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What graduate salary can I expect at the Big 4?

Craig Shepherd

If you’re thinking about applying for a graduate job at the Big 4, you probably want to know what type of salary you’ll be taking home, right? It’s not all about the money, but it can be a big factor in many people’s career decisions.

Big 4 salaries and your future

Deloitte Australia, Ernst & Young (EY), PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) and KPMG are known as the Big 4 for a reason. They are the some of the most well regarded accountancy and advisory firms in the country, and graduate jobs with them are always highly contested. But what about the starting pay? When you’re considering your career, the starting salary isn’t the only consideration but that’s no reason to be in the dark about what you can expect. The information below will give you some insight into the graduate salaries you could be earning with the Big 4.

Average graduate salaries at the Big 4

Graduate salaries at the Big 4 can vary depending on the service line you work in and the job you’re doing. In a broad sense, you could expect to be earning anywhere between $45,000 and $75,000, but this can even be different from city to city.

If you’re working in specialised departments like economics, digital services, financial advisory and consulting you’ll often have a starting salary between $60,000 and $70,000, and this is the higher end of the pay scale for graduates at the Big 4. At the lower end, graduates working in audit and assurance departments have reported salaries between $45,000 and $60,000. Most of these packages include superannuation. While many graduate job salaries at the Big 4 are fixed, there may be some level of negotiation based on your skills, experience and the individual role you’ll be performing.

According to GradAustralia’s January 2018 graduate workplace satisfaction survey, these figures are fairly consistent with other graduate wages in the accountancy field, with the average remuneration package being $56,400 per year compared to other sectors reporting an average wage of $66,500 per year. While some people may think these starting salaries aren’t as competitive as smaller boutique employers, there are a number of other benefits to seeking a graduate job with the Big 4.

It’s not all about the money

If you’re considering a graduate job with the Big 4, it really isn’t all about the salary. It’s always an exciting time when you’ve finished your studies and you’re about to start a full-time career in a field you’re passionate about. It can be easy to get caught up in the basic numbers or worry about what fellow graduates are earning in their first year, but there’s so much more to consider. Some organisations might offer an impressive first-year salary but not give you a great deal of scope to advance your career. Some may not have the structure and training on offer at the Big 4.

When asked the coolest thing about his job as an Associate Consultant with PwC, Orlanda Abel Vina replied, ‘Definitely the ongoing development opportunities. In other words: lifelong learning, which is now becoming a skill in itself.’ In fact, graduates have been highly complimentary of PwC’s training program.

Sticking it out as a graduate for a few years with a Big 4 can also open up a huge range of prospects for career progression, as well as standard promotions along the way. As one graduate from Deloitte Australia said when discussing career progression, ‘Promotion cycles occur every 6 months, with promotions happening when your coach feels you're meeting the requirements consistently.’

There are also some intangible benefits for your long-term future, namely the reputation of the Big 4 firms. When it comes to furthering your career down the track, you can’t put a price on being able to list a Big 4 organisation in your employment history.

Benefits and perks at the Big 4

These organisations don’t get known as the Big 4 for nothing. It’s because they’re big, global, and successful, and they didn’t earn their reputations by not looking after their staff. Workplace culture can make a big difference to your daily life in the workplace, and the Big 4 are known for their inclusive office culture. Nina Hauser, management consultant with KPMG said, ‘I think the culture and people at KPMG are really great and are a big reason as to why I love my job.’

Because the Big 4 are global, there are opportunities to either work or train overseas, and many people get the chance to move permanently as their careers progress. For example, Alice Wilson is a Senior Consultant with PwC and spoke about travel opportunities within her organisation, ‘I’ve also started the ball rolling to go work overseas on a 2-year secondment. Secondments are highly encouraged by PwC and it gives you the unique opportunity to live and work overseas for a couple of years whilst still furthering your career.’

Also, these might not be things to base your major career choices on, but staff at the Big 4 have plenty of good things to say about the associated perks such as free dinners and taxi fares if working late, fitness programs, company events, mobile phone plans, tickets to various events and health insurance plans.

Hopefully now you have a good understanding of the graduate salary at the Big 4, and even more importantly, an understanding of the other benefits. Working for the Big 4 can open doors for your career that you may not find anywhere else, so remember to consider the big picture when deciding who you are applying with. Sure, you work hard, but you don’t go unrewarded.