Working in Malaysia
The job market
What are your chances of getting a job?
UK graduates need a work permit to work in Malaysia and you'll need to find an employer who is willing to sponsor you and apply for one on your behalf. Many qualified nationals graduate each year, so competition for jobs is high. It may help to work for a company in the UK that has offices in Malaysia and transfer a few years later.
Bahasa Malaysia (Malay) is the official language and is used in most government offices so it's worth learning some Malay before you visit. English is widely spoken in the larger cities and tourist attractions and is commonly used in commerce and industry and taught as a compulsory subject in all schools. Due to its religious and cultural diversity, there are a range of other languages spoken as well.
Where can you work?
- Major industries: rubber, timber, palm oil, manufacture of computer disk drives, oil and gas, light manufacturing, pharmaceuticals, medical technology, electronics and semi-conductors.
- Recent growth areas: tourism and manufacturing.
- Shortage occupations: skilled workers, particularly in areas such as engineering, manufacturing, telecommunications, renewable energy, oil and gas, and information technology.
- Major companies: Berjaya Corporation Berhad, IOI Group, Malayan Banking Berhad (Maybank), Maxis Berhad, PETRONAS, Public Bank Berhad, Sime Darby Berhad, Telekom Malaysia, Tenaga Nasional Berhad, UMW Holdings Berhad. View the leading 100 graduate employers in Malaysia.
What’s it like working in Malaysia?
- Average working hours: generally 48 hours a week, with a maximum of 8 working hours per day and 6 working days per week. Most offices operate Monday to Friday, 9 am to 5 pm, with many businesses also open until midday on Saturday.
- Holidays: annual leave entitlement depends on how long you've worked for a company and ranges from 7 to 14 days. There are also 11 paid public holidays.
- Tax rates: if you stay in Malaysia for more than 182 days in a year, you must pay taxes. Depending on your level of income, tax rates range from 1% to 28%. Don't forget to check your UK tax and National Insurance position with HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) to ensure that you are not losing any UK pension rights.
Applying for jobs
The method of application depends on the company you are applying to. Large employers usually recruit using online application forms. Smaller employers are more likely to ask for a CV and covering letter.
CVs and covering letters follow a similar format to those in the UK. Include your personal details, education and qualifications, professional experience, and language and computer skills. Present it in reverse chronological order, starting with the most recent information first. It should be no longer than two pages.
When preparing for your interview make sure you know about the company you are applying to and be prepared to demonstrate your skills and experience. With larger companies, you may be invited to an assessment centre which may include a range of tests, in-tray exercise, presentation, role play, group discussion and interview.
Get more applications and CV advice.
Will your UK qualifications be recognised?
UK qualifications are generally well recognised around the world, but check with the employer or the relevant professional body prior to applying for work.
Check university websites for academic jobs.
An internet search will bring up a range of recruitment agencies operating in Malaysia.
- BH Online (in Malay)
- Daily Express (East Malaysia)
- Malay Mail Online
- New Straits Times
- The Star Online
- The GRADMalaysia website includes a list of graduate employers in Malaysia which can be consulted to find employer websites and their vacancies.
- The International Chamber of Commerce Malaysia also has a list of member employers and their contact details.
- Networking can be productive in Malaysia and developing and maintaining a list of contacts can help you find out about jobs. Your university’s alumni association may be able to put you in touch with Malaysian graduates.
Getting work experience
Work placements and internships
Formal work placements and internships tend to be offered by the larger employers and multinational companies. Internships are similar to those in the UK and usually last between one and three months. They are usually open to undergraduates and recent graduates. Employers often use internships to help them recruit onto their graduate programmes. Internships are advertised on websites such as Graduan and GRADMalaysia.
AIESEC (Association Internationale des Etudiants en Sciences Economiques et Commerciales) provides opportunities for students and recent graduates to undertake a paid international internship in a range of countries, including Malaysia. There are also opportunities to volunteer in Malaysia through AIESEC's Global Volunteer programme.
If you have a degree, a TEFL certificate and some teaching experience, you should be able to find teaching English in Malaysia. However, most employers prefer you to be already based in Malaysia or available for interview in person. Contact schools and agencies before you leave so that you have an interview, or at least a meeting, in place.
Gap year and volunteering opportunities
There are many international organisations offering voluntary work opportunities in Malaysia in areas such as conservation, community work and teaching. To choose a reputable organisation, do your research and get advice from your university careers service. You can also check whether the company is registered with Air Travel Organisers' Licensing (ATOL) or other similar organisations.
Do you need a visa?
As a British national, you don't need to apply for a Short-term Social Visit Pass to visit Malaysia. You'll get a visa on arrival and will normally be allowed to stay in the country for three months with the possibility of a two-month extension.
If you wish to stay longer to work (including voluntary work and industrial placements), you will need to obtain a visa from the High Commission of Malaysia, London before you travel. Your employer must apply for a visa on your behalf, and once the visa is approved you will be sent an approval letter. You need to take this letter to the High Commission in London to apply for an Entry Clearance Visa or Calling Visa, along with a range of documents, including your flight booking and passport. Once you've arrived in Malaysia with this visa you will receive a full work permit.
If you are not a UK national, contact the Malaysian embassy in the country where you are currently residing about how to obtain visas and work permits.
For more information see the Immigration Department of Malaysia.
Living in Malaysia
- Cost of living: compared to the UK, and neighbouring countries such as Singapore, the cost of living is low.
- Internet domain: .my
- Currency: Malaysian Ringgit (RM)
- Health: serious mosquito-borne illnesses such as dengue fever are present in Malaysia so remember to have the appropriate vaccinations before travelling. The air quality can reach hazardous levels due to pollution and some states are rabies infected. Make sure you take out adequate health insurance before travelling as private healthcare is expensive, and both government and private hospitals charge for all services.
- Type of government: Malaysia is a federation of 13 states and three federal territories and has a parliamentary democracy with a constitutional monarchy.
- Laws and customs: Malaysia is a majority Muslim country, and it is important to be respectful of this, for example by dressing modestly and respecting religious festivals. Muslims in the country are subject to local Sharia law. Homosexual acts are illegal. There are severe penalties for drug possession, including the death penalty for drugs trafficking, and those suspected of having used drugs prior to entering the country will be tested. If the results are positive, you can be deported.
- Emergency numbers: in an emergency call 999 or 112 from a mobile for an ambulance.
- People: Malay 60%, Chinese 26%, Indian and indigenous peoples the rest.
- Major religion: Islam is the official religion but there are also significant numbers of Buddhist, Christian and Hindu followers.