Updated 17.09.2021

Top 20 Highest Paid Jobs in South Africa

You probably know one or two highest paid jobs in South Africa and you wish to land one of these high paying jobs. Nonetheless, choosing a suitable career path that can lead to a high paying job is not always easy, especially in the current job market. Even so, there is no better place to learn more about highest paying jobs than in our list of top 20 highest paying jobs in South Africa.

Today, it is becoming increasingly difficult to find a high paying job. South Africa has been feeling the impact of this phenomenon in recent years. In 2020, there was an unemployment rate of 24%. This means that if you were looking for a job and had one interview out of every four job applications, your chances of landing a job would be 50% less than what they ought to be. While most high paying jobs might seem out of reach, it pays to learn everything you need to know about them. By knowing about these jobs, you will be able to prepare yourself to meet the minimum requirements needed to land any one of them. That said, here are the top 20 highest-paid jobs in South Africa 2021.

Oil and Gas Producers

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Oil and Gas Producers earn, on average, R3 565 538 per year, according to Payscale.com. Individual producers often make even more than this figure. 

The average salary of an oil and gas producer is $160k per year. This also varies depending on experience and location of residence. Therefore, anybody who wants to pursue a career in the Oil Industry will find it financially rewarding and fulfilling. However, you have to undergo thorough training to attain the relevant skills.

Those who succeed receive generous salaries. If you make it to higher management positions in the industry you are likely to earn six-figure salaries.

On the flipside, you have to contend with the volatility of oil market rates. But like all problems, this too is surmountable.

Mechanical Engineers

The job outlook for mechanical engineering opportunities, according to PayScale, is optimistic. The average pay for a person with such a degree can be upwards of $80,000 per year. This depends on experience and position within the company. This pay rate places these professionals squarely among the top earners in South Africa’s open market economy, where many variables determine salaries.

Certain factors can influence a person’s salary in this field. For example, an individual’s location can affect how much they earn. As of 2015, the average yearly wage in South Africa is approximately $19,000. The Western Cape and the Gauteng province are the most lucrative regions. They boast mean annual salaries of around $30,000 each.


READ ALSO: 7 Upcoming Women Entrepreneurs to Watch in South Africa


Pharmacists

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Being a pharmacist is one of the highest-paid jobs you can have in South Africa. The average annual income for this profession stands at around R564,000 ($127,000). Once you increase your experience level, this salary increases further. Pharmacists also get a bonus when working abroad in countries like Japan or Australia.

So, what are the requirements to work as a pharmacist? 

To become a pharmacist, you will need between 5-6 years of study after finishing matric. This includes

  • Three years of undergraduate study
  • Three years at university studying towards your Bachelor’s degree (BPharm)
  • Two more years completing your Masters degree MPharm) which specializes in the field that you want to work in
  • You can also opt for a Ph.D. which takes between 3-5 years of study after your MPharm degree

Lawyer

Being a lawyer is a highly financially rewarding occupation in South Africa. This holds for experienced and inexperienced attorneys, with junior lawyers earning R400 – 900k. Partners make upwards of R1 million (10 times more than the national average wage).

With such good salaries, entry into this profession has been competitive in recent years. Besides one’s academic qualifications, an obsession with legal news can help. This is because continuous learning about what you want to specialize in is essential.

Some Law degree courses that have boasted usefulness include:

  • LLB
  • BSC Law
  • Juris Doctor at Wits or UCT
  • A legal diploma focusing on corporate law from the Gordon Institute of Business Science (GIBS)
  • LLM in commercial law

Judges

Although judges don’t get paid as highly as lawyers, they have highly stable jobs. The job market for judges is smaller than that of other professions. It is also one where the demand for skilled professionals is always there. Judges earn salaries between R150k – 250k per annum plus benefits such as medical aid and pension. There are specific formal entry requirements which including:

  • The completion of an undergraduate degree at a recognized institution
  • Four to five years’ experience practicing law after obtaining your bar certificate
  • Submissions that you are fit to practice as an advocate
  • Commitment to upholding the Constitution of South Africa and having a good disciplinary record

There is also the option for practicing advocates to become acting judges temporarily. This happens while still appearing in court (to build experience).

Medical and Dental Professions

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These professions offer high earning potentials. If you specialize in specific fields such as neurosurgery or orthopedic surgery. Most doctors that we interact with daily boast help from nurses who often work under them because of their lower qualifications.

Entry into these careers requires relevant academic qualifications, such as:

  • An undergraduate degree in medicine and surgery from one of South Africa’s top universities
  • Internships at state hospitals
  • Practical training at district hospitals

After the workout, some opt to complete another bachelor’s degree. This comes before applying for entry-level posts such as a medical officer or registrar. Salaries for doctors range from R240k – 450k per annum, depending on experience and qualifications.

Architects

Suppose you want to enjoy job security as an architect. In that case, consider working in the public sector where your services boast demand (an improving housing market will also help). The downside is that it’s challenging to find work initially. This is because the demand is not as high as if you were to work in private practice.

Architects who want to build their businesses can study further and get a diploma in entrepreneurial management. The diploma provides them with the skills they need to start and run their design or build firm successfully. It is important to note that you need to meet specific requirements before being able to register with the Council for the Built Environment.

The council requires you to have:

  • At least five years of experience in the field after obtaining a diploma
  • Good personal qualities
  • Financial stability

Architects can expect salaries ranging from R400k – 800k per annum, depending on work experience.

Academia

The majority of academics hold PhDs or post-doctoral qualifications. These are the requirements to secure faculty positions at universities. This occupation is very stable because there continues to be a growing demand for higher education throughout South Africa. This means that these skills will always boast demand in some form or another.

Academics’ salaries range between R160k – 300k per year. But this does not include the allowance for living expenses typically paid to all employees. The salary will largely depend on

  • How much experience you have
  • Your qualifications
  • The type of institution you work in (an advantage if you can get a research grant

Data Scientist

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Employers expect data scientists to be experts in not only data analysis but also statistics and machine learning. While it is possible to become qualified with just an undergraduate degree in

  • Accounting
  • Data mining
  • Mathematics, employers prefer professionals who have a master’s in these fields.

Industries such as finance and insurance rarely hire people without this higher qualification. So, it is essential that when graduating with a bachelor’s degree in another field of study, one does some further studies after completing their second year of study (this will also help you in the job market). The basic salary for data scientists ranges between R180k – 330k per year. But this can grow substantially if they can secure a research grant. It is important to note that these professionals would not boast expectations to hold other qualifications besides their mathematical skills.

Criminal Lawyer

Becoming an attorney does not require further academic qualifications. This is because there are many students who graduate with degrees in law or related fields, such as journalism or languages. This means that when they finish studying, they must take compulsory training courses before working independently as criminal lawyers.

Lawyers who work in private practice often specialize in certain areas of law. Government-employed advocates provide general legal services for all people living within the municipality or district. These advocates can do both civil and criminal work. But their salaries are lower than those of private attorneys. You must get a practicing certificate from the South African Bar before being able to open up your practice. This typically requires a fee of around R15k – 20k per year. For more experienced lawyers, they can expect to earn between R140k – 250k per annum

Public Relations Professionals

Employers usually require a degree in marketing for any form of public relations position. This is because communicating effectively with clients and consumers is an essential part of this career field (it also helps if you have experience in journalism).

It would help if you considered working in either education or finance. This is because these are two industries that need PR support. They offer some of the highest salaries available.

This occupation is very versatile. You will find it relatively easy to switch companies and industries without spending too much time away from your chosen profession (the most experienced in the field). Public relations employees usually receive a basic salary between R90k – 160k per year. Those with over ten years’ experience can expect to earn upwards of R200k per annum.

Optometrists

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The highest-paid job currently in South Africa is that of optometrists. According to the latest analysis by the BusinessTech website, this profession has an average income of R94,270 per year.

This makes it much more preferable than other professions, such as golf course managers or financial accountants, who earn less than this amount.

What is an Optometrist?

Optometrists are professionals that specialize in assisting people with vision problems. They provide

  • Consultation
  • Diagnosis
  • Treatment of eye diseases, including myopia, hypermetropia, astigmatism, cataracts, and retinal disorders.
  • Examine patients for vision therapy needs
  • Determine if they can become corrected by lenses or contact lenses.

Optometrists may get involved in research on new treatments for blindness and other sight-threatening conditions. This is an occupation that needs study that takes about four years at the university level (or five if you include NSFAS support). First, you need to complete Grade 12 with a pass in English, Mathematics, and Physical Science. After this, you must apply to a recognized college. That is taking either the National Senior Certificate or N6 General Paper and N3 Technical Paper examinations.

A Doctorate degree in optometry boasts demand. That is from an accredited university either within the country or abroad. That is where you plan to work and residency training in ophthalmology (eye care) at a hospital specializing in this area of medicine.

Mining and Petroleum Management

According to a new salary survey out of South Africa, mining and petroleum management is another high-paying job. This profession has moved up six places since 2008 and 2021, respectively. This sector’s earnings boast an average of R10 312 200 ($1 375 670) annually from R8 988 400 ($1 100 300) at entry-level.

Mining is a crucial industry in South Africa which contributes about 2% percent of gross domestic product (GDP). It also leads to 12 percent of total exports, and 27 percent of all mineral production. The field is going through a rough patch with mining companies struggling to keep their employees–especially those that have seen little or no increases in salaries over the past few years.

The mining sector is competing with the formal and informal sectors for skilled labor. This results in relatively high unemployment (19 percent), particularly among

  • Black South Africans
  • Less-educated South Africans
  • Young adults

This profession has a meager unemployment rate of 2%. This means that competition for these jobs will be fierce.

Civil Engineers

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Civil Engineers in South Africa take home huge salaries every month. They work hard, long hours, and are constantly under pressure to ensure that they meet deadlines. However, the rewards of their job can show in their fat paychecks. A civil engineer’s salary heavily depends on their qualifications and experience. The average annual wage for this profession is around R620 000. This isn’t surprising, given the stress associated with this career path.

A senior consultant at Rolfes Engineering takes home an annual salary of R1 562 642. A new graduate starts with a yearly salary of R328 878. It won’t take you too long to get used to these astronomical figures, especially if you’re about to start your first job as a civil engineer. It would help if you had lots of patience and perseverance during your first few years. But once you’ve laid a good foundation for yourself and climbed the corporate ladder, the money you will earn is well worth it.

There are many career options available to civil engineers as they can apply their skills in various industries, including

  • Construction
  • Mining
  • Architecture
  • Education, among others

You can also specialize in specific areas such as traffic engineering or environmental planning. Some choose to work from offices, while those who prefer onsite jobs can become site managers or project engineers.

To practice as a civil engineer in South Africa, you need

  • A bachelor’s degree
  • A postgraduate qualification depending on which area of specialization you focus on, such as structural engineering or water resources management

The above salaries are based on a 40-hour working week and include your primary salary, medical aid, and pension contributions. On average, a civil engineer earns around R722 000 per annum.

Geologists

Once again, the title of “highest-paid job in South Africa” goes to geologists. The average salary of a geologist is R779, 137 (or R162, 992 when starting), according to Payscale.com. This also varies depending on experience and location of residence. One report saying that Johannesburg has the highest salaries for geoscientists.

Geologists study rocks at surface exposures formed within the uppermost layers of the Earth’s crust through processes such as volcanism or sedimentation.

Doctors, Nurses, and Therapists

Doctors, nurses, and even therapists are all among the top paid professions in South Africa. But none of them compare to what lawyers make – at least not with white-collar jobs. These figures don’t even include income from private clients.

You can expect a surgeon to make upwards of $85k per year on average in South Africa. That is working for the government or a private clinic.

They’re also awarded several benefits such as:

  • Tax exemptions
  • Cars
  • Housing allowances
  • Bonuses if they meet specific targets

The more complex cases they defend or prosecute need more hours spent studying and specialized knowledge. So you’ll find that some legal professionals can charge up to $500 an hour just consulting over the phone. So, if you’re one of the few who make it to practice as a lawyer, your student loans won’t be around much longer.

Personal Injury Attorneys

The highest-paid job in the country is a Personal injury attorney position. It boasts a starting salary of at least $113k per annum, as well as extra compensation, including bonus payment and benefits that can take up this amount to over $200k annually. This excludes any bonuses or commissions on top of this amount.

To become a personal injury attorney, you need to have a law degree from any university and get admitted as a bar association member. You can expect to make around $99k per year on average in South Africa after completing these studies and examinations.

Personal injury attorneys handle their client’s claims for damages sustained from accidents. They provide defense for organizations and companies against lawsuits related to personal injury claims through

  • Insurance negotiations
  • Litigation
  • Arbitration
  • This means they represent the injured party during
  • A lawsuit
  • Employment lawsuits
  • Immigration cases, etc.

Personal Injury Attorneys work either independently representing one client. They also are supervised by another attorney who works with different law firms and corporations to represent an entire legal team. Personal Injury Attorneys also work with paralegals and assistants who research case law or medical records.

Financial Managers

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These professionals make around $89k per year on average ($49k when starting) in South Africa. They work for the government, banks, or insurance companies as financial managers. Financial managers in South Africa keep track of an organization’s fiscal information and prepare budgets. They also ensure the financial security of a company or corporation. This includes

  • Keeping track of accounts receivable and payable
  • Ensuring good investment positioning becomes maintained so the company can meet its obligations
  • Making sure taxes get paid on time
  • Financial managers must understand
  • Taxation policies
  • Currency value fluctuations
  • Budgeting for capital project
  • Debt financing needed to ensure a profitable business

Financial management positions must get assigned to people with extensive education backgrounds in accounting or finance with all these factors at play. Most companies need a minimum of a Bachelor’s degree in either accounting or Finance from a top-tier school, followed by some certification before hiring.

Actuarists

South Africa’s actuarial scientists earn an average yearly salary of R6.5 million in 2021. This is a median value that is not representative of all South Africans in this profession.

Actuarial scientists calculate risks and predict future events by using

  • Mathematics
  • Statistics
  • Economics
  • Finance
  • Science principles to manage risk for companies or individuals

The life expectancy for people who work as actuarial scientists can be up to 10 years lower than other professions. This is because of stress levels associated with the job.

The SAIPA stated they employ actuaries across sectors throughout the country. They boast usefulness at insurance firms or financial services institutions to calculate risks related to insurance or investments. There are also actuaries employed in the public sector, specifically in the Department of Home Affairs.

Digital Marketing Specialist

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As more businesses use digital platforms to market their products and services, the demand for digital marketing specialists has gone up significantly. These specialists help businesses capitalize on social media among other online platforms to market products.

Typically, digital marketing specialists create and implement digital marketing strategies. They use these strategies to generate leads as well as build brand awareness. The most common digital channels used by digital marketing specialists include social media, website, email marketing, corporate blogs, search engine rankings, and online display.

Given that digital marketing is a fairly new concept, digital marketers learn their skills through online platforms. However, most do it for the certificate. In the real sense, most digital marketers are self-taught. Recently, universities have begun including digital marketing in their programs but few offer digital marketing as an independent course.

A digital marketing specialist earns an average of R240,727 p/a and is likely to earn R212,000 p/a in their early career. One with 5-9 and 10-19 years of experience earns R399,000 p/a and R493,000 p/a respectively.

We hope that this information has been helpful for you. The top 20 highest-paid jobs in South Africa can offer a lot of interesting career opportunities. But it’s important to remember that the salary is not always indicative of quality work or satisfaction with one’s occupation. If you are considering pursuing any of these careers, we encourage you to thoroughly research the markets and be sure to ask yourself if this type of position will make you happy before making the decision.

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