Thousands of students who recently received their matric results will start their tertiary studies at university in the coming weeks.
While students are encouraged to follow their passion and study what they love, the earning potential of the different fields vary significantly.
A generic BA degree may provide students with a pleasant university life and interesting philosophical debates, but these graduates will typically earn far less than their engineering counterparts.
MyBroadband’s 2015 qualifications and salary survey asked South African professionals what their starting salary was as a new graduate.
The results revealed that engineering graduates enjoy the highest starting salaries, followed by BEd and BSc graduates.
The table below shows the average salary, median salary, and the 25th and 75th percentiles of starting salaries for recent graduates.
|Starting salaries per qualification|
Average starting salary
Median starting salary
|BSc Engineering or BEng Degrees||R19,069||R20,000||R15,000||R24,000|
|General BSc Degrees||R14,541||R12,000||R8,000||R20,250|
|BSc Computer Science or IT Degrees||R14,452||R15,000||R8,000||R19,000|
Degrees with the highest earning potential
PayScale’s 2015-2016 College Salary Report, which is based on salaries in the United States, sheds light on the earning potential of different Bachelor Degrees.
It is not surprising that engineering, computer science, and scientific degrees top the list for earning potential.
The report highlights that choosing the right degree and subjects will have a huge impact on a student’s future salary.
It should be noted that the earning potential for this list, below, is skewed towards the United States market.
Petroleum engineering is concerned with the activities related to the production of hydrocarbons – which can be either crude oil or natural gas.
Nuclear engineering deals with the application of the breakdown (fission) as well as the fusion of atomic nuclei and/or the application of other sub-atomic physics.
Actuarial science applies mathematical and statistical methods to assess risk in insurance, finance, and other industries. Actuaries are professionals who are qualified in this field through intense education and experience.
Chemical engineering applies physical sciences (physics and chemistry) and life sciences (microbiology and biochemistry) together with applied mathematics and economics to produce, transform, transport, and properly use chemicals, materials, and energy.
Electronics engineering, or electronic engineering, utilises non-linear and active electrical components (such as electron tubes and semiconductor devices – especially transistors, diodes, and integrated circuits) to design electronic circuits, devices, and systems.
Telecommunications engineering brings together all electrical engineering disciplines, including computer engineering with systems engineering, to enhance telecommunication systems.
Computer science spans theory and practice, requiring thinking in abstract and concrete terms. Nowadays, practically everyone is a computer user, and many people are computer programmers.
Electrical engineering deals with the study and application of electricity, electronics, and electromagnetism.
Systems engineering is an interdisciplinary approach and means to enable the realisation of successful systems. Systems must satisfy the needs of their customers, users, and other stakeholders.
Aeronautical and Aerospace Engineering
Aerospace engineering is concerned with the development of aircraft and spacecraft. It is divided into two major and overlapping branches: aeronautical engineering and astronautical engineering.
Computer engineering is a discipline that integrates the fields of electrical engineering and computer science required to develop computer hardware and software.
Mining engineering involves the practice, theory, science, technology, and application of extracting and processing minerals from the environment.
Computer Science and Mathematics
Computer science with Mathematics sees learners study numbers, quantity, space, structure, and change.
Industrial distribution companies provide products, parts, services, and solutions to users primarily in one of two categories: Maintenance, repair, and operations of their production facilities; or the manufacture of equipment, machinery, goods, and products.
Physics is the natural science that involves the study of matter and its motion through space and time, along with related concepts such as energy and force.
Materials Science and Engineering
The traditional examples of materials are metals, semiconductors, ceramics, and polymers. New and advanced materials that are being developed include nanomaterials and biomaterials.
The basis of materials science involves studying the structure of materials, and relating them to their properties.
Applied mathematics is a branch of mathematics that deals with mathematical methods which find use in science, engineering, business, computer science, and industry.
Mechanical engineering is the discipline that applies the principles of engineering, physics, and materials science for the design, analysis, manufacturing, and maintenance of mechanical systems.