The results of ITWeb’s IT Salary Survey are in
It is good to be in IT, especially if you live in Western Cape, specialise in enterprise architecture, or possess some of the hot new skills in areas such as containers, artificial intelligence (AI), DevOps, or automation. This is according to ITWeb’s 2023 Salary Survey, which captured input from 2 174 South African IT professionals.
Overall, the respondents reported an average salary of R840 000 a year, while those in the C-suite take home close to R2 million on average. For those who received a salary increase in the past year, it was mostly between three and six percent.
The chance you’re earning an above-average salary is better if you work for a global corporation, rather than a local one. If you are an employer seeking to attract and retain top IT talent, you must allow remote work.
Survey sample and methodology
The ITWeb IT Salary Survey was conducted during the last quarter of 2022 and first quarter of 2023. There were 2 174 valid responses from IT professionals ranging from entry- to C-level.
Most survey participants (85%) are permanently employed, 8% are contractors and 6% are business owners or self-employed, with the remaining 2% being freelancers.
As the survey was conducted via an online questionnaire on ITWeb, the sample is not controlled.
The values reported are median, annualised total salary packages, expressed in thousands of rands. Percentages were rounded to the nearest whole number.
ITWeb’s research team analysed the survey data and compiled this results report.
Interactive benchmarking tool
The big development with the ITWeb Salary Survey this year is our interactive benchmarking tool, that lets employers and IT professionals add in various criteria and determine the value of a specific position, or work out their own worth.
- Overall, the median salary reported in this survey is R840 000 per annum, but respondents employed in global companies earned, on average, R228 000 per annum more than those working for SA-based companies.
- The gap between top and bottom earners is substantial – from R1.4 million for senior managers, to R360 000 for entry-level roles. Mid-managers are just under the million-mark at R947 000.
- Our industry, according to this survey, remains male-dominated – earnings reported by male respondents are R176 000 higher than those reported by female respondents.
- Western Cape is the place where IT salaries are the highest in South Africa, but by a small margin compared to Gauteng – the average salary in both provinces is higher than the overall median (R840 000), at R887 000 and R881 000, respectively.
- Financial services is traditionally a top-paying sector, but respondents from the mining and automotive industries were also up there, reporting an above-million-rand median.
- In the C-suite, both CIOs and CTOs are earning over R2 million a year, on average.
- At a general staff level, architects (enterprise, technical, solutions architects) dominate the list of best-paid IT professionals.
- Asked to single out a skill they considered to be critical for their job, people who are versed in new technologies – containers, AI, DevOps, robotics, automation – are in the top 10 salary-wise.
- IT professionals who are allowed to work remotely earn the most money – over R900 000 on average, indicating employers who are flexible enough to offer this arrangement are able to attract top talent.
Gender pay gap
The gender ratio of respondents is similar to the results of the first salary survey conducted by ITWeb almost 20 years ago – 80% of survey respondents are male and 19% female, with 1% opting not to disclose their gender.
As there is ample evidence of company- and industry-wide initiatives to close the gender gap, this ratio should be seen as a reflection of ITWeb’s readership, rather than the gender equity state of the ICT industry. In fact, according to the Commission for Employment Equity’s 2022/2023 report, the ICT sector has 60.5% male and 39.5% female employees.
The ITWeb Salary Survey, however, shows a R176 000 earning gap per annum between male respondents (average earning being R864 000 per annum) versus female respondents (average earning being R688 000 per annum).
We then looked deeper into the male/female earnings gap based on the seniority of their current role.
Firstly, it’s important to note we are working with a much bigger sample of male respondents (1618) than female respondents (369) who answered the seniority question.
It emerges that women participants in this survey have marginally better representation at mid-management level: 50% for female respondents versus 49% for male respondents.
However, at the most senior level, men are better represented – 19% of all male respondents hold senior management positions (Paterson E Band), compared to 16% for females. The salary difference between men and women at this level is R177 000 in favour of men, while at mid-management level (Paterson D Band) the difference is R110 000 in favour of men.
Job function vs salary
It’s interesting to note that across the entire sample, the largest section of respondents work in the field of IT operations and support, followed by applications/systems development.
The highest median salaries were reported by those in IT architecture (R1.2 million), data analytics and BI (R930 000) and applications/systems development (R887 000).
When it comes to which areas have greatest female representation, it's in business and systems analysis (25% female vs only 7% of males), and data analytics and BI (14% of females and 7% of males).
For men, after IT operations and support, the next most popular IT function is applications/systems development, at 26%. It should be noted that the representation of women in this function was also sizeable, with 21% of all female respondents – perhaps an indication of improving gender balance in the software development field.
IT architecture specialists emerged as the highest earners, with a median reported package of R1.2 million. They are followed by those in data analytics and BI (R920 000) and app development (R887 000).
At the very bottom of the earnings list are those in web design and admin jobs.
Looking specifically at the executive roles, the average salary package reported by C-level respondents is just shy of R2 million, at R1 990 000 per year. CIOs are the top earners (R2.3 million), closely followed by CTOs (R2.25 million).
The R1m job club
Outside of the C-suite, there is a range of roles with above million-rand annual earnings, from enterprise, solutions or technical architects, to application development managers and business analysts.
The next tier of jobs, with the average salary in the R900 000 per year range, includes level-4 system engineers (which typically requires 7+ years of experience), key accounts managers, applications system architects, IT infrastructure managers and cloud consultants.
Here is the list of IT jobs (alphabetical) and their median/average salaries reported by survey respondents:
Seniority of role vs salary
Looking at the entire sample, the gap between the top and bottom earners in the industry is significant – from R1.4 million average reported by respondents in senior management positions, to R360 000 for those in entry-level, non-management jobs.
The difference between middle managers’ (R947 000) and senior managers’ pay (R1.4 million) is also significant, at R450 000.
Age of respondent: Maturity matters
Most respondents (57%) are between the ages of 30 and 45, while 32% are older than 45 and 11% are under the age of 30. Predictably, the results show the older the respondents are, the more they earn.
The median salary reported by those older than 45 is above the million-rand mark, while entry-level IT professionals, aged under 25, earn only R228 000 on average.
Tertiary education or vendor certification?
Just under 50% of respondents have a tertiary diploma or degree, and a further 14% hold an honours degree – the latter reported earnings of over R1 million per annum.
Meanwhile, less than 1% of the respondents have a PhD, but those individuals command by far the highest average salary package of R1.3 million per annum.
Interestingly, according to this survey, people without tertiary education are still able to compete in the IT market – the median salary reported by those with matric (R720 000) and those who have earned various industry certifications (R720 000) is on par with respondents with a tertiary diploma (R720 000 per annum).
Location advantage: Western Cape in the lead
Most respondents (65%) reside in Gauteng, but they do not earn the highest salaries – the 19% of respondents working in the Western Cape reported the highest median salary of R887 000, compared to R881 000 in Gauteng.
While only 0.5% of respondents are from the Northern Cape, they come third on the top salary by location list with a median of R823 000 – leaving respondents from the rest of the provinces far behind. However, looking at the sample, it emerges that only 0.4% of respondents reside in this province, rendering this finding an anomaly.
KwaZulu-Natal came in fourth at R650 000, and Mpumalanga was fifth at R600 000, while North West is at the bottom of the average salaries, with R350 000.
Industry vs salary: Mining, automotive and financial lead the way
Just under 60% of respondents work for a local company and they earn on average R228 000 less per year than their counterparts whose employers are global companies – they reported a median of R732 000 per annum, compared to R960 000 earned by global company employees.
Half of the respondents work for IT companies, while the other half work in IT departments of companies representing a wide range of industry verticals. Financial services dominates, at about 15%, followed by telecoms (8%) and government (3.5%).
The top three highest median salaries were reported by those employed in the mining/petrochemical, automotive and financial services industries – all three being at the million-rand mark or above.
The next highest-paying industries, with salaries at or above the R900 000 mark, are consumer goods and services, healthcare and pharmaceuticals, and telecoms.
By far the lowest on the list are the salaries reported by respondents from the advertising and marketing sectors, at a median of R440 000 per annum.
Salary increase: 3-6% is the norm
According to this survey, South African employers of IT skills seem to have mostly granted cost of living adjustment increases, in line with CPI.
Of the respondents who answered the question about increases, 61% received an increase in the past financial year. Of those, the majority (44%) received between three and six percent increase over the previous year’s salary.
Increase (Sample: 355)
Old and new benefits
The most common benefits provided by employers are provident or pension fund, and medical aid.
However, it’s worth noting that more than 40% of IT professionals are responsible for their own medical aid and 33% don’t enjoy a provident fund benefit. While it’s a positive sign that 47% of respondents receive study assistance benefits, to support learning and upskilling, it’s perhaps worrying that 53% didn’t; especially when the pace of change in technology is so rapid.
Only 2% of respondents enjoy creche and other work-based child-friendly facilities. This could be as a result of working from home or could be based on the flexible working policies companies have adopted, and warrants more investigation.
According to our survey, this perk is reserved for the very top earners – those who enjoy it reported the highest average earnings (R1.1 million).
While it’s not appearing on the list of usual employee benefits, one of the top considerations for IT professionals is the ability to work remotely. As some employers continue to push to bring IT staff back on-premises, those who offer remote-first working, or at least split-week working, are able to attract talent, as well as compete in the global IT job market. According to this, respondents who are allowed to work remotely are also those who earn the most money – over R900 000 on average.
Most valuable skills to have
The survey asked respondents to single out a business or technical skill that is critical to their job. It’s interesting to see leadership and business skills as well as programming in the top three.
Here’s the list of top 12 skills to have to advance your career in IT, according to our respondents:
However, looking at the critical skill singled out versus the salary reported by those individuals, the top 12 list looks very different, with container, AI, enterprise architecture and microservices skills making the top five list, together with leadership.
Across the sample, regardless of their current job, respondents singled out the programming language they are most fond of, or proficient in.
However, people with more “established” legacy technology skills command the highest salary, probably due to more senior roles, more years of overall experience, and the fact that these skills are in short supply. Conversely, while new skills are cool to have, they don’t pay that well, currently.