What students should study to make the most money in South Africa

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As part of a recent parliamentary Q&A session, the Department of Higher Education has released enrolment statistics based on numbers at South Africa’s higher education institutes.

The data shows that there has been a steady uptick in the number of enrolled students at South Africa’s universities, with the total number of enrolled students rising from just below 800,000 in 2008 to over a million in 2018.

Community Education and Training (CET) colleges and Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) colleges have also seen strong enrolment growth since their establishment in 2015 and 2010 respectively.

According to an August 2017 report by the IRR, South Africa’s absorption rate – the proportion of people of working age who are employed – depends largely on a person’s level of education.

For example, the absorption rate for people with a tertiary education is 75.6%, while people with a matric as their highest level of education, have an absorption rate of 50.3%.

You can find the complete university enrolment statistics detailed below.

YearCET CollegesTVET CollegesUniversities
2008***799 490
2009***837 776
2010*358 393892 936
2011*400 273938 201
2012*657 690953 373
2013*639 618983 698
2014*702 383969 154
2015283 602737 880985 212
2016273 431705 397975 837
2017262 156N/A1 036 984 ***

* The enrolment data for CET colleges is provided from the 2015 academic year onwards as CET colleges were only established in 2015.

** Enrolment data prior to 2010 resides with the Department of Education.

*** Provisional data


What South Africans are studying

According to the latest enrollment data provided by Stats SA (2017), 2.1 million adults aged 20 years and older have attained a tertiary qualification at a South African university.

The largest number of these – 503,096 graduates – studied Education.

This is followed by Business and Economics (439,719 graduates), Health (221,121) and Engineering (219,007).

Interestingly Stats SA found that 166,224 (close to 8%) of South Africa’s university graduates are aged 20–24 – whereas the majority (close to 52%) are between 25 and 44 years old.

This is due to either the slow progress of students in the higher education system or the late entry of students in the higher education system, the report noted.


What to study

BusinessTech recently looked at the best degrees to study to make the most money in South Africa.

The data which is based on information, provided by jobs website CareerJunction, found that engineers remain some of the highest earners in the country, with environmental engineers taking home an average monthly salary of around R75,941 (R911,292 per year).

Senior managers across a variety of sectors also earn well, with senior financial managers taking home an average salary of R67,653 a month (R811,836 a year), and senior IT managers taking home an average salary of R68,281 (R819,372 a year).

Aside from engineers, other top-paying positions are commonly found in finance and ICT sectors, as well as within the medical field.

JobDegreeAverage monthly salaryAverage annual salary
Environmental engineerFour-year Bachelor of Science (BSc) with Honours in Environmental Engineering R75 941 R911 292
Civil engineerFour-year Bachelor of Science (BSc) in Civil Engineering R74 779 R897 348
Structural engineerFour-year Bachelor of Science (BSc) in Civil EngineeringR71 377 R856 524
IT managementBCom/BCom Hons in Information Management R68 281 R819 372
Financial managementBCom in Financial Management R67 653 R811 836
Plant managerBachelor’s degree in business or industrial management is advised R62 188 R746 256
Chartered accountantBCom, followed by a certificate in the theory of accounting (CTA). R60 795 R729 540
Quantity surveyingFour-year Bachelor of Science (BSc) with honours in Quantity SurveyingR60 227 R720 454
Electrical engineerFour-year Bachelor of Science (BSc) in Electrical Engineering R59 792 R717 504
Technical and business architectA BSc in IT or Computer Science is advised R58 981 R707 772

This article was first published on businesstech.co.za