How to make the best choices

Brian Mooney Education and Careers 
Commentator. Photo:-Mike Shaughnessy

Brian Mooney Education and Careers Commentator. Photo:-Mike Shaughnessy

The choice of career path options are many and varied. Selecting the correct career progression option following your Leaving Cert or at any other stage in life is a major challenge for any of us. For the majority of those reflecting on this dilemma today the ultimate answer will be found in receiving and accepting a CAO offer in August/September next.

But, for many others the pathway forward to the next stage of their career journey will be found through a Further Education (FE ) programme at levels 5/6 offered through the network of Education Training Boards (ETB’s ) throughout the entire country.

Apprenticeships which have grown way beyond their traditional roles in construction and the motor industry, to cover a wide range of skills touching almost all sectors of the economy, are rightly attracting a very high level of interest and engagement.

Several thousand others seeking career options leave the Republic of Ireland (ROI ) each year to take up programmes of study in Northern Ireland, the UK, and in growing numbers in continental European universities, which teach their programmes through the medium of English.

In 2021 more ROI students registered for undergraduate degrees in continental EU colleges than did so in UK institutions.

But how does one find one’s way through the myriad of options outlined above, to be in a position to have the widest range of choices this coming autumn?

Mark Little and Aine Kerr founded “Storyful” to make sense of the information environment in the worlds of news and business, so that they could provide truthful information to those whose decisions determined the success or failure of their enterprises.

In the world of educational research, it is just as important to know where to go to find high quality, judgement free, information to empower the decision-making processes of those seeking to progress their careers. Below are listed a range of websites of the highest ethical and professional standards.

Qualifax is the source of the of the highest quality of information on all CAO, Further Educational (FE ) , and Post Graduate options, available in institutions throughout the island of Ireland.

Its search engines enable students to identify within seconds the full range of course options on offer within their area of interest at all levels.

Once a prospective student has identified one or more key search words, which relate to their course searches, they can enter them into the qualifax search field section.

Researchers can make their course searches as wide or as narrow as possible, for example, prospective students can search for courses at a level, i.e., from levels 5 (FE )-10 (PhD ), or within a certain CAO points range, or in a city or geographic region within Ireland.

To ensure that a researcher succeeds in identifying a course they will enjoy, they must initially ensure that they read the full prospectus details of any course they are considering listing on their CAO or FE or apprenticeship applications.

Sadly, every year many aspiring students research fully one or two courses which will be at the top of their application, but then go on to list many other programmes, after just a cursory glance at the course title.

This is a recipe for disaster, when they end up receiving an offer on one of these programmes through the CAO, accepting it, commencing the course, and discovering once their lecture programme commences that it is totally unsuitable to their aptitude and interests, and drop out in despair.

What can students or their parents do, to avoid this pitfall?

1. If you are currently a student in a second level school or in a Further Education college, do not select courses without discussing them fully with your Guidance Counsellor.

2. Read the course literature carefully. Every year, thousands of students drop out because they do not like the subjects taught on the course, yet these subjects are clearly set out in the college prospectus.

3. Select your course based on what you genuinely want, and not based on where friends are going, or which college has the coolest image, the highest points, or the best social life. All these considerations pale into insignificance, if you end up hating your lectures and eventually dropping out of the course.

4. You may take great care in researching your top choices but become careless with lower preferences. Remember, depending on your Leaving Certificate or Further Education result and the points required for each of your course choices, it is possible that you will be offered any of your choices, so research fully all those that you intend to list. is a totally reliable resource for anyone researching their course/career options. It offers any potential learner up to date accurate information of the occupational opportunities on offer in the twenty first century economy both in Ireland and abroad. It also has a range of Apps which enable any person to identify their careers interest preferences and other useful data to inform their choices. It is used by guidance counsellors in virtually every school/college in Ireland to inform students career explorations. is the central hub for all those interested in courses offered in the UK and Northern Ireland. Every years up to a thousand ROI residents, mostly in Northern Ireland opt to study in Northern Irelands universities. A little over a thousand others from throughout the ROI accept courses taught in UK universities. Prospective students can select up to five courses of equal standing and have until 26th January to submit their applications.

My Future offers a highly reputable interest inventory which will provide prospective students considering course options in the UK/NI through UCAS, or in the Republic of Ireland through the CAO with a list of suggested programmes in tune with their interest profile. These MFC tests are offered through a school’s guidance department to students at various stages of their journey through second level education. is a high-quality website which has the details of over a thousand programmes taught throughout continental Europe through English. Over 1,350 Irish residents secured places in EU universities in 2021 , predominantly in Dutch universities. Entry requirements are based on what we would refer to as “matriculation requirements” and do not require CAO points as per the Irish system. An apprenticeship is a training and education programme. It mixes learning in a college or training institution with work-based learning in a company. At least half of apprenticeship learning is done on the job. As an apprentice, you earn while you learn. You have a formal employment contract, and you're paid a salary during your apprenticeship training. Apprenticeships can last between two and four years.

There are 62 different types of apprenticeship available, in 15 different industry sectors. Apprenticeships also lead to internationally recognised qualifications. These can be from level 6 to level 10 on the National Framework of Qualifications.

Trainee apprentices in the pre-2016 trades have been paid throughout their entire programme. An annual grant of €2,000 per apprentice is being introduced in 2022, payable to employers who employ apprentices on one of the 37 new apprenticeships which have been established since 2016 and which do not attract payment of off-the-job training allowances. New apprenticeships introduced in 2022 and subsequent years will be included in the grant scheme.

When must I apply for my various options?

The CAO application process has a normal closing date of 1st February, although late applications cam be submitted up to 1st May.

The UCAS application process closes on January 26th.

European universities have a wide variety of closing dates for application.

Further Education colleges offer places on a first come first served basis and often offer places where still available in September at the beginning of the next academic year.

Those interested in securing an apprenticeship may apply at any stage of the year.


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