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The costs and benefits of studying to be an engineer

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We keep hearing stories about how the economy is putting a stranglehold on all areas of our lives, but a recent Career Junction poll shows that those in the engineering and related sectors have not been as negatively affected as those in other industries – at least as far as their salaries are concerned.

Costs of studying to be an engineerThe 2017 labour market report puts civil and structural engineers at the top of the salary list, with an average monthly salary of R70 301. Electrical engineers make the bottom of the top 10 ranked jobs, with an average monthly salary of R60 864.

The top ranked jobs in South Africa, by average salary are: civil/structural engineering, corporate lending, technical and business architecture, chartered accounting, financial management, environmental engineering, mechanical engineering, hospital management, GPs (general practitioners), and electrical engineering. The average salaries were polled at senior levels.

One of the reasons that engineers are so well-paid, the research found, is the fact that many South Africans with these qualifications and skills are leaving for other countries. As a result, local companies are having to increase their pay to try keep their human capital.

However, these degrees come at a high cost. A BEng degree costs between R55 460 and R57 180 a year at the University of Cape Town, from R43 580 to R50 360 at the University of the Witwatersrand, and R52 057 at the University of Stellenbosch. The costs of the degree at the Universities of KwaZulu-Natal, Pretoria, Johannesburg and North West range between R37 000 and R51 000 a year.

South Africa’s universities also offer different residence options, both on and off campus. These are self-catering or with food options. Students who have to stay in a residence will pay an extra R17 630 to R52 300 a year, depending on where they study.

Over the past two years, we have seen South African students taking to protest the high cost of a university education. While government is discussing ways to lower costs and some universities have only increased their 2017 fees for those students who can afford it, students who rely on loans to pay for their education are still feeling the hefty weight of the costs involved.

However, there is light at the end of the tunnel. Those studying to be engineers can at least be assured of earning enough to pay off their student loans relatively easily, and can look forward to becoming some of the country’s highest earners at senior levels.

 Image credit: Copyright: mtsaride / 123RF Stock Photo

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