Engineering: Industries, Courses and Salaries in South Africa

Engineering is a thriving industry in South Africa, making the country an ideal place in which to begin an engineering career. Here we provide an overview of different engineering fields, including the average range of entry-level salaries they offer, required courses of study for certification and examples of potential employers in South Africa.

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Automotive Engineering

Average income: R25,712 – R31,820

To qualify in automotive engineering, you need to complete a three-year bachelor of science, or BSc, degree in mechanical engineering and then  a post-graduate course of study focused on automotive engineering. You may also consider a course in computer engineering because many vehicles now incorporate computer technology in their performance and safety features.

Students in the field might consider an employer such as Metric Automotive Engineering. One of South Africa’s largest engine and car-component manufacturers, it began as a family business is 1969, with a focus on investing in quality equipment and quality people.

Chemical Engineering

Average income: R28,300 – R41,467

Nearly everything we use in our daily lives – including metal items, plastics, paper, beverages, textiles, and pharmaceuticals – are made with the assistance of chemical engineers. To qualify as a chemical engineer, you need to complete at least a four-year degree in chemical engineering. There are many opportunities for chemical engineers in the petrochemical and mining industries, as well as in other process-based industries such as the pharmaceutical, paint, food and beverage industries.

Chemical engineering graduates looking to work in research and development team might consider working for a consultancy, opening up their own businesses or working for an in-house team.

Civil and Structural Engineering

Average income: R34,054 – R46,721

Civil and structural engineers focus on the design, construction and maintenance of the built environment. They may focus on earthquake engineering (structural behavior in relation to seismic loads), ocean engineering (concerning offshore structures like oil platforms and wind farms), or wind engineering. Degrees in this field generally last for four years, with recommended post-graduate studies taking up to a further two years.

Most graduates  join research groups focused on specific tasks. A university’s civil engineering faculty may point students to opportunities in the field. Contracting companies like the South African Institute for Civil Engineering (SAICE) and South African Federation of Civil Engineering Contractors (SAFCEC) may also be of help.

Electrical and Electronic Engineering

Average income: R27,496 – R39,209

Those interested in the application of electricity, electronics and electromagnetism can qualify as electrical or electronic engineers by completing a four-year degree, followed by a postgraduate master’s degree or PHD in a specialized field such as software, hardware, networking, telecommunications or mechatronics.

Entry-level employment in the field can come in a number of forms, depending on the specialization choices you make. Sites like HireResolve are an excellent resource for junior engineers and technicians. The Institution of Certified Mechanical and Electrical Engineers, South Africa (ICMEESA) is an invaluable resource for attaining bursaries or certificates of competency, and for professional networking.

Industrial Engineering

Average income: R29,421 – R41,396

Industrial engineering is likely to appeal to those with an aptitude for mathematics and science, who think analytically and enjoy finding ways to improve systems and processes. Typically an industrial engineer completes a three-year undergraduate course, followed by more specialized study in a master’s or PHD program.

Industrial engineers may be employed in a wide variety of industries to investigate, improve, design and implement systems that optimize capital, manpower and use of raw materials.

There are some excellent companies and opportunities for employment in the field of industrial engineering in South Africa. One example is Hans Von Der Heyde, a team of industrial engineers at the forefront of cutting-edge machine design.

Marine Engineering

Average income: R29,483 – R34,792 

Marine engineering, sometimes also known as naval architecture, refers to the engineering of boats, ships, rigs and other marine structures or vessels. It generally involves the application of mechanical and electrical engineering in the maritime industry. Your skills as an engineer in this field would be used to develop, design, operate and maintain systems of watercraft propulsion, as well as on-board systems such as machinery, piping, automation and computer control systems.

South Africans interested in marine engineering should direct their attention to the South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA) page on career guidance, where information is provided on school requirements, possible further education, and on-board career opportunities.

Mechanical Engineering

Average income: R30,966 – 39,432

If the design and operation of machines is your interest, mechanical engineering is the field for you. Mechanical engineering includes a diverse range of fields. Examples are aerospace engineering, acoustical engineering, and automotive engineering.

To qualify as a mechanical engineer, you need to complete a three-year undergraduate Bachelor of Science in engineering, with the third year reserved for specialization. The course will involve mathematics, physics, chemistry, material science and basic electrical engineering.

South African graduates in the field of mechanical engineering should direct their attention to The South African Institution of Mechanical Engineering (SAIMechE).

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