Top 20 most paying professions in South Africa in 2021

Knowing the high-paying jobs of the moment will help you plan your future while you pursue a career.

Although the financial aspect of a profession is a significant consideration when choosing a career path, other considerations such as your enthusiasm for the field and whether the profession corresponds with your talent are equally crucial.

It would be foolish to choose a vocation merely for the sake of the money; enjoyment of one’s profession is also essential.

The following is a list of the top 20 highest paying jobs in South Africa. These earnings may fluctuate depending on your work experience, talents, and qualifications. By looking through this list, you may be able to gain financial insight into a job that you are interested in. Check out the Average Salary in South Africa as well.

1. Specialist doctors

most paying professions

Average Salary for a Specialist Doctor in South Africa is R1,600,000

Specialist doctors are currently the highest-earning professionals. They are highly skilled individuals who usually specialise in a particular medical field.

These can include Neurology, Cardiology and Urology. Qualifying to be a specialist doctor such as a neurosurgeon is not only rigorous but very expensive hence the high income.

Most specialist doctors work for long hours and are always on-call thus making their job very straining and demanding. This, however, is handsomely compensated for by the income they earn after all the hard work is done.

A neurosurgeon is skilled in treating people with brain, spinal cord related illnesses and injuries.  An entry-level neurosurgeon with 1- 4 years of experience earns an average income of R730K p/a.

A Mid-level neurosurgeon with 5-9 years of experience earns an average income of R780K p/a while the one with 10 – 19 years of experience has an average income of R2 mil p/a.

A Cardiologist specialises in heart health. If you don’t mind holding someone’s beating heart in your hands hence this can be a great job for you as it is a top paying job. A cardiologist with medium experience earns an average of R1.6 mil p/a in South Africa.

2. Architect

most paying professions

Average Salary for an Architect in South Africa is R715,000.00

Architecture is not only a high paying job but is also a critical skills profession in most countries around the world. This means that even outside South Africa you can get to expand by working in other countries.

An architect plans designs and supervises the construction of buildings. Since the decisions of an architect can affect public safety, architects go through extensive specialised training.

In South Africa, to qualify as an architect you can study architecture with any university that offers the discipline programme. For instance, you can study architect in the Faculty of Engineering and the Built Environment with the University of Cape Town.

An early career architect with 1- 4 years of experience earns an average of R277k p/a while one with 5-9 years’ experience earns a higher average income of R715K p/a. An architect with more years of experience can earn an average income of R1.2mil p/a.

3. Actuarial Scientists

most paying professions

Average Salary for an Actuarial Scientist in South Africa is R920,000.00

Actuaries profession deals with measurements and management of risk and uncertainty in a company. These professionals use analytical and mathematical skills in financial and business problems.

This is a high demand profession because of the shortage of actuaries in the country. Qualifying to be an actuary can take up to 9 years.

Actuaries can come from different educational backgrounds, but one should get an actuarial science degree, postgraduate degree, and write necessary examinations with the Professional Actuary bodies.

An early level Actuary earns an average of R597k p/a. An actuary with 5-9 years of experience earns an average of R920K p/a while one with 10-19 years of experience earns an average of R1mil p/a.

4. Chartered Accountant

most paying professions

Average Salary for an Accountant in South Africa is R605,000.00

To be a chartered accountant, you need to be a very disciplined and efficient person as the job can be very taxing. Chartered accounting designation is worldwide and has added benefits more than the other accounting qualifications.

A chartered accountant‘s job is to give financial advice, audit accounts and provide trustworthy information about financial records to a client.

A chartered accountant might be responsible for taxation, forensic accounting, corporate finance, business recovery and insolvency.  

To qualify as a chartered accountant in South Africa you have to get a degree in Accounting science or a Bachelor of Commerce in Accounting or any CA (SA) undergraduate qualification at a SAICA accredited university. You will then need to write the CA( SA) board examination.

Although qualifying to be a chartered accountant takes you to write a qualifying examination after finishing your undergraduate degree, the profession has a high income which is very rewarding.

An entry-level chartered accountant earns R489K and a chartered accountant with midlevel experience earns an average income of R605K p/A. One with an experience of 10-9 years earns an average of R782K p/a.

5. Management Consultant

most paying professions

Average Salary for a Management Consultant in South Africa is R554,000.00

Management consultants help companies to maximise their growth by improving the company’s performance. They do this by helping companies develop skills that might have been lacking. 

To qualify as a Management consultant, one should obtain a bachelors’ or master’s degree in a business-related field.  Majors in Finance, Economics and Accounting are usually preferred.

 As a management consultant one should have good numerical and IT skills, hence it would be wise to develop your IT skills now if you are to pursue a career in Management consultancy.  

Pursuing a career in Management consultancy will be very rewarding. With Management consultancy, an individual who is in their early career level with 1-4 years of experience. earns an average of R298K p/a and at midlevel, with 5-9 years of experience, earns an average of R554K p/a. An experienced management consultant with 10-19 years’ experience earns an average of R869K p/a.

6. Judges

most paying professions

Average Salary for a Judge in South Africa is R825,000.00

Becoming a judge is not similar to most professions where you study and attain a degree for that particular profession you want to pursue.

In South Africa, one has to get a law degree, pass their bar examinations, become an advocate or a magistrate and serve as an advocate or magistrate for a number of years before qualifying to be a judge.

Furthermore, to qualify in this profession, you have to be considered as a proper and fit person by the standards of the legal and practice council regulations.

This means you are supposed to have a clean slate in your criminal record and be in good repute with legal bodies such as the Law Society of South Africa.

An early career Judges, Magistrate, earn an average of R584K p/a. Midlevel career Judges, Magistrate, with 5-9 years of experience earn an average income of R825K p/a.

Experienced Judges, and Magistrates earn a high average income of R966K p/a… It makes for this profession to amongst high paying jobs, considering the impact of the work to the society as whole.

7.Biomedical engineers

most paying professions

Average Salary for a Biomedical Engineer in South Africa is R420,000.00

Biomedical engineers have tremendously improved ways of treating people from injuries and diseases. Through their expertise, they have managed to create better and more advanced medical machinery that has made complicated surgeries easier to do.

To qualify as a biomedical engineer in South Africa, you would need to attain a degree in biomedical engineering or in the relative field. Then get an MSc in biomedical engineering.

An early career level biomedical engineer with 1-4 years of experience earns an average of R303K p/a. A biomedical engineer with 5-9 years of experience earns an average of R420K p/a and an experienced biomedical engineer past medial career level can earn an average of R734K p/a.

8. Lawyers

most paying professions

Average Salary for a lawyer in South Africa is R326,000.00

Landing on number 8 is the law profession. The legal profession always been in the lists of high paying jobs since time immemorial.

Despite the social and economic changes which have had a negative effect on a lot of professions, lawyers have managed to retain their spot at the top end list of high earners.

This is mostly because businesses and individuals will always need legal experts to help them steer through legal systems.

Lawyers salaries depend on the number of years a lawyer has in experience and what type of lawyer they are. Most high earning lawyers are Attorneys.

An average income for an entry-level lawyer is R152K p/a while a Mid-level lawyer with 5-9 years’ experience earns an average of R326K p/a. The average income of a lawyer with 10-19 years’ experience is R732K p/a.

9. Sales Manager

most paying professions

Average Salary for a Sales Manager in South Africa is R317,000.00

Sales managers are pivotal to every existing company. They are responsible for the growth of sales in a company and making sure that sales targets are met.

They also lead sales teams, hire and train the team to generate sales for the company.

To qualify as a sales manager, you need a degree in Business administration, statistics or mathematics. Some employers prefer sales managers to have a master’s degree in business administration as a qualification.

Sales managers incomes differ as they depend on the kind of sales department they lead, the companies they work for and their experience in the field.

Reported salaries on similar sales manager jobs showcase Absa as the company with the highest-paid Sales manager earning R800K p/a.

An early career sales manager with 1-4years of experience earns an average income of R155K p/a, while a midlevel sales manager with 5-9 years of experience earns an average income of R317k p/a. An experienced sales manager earns an average income of R727K p/a.

10. Pharmacist

most paying professions

Average Salary for a Pharmacist in South Africa is R487,000.00

Pharmacists are among the few professionals with an easy-going job that doesn’t require much physical labour but that needs one to be always on their highest alert levels.

Pharmacy is a high demand skills job worldwide. For one to pursue pharmacy in South Africa, they need to have a degree or a master’s degree in pharmacy from a South African Pharmacy Council (SAPC) accredited institution.

This is followed by an internship training of 1-2years in a community, hospital or private pharmacy and compulsory service in a public hospital to fully qualify.

An early career pharmacist earns an average of R251k p/a, a midlevel pharmacist with 5-9 years’ experience earns an average income R487K p/a and an experienced pharmacist with 10-19 years of experience earns an average income of R688K p/a.

11. Cybersecurity Engineer

most paying professions

Average Salary for a Cyber Security in South Africa is R503,000.00

With most Big companies in South Africa going digital, the importance of cybersecurity has increased. Moreover, the increased hike in the number of hackers in the digital world has had many companies on the lookout hence the high demand of cybersecurity engineers nowadays.

Companies are willing to pay a high amount to individuals who can help them secure their tech.

 Cybersecurity is a profession responsible for the creation and execution of secure network solutions that provide security against cyber-attacks, hackers etc.

To qualify as a cybersecurity engineer, you primarily need a degree in computer science.

An early career level Cybersecurity engineer makes an average of R400k p/a while one with 5-9 years of experience makes an average of R503K p/a. An experienced cybersecurity engineer with 10-19 years earns an average of R646K p/a.

12. Software Engineer

most paying professions

Average Salary for a Software Engineer in South Africa is R509,000.00

On the number 12 spot are the Software engineers. Though this profession is new, it is, however, growing fast and is currently on high demand.

Software Engineers usually have a degree in Computer Science and programming. They are responsible for designing, developing, and managing computer software. 

An entry-level software engineer can earn an average income of R280K p/a. A Midlevel software engineer with 5 – 9 years of experience can expect an average income of R509K p/a.  An experienced software engineer with 10- 19 years’ experience earns an average of R640K p/a.

13. IT Managers

most paying professions

Average Salary for an IT Manager in South Africa is R315,000.00

As our world grows more digital, technological jobs have grown momentum in the job industry. Not only is the profession in high demand but is also among the high paying jobs.

IT managers are responsible for managing all the tech-related operations in a company. IT managers play a big role in companies today since all business has moved from the physical tradition of doing business to being fully digital.

To qualify as an IT manager one needs a degree in Information and Technology.

IT managers salaries also depend on the amount of experience one has in the industry.

An entry-level IT manager with 1-4 years of experience earns an average of R351K p/a. A midlevel with an experience of 5-9 years earns an average of R454K p/a. An IT manager with 10-19 years’ experience earns an average of R576K p/a.


most paying professions

Average Salary for an Economist in South Africa is R305,000.00

Economists’ importance in business has grown tremendously over the years. Their primary role is to help a firm’s management in decision making and forward planning.

Economists play a crucial role in assessing the business environment of a firm so as to tackle internal and external factors that may affect the growth of the business.

A company’s decision on investment, production of commodities, and employment may be affected by the business environment in a particular place. This may include the government economic policies and the height of competition faced by a company.

Thus, economists come up with strategies that will help the company flourish in that business environment.

To qualify as an economist, you would need a degree in Economics, Statistics or Business management.

Economists earn a high income in South Africa. An early career economist with 1-4 years of experience earns an average of R131K p/a while an economist with 5-9 years of experience earns an average income of R305K p/a. An experienced economist with 10-19 years’ experience earns an average of R565K p/a.  

15. Fashion Designer

most paying professions

 In a world where glitz and glamour is the new norm, fashion designing continues to boom. The fashion industry is a multibillion-dollar enterprise that involves making and selling clothes.

In the past few years, there has been relative growth and recognition of South African designers in the global fashion market emanating the growth of the industry in the country.

Though some fashion designers do not have any qualifications but only possess pure talent, most fashion designers do have degrees or diplomas in fashion designing or in a relative field.

Fashion designing is a high paying profession, though incomes differ depending on how far the fashion designer has gone in the industry, in terms of experience and exposure.

An early career level fashion designer earns an average of R136K p/a. A fashion designer with 5-9 years of experience earns an average income of R339K p/a while one who is fully experienced, with 10 – 19 years’ experience can earn an average of R505K p/a.

16. Digital Marketing specialist

most paying professions

The marketing world has shifted greatly in the last decades. Most companies have moved from the traditional way of doing their marketing and are now using digital platforms to market their brands and products.

Most companies now capitalise on social media platforms to carry out their marketing.

Digital marketers are the professionals responsible for implementing digital marketing by using digital channels to generate leads and build brand awareness.

Digital channels used can include company websites, social media, search engine rankings, email marketing, online display ad and corporate blogs.

Since digital marketing is a new profession, digital marketers often take courses on educational platforms on the internet such as Cousera, Google Academy and Udemy.

However, most digital marketers are self-trained and take digital marketing courses only for certification.

Some universities are gradually including digital marketing courses in some of their programmes but have no specific programmes that wholly focus on digital marketing.

An early career digital marketer earns an average of R212K p/a. One with 5-9 years of experience earns an average of R399K p/a while experienced digital marketing specialists with 10-19 years of experience earn an average of R493K p/a.

17. Pilots

most paying professions

As people who must undergo a series of training and earn a number of certificates before qualifying to be pilots, they do deserve to get a high income.

To be a fully qualified pilot in South Africa, you need to attain a CPL license with a minimum of 200 hours in air flight.

Pilots fly and navigate planes, helicopters and other types of aircraft. A pilot’s income, however, depends on several factors such as the type of aircraft they fly, the kind of company they work for and their qualifications.

An entry-level Commercial pilot in South Africa earns an average of R390K p/a. A Mid-level with 5-9 years of experience can earn an average of R350k p/a. An experienced commercial pilot earns an average of R450K p/a, in South Africa.

18. Air Traffic Controller

most paying professions

Though it not as difficult as going through a series of training to qualify as a professional like pilots, Air traffic controlling is surprisingly also one of the most paying jobs in South Africa today. 

Air traffic controllers maintain an orderly, safe and smooth flow of air traffic in the air routes systems. They meticulously work with pilots helping them to navigate in the skies during bad weather and to maintain a safe distance with other aircraft in the sky and on the ground.

 To be an Air traffic controller in South Africa, you have to get training from the Air Traffic and Navigation Services (ATNS) through the Aviation Training Academy. Training takes 4-6 years before qualifying as an Air Traffic Controller.

As a qualified Air Traffic Controller, you can be able to secure yourself a good job with quite a high salary. You can easily find a job in the following places; the SA Air Forces, government’s department of transport and in Private sector South African or international airlines.

 An early career air traffic controller earns an average income of R239K p/a while one with 5- 9 years’ experience earns an average of R360K. An air traffic controller in the later years of their career with 10-19 years of experience earns an average of R25Ok p/a.

19. Financial advisor

most paying professions

Financial advisors are pivotal in every sector of a country’s economy. This profession is of significant importance towards business or individuals financial goals.

Financial advisors always assist their clients in staying afloat with their finances.

Generally, financial advisors help individuals or institutional clients to assess their financial needs and help them meet their financial targets.

They help clients in choosing investments and explain tax laws regarding particular investments.

Financial advisors also assist their clients to choose insurance covers that are most suitable and compatible with the client’s financial goals and aspirations.

To qualify as a financial advisor, you need to complete a 4-year degree in finance, accounting, business and mathematics. An entry-level financial advisor earns an average income of R142K p/a.

One with 5-9 years of experience earns an average of R195K p/a. An experienced financial advisor with 10-19 years of experience earns an average of R300K p/a.

20. Educators

most paying professions

With an estimated number of 425 000, educators are still of high shortage in the country. South Africa aims to increase the number of teachers it produces a year so as to improve the quality of its education systems.

Starting a career in education would be a good thought that is if you find yourself as someone who would enjoy the profession.

To qualify as a teacher in South Africa one needs to attain a diploma or degree in education or a degree in the relative field. This may take 3-4 years to complete.

An early career educator earns an average of R201k p/a. An educator with 5-9 years of experience earns an average income of R225K p/a while one who is experienced having 10-19 years of experience earns an average income of R302K p/a.


As shown above, there are quite a number of high paying professions you can choose to embark on today. Starting a career that you are passionate about and with a high income is pivotal since there are high chances it could be for a lifetime.

From the information given above, which profession would you find more suitable for you to take up as a career?


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