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 Luke Heffernan from Forestry Careers Ireland to give some advice for people considering this job:

Luke Heffernan

Forestry Inspector

Forestry Careers Ireland

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Luke Heffernan
I would explain that it is a role where you can expect to be learning every day, most especially from what you observe on the ground and from the people that you meet.

Administrative people are interested in work that offers security and a sense of being part of a larger process. They may be at their best operating under supervisors who give clear guidelines, and performing routine tasks in a methodical and reliable way.

They tend to enjoy clerical and most forms of office work, where they perform essential administrative duties. They often form the backbone of large and small organisations alike. They may enjoy being in charge of office filing systems, and using computers and other office equipment to keep things running smoothly. They usually like routine work hours and prefer comfortable indoor workplaces.
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Subject Choice for Leaving Cert...

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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 6271 students who sat the Higher Level Physics exam in 2017.

Listed below are the percentage distributions of marks from the 1314 students who sat the Ordinary Level Physics exam in 2017.

In brief... header image

Physics describes the laws and forces that govern natural phenomena. The subject aims to enhance students ability to think logically, to observe, to understand scientific method and to communicate effectively. It offers a general education in physics for all students. Science, Technology and Society (STS) is an integral part of the syllabus so that students can be aware of the principles of the applications of physics in the everyday world.

Why Study this?header image

Why Study Physics

Physics contributes to a student’s future career in many ways. It helps, in conjunction with the other Leaving Certificate subjects, to provide a broad, balanced education for any student. Physics teaches students to think logically and enables them to express their thoughts in a concise manner. The skills and knowledge developed through their study of physics can be useful in a wide variety of situations.

What kind of student would Physics suit?

  • Students who wonder why and ask how
  • Students who are interested in the following careers would be advised to study Physics: Electrician, Optician, Doctor, Dentist, Engineer, Computer Technician and Programmer.


  • While there is an element of maths in the physics course, honours maths is not a requirement to do honours physics. Students should not avoid physics on the basis of not having honours maths. It is entirely possible to get on well in honours physics without honours maths.
  • Pupils should become capable at drawing and reading graphs and competent in using a calculator through the course.
  • The physics syllabus has strong links with the other science subjects especially chemistry. There are strands of physics which overlap with woodwork and construction especially the electricity and heat sections.
  • Pupils who will gain the most from studying physics are those who have an interest in science at Junior Cert level and those who enjoy learning about how things work. The science, technology and society section allows students the chance to see where the physics they are learning applies as in TVs, car motors and electricity in the home and also, to see some of the industrial applications of certain topics.
  • For students who are interested in proceeding further with physics, check out our sector on Physical and Mathematical Sciences, and also the Institute of Physics, which provides information on the range of career options that students can follow, after physics at third level. 

Videos & Interviews header image

Studying Physics
Read what others say about their Leaving Cert. Subject Choices...
Lieutenant - Pilot - Air Corp - Oisin McGrath
Oisin McGrath, Defence Forces

The subjects that I took for my Leaving Certificate are..English, Irish, Maths, Physics, Biology, Geography and French.

NB: It must be noted that the Air Corps requires certain subjects and is detailed in the Cadetship Booklet!!!

  go to interview...
Recruitment Manager - Frank Morrison
Frank Morrison, Health Service Executive

Irish, English, Maths, Accountancy, Biology, Physics, French, Social & Scientific.

As already stated, my initial goal was accountancy following the Leaving Cert. The accountancy covered by the Leaving Cert was very beneficial during my first year at college. However I don't believe I had the personality to become an accountant.

Moving to my later choice of Nursing, I believe that biology was essential as it is a major part of nursing studies from the start. I also believe that experience at work itself will further one's career and may in fact lead to a change further down the career pathway.

  go to interview...
Science Entrepreneur - Brian Kelly
Brian Kelly, BioPharmachem Ireland

I did the following subjects for my Leaving Cert: Irish, English, Maths, French, Physics, Chemistry, Accounting and Applied Maths.

When choosing my subjects in 5th year in School I deliberately ensured that I did at least one business and one science subject because this gave me more flexibility in my choice of courses. I would recommend this strategy - particularly for those who aren't sure what they wish to study in college.

  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...
Resource Teacher - Paul Galvan
Paul Galvan, Department of Education and SkillsFor my Leaving Certificate I studied English, Irish, Maths, Physics, French, Geography and History. My favourite subjects were Geography, Physics, French and English. I knew that I would like to study a combination of these subjects in further education. I think as regards a career path it’s a good idea to study subjects you like and are good at. 
  go to interview...
IQ Engineer - Darryl Day
Darryl Day, IntelPhysics and Maths were probably the two most helpful subjects I studied in school. Problem solving and analytical skills are essential in any engineering or science role and these subjects actively develop these strengths. 
  go to interview...
QA Manager - Michael Bohane
Michael Bohane, BioPharmachem IrelandMy Leaving Cert subjects were Irish, English, Maths, French, Chemistry, Biology and Business Organisation.  My main interest was science so I chose two science subjects and one business related subject to keep things interesting.

My subjects were appropriate for my University course except I was required to take Physics in the first year. This was quite challenging not having taken Physics to Leaving Cert but not impossible. I don't think I would do anything differently if I had to repeat the process. 
  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...
Ships Engineer - Brendan Cavanagh
Brendan Cavanagh, Bord Iascaigh MharaI had chosen physics, engineering and technical drawing which all helped when I went to train in BIM college 
  go to interview...
R&D Engineer - Liam McCaul
Liam McCaul, Sustainable Energy AuthorityPhysics, Chemistry and French. I also studied German in college. It is good to have another language regardless of what it is. Anything to do with Engineering, I would highly suggest Maths and Physics. 
  go to interview...

Course Overview header image

The Leaving Cert physics course follows directly from Junior Cert Science, and covers more topics in greater depth.

Physics is often referred to as the maths side of science even though only a small proportion of the course is based on maths.

Physics aims to enhance the student’s ability to think logically, observe and understand scientific method.

The course is heavily based around experiments - students are required to complete and write reports of 24 practical experiments throughout the two years of Senior Cycle, and be fully aware of:

  • how to accurately record and analyse results
  • how to minimise and accommodate for experimental errors.

These laboratory experiments, along with many more non-compulsory experiments are examined in detail on a section of the written exam paper.

Course Contentheader image

The Physics course also involves a lot of theory which is tested in the written examination. Students are expected to be able to use various formulae with respect to SI units and significant figures, and have a good understanding of the role of physics in modern society and technology.

The study of Physics for Leaving Certificate is broken down into eight sections or topic areas: 

(a) Six compulsory sections (b) Two option sections (Higher paper only, one to be done)

Compulsory sections

  • Optics / Waves: the study of light and sound and real life applications of the theory.
  • Mechanics: time, space, distance, speed and acceleration.
  • Heat: changes of state, energy conversions and mathematical problems.
  • Electricity: develops on from simple circuits to more detailed concepts.
  • Electricity and Magnetism: gravity, relationship between electricity and magnetism, study of how a motor works, ac. and dc. circuits and phenomena with real world applications.
  • Atomic Physics: cathode rays, x-rays, radioactive decay, fission and fusion, nuclear reactors and real world applications.


Particle Physics: recent type of physics, delving into the new discoveries leading to a better understanding of the formation of the universe and where we came from.

Applied Electricity: detailed study of electricity and the working of a motor developing from electricity already studied.

At Higher Level, there is a deeper, more quantitative treatment of physics.  The two option sections are omitted from the Ordinary Level Leaving Certificate course.

The course also consists of 24 core mandatory experiments complementing each section in an aim to develop students’ technical skills and enhance understanding and reinforce key concepts.

Exam Structure header image

The leaving cert exam is three hours in duration. A total of 400 marks are available for the exam.

Section A:

  • Students must answer 3 out of 4 questions
  • 120 marks: 40 marks per question
  • Questions are based on experimental procedures and use of results

Section B:

  • Students must answer 5 out of 8 questions
  • 280 marks: 56 marks per question
  • Questions are more broad and theory based

There is no element of continuous assessment but experimental copies must be available for inspection by the State Examinations Commission. Students taking chemistry have to memorize the chemical components of a series of prescribed experiments. They will need to present the elements of four such experiments in their exam.

Leaving Certificate Physics is assessed by means of one terminal examination paper at each level.  Students are required to keep a record of their practical work over the two years of the course. 

Career Possibilities header image

Physics is a useful subject for many courses and career areas and a good foundation for a broad range of scientific and technical careers in particular.  

Many careers benefit from the logical and numeracy skills developed in the study of physics. Many technical courses involve components of physics.

Students may move into employment or into further study following their two years of physics at Senior Cycle. They may choose to progress to a Post Leaving Certificate course (PLC) or move on to a third level course.

Career Guidance