The jobs that pay private school-level salaries in South Africa

 ·26 May 2024

Private schools in South Africa are afforded to parents who earn up to R2.7 million per year, and that kind of paycheck in 2024 can be earned doing jobs in the corporate, banking, accounting, law, and even public sectors.

Private school fee hikes in South Africa for 2024 mean at least six schools are now charging more than R350,000 a year for boarding and tuition.

Hilton College in the KwaZulu-Natal Midlands remains the most expensive school in the country. Its annual fees, which include boarding, are R397,660 for 2024, up 7.5% from last year.

MichaelHouse, St Andrew’s College in Makhanda, Roedean School for Girls, St John’s College, and Kearsney College have also joined the R350,000-plus club.

When calculating the salaries needed to afford these schools, experts recommend that no more than 15% of one’s annual salary go towards school expenses.

This means the fees of two of South Africa’s most expensive private schools—Hilton and MichaelHouse—a single parent or household would have to earn roughly between R2.4 million and R2.7 million, respectively, to enrol a single child at the schools.

This works out to approximately R200,000 to R225,000 per month.

However, it must be noted that Hilton and Michaelhouse are exclusively boarding schools, which means the salary required is far less if you consider some of the top-day schools in South Africa.

Data from Momentum estimates that private school fees should average R126,000 in 2025, meaning a single parent or household would have to earn roughly R840,000—equating to R70,000 per month.

Nevertheless, those who intend on enrolling their kids in one of the private schools in South Africa need to be in the country’s top 5% of income earners.

The Jobs

Considering these salary requirements, it is easy to find jobs that offer the salaries needed using professional recruitment firm Robert Walters’ latest Salary Survey.

The survey found over 50 professional jobs in South Africa with potential earnings of R1.5 million or more per year, 24 of which have potential earnings of over R2 million.

However, the data mainly focuses on corporate or office jobs and does not include specific sectors such as airline pilots, engineers, and medical personnel.

Earning potential is linked to experience and the size of the company.

Top earners typically have over ten years of experience, but there are exceptions, such as general managers or chief operating officers, who can earn over R2 million with four to seven years of experience.

The table below outlines the top-earning positions in the survey.

PositionSectorFromTo (‘000)
Chief Financial Officer (JSE Top 200)Accounting (10yrs+)R2 600R4 000
Chief Risk OfficerBanking (10yrs+)R1 600R3 500
HR DirectorHuman ResourcesR1 700R3 300
HR ExecutiveHuman ResourcesR1 700R3 300
Head of International Audit / Chief Internal AuditorBanking (10yrs+)R1 400R3 000
Chief Operating OfficerAccounting (4-10yrs+)R1 500R3 000
Chief Financial Officer (Qualified CA)Banking (10yrs+ XP)R2 000R2 800
General ManagerAccounting (4-10yrs+)R1 400R2 700
CEO (SME)Accounting (10yrs+)R2 700R2 700+
General CouncilLegal (In house)R2 650R2 650+
Head of LegalLegal (In house)R1 600R2 650
Group Treasury ManagerAccounting (10yrs+)R1 800R2 500
Private Equity / Corporate FinanceBanking (10yrs+ XP)R1 600R2 300
CA (SA)Accounting (10yrs+)R1 600R2 300
Qualified CA(SA)Banking (10yrs+ XP)R1 500R2 200
Relationship Manager / Corporate BankerBanking (10yrs+ XP)R1 350R2 200
ActuaryBanking (10yrs+ XP)R1 400R2 200
Chief Finance Officer / Financial Director (SME)Accounting (10yrs+)R1 600R2 200
Group Tax ManagerAccounting (10yrs+)R1 700R2 200
Equity DirectorLegal (Large firm)R2 120R2 120+
Junior DirectorLegal (Large firm)R1 400R2 000
Head of HRHuman ResourcesR900R2 000
Investment Analyst (CA plus CFA)Banking (10yrs+)R1 200R2 000
Strategy ConsultantBanking (10yrs+)R1 300R2 000

Looking at the public sector and management, senior management, judges, mayors and ministers—among others—in public offices and services can afford the privilege of sending their kids to private schools, even some of the most expensive in the country.

Considering those who earn R840,000 and above can afford private school, data provided by the Minister of Public Service and Administration, Noxolo Kiviet, shows workers earning a salary at level 11 to 16 can afford private school.

Workers earning a salary at level 11 earn just under R850,000, while those at level 16 earn roughly R2.2 million.

Kiviet noted there are 75,000 public workers at these levels, representing 6.18% of all public officials.

However, this number doesn’t include pay progression, pension contributions and all other benefits—meaning the number of those who can afford private school is likely higher.

Read: The biggest companies in South Africa – and what their CEOs get paid

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