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 Louise Mc Donald from Defence Forces to give some advice for people considering this job:

Louise Mc Donald

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Defence Forces

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Louise Mc Donald
I would advise them to get themselves physically fit and to maintain it. I would also say that a sense of humour is very important and the ability to laugh at themselves. They should have self discipline and be prepared to accept imposed discipline. Punctuality is very important as is respect for others. If they had sporting interests that would be a help.

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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At a Glance... header image


Most careers in the education sector involve some form of teaching. Research suggests that the vast majority of students who opt for teaching do so because of the opportunity it offers to work in a creative and challenging environment with young people. 

Teaching careers span a wide range of educational settings: preschool settings such as Montessori schools; junior infants and more senior classes in primary school; post-primary or second level schools; with groups of adults on ‘second chance’ education programmes, or in further education colleges, universities and institutes of technology. Teaching even takes place in the business world in the form of corporate training and facilitation. In all cases, the teacher interacts with his or her learning group, daily or otherwise.

Opportunities with Irish in this Sector
Pre-Primary Education header image


The compulsory school start age in Ireland is six years. Pre-school children are “children under 6 years of age, who are not attending a national school or equivalent”. Children from the age of 4 can be enrolled in infant classes in primary schools. Almost half of all 4-year-olds and virtually all 5-year-olds attend primary school. All forms of pre-primary school education are optional.

Early childhood education and care (ECCE) services here are largely delivered outside the formal education system. There are approximately 22,000 people working in ECCE settings in Ireland, which inlcudes crèches, nurseries, pre-schools, naíonraí (Irish language pre-schools), playgroups and daycare services. 

A free Pre-School initiative is in place under which all children are entitled to a year, or more of appropriate programme-based activities, prior to starting primary school. This has contributed to increased demand for qualified childcare workers.

Working in pre school 

With growth in the numbers employed in pre-school services, the sector has been required to become more organised in recent years. Stricter guidelines are now in place for providers of pre-school education facilities.


Specific qualifications have not always been essential for working with pre-school children, but it is now the norm to have a recognised ECCE qualification.

Employers typically look for a minimum of QQI Level 5 or equivalent, relevant to the specific job role and responsibilities. 

Childcare staff at registered services participating in the ECCE scheme* must meet the minimum qualification requirements:
  • Pre-school leaders must hold a Level 6 qualification;
  • Pre-school assistants must hold a Level 5 qualification.

Search here for relevant courses 

*Existing services participating in the ECCE Programme prior to 2015 were provided with a 12 month postponement until 2016 for this requirement, subject to evidence that relevant staff are enrolled and engaged in training.
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Primary School Education header image

There are over 3,300 publicly-funded primary schools in Ireland, including 140 schools for children with special educational needs, multi-denominational schools (in the Educate Together network), and Gaelscoileanna (schools where all teaching is carried out through Irish).


Primary school teachers must have a recognised teaching qualification and must also be registered with The Teaching Council. Training is a 4-year undergraduate degree, called the Bachelor of Education (B.Ed.). It has recently been increased from three years to four years in duration.

An alternative route to becoming a primary school teacher is a 'consecutive' or postgraduate education programme.  People coming from other undergraduate degree disciplines may choose this option if they want to get into primary school teaching. The Professional Master of Education (PME - Primary Teaching) as it is known, is a two-year, full-time Level 9 postgraduate programme designed to qualify graduates as primary teachers. Applicants must have a minimum Level 8 degree in any discipline.

Leaving Cert students considering the PME route typically opt to take an Arts degree. Arts is normally three years, making it shorter than some other degree programmes. It also allows students to study subjects relevant to both the primary and secondary school curriculum. An advantage of this route is that students who do not achieve the required grade at Leaving Cert can meet the Irish requirement for primary teaching by passing Irish in the first year of their Arts degree. Students can also improve their chances of being accepted to the PME by maintaining and improving their level of Irish throughout their degree. 

Both Concurrent and Consecutive Primary Teaching courses are available at Mary Immaculate; DCU (now includes St. Patrick's College Drumcondra and the Church of Ireland Centre); Marino Institute of Education; and Maynooth University (Froebel). Hibernia offers postgraduate primary teacher training only.

Detailed information on The Education Sector in Ireland is given in 'What the Experts say'. Always confirm the current official guidelines on how to become a teacher - see The Teaching Council website.

Primary School Principal
Primary School Principals must be qualified teachers and, in general, have at least five years of teaching experience (except in primary schools of fewer than 80 pupils). There is no formal requirement for leadership training, but many applicants have related diplomas (e.g. management, administration, education) and many complete non-accredited courses for school leaders.

The Department of Education and Skills (DES) steers the education system in Ireland and the Department of Children and Youth Affairs (DCYA) is responsible for early childhood issues. Several other bodies have responsibility for different aspects of education policy in Ireland:

  • National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA) - advises on curricular objectives
  • Quality and Qualifications Ireland (QQI) - standards, skills or competencies acquired by learners
  • Department of Education Inspectorate - evaluates the quality of schooling
  • Teaching Council - focuses on training, qualifications, professional development and standards
  • Education and Training Boards (ETBs) - manage vocational education at a regional level
  • Higher Education Authority (HEA) - funding and advisory body in relation to third level sector


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Post Primary Education header image

Post-primary or Secondary school or teachers typically specialise in a subject area that interests them, (e.g. History, Geography, English, Irish, Modern Foreign Languages (MFL), Physical Education (PE), Maths, Science etc.) and work to pass this knowledge on to students. This can be a challenging but important role. It requires a special type of dedication.

Secondary teachers must hold a degree level qualification. They must also have completed a teacher training qualification, together with certain requirements specific to their subject area. These are outlined in detail for individual subject areas, by the Teaching Council here.

As with primary teaching, there are two routes to becoming a second level teacher: Concurrent or Consecutive. 

In a concurrent, or undergraduate degree programme, the teacher training element is built into the programme. Many programmes are concurrent, typically those with practical, laboratory and workshop elements. Most of these are of four years’ duration, although some are offered at Masters level over five years. 

The consecutive route is where you complete an undergraduate degree in your area of choice first, followed by a postgraduate training called the Professional Masters in Education (PME). Entry requirements to the PME include a degree in at least one subject which meets the criteria for registration with The Teaching Council here.

Where can you study to become a post-primary teacher?

Note: From September 2014, changes introduced by The Teaching Council for the consecutive route to post-primary teaching mean that the Professional Masters in Education (PME), (formerly PDE), is now a 2-year training programme.

Application for most PMEs is through the PAC - click here 

Standard Applications €80. Closing Date Thursday 1st December 2016 and Documentation submission Thursday 8th December 2016.
Late Applications €120. Application closed on Friday 19th May 2017.
Hibernia online PME is open for applications until 12th June 2017.

Specialist subject areas

At secondary level, there are indications that some subject areas are short of specialist teachers. Mathematics and the physical sciences - UCD introduced a new undergraduate route to becoming a post-primary teacher - for students interested in Maths and Science who would like to follow a career in teaching. There is now a five-year Teaching Council accredited degree leading to an MSc in Mathematics and Science Education available (See DN200).

Special Educational Needs / Resource Teaching - 
based in primary and post-primary schools, Resource Teachers provide intensive instruction in English and/or Maths to pupils who experience difficulties. To work in this area you must qualify for primary or secondary teaching in the normal way. A specialised qualification is desirable but not always essential. There has been a huge growth in special education in recent years as the Department of Education has recognised the need for early intervention with special help for some pupils. This has resulted in a large number of teachers working in special education and the employment of Resource Assistants. The largest increase in employment over the last 5 years across all occupations was for Educational Assistants. Two Montessori colleges are accredited to provide initial teacher education programmes for teachers in special needs schools and classes.

Guidance / Careers Counselling - 
Guidance counselling in Ireland is a dual role combining responsibilities for general behavioural counselling and careers advice. Guidance Counsellors can be found in most schools and colleges in the country. Their role is to advise young people as they make their career choices. Their job involves: Personal Counselling; Educational guidance and counselling; and Career guidance and counselling. Guidance counsellors are mainly employed in second level schools, but they also work with early school leavers, disadvantaged groups, in Local Employment Services (LES) and in SOLAS. Most have spent some time in mainstream teaching before undergoing further training, allowing them to specialise in career guidance counselling.

The starting salary for Primary and Secondary School teachers is currently set at 27,814 Euro. Although it compares well at starting level with other professions, some teachers complain about the lack of promotional prospects within the profession.

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Further Education header image

Further Education covers education and training which occurs after secondary school, (QQI Levels 4,5 & 6), but which is not part of the third level system

There are number of providers of Further Education and Training courses. A wide variety of schools, organisations and institutions, are also involved in the delivery of continuing education and training for young school leavers and adults. 

Much of this training is aimed at upskilling and reskilling people who are unemployed. Providing skills for work is a priority. Full-time programmes in Further Education include Post- Leaving Cetificate (PLC) Courses, Vocational Training Opportunities Scheme (VTOS) and Youthreach.

Teaching in the Further Education sector

A formal teaching qualification was not traditionally required for teaching in this area, however, [with effect from 1 April 2013], new entrants must now have attained a Teaching Council approved further education Initial Teacher Education (ITE) qualification, plus a primary degree. Full details are available here.

There are a number of courses accredited by the Teaching Council aimed at teachers within the FET sector. A list of providers of ITE for the sector is available here.
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Higher Education / 3rd Level header image

Third Level Lecturing and Teaching

The number of people attending Irish Universities and Colleges has greatly increased in the last ten years. Alongside this, there has been a substantial increase in the number of students attending Institute of Technology Colleges. This has meant a big increase in staff to support that growth.

Lecturing or teaching at third level is quite different from primary and secondary school teaching. A specific teaching qualification is not required to work in a third level college or university. The most typical route into teaching in this sector is giving part-time grinds or tutorials to younger college students while working for a post graduate qualification such as a Masters or a PhD Degree. 

Progressing to full time employment in third level colleges generally requires a PhD Degree and having a number of research papers published. Over the past decade, teacher development programmes for lecturers and teachers in the higher education sector have become more widely available. All seven universities and some institutes of technology have set up centres or units for teaching and learning in higher education most of which now provide certificate programmes. See:

  • CELT at NUI Galway; 
  • Ionad Bairre in UCC;
  • The Centre for Teaching and Learning in UCD;
  • The Centre for Academic Practice and SL (CAPSL) in TCD and
  • T&L Centres in UCD, UL, DCU, DIT and WIT.
A number of higher education institutions also provide programmes for teachers and facilitators in adult and continuing education settings.

Institutes of Technology

Like the universities, a teaching qualification is not essential for teachers in the IOTs. Teachers in this sector, by and large have good third level qualifications, in generl to Maters level 9, combined with strong experience from the world of industry or commerce. This combination has been an important factor in obtaining employment in the IOT colleges. 

Much of the work now available for Third-level Teachers and Lecturers is part-time or involves short term contracts of employment.

There is now a website for all university job vacancies in Ireland - see University Vacancies Ireland
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Adult & Community Education header image

Adult and Community education involves working with adults of all ages. Educators in this area are involved in providing 'Adult Basic Education' (QQI Levels 1-3), which focuses on improving adult literacy by upgrading reading, writing, spelling, maths, and computer skills. 

Generally adult education tutors are secondary school teachers, employed by SOLAS and the Education & Training Boards (ETBs). A qualification in adult education is advisable for teaching adults.

A number of higher education institutions provide programmes for teachers and facilitators in adult and continuing education settings. UCD, Maynooth, UCC etc. offer certificates, diplomas in adult education, community development. 

[See also AONTAS for more details]

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Facilitation & Training header image

Facilitators tend to be educators who are skilled at 'facilitating' - making the process of learning, or group participation, easier. Facilitators usually operate in a workshop type environment.  Youth facilitators for example - these may be young people themselves who are trained to conduct and facilitate group discussion on a topic such as sexual health. Youth leaders, or community education facilitators, may have undertaken formal or informal training in a community and voluntary sector setting.

Professional or corporate facilitators may come from a background in business, psychology or education. They generally work with individuals or groups of participants to 'facilitate' learning, change or discussion. Their role is not so much to impart knowledge, as to encourage participants to take responsibility for their own learning as an important part of the process. An external facilitator may brought in by a business or organisation to facilitate group discussion about organisational change. Their role in that situation is to encourage everybody in the group to voice their opinion and to facilitate a discussion that will lead to an agreed conclusion or set of recommendations. Facilitators working in this kind of role tend to have a recognised professional qualification from an industry related organisation or institution.

This area can also extend into life coaching.

The roles of facilitators and trainers are similar, and the terms are often used interchangeably, but a specific interpretation may apply depending on the context.

A Trainer typically comes from a background of expertise and practical experience in a particular area. He/she imparts their expertise or know-how to people who want to learn that particular skill/ability - a Personal Fitness trainer for example. This kind of trainer would typically have a recognised industry-specific qualification.
Training in the world of business is usually provided by people with expertise in their particular field of business, sometimes requiring accreditation, but sometimes it's the person's business or technical experience that is important.


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2nd Floor, 83-87 Main Street, Ranelagh, Dublin 6
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Marlborough St., Dublin 1
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Archbishop's House, Drumcondra, Dublin 9
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Hainault House, Tallaght, Dublin, D24 RFVO
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Piper's Hill, Kilcullen Road, Naas, Co. Kildare
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7 Cearnóg Mhuirfean, Baile Átha Cliath 2.
(01) 6398400
Halla Naomh Pádraig Institiúid Oideachais Marino Ascaill Uí Ghríofa, Baile Átha Cliath 9
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The Basement, 17 Herbert St., Dublin, 2.
(01) 676 1975
c/o School of Physics, UCD Belfield, Dublin, 4.
(01) 716 2216
35, Parnell Square, Dublin, 1.
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563, South Circular Rd., Dublin, 8.
(01) 492 3326
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100 Thomas Street, Dublin 8
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35, Fitzwilliam Square, Dublin, 2.
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Trim, Co. Meath
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Portobello Institute, 43 Lower Dominick St, Dublin 1
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Chapter House, 26/30 Abbey St. Upr, Dublin 1
(01) 858 7400
16 Adelaide Street, Dun Laoghaire, Co. Dublin.
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73 Orwell Road Rathgar Ireland Dublin 6
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36-38, Westland Row, Dublin, 2.
(01) 676 4412
Block A, Maynooth Business Campus, Maynooth, Co. Kildare
(01) 651 7900

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