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 Galvan from Department of Education and Skills to give some advice for people considering this job:

Paul Galvan

Resource Teacher

Department of Education and Skills

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Paul Galvan
I would advise them to ensure they enjoy working with young people. If possible try to get some teaching experience; I started out as a substitute teacher before applying for my H Dip in Education.
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The Investigative person will usually find a particular area of science to be of interest. They are inclined toward intellectual and analytical activities and enjoy observation and theory. They may prefer thought to action, and enjoy the challenge of solving problems with clever technology. They will often follow the latest developments in their chosen field, and prefer mentally stimulating environments.
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Subject Choice for Leaving Cert...

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Biology

Ed Zone

These courses enable learners to gain recognition for the achievement of considerable knowledge in a range of subject areas, as for example in the Leaving Certificate and one-year Post Leaving Certificate courses.

Courses may be academic or practical in focus, and awards that are recognised by the National Framework of Qualifications may lead to progression opportunities higher up in the framework.

Employment Opportunities
The majority of people with certificates at this level are well prepared for occupations that involve using their knowledge and skills to help others. Examples include office secretary, customer service representatives, special needs assistant, retail salespersons and childcare workers.

Level on the National Framework of Qualifications
2 Years
Duration of course
Grades Awarded

Marks Distribution 2017:
Listed below are the percentage distributions of marks from the 26684 students who sat the Higher Level Biology exam in 2017.

Listed below are the percentage distributions of marks from the 7608 students who sat the Ordinary Level Biology exam in 2017.

In brief... header image

Biology is the study of life. Through the study of biology students employ the processes of science to explore the diversity of life and the inter-relationships between organisms and their environment. They become more aware of the use of living organisms and their products to enhance human health and the environment.


Why Study this?header image

Why Study Biology

  • Biology is a popular subject and is the study of life. It requires a lot of memory work so is a good choice for students with attention to detail and excellent memory work.
  • Many courses require at least one science subject and some even require two (see third level entry requirements). Therefore, it is a good idea to have at least one science subject to keep your options open.
  • Those considering medicine, nursing and related courses will find that this subject will be of huge benefit in their studies.

What kind of student would Biology suit?

Students who enjoyed science for Junior Cert might wish to consider studying biology at Senior Cycle. The course is a continuation of what was studied at Junior Cycle but in more detail. It is particularly suited to students who have scored highly in the Naturalist and Investigative areas in their interest test.

Recommendations/Tips

  • It is recommended that a student taking Leaving Certificate Biology has a good understanding of Junior Science at higher level.
  • Each student must have an aptitude and interest for laboratory work.
  • A considerable amount of learning and study is necessary to do well in this subject


Videos & Interviews header image


Read what others say about their Leaving Cert. Subject Choices...
Occupational Therapist - Tomas Flanagan
Tomas Flanagan, St. Michael's House

In school we had to choose our Leaving Cert subjects just before the Junior Cert. At this stage I had no idea what I wanted to do as a profession but I knew I wanted to go to College.

In order to keep my options open I chose a mix of subjects to include one language, one science subject and one business subject. In addition to the obligatory English, Irish & Maths I therefore studied French, Biology, Geography & Accounting. I chose these particular subjects as I had an interest in them at Junior Cert level.

I suppose Biology was the most relevant of my subjects when I started college as there was some overlap with Anatomy and Physiology. We also studied research and statistics in college which were Maths related.

 
  go to interview...
 
Manufacturing Engineer - Lynsey Gargan
Lynsey Gargan, STEPSIn school I was limited by the amount of subjects offered. I went to an all girl's convent school and they had pretty much the stereotypical girl's school subjects then.

For my optional subjects I did Geography, H&E Social and Scientific and Biology. I had all the regular subjects too. English, Irish, Maths and French. I think it's fairly obvious from the above list that my subjects didn't have much of a influence over my third level education choices.

If subjects like physics, engineering etc., had been on offer, I think I would have taken them instead but they were not available to me. I don't believe choices made in school about subjects always have to dictate what you do in college. In my case it just meant I had to work a little harder in the first year of college to catch up.

My school subjects never stopped me. If you know what you like and what you want do, you will always find a way. To be honest it's the knowing what you like that's harder, there are lots of paths to achieve what you want in education today. 
  go to interview...
 
Midwife - Siobhan Canny
Siobhan Canny, Health Service ExecutiveFor my Leaving Certificate I chose Biology as my Science subject. This along with Home Economics allowed me to get a place on a Nurse training programme. 
  go to interview...
 
Anaesthetist - Dr Jan Steiner
Dr Jan Steiner, Health Service ExecutiveSpecific subjects that I "specialised" in were German & Biology. None of the subjects chosen in school influenced my career path. 
  go to interview...
 
Process Engineer - Rebecca Tighe
Rebecca Tighe, IntelPhysics, Biology, Higher level maths. I think physics and maths played a huge role in influencing my career decisions. Physics allowed me to develop an interest in understanding how things work and what the practical limitations on designs are. While maths allowed me to develop the logical thinking and problem solving skills which are essential to engineers in their every day jobs.  
  go to interview...
 
Primary School Teacher - Deirdre Sayers
Deirdre Sayers, Department of Education and SkillsI took seven subjects for my Leaving Cert. These were primarily arts subjects with the exception of Biology and Maths.

These subjects were ideal for a B.Ed. Degree course. They would have restricted my entry into the sciences, however. In hindsight I would not have done anything differently for the career path I choose. However, I might have had a wider career path if I had studied a wider base of subjects. 
  go to interview...
 
Ambulance / Paramedic - Keith Hayes
Keith Hayes, Health Service ExecutiveIn school there was very poor attention given to, or ‘guidance’ towards suitable careers. I was lucky I knew what I wanted to do. This, looking back was disappointing because I had no drive to go to third level college. I knew all I needed to be a Paramedic was the Leaving Cert.

In the Leaving Cert I took English, Irish, Maths, French, Biology, Chemistry and History pretty much the standard, they didn’t really have much influence on my career choice. That said, Biology and Chemistry are a great foundation for studying medicine as a Paramedic. 
  go to interview...
 
Psychologist - Clinical - Elaine MacDonald
Elaine MacDonald, St. Michael's House

I like the way that the Irish school system allows students to study a variety of subjects to get a broad base.

I chose a range of subjects including languages (French and Spanish) which allowed me to make friends and really immerse myself in different cultures during my summers abroad.

I feel that Maths helped me to develop my logical mind, and prepared me well for learning to use statistics which are widely used in Clinical Psychology.

Biology was certainly useful to take in school and is relevant to Clinical Psychology because of its focus on how the human body works and how the brain functions.

English was also useful to the role of Clinical Psychologist as report writing skills are used across the board, and good ability to express yourself both verbally and in writing is very important.

I also feel that my involvement in school sports (hockey and swimming) was important in helping me develop into a person who enjoys being part of a team.

 
  go to interview...
 
Social Care Worker - Naoise Pye
Naoise Pye, St. Michael's House

I didn't know what I wanted to do when I left school so actually my choice of subjects only reflected my interests (Art, History, French and Classical Studies).

So if I were to do my Leaving cert again I might choose to do home-economics or biology to increase my medical knowledge as well as my cooking and domestic skills!

 
  go to interview...
 
Energy Manager - Jonathan Pugsley
Jonathan Pugsley, Sustainable Energy Authority

Science Subjects: Maths, Physics, Biology, Tech drawing, Chemistry  - I loved these and they are very applicable for my current career path.

Data analysis and problem solving - it's all about number crunching at the end of the day when working on technical problems.

Arts, English, English Literature and French are subjects I was never really interested in at school, but have become more interested in the last 10 years, as they are very useful for communication purposes, and that is now a very big part of my job.

 
  go to interview...
 
 

Course Overview header image

Biology remains one of the most popular subject choices. The syllabus requires a lot of memory work.

If your chosen subject is biology you will gain an understanding of yourself and the natural world in which you live. The course uses practical activity and investigation to develop your skills and knowledge. The scope of biology is wide and varied and covers not only the traditional study of plants and animals but also areas such as molecular biology and biotechnology which have clear relevance to modern society.


Course Contentheader image

The syllabus consists of approximately 70% biological knowledge, understanding and skills; the remaining 30% deals with the technological, political, social and economic aspects of biology.

The syllabus introduced in 2002 has been developed in response to current knowledge and application of biology. Account has been taken of the need to include contemporary biological technologies such as DNA profiling and genetic screening. It aims to create in students an awareness of the application of biological knowledge to modern society and to develop an ability to make informed evaluations about contemporary biological issues. The course covers a wide range of topics, including cell structure and diversity, metabolism, genetics and human and flowering plant anatomy and physiology. The general principles of ecology are studied, and one particular ecosystem is examined in detail. An ecology field trip is arranged in the 5th Year. Particular emphasis is placed on the practical aspects of biology, and there are a number of mandatory activities that each student must carry out for themselves.

The course is divided into three units

  • Unit 1 The study of life (ecology and food science)
  • Unit 2 The Cell (Genetics, photosynthesis, respiration and enzymes)
  • Unit 3 The organism (a study of body systems, plant biology and microbiology)

There are 22 mandatory practical activities. Three of these are examined each year, two of which have to be answered. A laboratory record of these activities has to be kept and available for inspection by The Department of Education. An ecology portfolio must also be completed. As of yet, no marks are awarded for the laboratory notebook or the portfolio. There is a strong emphasis on social and applied aspects e.g. when studying the breathing system a breathing disorder is studied.

Biology is often perceived as an easier subject than physics or chemistry but this is not so. There are high failure rates at ordinary level.


Exam Structure header image

Exam Structure

The examination at higher and ordinary level is three hours duration. The exam paper is divided into three units.

  • Section A - Six short questions (answer five) 100 marks.
  • Section B - Three questions on practical activities (answer two) 60 marks.
  • Section C - Six long questions (answer four) 240 marks.

Comments

  • It is recommended that a student taking Leaving Certificate Biology has a good understanding of Junior Science at higher level.
  • Each student must have an aptitude and interest for laboratory work.
  • A considerable amount of learning and study is necessary to do well in this subject.


Career Possibilities header image

Biology is a great subject if you are considering nursing or medicine. Other careers where studying Biology at second level is useful include:

Veterinary, Dentistry, Agriculture, Applied Biology, Biochemistry, Biotechnology, Botany, Ecology, Earth Science and Environmental Science, Genetics, Marine Science and Aquaculture, Microbiology and Zoology, Psychologist, Astronomer, Teacher, Dietician and Researcher.



Career Guidance