The degrees that offer the best starting salary in South Africa

Data from salary research group, PayScale shows the median salary ranges for graduates with less than a year of work experience, and the degrees which they studied.

The data is based on the qualifications data of almost 8,000 employees, submitted to the site, as of 17 September 2017.

It is important to note that PayScale’s salary data is determined by years of experience, and not by age specifically. However, it can be assumed that experience and age are closely aligned if most employees leave university at age 21.

According to PayScale’s data, graduates with a bachelor’s degree can expect to start out on a broad median salary band of R72,000 to R350,000 a year – though this increases to a range of R90,000 to R500,000 after the first year.

This represents both high-earning careers (engineering) and lower-earning fields (education), across the whole of South Africa.

Bachelor’s Degree Median Starting Salary
Bachelor of Accounting R274 754
Bachelor of Engineering R259 426
Bachelor of Science, Electrical/Mechanical Engineering R239 529
Bachelor of Commerce R219 863
Bachelor Degree  R211 000
Bachelor of Science R197 478
Bachelor of Technology R180 940
Bachelor of Business Administration R172 172
Bachelor of Arts R160 948
Bachelor of Education R144 457

Salaries are highly dependent on level of experience and other factors beyond simply having a degree or qualification.

Using PayScale data looking at years of experience beyond the first year – using the collective salary data of over 26,000 employees – it becomes clear that earnings, particularly in the technical fields, increase significantly.

Notably, different career paths reach their potential peaks at different points: while accounting (CA) jobs start out being the highest paid, by the time you’ve settled into your career (after 10 years), engineering jobs are shown to have the longer-term salary growth.

A Bachelor of Arts, meanwhile, start out being one of the lower-paying fields, but for those who stick it out, can potentially be a higher-paying career path than some general technology and business administration fields.

Bachelor’s Degree Less than 1 year of experience 1-4 years of experience 5-9 years of experience 10-19 years of experience 20 years of experience+
Bachelor of Science, Electrical/Mechanical Engineering R239 529 R367 439 R625 334 R942 431 R1 364 393
Bachelor Degree (all) R211 000 R287 271 R427 654 R673 801 R1 146 077
Bachelor of Engineering R259 426 R357 385 R559 773 R840 935 R996 396
Bachelor of Commerce R219 863 R287 055 R479 285 R623 379 R883 622
Bachelor of Accounting R274 754 R360 421 R504 691 R675 429 R883 347
Bachelor of Science R197 478 R281 583 R478 566 R648 141 R863 526
Bachelor of Business Administration R172 172 R230 022 R439 715 R527 197 R817 078
Bachelor of Technology R180 940 R230 094 R369 132 R537 796 R746 665
Bachelor of Arts R160 948 R201 722 R337 260 R547 436 R711 583
Bachelor of Education R144 457 R160 621 R144 457 R253 445 R463 052

These findings are in line with PayScale’s US-specific data, which ranks engineering degrees as being the most lucrative for those who want to have the highest earning power after graduating.

It’s worth noting that South African data – specifically salary information from CareerJunction – also reflects this, where engineering and financial jobs often pay the most.

According to PayScale, 16 of the top 25 highest-earning degree types are in engineering, with the rest of the top earners coming from the mathematical and scientific fields – all technical fields. The first non-engineering, mathematics, or science based degree listed is in finance.


Read: How much money you should be earning in your 20s in 2017

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The degrees that offer the best starting salary in South Africa