Stuck between: an Apprenticeship at one of the Big Four and University

Hey everyone,

I'm having a bit of dilemma as a year 12 student who just completed the HSC and am choosing whether to accept an apprenticeship in Risk Assurance (Technology) at one of the Big Four or university. My interests lie in IT and IS management and I feel fairly confident in my ability to achieve an ATAR of 85. This is important because I was interviewed at UTS for the BIT Co-op Scholarship where I can do 2x 6month placements with other big companies and felt confident in the interview as I presented a lot of my achievements, work experience, extracurricular activities and researched information to the assessors. It is my ATAR which the scholarship is dependent on. However, I need to give my answer to the apprenticeship in 3 weeks time in order to start in January. This will be before I see my ATAR results. I’ve listed the pros and cons of each and what I want to achieve out of this overall. I would appreciate your thoughts on this.

APPRENTICESHIP (Duration: 2 years)
- I get to work at a reputable company for 2 years with professional work experience under the belt
- Achieve a Cert. IV and Diploma in Information Technology
- Ability to join and move up in the company without my lack of qualifications limiting me
- I can go to university after my apprenticeship, but the apprenticeship isn’t available to post-graduates
- No student debt
- Chance to mature myself personally from the professional environment (ability to work hard early into my life)

- Lack of university social life - there will be other apprenticeship just like me who I can socialise with
- My qualification won’t be as appealing as a degree and may limit me if I choose to change companies
- Full-time work at a location 1.5 hours away (9-5)

UNIVERSITY (Duration: 3 years)
— PROS (with scholarship)
- Intake per year is 30-40 students and is sponsored by heaps of big companies (including the Big Four)
This means that the graduates will be highly sought after by the sponsors
- Only requires a passing grade (>50%)
- Social life of university
- Flexible hours compared to full-time work (however I will have to experience full-time work at some point in my life)
- Scholarship is only available to recent school leavers
- 2x 6month placements as my work experience

- Student debt
- Risk/stress of university life (can’t fail an assessment twice)
- Might not develop as professionally as the apprenticeship
- Is not guaranteed but the apprenticeship will need an answer

- The best possible head start into my career/life
- Both offer financial support

Thanks for reading this far and would love for you to share your thoughts. 🥰

Poll Options Tue, 26/11/2019 - 00:00

  • 23
    Apprenticeship at one of the Big Four
  • 18
    University (potential scholarship)



    I reckon at your age and especially in the field of IT, go for University as you will get a certificate and can always change what you want to do before you even finish the degree.
    Furthermore, you can always find part time work and so during study.

    If you choose apprenticeship, if you change your mind, you're gonna have to get a degree anyways.

    Best of luck mate.

  • +2 votes

    I'll say the apprenticeship you would be able to get the experiences, able to get good connection within the company with this would allow you to get a good referee so it can help you find another job if you want to look at another place and like you say you can be promoted and move up the company.

    But this your choice mate do what is best for "you" not anyone else.

  • +4 votes

    I have no IT background, but 100% work experience always. University is a joke, a piece of paper hurdle, no employer cares as long as you have work experience.


      Thanks plmko. I agree that work experience is more valuable than a university degree but nowadays in IT, a degree is pretty much a given, adding a layer of complexity to this decision. I appreciate the advice :)


    For me I went down the university route (without a scholarship) and ended up in an apprenticeship after my first year. University was a huge eye opener to the industry and I was able to continue those studies later on in the apprenticeship.

    The company I work for (national MSP) typically regards the experience more than the university degrees alone as a lot of other companies do. Having fresh graduates over the age of 21 without experience makes the junior roles cost more for the company.

  • +3 votes

    Depends on why you want to go to university. If you just want to go to uni to get a job as an end goal, then you've already reached your goal with the apprenticeship. There are other reasons to go to uni - you'll learn things in your degree, you'll get to meet people, have a normal social life, develop on a personal level, plenty of time to travel, explore your hobbies whatever they may be. You'll also have fun and enjoy life.

    As someone who's been through all this, I can tell you that my time at uni was the best time of my life. You get so much freedom to do everything you've always wanted to do, explore new things, make some of the best friends you'll ever make…etc. Even if I had a job straight out of high school, I'd still choose to go to uni. Working/apprenticeship isn't the same thing, you've got strict hours, you don't really have time to explore and do any sort of side hustling. You lose out on a lot of the things that you can only do when you're young.

    I think a lot of your points seem a bit misguided, so I'll try to respond to them. Hopefully this gives you some food for thought:

    I can go to university after my apprenticeship, but the apprenticeship isn’t available to post-graduates

    Yes and no. One of the reasons why going to uni is great is because you're young. When I went back to uni later on in life, it wasn't anywhere near as enjoyable as the first time around. I would say that if you intend to go to uni at all, definitely do it now. If you're as good as you say, you'll get a job after uni (like most people do) and your career progression will probably be similar thereafter.

    My qualification won’t be as appealing as a degree and may limit me if I choose to change companies

    They will most definitely limit you. It wouldn't have been an issue 20 years ago where university degrees were a bit of an oddity, but now that everyone and their dog has a university degree, it's almost compulsory for any professional level job. University used to be a place you went if you were interested in studying more, but these days, I think it's just a natural extension of high school. Not having a degree would probably rule you out for a whole bunch of jobs where you'll just be HR-rejected before anyone with any real knowledge even gets to see your application.

    Only requires a passing grade (>50%)

    Not really. I had plenty of mates graduate uni with averages in the 50s and 60s. Most of them struggled to really get the jobs they wanted. Not the right mindset if you want to go to uni.

    Risk/stress of university life (can’t fail an assessment twice)

    You'll be fine. You seem like a smart and driven enough kind of person. Uni isn't hard, it's just hard for those who are lazy because it's not like high school where someone's always up your backside to keep you going. You need to be motivated and driven to put in the hard work and if you are, then it's hugely rewarding.

    The best possible head start into my career/life

    You're in high school my friend. Why are you in such a rush to start your career? It's great that you're driven, but the time you have right after high school is time that you'll never get back again in your life. You're only young once and of all the people I've spoken to, nobody has ever regretted not starting their career sooner, they all regret not having taken the time to do XYZ things that they wanted to do when they were young and had the time, flexibility, fitness…etc. to do it.

    If you're into IT, I'll give you an out of left field suggestion. Go to uni, enjoy your time and work on a start-up. I'm not saying that you'll be the next Bill Gates or Jeff Bezos, but you'll learn a lot from that and it's a great way of pursuing your interests in IT and actually trying to see if you can carve out a niche for yourself. I was involved in a few startups at uni, none of them really went anywhere. One of my mates was really successful though. He was in IT and he eventually formed his own small boutique consulting firm. He's doing pretty well now.

    Also, might be worth pointing out that the "Big 4" ain't that great. Every kid dreams to work for a big company, but having been there, done that, I'd say look out for the smaller places. Might not be as flash of a name, but you'll be treated like a human and not just a cog in a big wheel where you're just another one in a million of their employees who can all do the same thing. There's a reason why many of my mates who started in Big 4 positions all ended up leaving within a few years.


      Thanks for the long reply, really appreciate how thorough you were on this. You've nudged me on the positives of university and got me thinking about whether my focus as a young person is to engage with my professional or personal development. Both opportunities are opportunities I can only have as a recent school leaver (the apprenticeship vs scholarship) and each will develop me differently. Thanks again for your input, you're a legend.


    This is the same type of problem as the chicken and the egg, you arent really going to know the answer till you actually do it.

    Some people thrive in a university setting and go on to do amazingly well, some people are made for trades/apprenticeships.

    The main thing i would look at is:

    Cert. IV and Diploma in Information Technology VS 3 year degree

    if you have a scholarship go for the degree. People who get a degree over their professional life make 20-30% more than people without in the same fields.

    As for mature myself personally from the professional environment, that is par for the course, as soon as you enter the workforce that is not a pro at all.

    The big question i would be asking myself, is if you get a Cert. IV and Diploma in Information Technology, how much would that apply to doing the degree in the future part time while working. If it takes 2 years off the 3 year degree, and you can complete the degree part time while working over 2 years.
    Then i would do the apprenticeship.


      Thanks for the new perspective/take on how to compare the two choices. The apprenticeship won't be taking off time the degree (in fact, the degree is normally 4 years, 3 years under the scholarship), and by considering this, I can make a decision which allows me to make the most of my years of youth :) . I like to think that it's during my young adults years which I can more easily mold myself into a professionally and personally developed person.

  • +1 vote

    Take the working experience any day of the week.


    with the amount of outsourcing being done by organisations neither path is a guaranteed long term job. The best thing to do is go for the option that fits best with your long term career aspirations. The point is you can’t get it wrong and can’t get it right. The chicken and egg of work experience and degree chase each other. If you are willing to be behind your cohort, a bit, then doing the apprenticeship, followed by Uni, would be a better “rounding” experience but you will be older when you get to
    Uni. I did 2 degrees and I was a tad older than my cohort for the second however, this made more more mature and I got better marks. How do you see yourself in five years time, under ether various scenarios.


    Go for the uni for sure.
    Some of the best parties I went to were at the uni and I met some interesting characters. You can’t get that fresh experience later!

  • +1 vote

    Get the 'experience' first, and worry about the degree later.

    Going to Uni based on it's parties and social activities is silly, the rest of your working life revolves around the decisions you make now, so partying should be the last thing on your mind.

    Experience will always outshine a piece of paper. If you have competition for a job, and you have experience plus a Degree, but your competition only has a Degree, it's fairly obvious who will get the job.

  • +2 votes

    Get your Cert IV/apprenticeship if that's a done deal then chase the degree later. Surely you can get some credit from the Cert IV and/or RPL making your degree cheaper.


    I think you mean a traineeship?

    An apprenticeship gives you a trade.

    I'd take the job and plan on doing further study - even concurrently with anything required for the traineeship. I did my mechanics apprenticeship and my engineering certificate at the same time. I was doing 20 hrs a week part-time at TAFE.


    Do the apprenticeship, you can go back to uni any time you want, whereas you won't have the option of the apprenticeship.


    Uni sucks balls mate do it later when you have to retrain or not at all


    Big 4 all the way. What’s stopping you from going to uni parties with your mates? You would have had 3 years experience by the time time it would have taken to finish your degree putting you in the running for secondment opportunities overseas. If you really must get a degree do postgrad on your employers dime.

    I can’t see why this is an issue unless trying to pull clueless arts chicks is on your priority list.

    Only requires a passing grade (>50%)

    Try not to take this attitude with you in the workplace. It’s not a pro at all.