What are the highest-paying jobs in South Africa?

At some point in life, many of us will rethink the career paths we’ve chosen. We might realise we don’t actually enjoy what we’re doing, or we’ll decide that we’d like to venture into a different field. In most cases, however, there’s a little niggle in the back of our minds that there might be a different career out there that can make us a bit more money…

Changing careers is scary, but sometimes you need to stretch out feelers and see what else life has in store. And hey, if the industry you’re interested in happens to be one of the most lucrative in South Africa, you might just find the courage to take the leap!

So, what are those highest-paying jobs? Here they are, based on data from 2020 and 2021.

Management

We tend to think that professionals like doctors, lawyers and pilots make the most money, and while that might be true in some cases, managers of multinational or even domestic companies make a whole lot more.

Regional CFOs in finance companies put about R5 million a year into their pockets, while marketing directors can earn up to R2.2 million a year. Even IT managers can take home up to R1.2 million a year.

If you’re a bit older, this line of work might be the most obtainable, especially if you’ve been working at a company for a long time.

Accounting

The average chartered accountant earns R435,000 per annum. Yes, accounting students often suffer the most during their time at university, but it seems to be worth it. Some junior CAs earn much more than the base average — up to R605,000 per year.

Human Resources

This one may come as a bit of a surprise. But HR is a key industry, especially in the corporate environment. An HR manager’s average salary in South Africa is R975,000, and an HR director’s is R1.9 million. Wowza!

Medicine

Becoming a medical professional is not easy and takes many years of studying and interning. Specialists in fields like cardiology and neurology currently make the most money, with annual salaries starting at R470,000 and climbing to above R1 million. Add the warm, fuzzy feeling you get from saving lives and this might be something to look into!

Law

Ah yes, the law. We all adhere to it, but should we be working in it? With lawyers’ salaries averaging as much as R655,000 per annum, the answer is probably yes. A partner at a top South African firm brings home a hefty R2.75 million per annum! Lower-rank employees are also pretty well-off: on average, a legal secretary at an international firm earns R400,000 per year, and a secretary at a national firm earns R300,000 per year.

Engineering

Engineers, especially software engineers, are often listed as the individuals who earn the most in South Africa. It’s true: their salaries average R1.2 million per year. Production engineers earn less — an average annual salary of R550,000 to R900,000.

Honourable mentions…

Ever thought of becoming an air traffic controller? Well, with an estimated R580,000 in annual earnings, it’s definitely a career worth considering. Better yet, learn to fly the plane! Pilots are some of the country’s top earners, with average salaries starting at R695,000 per year.

Actuarial science is another category that earns well. In a broad sense, an actuary is a kind of risk manager, and earns almost R600,000 per year on average.

So, should you quit your job and study to become a surgeon for the next 10 years? No, you don’t have to earn millions to make millions — saving, budgeting and investing can take you a long way. Advancing your earning potential can be as simple as taking a couple of online courses, learning constantly, and gaining as much experience as you can.

And always keep an eye out for the next door that might have opened a crack!

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