What nurses, teachers and police officers earn in South Africa

 ·24 Jan 2016
Government money

State careers in South Africa have a reputation for being extremely contrasting – where nurses, teachers and policemen are paid paltry salaries, and councillors, mayors and ministers are paid very well.

The truth is that state employees are made up of hundreds of different career paths, including administrators, lawyers, healthcare practicioners and construction workers – all on the government’s payroll.

This is why civil servant salaries are one of the biggest expenses by government, totalling close to R470 billion a year, accounting for over a third of government spending.

According to economists, South Africa’s massive civil service workforce is one of the biggest issues constraining the economy, with recommendations to scale it down, and make it more efficient.

In 2015, unions representing civil servants negotiated a wage deal that would see teachers, nurses and other state workers receive a 7% salary increase for the year, with a 1% increase above consumer inflation for the next two years.

The agreement lead to a R12.5 billion shortfall in the budget in 2015, which had to be partly financed from the country’s R5 billion contingency funds.

According to AfricaCheck, there are over 2.1 million people working for government or government institutions in South Africa – including over 450,000 national government employees, 1.1 million provincial government employees and 550,000 other state employees.

Here is what the salaries look like for some civil servants.

Note: the salaries listed below are rounded off for legibility and represent the lastest-available information, not taking the aforementioned increases into account. Salaries vary depending on position, grade and salary level.


Healthcare practicioners working at state hospitals and clinics have salary scales that range from R95,000 for nursing assistants to R1.82 million for department heads.

Job Salary
Nurses R150,000 – R350,000
Medical Officers R480,000* – R990,000
Medical Specialists R1.33 million
Dentists R480,000* – R1.9 million

* community service

Teachers and community workers

Teacher salaries are determined by years of experience, as well as grade and level teaching.

Job Salary
Teachers (general) R60,000 – R280,000
High school teachers R153,000
Prison educators R90,400 – R420,000
Social workers R105,000 – R650,000


Police salaries are determined by years of experience across different wage bands.

Job Salary
Recruits R54,000
Officers R105,000 – R156,000
Sergeants R128,000
Lieutenants R200,000
Majors R250,000
Colonels R450,000


Job Salary
Chief justice R2.6 million
Constitutional / Supreme Court judges R2.1 million
High Court judges R1.7 million
Litigation specialists R1.4 million
Senior state law advisors R1.1 million
Magistrates R744,000


Government officials are some of the highest-paid people on the state’s payroll. President Jacob Zuma and other heads are in for another 5% salary increase in 2016

Job Salary
President R2.75 million
Deputy president R2.6 million
Ministers R2.2 million
Premiers R2.1 million
Deputy ministers R1.8 million
Mayors R1.1 million
Municipal councillors R450,000 – R830,000

Other state salaries

Here are a few salary ranges for state employees in different fields:

Job Salary
Garbage collectors R72,000 (minimum wage)
Artisans R94,400 – R450,000
Environmental officers R195,000 – R400,000
Architects R230,000 – R670,000
Engineers R445,000 – R1.6 million
Construction Managers R445,000 R1.4 million
Scientists R385,000 – R1.3 million

More on government

SA smacked with R61 billion government wage bill

This is how much of your money the government is wasting

Does Zuma deserve his R2.75 million salary?

Zuma’s salary vs other world leaders

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