a useful skill and contribute to society," says Mr Chew. He says he never faced pressure from his parents to excel academically.

"I remember my mother watching me burn the midnight oil, and telling me that if it's too difficult, bu yong du le (don't have to study)," he recounts with a chuckle.

Reflecting on his multiple educational qualifications, Mr Chew says: "Because you take time to study, you do lose out on work experience, so you really need to be passionate about what you're studying."


No regrets, says Mr Chew. He says his qualifications have not been a hindrance to getting jobs of his choice.

"It's about convincing your employers that what you've studied is relevant and of value to your company," he says.

"I believe that the degrees help me to catch up faster with my peers who may have had more working experience, grasp foundational concepts quick and eventually go further."

What's next? Degrees in learning and development, as well as organisational psychology, he says with a grin.

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