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 Paul Harding from Civil and Public Service Jobs to give some advice for people considering this job:

Paul Harding

Prison Officer

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Paul Harding
Go for it. If you feel you may be suitable, then you probably are. An ability to not take yourself too seriously would be an advantage!

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.
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Senior Cycle

Before we discuss Leaving Certificate subject options, we need to be aware of the three Senior Cycle programmes, the Leaving Cert Established, Leaving Cert Vocational, and Leaving Cert Applied.

  • Leaving Cert Established: This is the most popular and longest running programme, and is available in all schools.
  • Leaving Cert Vocational Programme: This is a more recent variation of the Established programme that has some additional career preparation and enterprise studies modules. It is available in selected schools only. Also known as the LCVP
  • Leaving Cert Applied Programme: This is a uniquely different programme that is non academic and strongly vocational (job/employment focused). It is available in selected schools only, and does not lead directly into third level education courses. Also known as the LCA

In some schools, choosing which of the three programmes to take is the first step. In general, the following the guidelines are offered to parents and students by teachers, concerning this choice:

Choose LCA if:

  • Your child's learning style is adverse to sitting and listening to information.
  • Your child learns best by doing - hands on, practical type of work.
  • Your child struggles with essays and analysing written material

Note: Schools normally like to discuss choosing this option individually with parents.

For more information about the LCA, click here

Choose LCVP if:

  • Your child has an enterprising spirit
  • Your child likes group projects
  • As this is an extra subject, your child is organised and able to work on own initiative
  • Prefers continuous assessment (most marks are achieved in advance of final exam)
  • Your child would expect to do better in this subject than one of their others

Note: LCVP can only be taken along with other specific subject combinations, which may not necessarily be best suited to your child. In general, students are encouraged to select their main Leaving Cert subjects first, and then to consider LCVP, only if their choices match the combinations offered in the LCVP.

For more information on LCVP, click here

The Leaving Cert Established

The Leaving Cert continues where the Junior Cert leaves off. Core subjects (English, Maths and Irish) are mostly compulsary, and schools will offer a number of optional subject options depending of factors such as school size, local demand and resources.

Choosing which optional subjects to study is often quite stressful as there may be competition for places and other timetabling issues within the school. Not all children will get their first preferences, and in some instances, students may have to study a preferred subject privately, outside of normal school hours.

Subject options should be discussed in detail with your child, as there may be implications regarding entry to college, or to certain careers, if particular subjects are not chosen, or are chosen at the wrong level (e.g. Lower Level where Higher level is a requirement).

To explore what each Leaving Cert subject course covers and the implications for career and college choice, please visit our section:

Subject Choice for Leaving Cert

In particular take note of the section in each subject on Third Level Entry Requirements

Apart from being generally supportive, it can help to focus on practicalities first, before making a final decision on subject choice:

  • What subjects are available at the school?
  • Is there a clash between two required subjects?
  • What subjects does your child need to keep? Encourage him or her to stay focussed on general entry requirements and keep as many options as possible open. A good example of keeping options open is a Science subject at 5th year. Holding on to one of the Science subjects (Biology, Physics, Chemistry, Physics & Chemistry, Agricultural Science) keeps several options open including all Healthcare courses, most Science courses, Sports & Physical Education and Engineering courses.
  • What subjects are appropriate to your child and their skills, interests and abilities?
  • Be aware of issues such as length and level of difficulty of course, portfolio or audition requirements.


Keep informed about options and deadlines by attending school information sessions and reading any communication about subject choice from the school. Encourage your child to make subject choice decisions based on:

  • Weighing up the career, educational and personal pros and cons of each subject option
  • Looking at the career, educational and personal consequences of each subject choice
  • Looking at 'the known factors' and 'the unknown factors' in relation to their choice
  • Making an informed and mature decision based on the best available information at the time

Ask questions. Listen and discuss subjects and engage in the process in a supportive, encouraging and trusting way. Good decisions are made with good information and self-knowledge.

Look at decision-making practices in your household - when they work best and when they fail. The young person may fear making a decision about a subject because it might be the wrong one or because family or peers might not understand or support their choice.

Support and encourage your child not to fear decision making from an early age. The subject they most want may not be available, so enable them to see that compromise is also an element of good decision making and that all subjects and careers contain work that is tedious and unappealing. Your position as a primary role model is very helpful here.

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