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 Jack McGovern from An Garda Síochána to give some advice for people considering this job:

Jack McGovern

Garda Trainee

An Garda Síochána

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Jack McGovern
Get a degree in any area that you are interested in. It doesn't have to be directly related to sociology or Law. Apply to become a member of the Garda Reserve Gather life experience by travelling before you join.

Not surprisingly, some aspect of the natural sciences will run through the Naturalists interests - from ecological awareness to nutrition and health. People with an interest in horticulture, land usage and farming (including fish) are Naturalists.

Some Naturalists focus on animals rather than plants, and may enjoy working with, training, caring for, or simply herding them. Other Naturalists will prefer working with the end result of nature's produce - the food produced from plants and animals. Naturalists like solving problems with solutions that show some sensitivity to the environmental impact of what they do. They like to see practical results, and prefer action to talking and discussing.
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Leaving Cert 2017

Non-CAO options

Every year at this time, thousands of students are actively engaged in pursuing other further education and career options outside the CAO system. Though it is the main third level course allocation system in Ireland, the CAO is not the only option to school leavers or those wishing to continue into further education.

Explore some the non-CAO options open to students below:


Post Leaving Cert Courses

What is a PLC Course?

A PLC or Post Leaving Cert or further education course is a recognised programme of study. It forms a bridge between secondary school and third level education. 

PLC qualifications are usually Level 5 or 6 on the NFQ. They are fully accredited and recognised by colleges, employers, and employment organisations.

Courses typically consist of eight modules and a work placement. They are 2 year-long programmes of classroom learning coupled with applied practical learning. Students are assessed on assignments, research, placement and end of year exams.

PLCs offer courses across a comprehensive range of career interests

What are the advantages of doing a PLC?

PLC colleges offer a broad range of programmes [search here] covering a range of career interests, including many with a practical content.

  • The Higher Education Links Scheme offers PLC students an alternative route into Third Level college – full information on course listings available here. If a student fails to meet the Leaving Cert Points requirement, he can still access the course of his choice by meeting the entry requirements.
  • The compulsory Work Experience module is useful, allowing students to gain valuable experience of their chosen workplace
  • Courses offer a more gentle progression from school to college
  • It can be useful and cost-effective way to spend a gap year if a young person is waiting to take up a deferred place or remains undecided about their plans
  • It offers a taster course for subjects not available in a Leaving Cert Curriculum
  • Students that have completed the Leaving Cert Applied can access third level education through the PLC route. 

How and when are applications made?

Some ETBs now operate localised / online central applications systems. In many cases application is made directly to the college in question. Most colleges also have an interview process.

PLC courses fill up quickly. Many students apply during their Leaving Cert year to be sure of having a contingency plan.

Applications are made online or by completing the appropriate application form. For information on financial support to PLC students go to

Tip: Contact individual PLC colleges to enquire about late vacancies. PLC courses have filled up rapidly in recent years but places may become available as some PLC candidates now take up CAO offers.  


UCAS is the British system for undergraduate University entry. Clearing is a service available for colleges in the UK between July and September. It is similar to the 'vacant places' system in the CAO process.

For most people, UCAS clearing is used after the leaving cert exam results are published in August. It can help students without a university or college place to find suitable vacancies on higher education courses in the UK.

College fees in the UK have risen steeply over the last number of years and there may be less interest in UCAS options now, with Brexit on the horizon. However, for some students, it remains a good option.

If you have the flexibility and reasonable exam results, there is always a good chance that you will find another course through UCAS Clearing. For full details click here

Repeat Leaving Cert

Repeat Leaving Cert courses are available at a number of specialised colleges, ETB colleges and some schools.

Repeating is a particularly good option for students that have a:

  • Strong likelihood of improving their results with work and study
  • Solid existing record of study and ability to apply themselves to study
  • Have gained stronger educational focus and will genuinely benefit from spending the year repeating the Leaving Cert
  • Narrowly missed the course of choice by just a few points
  • Missed the course of choice on random selection
  • Students that experienced health, trauma, family issues or bereavement etc.
  • Students whose focus was on sports or other areas of talent or expertise.

Find out more here.

Study Abroad

Key websites:;

Studying abroad can offer fantastic opportunities to students for learning, travel, networking, internship. The quality of educational experience can be very high. In terms of value, the cost of living in some European countries is significantly lower and tuition fees can be lower than at home.

Why is this option growing in popularity?

Many EU countries offer courses through English, with more affordable tuition fees. Students that wish to study Medicine, Veterinary or Dentistry & Pharmacy can find it easier to access a place on English speaking degree programmes abroad, where the entry requirements are more realistic than at home.

Gap Year

The trend of taking a year out between school and college - or Gap year - tends to fluctuate. But taking time out, away from the formal educational path can work well if there has been personal or family upheaval of some kind, if the young person has heavy sporting, creative or voluntary sector commitments, if there is a health issue that needs to be addressed or for financial reasons.

For some young people it is just not the right time for college or they have not yet decided on a career or course of study. If you think Gap year may be a realistic option for your child, some discussion round planning and goal-setting may make the process a more rewarding one for everyone. Students who found the gap year most valuable have said that setting clear goals, planning and organising carefully for the experience helped them to reap the maximum benefit from taking a year out.  

A number of voluntary organisations offer voluntary work abroad including:

Non-CAO Undergraduate Courses

There are approximately 100 courses run by a number of Higher Education providers that take on students each year outside of the CAO system.

These are fee paying courses, but in many cases, the fees are not that much more than the registration fees paid by CAO students and it is worth remembering that you can claim some back in tax.

These courses are accredited by a number of different bodies, sometimes in the UK, so it is important that you check out and understand who is the qualifying authority.


Apprenticeship is a programme of formal education and training. It combines learning in a place of work, with learning in an education or training centre. On successful completion of a number of phases of training, apprentices become recognised craftspeople or professionals.

The traditional craft apprenticeships include those in the Construction, Electrical, Engineering, and Motor sectors.

Over 20 new occupational apprenticeships are in the process of being developed and introduced for the Computer & ICT, MedTech, Insurance, Finance, Accountancy, Logistics and Hospitality sectors.

Details including entry requirements, training structure, where to find apprenticeship vacancies and a range of related videos, are available via the menu here.

Visit our comprehensive Apprenticeships area here.

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