Jobs and Careers

Jobs and Careers

Following decades of strong growth, forward-looking policy reforms have successfully diversified its economy from one that was agriculture and commodity-based in the mid-1980’s into a robust hub for manufacturing, finance and other services today. The service and manufacturing sectors are projected by local authorities to grow by 5.7 per cent and 4.8 per cent respectively, and the IMF is projecting the job market to be stable with an overall economic growth of 4.7 per cent.

With infrastructure and capabilities to cater to a wide range of thriving industries, Malaysia’s nearly fully developed economy supports a diverse range of employment and business opportunities including for start-ups. Whether you are a student taking up a part-time job or internship, a graduate looking for full-time employment, or someone looking for a mid-career switch and further education opportunities, here are the in’s and out’s of job hunting in Malaysia.

Malaysian Labour Market at a Glance

Widely regarded as a popular tourist destination, Malaysia is also home to many dynamic industries. Rich in natural resources like land area, biodiversity and minerals, the country is a major exporter of natural and agricultural resources, the most valuable of which are petroleum and palm oil.

Its strategic location in the region is a valuable asset that such that the China has made Malaysia an important component of its Belt and Road Initiative. Over many decades, the confidence and trust given by other countries, banks and investors has allowed Malaysia to become an economic powerhouse with an attractive and stable job market for expatriates and locals alike. The greater Southeast Asian region, of which Malaysia is a part, is also expected to have an open and stable labour market with an expected economic growth of 4.8% in both 2019 and 2020.

Thriving Industries

Malaysia is also known for its innovative financial sector, particularly in Islamic banking and finance. Malaysia is ranked as first according to the Islamic Finance Development Indicator score, the largest Islamic banking service provider in the Asia Pacific, and second only to Saudi Arabia in terms of the size of banking assets.

Palm Oil
As one of the world’s largest palm oil exporters, the country accounts for 39 % of world palm oil production and 44% of all world exports. The majority of Malaysia’s palm oil products are exported to China, the EU, Pakistan, US and India, and is evidence of Malaysia’s contribution on global stage.

Oil, Gas and Energy
As of 2018, the oil and gas (O&G) and energy sectors contributed 20-30% to the country’s GDP and play a vital role in Malaysia’s economy. In an effort to maintain global competitiveness, PETRONAS together with the Malaysian government has embarked on new initiatives to reinvigorate Malaysia’s O&G industry. This showcases Malaysia’s continuous resolve to maintain the level of competency and competitiveness equal to global leaders like Shell and BP.

As of 2018, electrical and electronic products are still Malaysia’s largest export. Other than global manufacturers like Intel, AMD, ASE and Texas Instruments, Malaysia also have strong local brands likes of Globetronics, Green Packet and others. Continued growth and strong innovations in this sector is a testament of Malaysia’s educational institutions’ commitment to cultivating top talent.

Automotive Industry
Currently a mature industry with a total of 27 vehicle producers and 640 manufacturers of automotive components, the automotive industry is also key to the economy. In addition to being the first nation in Southeast Asia to have their own automotive firm, history was made in 2002 when Malaysia’s home-grown brand Proton made the country the 11th in the world to manufacture cars from the start to the finish.

With Malaysia’s automotive parts and component exports hitting a historic high of MYR 12.1 billion in 2018, we can be sure that career prospects in the automotive sector will continue to grow, especially with the current government’s full backing.

Working as a Student

As an international student studying at public or private higher education institutions in Malaysia, you are technically allowed to work alongside your studies. However, it is crucial to remember that studies should be the top priority.

International students are allowed to work part-time for a maximum of 20 hours per week during semester breaks or holidays of more than 7 days as long as their student passes remain valid. Applications to work part-time must be made through the educational institution at which the international students are enrolled.

Another option would be to try looking for work on campus. For example, the university’s library, cafe or office reception often offer work opportunities which would minimise travelling time and hassle.

To help increase your chances of landing a job in your industry of choice, having an internship stint on your resume is certainly to your advantage as it would allow you to build a portfolio of relevant experience to enhance your career prospects. Most internship opportunities come with a stipend, so you will be compensated for your efforts.

Graduating Soon

Most if not all institutions run a career advisory office that helps students to prepare for their future career by building their resume or CV, crafting a cover letter and planning for interview strategy. Staff at these centres can offer industry-specific advice and sometimes even connect you to the latest job opportunities with reputable employers. The career advisory office is there for you, so do not hesitate to make full use the opportunity to network, build a relationship, tap into their links to the industry, and work towards your dream job.

Many employers in Malaysia have multiple branches throughout Malaysia and also around the globe, therefore job opportunities are available in locally as well as internationally. Do enquire if you prefer any location, whether within Malaysia or abroad.

As a Fresh Graduate

For non-citizens, the first step to gainful employment is to secure a job offer from a Malaysian employer. The employer would then be responsible for obtaining a work permit on your behalf and advising you of the required documents, which must be in order to ensure a successful application.

Also called an ‘Employment Pass’, it is valid for a minimum of two years and a maximum of five. Also, please ensure that your passport has at least 18 months validity from the date of your offer to allow for sufficient time for processing and any appeal if needed. You can click here for more information.


There are many expatriates and foreign workers in Malaysia, international companies are found throughout the country. Employer will need to file a permit application with the local government in Malaysia. Depend on the type of job and skills, different working passes (Employment Pass and Temporary Employment Pass for example) are issued when obtaining a work permit.

There are several terms to meet in order to be eligible for a work permit for instance age and income. Malaysia government aims to attract and retain talent in the country. The Residence Pass-Talent (RP-T) offers skilled expatriates the ability to work and live in Malaysia for up to 10 years. You can find out more about TalentCorp here.

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Sarah Azreen Abdul Samat

Sarah has over 22 years of experience in corporate finance transactions involving equity issuance, mergers and acquisitions, fundraising, corporate restructuring, and corporate valuation, amongst others. She began her career in investment banking with Malaysian International Merchant Bankers Berhad in 2001 after obtaining her professional qualifications from PricewaterhouseCoopers.

Later in her career, she joined other investment banking institutions in Malaysia such as AmInvestment Bank Berhad, Maybank Investment Bank Berhad and RHB Investment Bank Berhad.

Presently, Sarah sits as Non-Independent Non-Executive Director of Reneuco Berhad and Independent Director of Pharmaniaga Berhad. She is currently the Executive Director of 3p Capital Advisers Sdn. Bhd., a company licensed with the Securities Commission Malaysia to provide advisory services to the capital market players.

Tuan Haji Ismail Bin Mohamed

Tuan Haji Ismail Mohamed sits on the Board of Director for Education Malaysia Global Services (EMGS). He obtains his Bachelor Degree in Business Administration from Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM).

Prior to sitting on the EMGS Board, he was also appointed to be the Board of Director to KEJORA from 2013 to 2018, and several companies such as Permodalan Darul Takzim Sdn Bhd, Perbadanan Usahawan Johor Sdn Bhd, PIJ Holding and Ranhil SAJ Sdn Bhd. Tuan Haji Ismail Mohamed also co-founded Pertama.

He started his career by setting up a company and being the founder of JYBB Enterprise. His career came to prominence when he became the co-founder and the Chief Executive Officer of Pertama Polyerethane Technology (M) Sdn Bhd and subsequently became the Special Officer to the Minister of Education in 2013.

Ismail Mohamed is acknowledged for his expertise in Agriculture and Agro-based industry, landing him being appointed as the Chairman of the Agriculture and Agro-based Industry Committee of the Johor State, the Chairman of Agro KEJORA and the Chairman of the Johor State Agriculture, Agro-based industry, Entrepreneurial Development and Cooperatives Committee.