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Research is key to choosing the right course. Photograph: iStock
If you are planning on going to third level, there are many factors to consider before you decide on the course you want to take. For each area of study available, there are many courses on offer but the first step will be to research your interests. The following is a short summary of some popular areas of study offered at universities and educational institutions in Ireland.
Caring and compassionate people with an interest in human biology make for the ideal nursing student. Students can choose to pursue general nursing or a more specialised subject from the get go, such as children’s nursing, intellectual disability nursing or mental health nursing. Irish nursing courses involve placement from early on, as students begin clinical placements from their first year and throughout their degree, with the final year consisting of one 36-week internship.
Those with a flair for performing arts have many options when choosing what studies to pursue at third level. Dance, drama, music and performance can all be studied at traditional academic colleges and universities, or at institutions dedicated solely to these pursuits, such as The Lir, BIMM and the Royal Irish Academy of Music. Performing arts degrees tend to be very hands-on and practical, including many performances and showcases over the course of the degree, to prepare students for future performances beyond the classroom.
Across Ireland there are many kinds of computer science and computer applications degrees, perfect for those with an interest in technology, or who may have studied the subject at Leaving Cert level. Computer science students use logic and reasoning to develop algorithms and write code, to ensure that the technology is able to solve real world problems. As technology continues to rapidly evolve, students will be in the thick of it, learning first hand how to operate within a groundbreaking industry and environment. Students go on to employment across the IT industry, as software engineers, cybersecurity analysts, data scientists and much more.
A knack for languages is a hugely transferable skill, that not only can allow linguists to go down a range of different career paths, but that can be studied in a number of different capacities. Languages can be studied as part of an arts degree alongside a range of subjects, as part of a joint degree with business, law and computer science, and more, or as part of a linguistics or translation degree.
Those pursuing languages as part of a third-level programme generally will have to have achieved a certain grade in the Leaving Cert exam. However there are also many opportunities to pick up a language from scratch, or ab initio, at third level. Such an opportunity is often available with languages less widely studied at Leaving Cert level, such as Mandarin, Japanese, Italian, Russian, among others.
Charismatic individuals with the ability to think on their feet are well suited to studying communications. Students will learn about different communication methods and how to communicate effectively for different purposes, and to different audiences. The skills communications graduates pick up over the course of their degree are hugely transferable, with communications graduates going on to pursue careers in media, communications, journalism, business, public relations, human resources and beyond.
Logical people who have excelled in maths and sciences in school should consider studying engineering at third level. Often starting as a very broad degree, there is a lot of scope for specialisation over the course of the degree, into areas such as mechanical, computer, chemical, civil and biomedical engineering. Many also go on to pursue masters in those specialised areas following their undergraduate degree.
Curious individuals with an interest in human behaviour would be well suited to studying psychology at undergraduate level. Psychology courses begin with incredibly broad, foundational concepts of psychology, eventually allowing students to specialise in their particular areas of interest in later years. Students of psychology can go on to any number of careers after graduation, such as business, social work, public relations, law, etc. Those who choose to pursue a career in psychology can go on to additional study, to achieve a doctorate in the field, in order to become clinical psychologists.
Coming off the back of Cop26, it is evident that the environment has moved to the top of everyone’s agenda, leading to a host of opportunities to study the environment and our role in protecting it, and a wide range of employment opportunities after study. “Green courses” across the country include environmental management, climate and environmental sustainability, environmental biology, environmental science and sustainable technology, to name but a few.
Those studying architecture require the unique pairing of numerical skills and a flair for design. A range of degrees related to architecture are available to study in Ireland, such as practical bachelors and postgraduate degrees in architecture in order to become accredited architects, and the more theoretical studies of the history of architecture, as part of an arts degree. The practical bachelors and postgraduate degrees often involve work placement as part of the course, where students get hands-on experience working in a professional architectural office.
For those gifted in the kitchen, studying culinary arts could be a perfect fit, leading students to promising careers within the culinary industry. Courses from the broad to the specific, such as baking and pastry arts, culinary entrepreneurship, food product and development, and more. Students can learn about the intricacies of managing catering for corporate functions, or the development of brand new food products. Culinary arts courses are often very practical, with students spending many hours in the college kitchens as part of their studies.
Geography is a hugely transferable arts subject at third level, that allows graduates to parlay into any number of fields. Geography branches into two main paths: human geography, which focuses on the human race and the environments in which they live; and physical geography, the study of the natural world around us. Geography graduates go on to a wide range of careers, including business, tourism, consultancy, cartography, teaching, town planning and more.
Patient and helpful individuals with a love of sharing knowledge make excellent teachers, and across Ireland there are a variety of courses available to those who wish to pursue careers in teaching. Bachelor of Education degrees equip graduates with the skills to become primary school teachers, while those who wish to become secondary school teachers will generally study an undergraduate degree in the area they wish to teach, before pursuing a professional masters of education, or PME degree.
Science enthusiasts with great communications skills and physical awareness should consider studying physiotherapy at third level. A health science subject, physiotherapy students must marry their in-depth knowledge of the human body with interpersonal skills when dealing with patients over many weeks or months, prescribing programmes that will see them through to less pain.
Those with a love of art and design have a variety of choices when it comes to what to study at higher level, and what to pursue after graduation. Courses in fine art, fashion design, visual arts, textiles and more are on offer across the country in a range of institutions. Many of these courses will require a portfolio as an entry requirement, with many students opting to take a year after their Leaving Cert to pursue a Post Leaving Cert (PLC) course and to complete their portfolio, before applying to third level.
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