What public service means

Why choose a career in government? There are many reasons why you might choose a career in government and become a municipal employee. There are many benefits working for local government, including better job security than in the private sector, access to a good pension, medical aid and a housing scheme as well as a guaranteed 13th cheque.

We’ll take a closer look at the benefits of working for local government further down, as well as covering the municipal employee jobs available and the kind of public administration salary in South Africa that you can expect to earn with the correct local government qualifications, such as the University of Pretoria’s Public Management Degree, which can be studied online from the comfort of home.

But first, let’s have a look at what life as a local government manager entails on a day-to-day basis.

Public administrator roles in local service delivery and governance

As a public manager working for local government, you could be involved in any one of many different local government programmes. Any national government is responsible for running the entire country, providing services and infrastructure to millions of people while preparing for and responding to both local and national disasters. While things are planned and coordinated at a national level, it is up to the municipality to ensure these are carried out and that there is adequate service delivery.

The South African government’s Programme of Action sets 14 priority areas of focus, although it also notes that there are many more projects, programmes and campaigns that it is involved in outside of these priority areas. The list gives a good idea of the broad range of fields in which municipal employees and public administrators may end up working.

  • Education
  • Health
  • Safety and security
  • Economic growth and employment
  • Skills development
  • Infrastructure
  • Rural development
  • Human settlements
  • Local government
  • Environment
  • International relations
  • Public sector
  • Social protection
  • Nation-building and social cohesion

Although this is a list of national concerns, most of these areas are dealt with at the local government and municipal level by municipal employees.

Life as a local government manager will likely involve administration and budgeting to ensure that services are properly provided to the local community. Among many other roles, they are the people who make sure that homes get water and power; that roads are maintained, cleaned and kept safe; and that hospitals, schools and libraries are appropriately staffed and adequately equipped.

Co-ordinate implementation of national policies and legislation

In South Africa, there are three tiers of government: national, provincial and local. Local government is the municipal level and South Africa has three types of municipalities: metropolitan municipalities, which are the six biggest cities; local municipalities and district municipalities.

Each municipality is run by a council, with the mayor in charge. These are elected positions and the people in these roles can change depending on the results of local government elections. The council and mayor also oversee and work with the municipal manager and the department heads, who form part of the municipal administration. Unlike the elected positions of councillor and mayor, those working in municipal administration have far better job security as they stay on regardless of election results.

It is up to municipal administrators to ensure that the national policies as shown in the section above are properly implemented and coordinated within their communities.

Working for local government and qualifications requirements

The work of a municipality is wide-reaching and requires a huge number of people with many different skills. At the lower end are roles such as switchboard operators, security staff and cashiers, which require little more than a Matric and some relevant job experience and skills like computer literacy.

Moving up in the local government hierarchy, the requirements become much more onerous. Higher-level local government positions require higher qualifications and more work experience, obtained at a higher level.

Mid-level managers will require at least a diploma or bachelor’s degree as well as a few years of relevant experience. Further up, directors of departments tend to require relevant postgraduate qualifications and up to 10 years of relevant experience.

To get a feel for what the average public administration salary in South Africa is, here are links to vacancies at some of the countries metropolitan municipalities:

Here are the job titles, qualification requirements and approximate salaries of a top-level and a mid-level position, at the time of writing:

District Health Services: director
Salary Range: R62 284.19 – R77 850.07 pm (basic salary excluding benefits)
Appointment requirements (shortened version):

  • Grade 12 plus Basic Nursing Diploma/Nursing Degree (NQF level 6/7);
  • National Diploma in Environmental/Bachelor’s degree (NQF level 7) with Health Service Management as one of the major subjects;
  • Honours Degree/Advanced nursing Diploma (NQF level 8);
  • Masters Degree in the relevant Nursing or Public Health field (NQF level 9);

Public Housing Programme Support: assistant director: project approvals administration
Salary Range: R43 684.21 pm (basic salary excluding benefits)
Appointment requirements (shortened version):

  • Bachelor’s Degree/Degree in Project Management or Built Environment Discipline;
  • At least 6-8 years of experience in Housing Programme Management of which 4 years at middle management/supervisory level;

Municipal employee job security, salary, and retirement benefits

If you’re considering furthering your studies with a local government qualification like the University of Pretoria’s Postgraduate Diploma in Public Management, then you’ve probably wondered just how much public administrators make. You’ll be happy to learn that a public administration salary in South Africa is comfortably large. However, a good salary is not the only reason why people choose a career in government. Working for the government also offers a bunch of other fantastic benefits that few in the private sector get to enjoy.

  • Government Employees Pension Fund: Exclusive to government employees, this massive pension fund offers attractive retirement, death and disability cover.
  • South African Government Employees Medical Scheme: Also exclusive to government employees, the government medical scheme is the second largest medical aid scheme in the country and includes a network of 12,000 health professionals
  • Government Employee Housing Scheme: This scheme provides housing allowances and subsidies for government employees to obtain adequate housing, which is not normally included in private sector employment packages.
  • Annual bonus: Government employees are guaranteed an annual bonus, also something that is not guaranteed in most private sector settings, especially in times of economic distress.
  • Leave benefits
  • Skills training.
  • Job security

As we’ve shown, there are many reasons why you might choose a career in government. Public administration salaries are good in South Africa, working for local government has many benefits, with a raft of perks for municipal employees. With the correct local government qualifications such as the University of Pretoria’s Postgraduate Diploma in Public Management, which can be studied entirely online, you too can enjoy life as a public administrator.

If you’ve already got your undergraduate degree, some work experience and would like to further your career by studying for a Postgraduate Diploma in Public Management, then please click to view the application details as well as the course fees.