South Africa is a land of contrasts - on the one hand we have properties in Bishopscourt on the market for R39,000,000 and on the other hand, according to StatsSA, in quarter 1 of 2019, the average employee in the formal sector was paid R21,432 per month.

To be able to afford the aforementioned property you would have to earn a gross monthly income equivalent to R1,248,880 per month and make a bond payment of R374,664 per month if you wished to pay off your bond within 20 years! How do you go about beginning to bridge the gap? What can you expect from an Accountant salary in South Africa?

The first step is educating yourself about the position you are applying for or studying toward - research the salary structure and the job requirements - know your worth!

According to available data, Accountants in South Africa earn anywhere between R380,000 per year (R31, 667 per month) to R3,200,000 per year (R266,667 per month), depending on a number of variables, including, but not limited to, the qualifications held, the industry employed in and the size of the company.

The accounting career you wish to pursue will also shape the salary you can expect to earn. Some of the options available are:

Accounting Technician

Accounting Technician positions are generally entry level ones - you can expect to perform traditional bookkeeping duties such as invoicing, capturing of income and expenditure, reconciliation of accounts and preparation of financial reports. Accounting Technicians may also be expected to complete tax returns.

You may wish to work towards obtaining a qualification such as Certified Chartered Accountant or to become a member of  Accounting Technicians South Africa.

The qualification of Certified Accounting Technician is a valuable one to consider if you play a support role in a Finance department. This qualification is offered by the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants. You will have to complete the Foundations of Accounting qualification, which consists of seven subjects, as well as two electives. The Foundation Certificate in Taxation , Foundation Certificate in Financial Management and Foundation Certificate in Auditing are the electives that you can choose from. Once you have successfully completed these subjects, along with the compulsory Foundations in Professionalism, you will have to provide evidence of a year's work experience in order to be allowed to make use of the Certified Accounting Technician designation.

Coffee and taxes
Completing tax returns may be one of your tasks as an Accounting Technician |Source: Unsplash

You can apply to become a member of Accounting Technicians South Africa after you've completed your first NQF level 3 qualification. You can then progress through various membership levels as you gain work experience and complete additional qualifications.

According to the South African Institute of Professional Accountants, an Accounting Technician can expect to earn an average salary of R12,848 per month but this can increase to an average salary of R20, 392 for a Senior Bookkeeper (per Indeed).

Chartered Accountant

As a Chartered Accountant (SA) you will have secured the highest professional Accounting qualification in South Africa.

CA(SA)'s are highly sought after in South Africa and this career offers you true global mobility - the qualification is recognised worldwide. You have to be a member of the South African Institute of Chartered Accountants in order to use this designation.

The path to becoming a CA(SA) will take several years to complete. After completing a relevant Bachelors degree, you will have to complete either the Post Graduate Diploma in Accounting or the Certificate in the Theory of  Accounting before writing the Initial Test of Competence and embarking on a three year training contract. After completing at least 20 months of your contract, you will be eligible to write the Assessment of Professional Competence exam. Once you've passed this exam and illustrated all of the required competencies, you will be eligible to register as a CA(SA).

As a CA(SA) you are required to complete an annual amount of Continuous Professional Development hours, record them and report them to the South African Institute of Chartered Accountants.

Coin in book
As a CA(SA) the investment you've made in your studies will reap significant financial rewards |Source: Unsplash

Chartered Accountants fill roles across both private and public sectors. As a CA(SA), among many other roles, you can be employed as a Finance Manager, Financial Analyst,  Auditor or Chief Financial Officer.

According to a salary survey by Robert Walters, a professional recruitment firm, a newly qualified chartered accountant salary can fall between R580,000 to R675,000 per year (R48,333 to R56,250 per month).

Once you start moving up the ladder, your salary expectations start rising too: as a Finance Manager or an Audit Manager you can expect to earn upward of R700,000 per year (upward of R58,333 per month), this increases to between R1,400,000 and R2,000,000 per year (between R116,667 and R166,667 per month) as a Chief Financial Officer and, as the Finance Director of a large firm, you can earn a salary of between R1,700,000 and R3,000,000 per year (between R141,667 and R250,000 per month).

Management Accountant

Overall, a Management Accountant's role is to attend to a company's accounts, interpret the results and present this information to management (by means of management accounts, budgets and forecasts), in order to assist with strategic decision making.

Completing a Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (CIMA) qualification is a brilliant stepping stone on your career pathway. As the world's largest professional body of Management Accountants, CIMA offers two accounting qualifications: The CIMA Certificate in Business Accounting and the CIMA Professional Qualification.

You can choose to complete the Certificate in Business Accounting as a stand-alone qualification, but as it forms part of the Professional Qualification, if you choose to continue your studies, it serves as a formal entry route to the Professional Qualification. You only need a good understanding of Maths and English in order to register for the Certificate in Business Accounting, no prior qualification is necessary. The syllabus consists of four subjects and it should take you between twelve and eighteen months to complete this qualification.

Taking notes
As a Management Accountant you will prepare reports to assist management to make strategic business decisions | Source: Unsplash

You will complete a total of twelve exams when working toward obtaining the Professional Qualification: nine objective tests and three case studies. The subjects are spread across three pillars: Enterprise Pillar, Performance Pillar and Financial Pillar. You would have to complete either a relevant qualification from a CIMA-accredited institute, or a Certificate in Business Accounting, before being eligible to register for this course.

You will be awarded the designation of Chartered Global Management Accountant (CGMA) once you've completed both qualifications and qualified for CIMA membership. This qualification can take you between three and six years to complete. As a member of CIMA you will be required to complete annual Continuous Professional Development activities.

Once qualified as a CGMA, you can expect to earn between R550,000 to R900,000 per year (between R45,833 and R75,000 per month).

Internal Auditor

As an Internal Auditor you will perform the task of evaluating the operations of an organisation, including internal controls, actual versus expected performance  and whether information systems are secure.  Internal Auditors conduct a number of small internal audits during the course of the year and they can also perform as internal consultants - making educated recommendations based on the results of their findings.

You can follow a course of study that leads you to the Certified Internal Auditor (CIA®) designation. This is the only globally recognised internal audit qualification and there are more than 150,000 certified internal auditors across the world.

In order to earn the CIA® designation, you need to fulfill criteria in four sections. The first section is the academic qualification - you need to have completed a Bachelor's degree or the equivalent thereof. However, if you are an experienced internal auditor, there are alternative routes available via the Institute of Internal Auditors (IIA) . The second section is ethics - you have to demonstrate high professional and moral qualities and agree to abide by the IIA's Code of Ethics. Passing all three of the CIA examinations is the third section and the fourth and final section is experience. The experience needed depends on your level of education. For instance, if you have only a Grade 12 certificate, you would have to demonstrate 72 months of internal audit or equivalent experience, while if you have a Master's Degree, you will only have to demonstrate 12 months of internal audit or equivalent experience.

Once you've been awarded the designation, in order to maintain it, you need to complete an annual required amount of continuing professional education activities.

As an Internal Auditor, your salary expectation can be between R400,000 and R600,000 per year (R33,333 and R50,000 per month).

Bear in mind that these salaries are guidelines - you may find roles that offer significantly more or even slightly less. Many companies also offer annual performance bonuses that are linked to your Key Performance Indicators, in addition to the agreed monthly salary.

No matter what Finance role you wish to fill, whether you are an entrepreneur, work for the South African Revenue Services or in Financial Planning, an accounting qualification will always be of benefit to you.

Keep building on what you've learnt and striving for success, and who knows, one day you may just purchase that R39,000,000 property in Bishopscourt!

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Kim is from Cape Town, South Africa. She enjoys reading and spending summer days on the beautiful blue flag beaches that the Western Cape is blessed with. She is currently working on getting her groove back.