IT salaries compared – South Africa vs the USA

Qualified and skilled professionals are leaving South Africa in droves in search of better opportunities for them and their families.

While emigration was associated with white professionals a few years ago, this problem cuts across racial lines – the number of black professionals leaving South Africa now exceeds white emigrants.

For every one professional immigrating to South Africa, eight are emigrating to work overseas.

Common reasons cited for emigration include escaping South Africa’s crime problem, better job opportunities, and the option to travel.

“I am earning almost three-times as much as I was in South Africa, and although it is a lot more expensive to live here, I am able to save more money and travel a lot more than I did when I was living in South Africa,” one young IT professional who now lives overseas told MyBroadband.

To determine how lucrative job opportunities are overseas compared to South Africa, we compared the average salaries of popular IT positions in South Africa and in the United States.

IT salaries comparison

We used figures from Indeed, PayScale, and Glassdoor to compare average pay in both countries.

The US figures are listed in dollars and are paired with a converted rand figure – based on the exchange rate at the time of writing.

The average salaries for 10 popular IT jobs in South Africa and the United States are below.

IT Salary Comparison
Job South Africa United States
Computer Support Specialist R216,000 $44,970 (R660,317)
Web Developer R227,076 $59,229 (R869,689)
System Administrator R231,787 $61,861 (R908,336)
Database Administrator R308,872 $73,009 (R1,072,028)
IT Manager R368,112 $87,611 (R1,286,436)
Software Engineer R401,676 $84,762 (R1,244,603)
Information Security Analyst R509,892 $78,315 (R1,149,938)
DevOps Engineer R575,250 $93,359 (R1,370,837)
Data Engineer R592,079 $91,605 (R1,345,082)
Senior Solutions Architect R804,509 $133,226 (R1,956,223)

Taxes and net earnings

The gross salary comparison between the two countries definitely falls in favour of the United States, but there are also taxes to consider.

The amount of tax you pay in South Africa and the USA depends on how much you earn – placing you within different tax brackets.

The US Federal Income Tax is determined at the end of each year by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).

Different brackets exist for single and married taxpayers, as well as for heads of households.

Below are the tax brackets for the United States, according to the IRS.

Rate Single Head of Household Married / Joint returns
10% $0 $0 $0
12% $9,875 $14,100 $19,750
22% $40,125 $53,700 $80,250
24% $85,525 $85,500 $171,050
32% $163,300 $163,300 $326,600
35% $207,350 $207,350 $414,700
37% $518,400 $518,400 $622,050

Below are the 2020 tax bands for South African citizens, according to SARS.

SA Tax Bands
Up to R195,850 18% of taxable income
R195,851 – R305,850 R35,253 + 26% of taxable income above R195,850
R305,851 – R423,300 R63,853 + 31% of taxable income above R305,850
R423,301 – R555,600 R100,263 + 36% of taxable income above R423,300
R555,601 – R708,310 R147,891 + 39% of taxable income above R555,600
R708,311 – R1,500,000 R207,448 + 41% of taxable income above R708,310
R1,500,001 and above R532,041 + 45% of taxable income above R1,500,000

Spending power

Not everything comes down to a comparison between salary and taxes – the cost of living makes a big difference in how good your salary actually is.

In a country like the United States, the cost of living can vary greatly between states, cities, and coasts, and can therefore be difficult to compare.

The salaries in the United States may be much higher than in South Africa, but it is also far more expensive to rent an apartment in New York than in most parts of Johannesburg.

While the Big Mac Index is by no means an accurate tool for currency misalignment, it does provide a rough idea of how currencies are valued against one another.

According to a report by BusinessTech, combining this data with GDP per capita finds that the rand in 2019 was undervalued by 27% compared to the US dollar.

This figure is comparable with purchasing power, showing that purchasing power is greater in South Africa compared to the United States.

Spending Power SA vs US

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IT salaries compared – South Africa vs the USA