Careers rarely develop the way we plan them. Our career path often takes many twists and turns, with particular events, choices and people influencing our direction.

We asked Dave McDonald from Smart Futures to give some advice for people considering this job:

Dave McDonald


Smart Futures

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Dave McDonald

A caring attitude is essential for Health and Safety – you need to be passionate about getting the message across to people and telling them why it is so important. After all, no-one wants to see anyone suffer harm or be in pain.

For astronomy, a yearning for answering the unanswered questions is a must. You also need to be dedicated and focused and not put off by the weather


Enterprising people like situations that involve using resources for personal or corporate economic gain. Such people may have an opportunistic frame of mind, and like commerce, trade and making deals. Some are drawn to sales and marketing occupations. Many will eventually end up owning their own business, or managing a section in larger organisations. They tend to be very goal-oriented, and work best when focused on a target. Some have an entrepreneurial inclination.
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How are points calculated?

Why do the CAO use points?

The CAO converts your grades (from either Leaving Cert or QQI / FETAC exams) into points in order to make it easier for them to know who did better at their exams. The colleges offer places to the students with the highest points first, so if there are more students looking for a course than there are places in the class, they give those places to the students with the highest points!

Note - sometimes there are specific subject requirements also - so it doesn't matter how many points you get you won't be able to study Theoretical Physics in TCD unless you have a H3 in Maths and Physics - which seems sensible enough!

How are points calculated?

For students sitting exams in 2017 onwards, the following tables show you how to convert your exam grades into points.

Leaving Cert Students

Firstly, find out your grades from your marks as follows...

Grades % Marks
H1 / O1 90 - 100
H2 / O2 80 < 90
H3 / O3 70 < 80
H4 / O4 60 < 70
H5 / O5 50 < 60
H6 / O6 40 < 50
H7 / O8 30 < 40
H8 / O8 0 < 30

Next, find out your points from your grades as follows...

Higher   Ordinary  
Grade Points Grade Points
H1 100
H2 88
H3 77
H4 66
H5 56 O1 56
H6 46 O2 46
H7 37 O3 37
H8 0 O4 28
O5 20
O6 12
O7 0
O8 0


  • If you take Higher Maths and get a H6 or more, your maths score will include an extra 25 bonus points
  • You add up your six highest scoring subjects to get your final CAO Points
  • Your bonus points in maths can only be counted if the total for maths (points + bonus points) is one of the six highest subjects used to calculate the total (which it usually is, but not always)
  • If you are taking the LCVP, use the following table to find your points from your grades:
LCVP Grade LCVP Points
Distinction 66
Merit 46
Pass 28

QQI / FETAC Students

For Further Education students taking QQI awards, every module you take has a credit value. Short modules have fewer credits than longer modules. Completing a module means you have achieved all the credits for that module. Typically, QQI modules are 15 credits each so completing 8 modules = 120 credits. 120 Credits are needed to achieve a QQI Major Award.

However, sometimes a module will have as much as 30 credits, so completing one large module (30 Credits) plus 6 more normal modules (6 15 = 90) would achieve the 120 credits needed. Some courses also offer additional modules, in which case you use the scores from your best ones to calculate your points, but this makes figuring out your points trickier.

We strongly recommend using the online QQI / FETAC Calculator to work out your points for you, as the manual method is not very easy to follow - instructions are here if you are interested.

What if I sat exams before 2017?

The current grading scale was introduced in 2017, and is significantly different from previous scales. The document below discusses the current and previous scales and how results from previous sittings of exams are converted into the current system.