Generally, in South Africa and elsewhere, one can point to the medical, engineering, accounting and legal fields for a good income, and, generally, to the service branches, especially in the food, drink and catering sectors, for lesser-paid jobs. Of course, we are looking at job opportunities in the formal employment market where employers are registered and tax-compliant. This study does not include the informal job market.
Naturally, a job seeker with a university degree is better positioned than one who has no tertiary education, to the extent that only around 5% of South African graduates are jobless as opposed to the 25% of people that are jobless across the entire job-seeking spectrum. On the other hand, it is also a statistical fact that successful entrepreneurs with no higher education can earn more than educated graduates, so academic achievement does not always equate to wealth.
Some of the best-paid jobs in South Africa, in no particular order, are in the actuarial sciences, as well as jobs held by anaesthesiologists, lawyers, airline pilots, chief executives, oral surgeons and orthodontists, engineers, information technology managers, chartered accountants, and software engineers. For example, entry-level employees with an honours degree in accounting, law or finance can earn between R360 000 and R420 000 per annum, while experienced professionals in these fields, including doctors, can earn R700 000 to R900 000.
However, one fact that remains is that there is always a demand for good skills, irrespective of the official unemployment figures, and there are a number of jobs that are surprisingly well paid, either relative to the high-paying positions or relative to the fact that the job previously yielded a much lower income.
Credit risk analysts are highly sought after and therefore surprisingly well paid. South Africa is lax in terms of credit issuance quality and poor at policing dubious credit or lending parties. The number of microlenders has escalated in recent years owing to the financial crises, so risk control is at a premium. These sought-after analysts rate the risk of lending and develop models to calculate the risk, and they are much in demand in the retail and the banking sectors. They can quickly earn up to R450 000 per annum with just about two years’ experience.
Air traffic controllers are very well paid, but ensuring an orderly flow of air traffic is a stressful job indeed. These tower-based jobs require highly specialised skills and knowledge to control both air and ground traffic, often calling for split-second decisions which can affect the lives of hundreds of people. This mentally challenging job commands high salaries – and a good degree of autonomy, too.
Social-media managers are in demand everywhere, from marketing to management, and do not require many years of education. In fact, many social-media managers learn their skills on the job at their company. The industry is growing fast in line with information technology as companies realise that gaining a broad market share through social engagement, advertisements, catchy slogans, social-media sites, and the ability to communicate directly with their clients is vital to increasing their customer numbers. You can work either at office full-time or out of office part-time as a consultant or contractor. You can work in big or small companies, for one or for several companies, and in fixed or flexible employment structures. All these advantages make social-media marketing managers well sought after and well paid at the moment.
Artisans such as millwrights, electricians, plumbers and fitters, traditionally sought-after professions 40 years ago, are back in favour as a result of artisan shortages of up to 40% according to labour representatives. Their entry-level salaries are between R150 000 and R200 000, and nearly double that earned in previous years, especially when incumbents are qualified by way of a Trade Test N4 to N6.
Logistics managers or supply chain managers can start off at around R200 000, increasing to between R500 000 and R600 000 with the necessary BCom degree in logistics or with a management degree.
Projects managers with a PMI Certification are starting off at around R350 000 per annum, rising to around R500 000 with experience.
Social workers are now more easily able to find paid employment, given the great demand for their services and the perceived decline in official social care. Nongovernmental and private employers are offering salaries that are reasonably attractive at around R130 000 per annum – in a field that was once voluntary. Bereavement counselling is a popular – and better-paid – offshoot of this career.
Teachers, although somewhat stigmatised recently in South Africa owing to the perceived failing education system, are for the same reason in high demand due to skills shortages. Salaries have become quite attractive relative to previous income levels, with starting salaries for qualified K-12 high-school teachers being around R150 000 per annum.
Nurses are always in demand. Now, with stronger unions and worker representation, as well as South Africa’s large private health-care system, well-paid nursing positions are more common today than previously, when the profession was poorly paid and poorly respected. A registered nurse now earns an average salary of R155 000 per year.
Sales representatives are in demand owing to skills shortages, and, given the relatively low qualification levels needed, those starting out as reps can earn from R120 000 per annum, rising to R300 000 per year with a relevant financial degree or experience. Additionally, if you find a commission-paying sales job, it is possible to make R1 000 000 in just one year. Using Gumtree’s comparative tool shows you that this trumps even the highest-paying jobs. The combination of high potential income and few qualifications needed may make this the most surprisingly well-paid job of all.
Take a look at, and play around with, Gumtree’s salary-comparing tool yourself and get some ideas on what your path can be to becoming a millionaire.
Top 10 Jobs in South Africa
South Africa has a very open and free job market, with incomes varying greatly both within a job sector and from region to region. Salary guidelines are a grey area in South Africa, and with exceptional disparities, and there are no formal pay-scale standards.
Nevertheless, there are a number of jobs that are surprisingly well paid – and paying more than one would traditionally expect. Gumtree even has a useful and fun job-comparing tool that shows how long it will take you to become a millionaire in certain careers. You can then see and click on other jobs that earn a similar income, discover which ones make more, and find out which to aim at so as to put more money in your pocket faster. In the process, you will possibly be surprised by the income-earning potential of jobs that make a lot more money than you thought.