With school leavers flocking to universities across South Africa to further their education, many would have had long discussions about which is the best degree to study to maximize their earning potential.
Career and job information platform, PayScale has compiled a list of bachelor degrees which have the highest earning potential– and simply put: if you want earn a lot of money, become and engineer.
While choosing a career path based on salary alone isn’t always the best option, with the cost of university in mind – and the fact that many will spend much time paying back student loans – it is an important factor.
The group’s findings were that degrees in engineering, computer science and maths netted the highest earnings – up to $168,000 (R2.7 million) per year with 10 year’s experience, or up to $101,000 (R1.7 million) just starting out for highly qualified engineers.
This was followed by degrees in science (particularly chemistry and biomedical) and business (finance and economics).
PayScale’s top 10 Bachelor’s degrees, based on earning potential
- Petroleum Engineering
- Nuclear Engineering
- Actuarial Mathematics
- Chemical Engineering
- Electronic and Communications Engineering
- Computer Science and Engineering
- Electrical and Computer Engineering
- Systems Engineering
- Aeronautical Engineering
- Mining Engineering
Top sectors, according to top 100 degrees:
- Engineering (all types)
- IT and technology
- Science (Chemistry and Physics)
- Finance and Economics
- Business and Marketing
While PayScale’s data is focused primarily on the United States, the group has also data for South Africa.
The local available salary data from university graduates reflects the US report, with engineers also raking in the highest median salaries, overall.
|Qualification (Across all careers)||Median Salary|
|Professional Engineer License (P.Eng.)||R602 157|
|Certified Professional Engineer (PE)||R539 672|
|Chartered Accountant (CA)||R544 385|
|Project Management Certificate||R399 329|
|Business Analysis Certification||R377 117|
|Engineer in Training (EIT)||R305 576|
|Business Certificate||R240 876|
|Higher National Diploma (HND)||R214 374|
|Secondary Teacher Certification (Grade 9-12)||R178 574|
Looking specifically at engineering, it’s clear that median salaries far outweigh any other type of degree- and with good reason. South Africa desperately needs more engineers – and with an alarming number of students dropping out from the course, there is big demand.
|Qualification (Engineering specific)||Median Salary|
|Professional Engineer License (P.Eng.)||R722 046|
|Project Management Professional (PMP)||R660 000|
|Project Management Certificate||R600 000|
|Certified Professional Engineer (PE)||R588 114|
|Industrial Engineering Professional Skills Certification Certification||R551 695|
|Higher National Diploma (HND), Civil Engineering||R540 000|
|Mechanical Engineering Certification||R415 884|
|Certified Chemical Engineer||R360 000|
|Higher National Diploma (HND), Mechanical Engineering||R312 623|
|Engineer in Training (EIT)||R301 099|
Salary data compiled by CareerJunction in 2015 again echoes the findings above.
The jobs platform found that those working in the engineering field were earning far higher than other sectors.
Other high-paying sectors included the ICT sector, finance sector and construction sector – fields which the aforementioned degrees will give access to.
It’s important to note that the numbers above represent the median salary, based on user-reported figures on PayScale.
Salaries will change massively based on experience and location.
According to PayScale’s data, university graduates with 20 years of experience or more are paid almost four times more than those starting out.
Other interesting information from the PayScale data is that Johannesburg offers the highest average salary for people with tertiary qualifications (R321,233).
This is followed by Sandton (R319,896), Centurion (R283,434) and Pretoria (R261,442).
Degree holders get paid an average of R257,374 in Cape Town; R242,424 in Durban; and R202,098 in Port Elizabeth.