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Is Electrical Apprenticeship Better Than Going to University? Exploring the Australian Perspective

    In the pursuit of a successful career, individuals often face the choice between traditional university education and vocational training. In the realm of electrical work, the option of an apprenticeship is gaining popularity, offering unique advantages over a university degree. In this blog, we’ll delve into the Australian context, examining the benefits of electrical apprenticeships in terms of starting salaries, skill acquisition, absence of educational debts, and better achievements.

    Electrical Apprenticeship vs University Pathway

    Starting Salaries Are Better

    In Australia, the starting salaries for electrical apprentices are notably competitive. According to recent data from the Australian Government’s Job Outlook, the median annual income for electricians is around $50,000. Apprentices typically start at a percentage of the full Electricians wage, offering a solid financial foundation right from the beginning of their training. This financial advantage allows apprentices to earn while they learn, a distinct contrast to university graduates who may enter the workforce with limited practical experience while having to pay for their education.

    Skill Acquisition

    Australian apprenticeships, particularly those leading to a Cert III in Electrotechnology focus on hands-on skill development. A study published in the Journal of Vocational Education & Training emphasises that employers highly value the practical skills gained through apprenticeship programs, making apprentices more immediately employable compared to university graduates with theoretical knowledge but limited hands-on experience. The emphasis on real-world skills equips apprentices with a strong foundation that is highly valuable in the Australian electrical industry.

    No Educational Loans/Debts

    In Australia, the burden of student loans is a significant consideration for those pursuing university education. The debt-free nature of apprenticeships provides a clear financial advantage.

    Better Achievements

    Completing an electrical apprenticeship in Australia opens doors to numerous opportunities in the electrical industry. Recent data from the Australian Government Department of Employment reveals that apprenticeship graduates have higher employment rates and, on average, earn higher wages than non-apprenticeship participants. The skills acquired during the apprenticeship can lead to specialised roles, management positions, or even entrepreneurship, providing a clear pathway to a successful and fulfilling career in the Australian electrical sector.

    Skill Improvement During Apprenticeship

    The question every electrical apprentice would ask himself/herself is – What skills does an electrical apprentice acquire? Or What skills would you like to improve during this apprenticeship as an electrician? An electrical apprenticeship offers a chance to enhance a variety of crucial skills. These include technical skills related to a deep understanding of electrical systems and codes, the ability to read electrical drawings and schematics, installation and maintenance of electrical components, troubleshooting electrical issues, adherence to safety protocols and electrical systems, and proficiency in using industry-standard tools. Additionally, apprentices can improve communication and teamwork skills, as collaboration is often essential in the electrical field. Critical thinking and problem-solving skills are also honed through hands-on experiences encountered during the apprenticeship.

    Earning While Learning

    Recent data from the Australian government’s MySkills portal highlights the earning potential of apprenticeships, with access to financial incentives such as the Australian Apprentice Wage Subsidy. Apprentices in Australia have the opportunity to earn while learning, setting the stage for a financially stable career.

    Career Advancement Opportunities

    The Australian Government Department of Employment reports that completing an apprenticeship significantly enhances career prospects. Apprenticeship graduates in Australia have higher employment rates and higher-than-average wages, showcasing the long-term benefits of apprenticeship training.

    Two Important Questions Answered

    Let us now look at the two important questions students ask before starting their electrical journey.

    Why choose an electrical apprenticeship?

    The decision to choose an electrical apprenticeship is grounded in the practical benefits it offers. Apprenticeships provide a direct path to a career, offering a unique blend of education and on-the-job training. Apprentices are ready to take on the demands of the electrical sector since they acquire hands-on experience in real-world situations.

    What is the advantage of entering an apprenticeship?

    Entering an apprenticeship provides a direct route to a career without the financial burdens associated with traditional university education. Apprenticeships offer a quicker transition from learning to earning, allowing individuals to start building their professional reputation and gaining experience from day one. The advantage lies not only in the practical skills acquired but also in the ability to apply theoretical knowledge in a real-world context.

    Comparing Electrical Apprenticeship vs University Pathways

    To give you a more detailed picture, we have made a side-by-side comparison table.

    Pathway to Certificate III in ElectrotechnologyPathway to University
    Entry Point:High School Graduate or EquivalentEntry Point:High School Graduate with Appropriate Prerequisites
    Explore Career Options:Research and explore the field of electrotechnology to ensure alignment with career goals.Choose Relevant University Degree:Select a university degree in electrical engineering or a related field.
    Enrol in a Pre-Apprenticeship Program (Optional):Some individuals choose to undergo a pre-apprenticeship program to gain foundational knowledge and skills.Enrol in University:Apply and enrol in the chosen university program.
    Secure an Electrical Apprenticeship:Apply for electrical apprenticeship positions offered by employers or through apprenticeship programs.Attend Lectures and Tutorials:Participate in lectures and tutorials to gain theoretical knowledge.
    Commence Apprenticeship:Begin hands-on training and theoretical education under the supervision of experienced electricians.Complete Assignments and Exams:Demonstrate understanding through academic assessments.
    Complete On-the-Job Training:Acquire practical skills by working on real-world electrical projects.Gain Theoretical Knowledge:Acquire in-depth theoretical knowledge of electrotechnology principles.
    Undertake Formal Training:Attend formal training sessions, which may include coursework and assessments.Undertake Internships (Optional):Some university programs may offer internships for practical experience.
    Work Towards Certificate III in Electrotechnology:Work through the required units and modules outlined in the Certificate III in Electrotechnology course.Receive University Degree:Successfully complete the required coursework to obtain a university degree.
    On-the-Job Experience:Continue gaining practical experience while completing the formal training.Enter the Workforce:Seek employment in the electrotechnology industry.
    Completion of Apprenticeship:Successfully complete the apprenticeship, meeting the required on-the-job hours and training modules.On-the-Job Learning:Gain practical experience on the job.
    Apply for Certificate III in Electrotechnology:Submit necessary paperwork and assessments to receive the Certificate III in Electrotechnology.Career Advancement Opportunities:Explore career advancement opportunities within the electrical engineering field.
    Career Advancement Opportunities:Explore further career options, such as specialising in a specific area, pursuing advanced certifications, or considering management roles.  

    To summarise, while both pathways lead to a career in electrotechnology, they differ significantly in several aspects:

    Starting Salaries:

    Electrical apprentices start earning from day one, while university graduates may face delayed entry into the workforce.

    Skill Acquisition:

    Apprentices gain hands-on, practical skills, whereas university graduates primarily acquire theoretical knowledge.

    Educational Debts:

    Apprenticeships offer a debt-free education, whereas university education often comes with student loans.

    Career Achievements:

    Apprenticeship graduates enter the workforce earlier, potentially achieving career milestones sooner than university graduates.

    Well-Known Figures Who Started as Apprentices

    1. Elon Musk:

    Before revolutionising the electric vehicle and space industries, Elon Musk began his journey as an electrical apprentice in Pretoria, South Africa. His hands-on experience laid the foundation for his later groundbreaking work in the technology sector.

    2. Sir Alex Ferguson:

    The legendary football manager Sir Alex Ferguson started his career as an apprentice toolmaker with an electrical components firm. While his managerial success in football is widely celebrated, his early apprenticeship reflects the diverse career paths that can originate from technical training.

    3. Alex Lifeson:

    The acclaimed musician Alex Lifeson of the rock band Rush began his career as an electrical apprentice before pursuing his passion for music. Lifeson’s journey exemplifies how diverse talents can emerge from the practical skills gained during an apprenticeship.

    4. David Geffen:

    Renowned music and film executive David Geffen started his career as a mailroom clerk after briefly attending university. However, he later found his path as an apprentice in the William Morris Agency’s mailroom, setting the stage for his impactful career.

    Learning from Success Stories

    These success stories underscore the value of hands-on training and practical experience gained through apprenticeships. Elon Musk, Sir Alex Ferguson, Alex Lifeson, and David Geffen all began their careers with technical training, highlighting the diverse opportunities that can emerge from an apprenticeship in electrotechnology.


    In conclusion, an electrical apprenticeship in Australia presents a compelling alternative to traditional university education. With competitive starting salaries, hands-on skill development, freedom from educational debts, and the potential for significant achievements, choosing the path of an electrical apprentice can help one lead to a fulfilling career in the dynamic field of electrotechnology.


    Job Outlook. (2022). “Electricians.” Link

    Australian Government MySkills. (2022). “Financial incentives for apprentices.” Link

    CNBC. (2018). “Elon Musk: Success Through Perseverance.” Link

    Independent. (2011). “Sir Alex Ferguson: My dad refused to let me become an apprentice toolmaker.” Link (n.d.). “Biography.” Link

    The Guardian. (2014). “David Geffen: the godfather of the entertainment industry.” Link

    Credits: Image by macrovector on Freepik

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