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Tech Career Insights: Developer Salaries 2021: Cape Town, Johannesburg and Pretoria
Check out the 2022 State of the Software Developer Nation report to get data-backed insights on dev salaries and careers. View report

Developer Salaries 2021: Cape Town, Johannesburg and Pretoria

By Josh Nel

It’s no surprise to learn that COVID-19 impacted software developer salaries. Fortunately, there is some good news: Intermediate and senior developers in Pretoria have seen big increases.

Using data from hires made on the OfferZen platform, here are our insights into software developer salaries across Cape Town, Johannesburg and Pretoria over the past year.

software developer salary, software engineer salary

Intermediate and senior developers in Pretoria have seen significant salary increases in 2021

software developer salary, software engineer salary

A lot has changed since we last compared developer salaries in Johannesburg, Pretoria and Cape Town in 2020. Last year, the COVID-19 pandemic forced entire companies to go remote, and entire sectors to shut down for large parts of the year. So, how have developer salaries been affected by the pandemic?

For juniors, things are mostly looking bright: When it comes to developers with fewer than 2 years of experience, we found an increase in salaries for those based in Johannesburg and Pretoria. Developers in these cities saw their average salaries rise by 6%. Only junior developers based in Cape Town experienced a decrease in average salaries since 2020. Salaries for Capetonian developers in this group decreased by 2%.

Developers with 2 to 4 years of experience have also seen their salaries increase since 2020: Capetonian developers in this bracket experienced a 6% increase, followed by an 11% rise in Pretoria. Johannesburg-based developers have gained the most with a whopping 16% increase.

However, things look a little bit different at 4 to 6 years of experience: Salaries for Johannesburg-based developers decreased by 2% since 2020. Meanwhile, those working in the Mother City are bringing home about 5% more every month and those in Pretoria an extra 8%.

Pretoria continues to lead the way at the 6 to 10 year level: While developer salaries in South Africa’s capital rose by an impressive 13% since 2020, Capetonian developers only experienced a 1% increase, while those in Johannesburg only saw a 0.3% increase in their monthly salaries.

However, it’s not all doom and gloom for Johannesburg. There was a 9% increase in salary for developers with more than 10 years of experience in South Africa’s largest city, followed by Cape Town at 8% and Pretoria at 6%.

In light of these changes, let’s have a look at which South African city currently pays the best software developer salaries.

Developers in Cape Town have the highest average salaries

software developer salary, software engineer salary

When comparing average salaries for 2021, we found that Cape Town offers the highest. Capetonian developers earn an average monthly salary of R50,993. This is approximately 3% higher than both Pretoria’s at R49,432 and Johannesburg’s at R49,403.

Developer salaries per year of experience with quartiles

In the graph below, we’ve also included the 25th and 75th percentile salaries to give further context on the distribution of our data.

software developer salary, software engineer salary

Looking at average salaries doesn’t tell the whole story. Your level of experience is a better indicator of what you can expect to earn in each city.

Junior developers earn the most in Pretoria

software developer salary, software engineer salary

Junior developers with 0 to 2 years of experience in the country’s capital earn an average monthly salary of R27,217.

This gives Pretoria a slight edge over Cape Town’s R26,867. Johannesburg takes third place with average salaries 3% lower than those in Pretoria.

But while Cape Town has to settle for second place for junior developers, it takes the lead at the intermediate level.

Developers with 2 to 4 years of experience earn the most in Cape Town

software developer salary, software engineer salary

Cape Town leads the way for developers with 2 to 4 years of experience with an average salary of R38,360. Pretoria finds itself in second place with an average salary 3% lower than Cape Town’s. Johannesburg remains in last place with an average monthly salary 5% below those in the Mother City.

And Cape Town continues to lead the way for developers who’ve passed the 4 year mark.

Developers with 4 to 6 years of experience earn the most in Cape Town

software developer salary, software engineer salary

Capetonian Developers with 4 to 6 years of experience have average salaries of R49,049 giving them a 4% lead over Johannesburg.

Johannesburg overtakes Pretoria to narrowly claim second place. At R47,390 each month, Joburg’s software developers earn less than 1% more than those in Pretoria.

Senior developers with 6-10 years of experience earn the most in Johannesburg

software developer salary, software engineer salary

Johannesburg takes the top spot for senior developers with 6 to 10 years of experience. These developers can expect an average monthly salary of R61,178. This is about 4% more than second-placed Cape Town.

The gap between Johannesburg and Pretoria begins to widen for developers at this level of seniority.

Johannesburg-based senior developers earn about 6% more than their Pretoria counterparts.

The gap between Cape Town and Johannesburg widens for developers with 10+ years of experience

software developer salary, software engineer salary

Cape Town has established itself as the best-paying city in the country for developers with more than 10 years of experience.

Capetonian developers with more than 10 years of experience can expect to earn R81,279 each month.

This is approximately 8% higher than Johannesburg’s R75,581 and 4% more than Pretoria’s R78,320.

Pretoria developers have the most buying power

software developer salary, software engineer salary

Last year we compared the cost of living in both Cape Town, Pretoria and Johannesburg using data from Numbeo to adjust for the cost of living. Cost of living includes rent, groceries, restaurants and consumer prices.

In 2020, we found that, when compared to Johannesburg, it is 8% more expensive to live in Cape Town, but 5% cheaper to live in Pretoria.

When we looked at the data for 2021, the differences between the cities had shrunk: When compared to Cape Town, it is now only 1% cheaper to live in Johannesburg and 7% cheaper to stay in Pretoria.

Here’s another way to think about this:

Right now, Cape Town seems to be the place to be for developers. Capetonian developers earn an average monthly salary of R50,993. This is about 3% higher than both Pretoria’s R49,432 and Johannesburg’s R49,403.

If we take the average Cape Town salary as 100% spending power, what spending power does that same salary afford in Johannesburg and Pretoria?

software developer salary, software engineer salary

Developers in Pretoria have the most buying power even though developers in Cape Town can expect higher average salaries. Those based in South Africa’s capital city have, on average, 7% more spending power compared to Cape Town.

Keep in mind

The insights of this article are based on OfferZen platform data, and represent developers who were placed on the OfferZen platform, not the entire industry. We’ve also narrowed the focus of this article to include only salaries of software developers rather than roles like data scientists, product designers, and product managers also placed through OfferZen.

OfferZen is a curated marketplace, where we pre-screen candidates for quality. This means that the data from our platform will vary from other resources like our State of the Developer Nation report, which is based on survey responses from over 3,500 developers in the South African tech community.

In this article, “salary” refers to the gross monthly salary (before tax) that developers on OfferZen were hired at at the time of signing their contract. It excludes other incentives like equity or bonuses. Our platform data only reflects new placements made during the year.

Last but not least, it is always important to keep in mind that every individual’s context is different. At the end of the day, salary is a personal conversation that should take place between employee and employer and should take into consideration the nature of work, perks and other contextual factors like tech stack or industry.

If you have any questions or suggestions for a future analysis, feel free to leave a comment below. Make sure you’re subscribed to our newsletter for more articles like this one.

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