How Much Do Trainee’s Earn?

As an accounting trainee, whether its SAICA, SAIPA or CIMA traineeship, the question always beckons “how much should I be earning?”. When you’re young and choosing a career, there’s little doubt that money serves as a motivating factor to some degree. Becoming a chartered accountant has promising future earning prospects, there’s no doubts about that. But before you get to that stage, you need to study, complete your articles and work your way up the ladder.

More Valuable than Money: Experience (at least in the beginning)

Generally speaking, the salary and packages on offer to trainee accountants reflect the cost of living in any given city, and tend to differ from city to city with those in Johannesburg often earning more than those in other cities, and also differ from firm to firm. It’s worth a mention that in many instances the smaller firms also tend to pay slightly less than the bigger counterparts, but could include other non-financial benefits some of the larger firms do not offer (experience).

Bear in mind that you are not fully qualified yet and have little to no experience which means you can’t expect a high-flying salary, although you might think your hard work at varsity warrants you a kick-ass starting salary. You are right at the beginning of your career and your days as a trainee are geared to equip you with the necessary skills, knowledge and values of a future LEGEND in the business world.

Your ‘Education Level’ probably plays the biggest part in landing your first job, which therefore directly affects your first salary. The closer you are to becoming a Chartered- / Professional- / Management- Accountant, the higher your first salary might be in the scales we provide below. Do you remember supply and demand? Well currently the supply of students with Honours degrees are extremely low, and the demand equally high by firms wanting to employ these quality candidates. Those with Honours degrees don’t know it, but they are a valuable prize for any firm! With a CTA / PGDA, your salary expectation is also increased with another ±25%.

What are the amounts: Only rough figures to go on

Determining “Market Related” is dependent on every “Market” in its own case, and it is not what we are trying to do here. We have rather given a very rough estimate of trends we have noticed from our data sources to help you get an idea of what salaries look like before you start working.

We have divided South Africa into 4 tier regions. The higher of the 4 tiers would typically be positioned in Johannesburg and some parts of Pretoria, and with slight exception parts of Cape Town.

Tier 2 of the scale would typically be most of Cape Town and surrounding areas, parts of Pretoria, and surrounding areas in Gauteng, with parts of Durban and its surrounding areas. Earning capacity tends to be 10-15% lower than Tier 1 (Johannesburg).

Tier 3 regions are populated cities across South Africa. This tier is another 10-15% lower than tier 2. Cities would include places like Bloemfontein, Port Elizabeth, George, Nelspruit, East London, some parts of Durban with surrounding areas, and the list can go on.

Tier 4 regions are mostly the smaller cities and towns in South Africa and would include more rural offices. These are another 10-15% lower.

THE NUMBERS for a PGDA/ CTA holder in 2018

Below is what you can expect on average for a SAICA trainee as a starting salary, and having obtained a SAICA accredited honours in accounting before starting to work. TOPP trainees tend to earn higher than their TIPP counterparts. The scale we indicate is not regarded as the maximum or minimum, but rather what we have seen as a relative “market related” median.

Tier 1:  R 16 500 – R18 500 per month

Tier 2:  R 14 500 – R16 000 per month

Tier 3:  R 12 000 – R14 000 per month

Tier 4:  R 10 000 – R11 500 per month

Another factor you need to consider is that some firms pay a steady base salary, but incentivise trainees every 6 months with a bonus scheme, while other firms might start you off pretty high, but the increases are not substantial and you tend to have lower income in your 3rd year of articles.

When choosing your firm to do your training contract with, the most important factor to consider is what experience you will leave with after 3 years.

“Never chase the money, rather the dream. And if the dream is money, sleep more to find better dreams…” Anonymous