By Lilian Wamaitha
I graduated in 2016 and was looking forward to a well-paying job, probably six figures. I mean, that is everybody’s dream before they are thrown into an uncertain job market, where getting a job is a real struggle and you have to take what falls into your laps, otherwise risk remaining job less.
I was lucky enough to land a job immediately I graduated and that bubble I had been living in of a six figure salary was busted. It was either I take the job or risk losing it all together on a fantasy of living a star life in two years.
I have friends who I graduated with but two years down the line are yet to land jobs in their areas of specialization.
So this begs the question; how much is a fresh graduate worth in Kenya?
You are probably reading this because you are a fresh graduate and looking for your first job or have been in the job market for a while now and can’s seem to land a job.
Before you go on sending those applications, do you know how much you are worth or how much a company is supposed to pay you, regardless of your degree or diploma? Are you underselling yourself in interviews or even quoting ridiculous figures just because you think you should earn well?
This article seeks to uncover the question of how much a fresh graduate should earn in Kenya and what determines that salary scale.
Is any amount enough as long as it’s a job?
One of our avid readers, let’s call her Doreen, emailed me the other day and here is her email,
“Hi Lilian, I am in a kind of dilemma and have no idea what to do. I graduated last year in July, looked for jobs for a while and it’s only in February this year that I was able to land a job. I started with a gross salary of Ksh 25, 000 which meant that after statutory deductions, the amount would go to as low as Ksh 23,000. Last month, I got a salary increase and I now earn a gross of Ksh 30,000. Rent in Nairobi is crazy and after buying household items, I can barely survive. Am I being underpaid because I feel like what I do is not worth what I am getting at the end of the day?”
The job market like I said is uncertain and you can’t know when you will get an opportunity to grow your experience in your field.
While you may be tempted to bite Doreen’s head off considering that so many graduates are dying to earn what she is earning or even lower as long as it’s a job, I kind of understand her concerns.
Maybe you are at a point where you just want a job, any job for that matter, and will figure out the salary later on.
But there is another lot out there who have those with jobs, Like Doreen but are hardly surviving on the little amount they have got going.
And then there is yet another lot who seem to be thriving even on that 30K or even lower and are still soldiering on.
So how much should fresh graduates be earning?
I would say that it all depends on the job, the industry and the company at large.
What do I mean? A fresh graduate in Engineering will not earn the same salary as a CPA graduate? The engineer will certainly be higher on the salary scale even with the same experience as that accountant.
A communications graduate working in a multinational company like PwC, Deloittee, Safaricom will not earn the same amount as one working at an SME.
The government also tends to pay employees including fresh graduates higher than those who get jobs in the private sector.
For example, there is an ICT officer position at the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights currently where the incumbent will be earning a salary of Ksh 100,000 yet this person is only expected to have worked for at least a year.
Now there was another job for an ICT officer earlier on at an SME requiring 3-5 years’ experience and the salary was Ksh 40,000.
I know what you are thinking. This is the same job but why would someone with just a year of experience earn almost triple the salary of this person who has been in the job market for three or five years.
This goes down to what I mentioned earlier – where you are working matters.
For example, let’s say you are lucky enough to secure an interview as a communication assistant at Safaricom and another one at a small company. The salary you quote at Safaricom will not be the same as the one you will quote at this other company.
Most likely if you go quoting crazy ranges like 80-100K at this small company, I can tell you for sure that you will not be getting that job but such an amount at Safaricom will open room for negotiation.
You need to learn to deduce such things because sometimes quoting low does not mean you are under selling yourself. It just means that you understand the company, the role and the industry.
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A look at the starting salaries for different professions in Kenya
If you are looking for a job, salary comes at the very top, I can imagine. I can relate to that because I was also there. I mean we all at the end of the day want to achieve that financial freedom where we are not struggling.
At the same time, you want to earn a salary that is in correlation with the work you do and sometimes this is where most people get it wrong – knowing what to quote at a job interview. Here is what you should be quoting;
Fresh graduates in Admin
Muthoni Ndegwa, a Recruitment Manager at Corporate Staffing Services says that the starting salary of an entry level Admin Assistant with an internship experience is between 25-30K.
Graduate HR professionals
HR professionals on the other hand who have recently graduated and probably only have internship experience to their name can expect to earn between KSh 30,000 and 45,000.
Starting salary of CPA Holders
In most companies such as Banks and Investment firms, the starting salary for their CPA holders is 30-40K.
30-40K is a relatively big range, and it is all dependent on some factors that may include your level of education and the amount of work experience you have alongside your CPA, she says.
“The starting salary for an Audit assistant in Kenya in consultancy is Ksh 60,000. However, the range is not very different when working for an internal company as the starting salary is Ksh 50,000 per month,” she adds.
How much do NGOs pay fresh graduates?
According to Muthoni, the one thing that you might find constant with NGO jobs is that they will always pay a higher amount than what other private companies will pay for the same position.
For example, you will find a position requiring very little experience paying at least KSh 60,000 with others going all the way to KSh 100,000 all at entry level.
But just because NGOs are said to pay a higher salary than most companies does not mean that you go quoting an outrageous salary when you do not have experience.
Some local NGOs do pay as normal SMEs do, with some graduate level positions calling for as low as 25K when international NGOs will pay more than 50K for the same position.
What is the salary of a data entry job in Kenya?
The average starting salary for an entry level data job can be Ksh 25,000 a month. The experienced data entry clerks can earn up to Ksh 30,000 monthly depending on the company.
Today’s job market is offering entry level procurement professionals a salary of Ksh 40,000 -60,000 depending on the individual’s experience, industry, and company.
“Sometimes you will find companies paying a starting salary of Ksh 70,000 to candidates with good experience, while others will offer Ksh 40,000 for the same position.”
The Ministry of Industry and Trade is home to many engineers, among them, being Graduate Engineers. According to glassdoor.com, Graduate Engineers working in the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Co-operatives earn about 43-46K.
On the other hand, the same Graduate Engineers, who work at Telkom Kenya for instance, earn 39-43K, which is slightly different from the salary offered by the Ministry.
It’s your turn
If you have been looking for a job for a while now, you may want to consider what you are quoting in those interviews. What you earn like I said, is all dependent on several factors including the company, industry, experience as well as the company you are working for. I am sure from this report you now have an idea of how much you are supposed to earn as you continue job hunting.
Lilian is a Communication Officer ay Career Point Kenya and has a passion of helping people realize their full potential. If you have any queries or comments, leave them below or email me via firstname.lastname@example.org