Featured Advice
What are your interests?



Realists are usually interested in 'things' - such as buildings, mechanics, equipment, tools, electronics etc. Their primary focus is dealing with these - as in building, fixing, operating or designing them. Involvement in these areas leads to high manual skills, or a fine aptitude for practical design - as found in the various forms of engineering.

Realists like to find practical solutions to problems using tools, technology and skilled work. Realists usually prefer to be active in their work environment, often do most of their work alone, and enjoy taking decisive action with a minimum amount of discussion and paperwork.



Alternatives to the CAO

Learn about your other options, including PLC courses, apprenticeships, studying abroad and more.

Alternatives to the CAO

Read our complete Leaving Cert 2019 Guide here

While the CAO and Higher Education are suited to some students, there are also many other options which thousands of other students choose to explore. It is important to remember that no two students are the same, so it would be illogical for everyone to follow the same path. Everyone has their own career needs and aspirations and, by considering all of the options available, you can find the one that suits you best.

PLC Courses
A Post Leaving Cert course is a great way of continuing education after secondary school, and these courses can often bridge the gap between second-level and Higher Education with direct progression routes available from many courses to higher education.  They can also offer a direct route into employment. Many of these courses are also very useful if you are considering pursing an apprenticeship and should really stand to you when you are applying for an apprenticeship work contract. The courses also offer qualifications in their own right, usually offering awards at QQI Levels 5-6. They are fully accredited and recognised by colleges and employers.

The courses typically range from one to two years duration. They combine classroom teaching, autonomous learning and practical work. Additionally, the compulsory work experience module provides a great opportunity for students to gain experience in their field, an advantage many CAO courses do not offer. 

PLC Links to Higher Education
The Higher Education Links Scheme offers PLC students an alternative route to Higher Education. Students who failed to meet the Leaving Certificate points requirements for their CAO can reapply using credits from their PLC course. To find out more about the Higher Education Links Scheme, click here.

Discover all PLC courses in our CourseFinder here.

Traineeships are employment focussed courses delivered by Education & Training Boards (ETBs) in partnership with employers. They are usually 6-20 months in duration in areas identified to have skills shortages, such as; Business, Construction, Engineering, Fashion and Beauty, Finance, Hospitality, ICT, Manufacturing, Media, Logistics, Retail, Sports and Leisure.

Traineeships have at least 30% on-the-job learning, giving participants the opportunity to develop cutting edge skills and knowledge making them more employable and enhancing their career options. They are ideal for those not yet ready to commit to a course or job who would like to try something out for a short period of time. The employability of those completing these programmes is very high.

Search Traineeships on www.fetchcourses.ie or click here for more information. 

Non-CAO Undergraduate Courses
There are a number of Non-CAO undergraduate courses, run by private colleges, which offer students an alternative access route to undergraduate degrees. These are fee-paying courses, so they can prove to be an expensive alternative to CAO courses, especially since students at private colleges cannot qualify for SUSI grants. However, in many cases, the fees are not much greater than the registration fees paid by CAO students and some of the fees may be tax deductible.

Studying Abroad
Many students who do not receive an offer for their preferred course through the CAO and those who might be interested in moving out of Ireland to study look to other countries for their university education. For a lot of students, the prospect of studying abroad can present an exciting alternative to domestic access routes.

Studying in a different country offers the opportunity to experience an entirely different culture to your own. However, the price tag associated with moving your life across the globe can be a hefty one. Despite this, tuition fees in certain European countries can be a lot lower than in Ireland and the cost of living can be cheaper too. Either way, it is wise to consider the financial implications of studying abroad, to determine whether it is feasible, before applying to study there.

Popular Courses
Studying abroad can be particularly attractive to students who are aiming for popular courses where entry in Ireland is particularly competitive. Many students who wish to study Medicine, Veterinary, Dentistry and Pharmacy may find it easier to secure a place on a course in a foreign university. This option is made more viable by the increasing number of European universities offering courses through English.

Useful Links

CareersPortal Guide to Studying Abroad



Gap Year/Deferral

The Leaving Certificate is a massive undertaking for any student and, by the end of it, some students wish to take a break from education. To avoid burning out, some students opt to explore a different aspect of their development and postpone their progression to Further or Higher Education until they feel that they are ready.

Many who do this have received an offer for their preferred course but decide to defer the place for a year. To do this, the student must contact the college they received the offer from directly and the college will then inform the CAO of the deferral. In most cases the deferral will then be approved.


Apprenticeship programmes can be particularly enticing to school leavers as they present the opportunity to earn and learn simultaneously. The programme consists of on-the-job training with the employer and off-the-job training at the educational provider. This structure allows apprentices to earn a salary and gain industry experience, while also working towards a recognised QQI qualification. To learn more about apprenticeships, click here.

There are many different types of apprenticeships available. The traditional craft apprenticeships are very popular among school leavers and include those in the Construction, Electrical, Engineering and Motor sectors. In addition to these, a number of occupational/degree level apprenticeships have been launched over the last number of years, including those in the Insurance, ICT, MedTech, Accountancy, and Finance sectors.

Entry requirements, training structure and length of programme can vary a lot between apprenticeships. To see details for each apprenticeship, see Apprenticeship Types in our Apprenticeship section here.

Repeating the Leaving Certificate

This option should be given some serious thought as there are other ways to access your preferred course other than by increasing your points score.

It is helpful to ask yourself the following questions:

  • Is there are strong likelihood I will improve my results?
  • Do I have the determination to commit to another year of intense study?
  • Will I genuinely benefit from sitting the Leaving Cert again?

This option may be suited to those who experienced health, family, or bereavement issues during the course of their first Leaving Certificate. It can also be an option for students who were pursuing sports or performing arts on a professional or semi-professional level. It can also be an option for those who just narrowly missed their course, whether is was by a small number of points or random selection.

You Have Lots of Options

Regardless of what happens on results day, remember that there are a wide range of options available to you. If you do not get your first choice, know that there are many other paths by which you can follow your career dreams.

Related News

Register now for Guidance CPD with CareersPortal 

Register now for Guidance CPD with CareersPortal
Posted by CareersPortal

Could a PLC course be for you? 

Could a PLC course be for you?
Posted by CareersPortal

Points fall as Round 2 offers are issued 

Points fall as Round 2 offers are issued
Posted by CareersPortal

2,703 CAO Round 2 offers issued 

2,703 CAO Round 2 offers issued
Posted by CareersPortal

Reply date for CAO Round One offers is this Friday (23 August) at 5.15pm 

Reply date for CAO Round One offers is this Friday (23 August) at 5.15pm
Posted by CareersPortal

CAO Available Places Facility Opens at 12pm Today 

CAO Available Places Facility Opens at 12pm Today
Posted by CareersPortal