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 Fergus O'Connell from BioPharmachem Ireland to give some advice for people considering this job:

Fergus O'Connell

Quality Officer

BioPharmachem Ireland

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Fergus O'Connell
A broad science background is very important. An ability to recognise small inconsistencies is equally important. For example do you recognise small discrepancies between different camera shots of the same scene in films and TV series?

An ability to question everything and think laterally is important. Also the ability to say 'no' (not everyone is comfortable doing this). Working in quality is not about being popular and definitely not about being a tyrant but one needs to be approachable, consistent and have good interpersonal skills.

Not all of your decisions are going to be popular but they need to be based on a sound rationale and you need to be able to support them. One also needs to be acutely aware of the fact that your opinion won't always be right.

One must always be open to being convinced of an alternative argument.
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Creative?
Creative
Creative people are drawn to careers and activities that enable them to take responsibility for the design, layout or sensory impact of something (visual, auditory etc). They may be drawn towards the traditional artistic pursuits such as painting, sculpture, singing, or music. Or they may show more interest in design, such as architecture, animation, or craft areas, such as pottery and ceramics.

Creative people use their personal understanding of people and the world they live in to guide their work. Creative people like to work in unstructured workplaces, enjoy taking risks and prefer a minimum of routine.
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Student Finance

Students attending full-time higher education undergraduate/postgraduate courses (Level 6-9) and full-time Further Education courses (Level 5-6) can get financial support through the means-tested Student Grant Scheme.

SUSI are still accepting applications for the 2016/17 academic year. Applications received before the 8th of July will be prioritised.

The Student Grant is made up of 2 components:

  • A Maintenance Grant and
  • A Fee Grant.

The Maintenance Grant is a contribution towards the student’s living costs, while the Fee Grant can cover any of the following 3 elements:

  • Tuition fees
  • Student contribution and
  • Cost of essential field trips.

In general, if you qualify for a maintenance grant you will also qualify for whatever elements of a fee grant applies to your situation.

Grant rates for qualifying students vary according to a number of factors including: household income, family size and whether the student's college is close to their permanent residence. In other words, it is 'means tested'.

Means Test

The means test for a student grant in 2016-2017 is based on your family's gross income for the previous full tax year (2015), unless you, or your family, have had a change of circumstances (which is likely to be permanent) since 31 December 2015 - your changed circumstances may be taken into account.

Reckonable income for a student grant is gross income from all sources.

Some social welfare payments are excluded from 'reckonable income' for the purposes of student grants - see more details on reckonable income on susi.ie and also in the Student Grant Scheme 2016 (pdf).

If you were ordinarily resident with your parents from October 1 of the year before the year of entry to the course, you are considered dependent on your parents and your income (if any) is assessed together with your parents' income(s).

An allowance is made for your earnings outside of term-time (up to €4,500). Outside term time is counted as 2 weeks at Christmas, 2 weeks at Easter and 12 weeks during the summer months of June, July and August. (Holiday pay earned outside these periods may also be allowed by the grant awarding authority on receipt of a letter from the school/college confirming the exact dates of term).

The Student Grant Scheme is quite a detailed application process so it is crucial that you apply as early as possible if you plan to take-up a course of study.

SUSI is the centralised online system for processing grant applications. To view the online SUSI application form click here.

RATES of PAYMENT

Changes in Maintenance Grant Rates take effect in January each year. The rates for 2016/17 are as follows:

Adjacent and non-adjacent rates

For students who live 45 kilometres or less from the college being attended, the adjacent rate of maintenance grant is payable. This rate applies to all students living within this distance, including all mature students, both dependent and independent. The non-adjacent rate applies to everyone else.

NB: Before making an application, students are encouraged to refer to the General Criteria  and to use the Ready Reckoner provided on the SUSI website. The eligibility reckoner is provided by SUSI to assist students in deciding whether they should apply for a student grant. It provides a quick indication of eligibility for grant funding based on the answers given to 10 questions without completing and submitting  a full online grant application. 

If you are doing a Further Education (FE) course and getting the BTEA or a VTOS allowance you are exempt from the new student participant charge (€200). You may have to pay a course charge for books, exam fees and other costs.

When will SUSI be open for 2016/17 applications?

The SUSI online Student Grant Application System for the 2016/2017 academic year opened on 5 April, 2016, significantly earlier than in previous years, to process grants more efficiently.

Those applying for grant renewals must apply before 6th June 2016. The date for new applications is 8th July. You do not have to wait until you get your Leaving Cert results and CAO offers.

NOTE: SUSI are still accepting applications for the 2016/17 academic year, but applications received before the 8th of July will be prioritised.

See also SUSI or follow SUSI - Education | Facebook

PAYMENT OF SUSI GRANTS

Grant Award Payments are made as follows:

Maintenance Grants: In three or nine monthly instalments into your own bank account by EFT (Electronic Fund Transfer).

Fee Grants: Directly to the college/institution you will attend, on your behalf, once the college has confirmed your registration as a student.

To ensure payment of your grant, you must have:

  • Provided your bank details to SUSI (maintenance grants only) – this can be done at any time through your online grant application account;
  • Had your course details confirmed by the CAO to SUSI or submitted your Final Course Acceptance (FCA) form on-line to SUSI; and
  • Been confirmed to SUSI by your college as registered and attending your course.

Payment dates for 2016/17 are available here from SUSI.

Other useful information about applying for a grant

There is a lot of paperwork involved in applying for a grant so start gathering this information as soon as possible!You will need an offer from the college, however, you do not need to wait until after your son/daughter has received their results to begin the process of getting all necessary paperwork together. These will include:

  • Birth Certificate
  • PPS Number
  • Documentary evidence of reckonable income: P60, P21, P45
  • Documentary evidence for social welfare payments
  • Documentary evidence for self-employment, rental income, savings, deposit accounts, income from maintenance agreements, inheritance.
  • Course Acceptance Form

The full list of documentation that may be needed is available here.

Note: SUSI assesses income from the previous year as part of its assessment criteria. Therefore, the income assessed for the 2016/17 academic year will be gross income for 2015. Where there is self-employed, farming or rental income, SUSI requires a full set of trading accounts for 2015. SUSI also requires an acknowledgement of self-assessment (received from the Revenue Commissioners on submission of tax returns). SUSI cannot fully process applications without this information, therefore such tax returns should be made early in 2016. Full details are available here.