The average salary of an MBA graduate vs other qualifications in South Africa

 ·26 Feb 2023

A significant reason many professionals pursue a Master of Business Administration (MBA) is the prospect of earning a much higher salary.

The most recent MBA index, published by the Financial Times (FT) in February 2023, found that people who have studied and qualified for their MBAs had seen their salaries more than double within three years of completing the qualification.

Some even saw their salaries triple (over 200%) in emerging markets such as India and China.

Looking at salary increases of graduates from all top 100 schools featured in the ranking, the value of an MBA is evident in the large jumps in earnings alums see.

The smallest increase recorded by the FT was 46% by UNSW Australia alums. However, the average post-MBA salary from the business school is still six figures ($114,803 – or R2 million p.a.).

Twelve of the 14 highest-paying MBAs are also from US business schools, led by Stanford, with an average weighted alum salary of $248,669 or R4.4 million p.a, with a salary increase of around 131%.

While South African universities were not ranked among the best in the world in the FT ranking, salary data from PayScale provides insight and corroborates the FT’s findings.

According to PayScale’s data, the average salary of MBA holders in the country sits at R961,000, with salaries ranging from R300,000 for professionals working in HR, to CEOs earning in the millions of rand (R4 million).

This is more than double the average salary for those who hold a bachelor’s degree (which varies depending on type) and fourfold the average salaries seen by those who hold a diploma.

As is expected – aligning with the various levels of specialisation – those who hold a doctorate command the second highest average, followed by masters, bachelors, diplomas and typical graduates.

Because PayScale’s data relies on user submissions, the accuracy depends on scale. The measurements below are based on the input of thousands of user profiles tracked in each category totalling over 17,000 submissions from South Africa.

When the platform has limited employee-submitted data, it estimates pay ranges based on a broader set of relevant profiles.

In late 2022, the FT published its executive MBA rankings, featuring one South African school – the University of Cape Town’s Graduate School of Business (GSB).

The Cape Town school ranked 74th out of 100 – dropping 18 places since its last feature in 2020 at 56th and not ranking at all in 2021.

According to FT’s latest ranking, GSB executive management alums averaged salaries of $275,396 or R4.9 million p.a, with a salary increase of around 27%.

Qualification Type MIN Average MAX
MBA R300 000 R961 000 R4 000 000
Doctorate R242 000 R589 000 R2 100 000
Master’s Degree R180 000 R432 000 R2 000 000
Bachelor’s Degree R126 000 R358 000 R2 000 000
Diploma R96 000 R230 000 R656 000
Graduate R87 000 R225 000 R606 000
Certificate R80 000 R248 000 R600 000

The latest Quarterly Labour Force Survey (QLFS) published by Stats SA once again highlighted the importance of gaining a qualification in South Africa to secure a job in a current economy that faces several headwinds, resulting in projected GDP growth of only 0.8% in 2023.

While the country’s unemployment rates have sat at their highest levels in decades, there is a clear distinction between the unemployment rates across various education levels.

The latest report shows that, of the 7.7 million unemployed persons in Q3 2022, approximately 40% had an education level below matric, followed by those with a matric at 33.4%.

By comparison, only 10.7% of the unemployed persons were graduates, while 22% had some form of tertiary qualification as their highest level of education.

Read: This is how much money lawyers get paid in South Africa

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