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 Michael Bohane from BioPharmachem Ireland to give some advice for people considering this job:

Michael Bohane

QA Manager

BioPharmachem Ireland

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Michael Bohane
Be prepared for responsibility and the rewards and problems that come with responsibility. It is very important to be comfortable making decisions and living with them. While it is impossible to be right all of the time the majority of decisions you make have to be correct.

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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Agriculture, Horticulture, Forestry & Food

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At a Glance... header image

Agriculture, Horticulture, Forestry & Food

When we think of Agriculture we automatically think of farming, but careers in this sector are not just confined to farming - they are linked to everything from the clothes we wear to the food we eat and drink.

Horticulture is a significant contributor to the Irish economy. Its is also a wide and varied career area, with occupations ranging from yield control, quality, and the nutritional value of crops, to working on resistance to disease and pests. Careers in horticulture also span the many emerging environmental issues of the modern world.

Forestry careers continue to employ significant numbers in Ireland and the Food and Beverages sector is one of our most important indigenous industries, with Ireland competing successfully at home and abroad.
careers in agriculture horticulture and forestry
Image: allaboutjobs

Opportunities with Irish in this Sector
Agriculture header image

The land area of Ireland is 6.9million hectares of which about 4.2 million hectares (64%) is used for agriculture. Beef and milk production accounts for approximately 58% if Irish agricultural output. There are 139,000 family farms in Ireland, producing enough food each year to feed 36 million people.

Agriculture is not just confined to farming - the sector is linked to everything from the clothes we wear (cotton jeans and t-shirts, woollen jumpers and coats, leather shoes and jackets) to the food we eat and drink - it is worth €24 billion to the national economy annually. When we go on holiday or even pursue our hobbies we often engage the services of people working in the Agriculture Sector.

Tillage Farming
Tillage crop production is about the provision of feedstuffs to the livestock sector and valuable raw materials to industries such as malting, milling, sugar, breakfast cereal and distilling. 

The crop area in Ireland extends to 378,000 ha or 9% of farmed land. Crop production (including horticulture) contributes €700 million to agricultural output.

There are 11,000 growers with a further 15,000 employed in the food processing sector dependent on tillage crops. Crop production amounts to 2.3 million tonnes annually while a further 3 million tonnes of animal feed ingredients are imported. Irish cereal yields are the highest in the world.
Photo: Teagasc Crop student ploughing at Kildalton Agriculture and Horticulture College

Food Wise 2025
, is the latest strategy report for the agriculture sector. Over the next decade, there will be growth opportunities for the tillage sector in areas such as increasing demand barley and malt for distilling due to the planned expansion by Malsters and increased demand for oats due to their health and nutritional benefits.

Outside of the cereals sector, growth opportunities include increased support for protein crops as part of EU recognition of the need to develop native protein sources, increasing interest in the use of oilseed rape oil as a food ingredient for cooking and salads including the potential for exports of the processed oil. In the case of sugar beet, the industry is to explore whether the likely development of the sugar and ethanol markets would justify farmer and industry investment.  

[See also AgriFood sector below].

Dairy Farming
Dairy is a huge industry in Ireland. Irish dairy production is expected to grow by 50% by 2020, from 5.5bn to 7.5bn litres.

Bord Bia Infographic
The business environment for dairy farming is changing rapidly - the removal of milk quotas provides an opportunity for dairy farm businesses to expand. Herd size will increase on many dairy farms over the coming years, requiring an increased level of skill in both the physical and financial management capability of farmers.

The expanding Irish dairy industry can now provide a range of attractive career opportunities that can potentially lead to farm and business ownership.

Those from non-farming backgrounds who have an interest in pursuing a farming career should carefully assess the dairy career opportunities of interest to them.  

The dairy industry wants to attract new, well trained and highly motivated people into the sector at all levels. Increasingly, it is providing significant opportunities for progression upwards from one career role to another.

"The expanding Irish Dairy Industry can now provide a range of attractive career opportunities that can potentially lead to farm and business ownership."

"Stepping Stones to a Career in Dairy Farming "
TEAGASC, July 2015

Government Labour Reports forecast a decline in the number of people employed in traditional agriculture careers such as farming, but the wider sector offers many new career opportunities such as Food Scientist, Horse Breeder, Environmental Officer/Management and Agricultural Research.

Although the nature of some of the work in this sector can be very physical, it offers a healthy and rewarding lifestyle. As a starting point, you should consider whether you would enjoy the outdoor life and working with nature.


Agriculture-related businesses include: Supplying farmers - i.e. the manufacture and sales of animal feed, fertiliser, equipment, machinery and even insurance; and the Marketing of farm produce - i.e. the distribution, processing and retailing of agricultural and horticultural products to consumers. There are currently over 50,000 people employed in these areas. 


There is a growth in outdoor recreation and it is creating career opportunities for people supplying professional tourist services in rural settings in activities such as horse-riding, fishing, golfing, sailing and hill walking and accommodation. Many farmers are now opening their farms up to tourists. This form of expanded Agri-tourism has potential to offer full and part-time careers.

Further Education Options

QQI Level 5 (Certificate) and Level 6 (Advanced Certificate) major award programmes in agricultural, horticulture, forestry and equine studies are available with Teagasc.

The Professional Diploma in Dairy Farm Management (Level 7) programme can also be completed with Teagasc, as a progression from the Level 6 Advanced Certificate.

There has been a large increase in the number of applications for Teagasc courses in recent years, driven by a new found confidence in farming and food production. The abolition of the milk quota in April 2015 and the roll out of Food Harvest 2020 will further boost confidence in the sector.

New entrants to commercial farming - advice is to complete a specialised QQI Level 6 Advanced Certificate in Agriculture specialising in dairy herd management, dry stock management or crops/mechanisation at agricultural colleges.

The Equine Industry

Horse Racing and Breeding contribute almost €1bn annually to the Irish economy and employ over 17,000 people. There are some 7,700 registered thoroughbred horse breeders in Ireland and nearly 1.2m people attend race meetings during every year. Over 9,000 horses are in training, with are over 20,697 registered stallions, mares, and foals in the country. 

The Irish sports horse sector caters for related disciplines such as show jumping and dressage. This sector directly employs 11,417 people and involves 47,096 people overall. There are an estimated 124,000 sports horses in Ireland. They contribute to the household incomes of 29,295 people. Sports horse breeding accounts for a total expenditure of €226m within the economy and the sector has 15,110 active breeders.

Further Education Options
Teagasc provides high-quality education and training for the equine sectors at both Level 5 and Level 6. Th e QQI Level 6 Advanced Certificate in Horsemanship is offered at Kildalton College.

Subject to adequate demand, a Level 6 Advanced Certificate in Stud Management programme leading to a QQI Level 6 Certificate in Equine Breeding may also be offered.
Check out the course listings on this page.

Ask the Experts ... 
Our Sector Expert Teagasc is the primary provider of further education courses in agriculture, horticulture, forestry, food, and equine studies. Many courses incorporate management practices and the use of technologies on the home farm, with supervised project work and discussion groups.
View Teagasc Courses here
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Horticulture header image

Horticulture is the art and science of cultivating plants. It is an important national industry and it is essential that the commercial horticulture skills base in Ireland is maintained.

Infographic: allaboutjobs

Horticulturists work and conduct research in the fields of plant propagation, crop production, plant breeding and genetic engineering, plant biochemistry, and plant physiology. The work particularly involves fruits, berries, nuts, vegetables, flowers, trees, shrubs, and turf. Horticulturalists work to improve crop yield, quality, nutritional value, and resistance to insects, diseases, and environmental stresses.

There are two main career areas in horticulture - Amenity Horticulture and Commercial Horticulture:

Amenity Horticulture

This area focuses on parks and gardens and includes gardening, landscaping, designing and a whole lot more. It starts with the design and construction of recreational areas such as parks, nature reserves, wildlife gardens, and roadside plantings, amongst other designed landscapes.

Read New Courses in Horticulture - series of part-time and work-based courses for the horticulture sector at  Teagasc College of Amenity Horticulture, National Botanic Gardens, Dublin.

Amenity areas can be public, as with local authority parks, and roadside plantings, so important to wildlife. They can also be private, as in stately homes, apartment complexes and so on.

If you enjoy sport, remember an amenity horticulturist is likely to have designed, constructed and maintained the playing field, tennis court, running track, bowling green or golf course.

Commercial Horticulture

This area is focussed on growing and selling crops for food (the fruit and the vegetables that we eat) or fuel, and also ornamental plants. In the area of food production, the Department of Agriculture reports that growing potatoes and mushrooms are currently the two biggest areas of employment in this sector. The mushroom sector employs 2,200 people directly with at least 1,000 associated jobs (Teagasc).

It is also the horticulturist who grows the flowers and pot plants used to decorate our homes and public spaces. Gardening has become a top, active leisure pursuit, and domestic gardeners are demanding new plant types and increased quality. Producing these crops is a very technical business, involving automated systems, controlled using state of the art computer technology, alongside traditional skills.

Commercial horticulture includes floristry and retail horticulture too. Working in retail horticulture outlets is a challenging option and probably more interesting and demanding than any other type of retail work - building effective, eye-catching displays, marketing plants, as well as dealing with people’s enquiries.

Horticulture includes all this and much more. Job prospects are very good in this area as Irish people become more environmentally aware and show a greater interest in their gardens, in growing their own food crops, and in the outdoor world in general.

The horticulture sector contributed over €400m to agricultural output in Ireland in 2014. The sector makes an important economic contribution and generates significant ancillary employment in areas such as preparing, packing produce, distribution, retail, garden design and landscaping.
Technology and advances in plant genetic research offer the potential for new products, new production methods and new approaches to the market for horticultural products which will drive growth and opportunities for the sector.

Horticulture is an important national industry and it is essential that the commercial horticultural skills base in Ireland is maintained.

Further Education Options

Teagasc is a key provider of horticulture education. Teagasc has substantially redeveloped its Level 6 Advanced Certificate in Horticulture programme offering four main streams:
  • Food Production
  • Nursery Production
  • Landscaping
  • Sports Turf
The QQI Level 6 Advanced Certificate in Horticulture is the ideal training recommended for future commercial horticulturists.

Food Wise 2025, the latest strategy report for the industry sector, highlights a need to assist commercialisation and adoption of developing horticultural technology, to facilitate entrepreneurs to take advantage of the opportunities arising from these emerging technologies and the intellectual property associated with them. The development and adoption of these technologies present the sector with the potential to grow its output value to over €500m in the medium term.

Ask the Experts ... 
Our Sector Expert Teagasc is a key provider of horticulture education. Teagasc has substantially redeveloped its Level 6 Advanced Certificate in Horticulture programme offering four main streams:
  • Food Production
  • Nursery Production
  • Landscaping
  • Sports Turf
The QQI Level 6 Advanced Certificate in Horticulture is the ideal training recommended for future commercial horticulturists.
View Teagasc Courses here
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Forestry header image

Forestry is not just about growing trees - it is the art, science, and practice of managing woodland, forests and plantations. Over 12,000 people are employed in the Irish forestry and forest products sector, which includes growing the forests, looking after them and managing them. It also includes producing and supplying timber, harvesting and haulage of timber, and the processing of the wood products.

Ireland's forestry sector by numbers
Careers in Forestry
From propagators and horticulturalists, to forestry workers and managers, to haulage workers, log buyers, and sawmill managers, there is a wide range of occupations associated with the forestry sector. Not all forestry jobs are outdoors - there are also many associated research and development roles. Career pathways in forestry can be seen from the wood supply chain:

Click to view full size

Forestry jobs can be found with large state organisations such as Coillte as well as with private firms and smaller producers who own woodland areas, or companies involved in timber production or procurement.

Forestry harvesting 

Further Education Options

The forestry courses provided by Teagasc at Ballyhaise College provide hands-on practical instruction in forestry skills and management. The QQI Level 6 Advanced Certificate in Forestry is a well-recognised course within the forestry sector.

Ask the Experts ... 
Our Sector Expert Teagasc is the main provider of further education and training for the land based sector in Ireland. Full time courses in agriculture are offered at levels 5 and 6 at three Teagasc colleges (Ballyhaise, Clonakilty and Kildalton) and at three linked private agricultural colleges (Gurteen, Mountbellew and the Salesian Agricultural College, Pallaskenry). Horticultural courses are offered at two Teagasc colleges (the College of Amenity Horticulture, National Botanic Gardens and at Kildalton). Equine programmes are offered at Kildalton and forestry at Ballyhaise. Many courses incorporate management practices and the use of technologies on the home farm, with supervised project work and discussion groups.

View Teagasc Courses here


Ireland is fortunate in that it has one of the most suitable climates in the world for growing trees. With its climate and suitable soils, Ireland can grow many tree species considerably faster than its European neighbours giving Ireland a strong comparative advantage in the growing of wood fibre.

10.5% of Irish land is in forest, an estimated 731,650 hectares, comprised of 75% conifers and 25% broadleaf trees. It is an area that government is committed to increasing. There are currently over 10,000 people directly employed in forestry in Ireland in planting, harvesting, transport and processing of timber. The Government has a forestry trajectory which aims to double this figure over the next 10 years. 

There is a significant potential for wood fuel to displace fossil fuel, particularly in the generation of heat for industrial, commercial, domestic and institutional markets. After wind energy, wood fuels are the largest contributor to renewable energy generation, which is a significant growth area for the future.
Food Wise 2025, the latest industry strategy document reports that forests play an important economic, environmental and social role in Ireland making a significant contribution to the Irish economy, currently estimated at €2.3 billion and an increasingly important role in rural development not only through the diversification of farm income but also through the provision of rurally based employment both of which contribute to rural stabilisation and viability.

The Irish sawmilling and board manufacturing sector is competitive internationally and has developed major export markets over recent years, including Britain and France but also much further afield. Demand for all wood products remains strong, further growth is anticipated in the years to come as overseas markets for Irish sawn wood and panel board products continue to expand. 

With increasing reliance on the export market, the strategy document highlights the importance of investment in innovation, research and development towards realising growth opportunities. An annual afforestation programme of 15,000 hectares would on average, create 490 additional jobs. Most of these jobs would be based in rural communities in forest establishment, forest management, timber harvesting, and road haulage and in timber processing. If planting targets are met to 2025, the potential exists to increase employment in the sector by 7,000. This is an increase of 58% over current employment levels. It would bring employment in 2025 in the Irish forest and forest products sector to 19,000. Moreover, national timber production is forecast to double to eight million cubic metres by 2035, with almost all of the increase coming from the private sector. This allows considerable scope for employment growth within the sector.
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Food & Beverages header image

Ireland is known all over the world as "The Food Island" and is ideally placed to produce food, particularly grass-based beef and dairy products. The Irish weather, with a high level of rainfall and mild temperatures, provides the ideal conditions for growing high quality grass and grass-based farming systms produce healthy and sustainable foods.

The manufacture of food and drink products is Ireland's most important indigenous industry with a turnover approaching €24 billion. The sector uses Irish raw materials, is predominantly in Irish ownership and is geographically spread widely across the country.

As well as in production of quality beverages, food and food related products, career opportunities in the sector include technical services and consultancy, research and education.

Bord Bia Infographic

There are currently 230,000 jobs linked to the agri-food sector, with over 50,000 directly employed in food and beverage processing and a further 85,800 (estimated) employed in primary production, agriculture, forestry and fishing.

New innovations through the national agri-food strategy Food Wise 2025, aim to create an additional 23,000 new jobs in this area.

The food and beverages sector has been one of the bright spots in the Irish economy in recent years. 

Bord Bia Infographic
The value of Irish food and beverage manufacturing enterprises account for €26 billion of total turnover in the sector. The beverages industry claims to support some 92,000 jobs with many of these in the wider sector including the hospitality industry.  Manufacturing jobs amount to some 3,800.

Bord Bia Infographic
Food and Drink exports were worth almost €10 billion with approximately 600 food and drink companies exporting 85% of produce to more than 160 countries worldwide.

Did you know ...
Ireland is the largest exporter in Europe of powdered infant milk formula? We supply 10% of the Global market despite only having 1% of global Dairy Production ...

The manufacture of food and drink products is Ireland's most important indigenous industry with Ireland competing successfully in over 170 markets. Ireland is the largest supplier of food and drink to the UK and is the biggest net exporter of dairy ingredients, beef and lamb in the EU. Ireland also produces 15% of the world's infant formula.

As well being the birthplace of Guinness, the single biggest beerbrand in the world, Ireland is home to nine distilleries with eight more scheduled to open in 2015:

In the craft beer sector, what was a handful of micro breweries has now expanded to forty with predictions of up to one hundred by 2020.

Leading multinationals in the Food and Beverages sector have a strong presence here including Cadbury, Unilever, Nestle, Northern Foods and Heinz.

A number of Irish-owned firms are ranked among the world's 50 largest food and beverage multi-nationals. Indigenous agri-food companies here include: the co-ops, Cuisine deFrance, Glanbia, Kerry Foods, Greencore, Kepak, Fyffes, Carbery, Silver Hill, C&C, Gleesons and Cooley Distillery.


The artisan or speciality food sector in Ireland is valued at about €615 million, with about 350 producers employing more than 3,000 people. The emergence of Ireland’s artisan food sector is supported by growing consumer demand for niche products and a strong entrepreneurial spirit has produced an increase in small food companies. Most of these companies are owner managed, in many cases have a strong farming basis, and produce a diverse range of products.

Careers in Food & Beverages

The Food and Beverage sector has changed a great deal over the 40 years. It is now a very sophisticated industry with the highest standards of quality, cleanliness, automation, packaging and production methods. Career opportunities in the sector have also changed., driven by innovation and consume demand:

Food Science

Food science is concerned with all of the technical aspects of food, beginning with harvesting or slaughtering, and ending with its cooking and consumption. It is considered one of the agricultural sciences, and is usually distinguished from the field of nutrition.

Agri-food research has been allocated €641 million, or 11% of the total funding currently available for science, technology and innovation. Examples of the activities of food scientists include:

  • The development of new food products
  • The design of processes to produce these foods
  • The choice of packaging materials
  • Shelf-life studies
  • Sensory evaluation of the product with trained expert panels or potential consumers
  • Microbiological and chemical testing

Food scientists at universities may study more fundamental phenomena that are directly linked to the production of particular a food product and its properties. Two national research policy areas currently prioritised are Sustainable Food Production and processing, and Food for Health. New innovations such as the partnership between Kerry Group and UCD Research Department represent a major investment in food science for third level graduates.

Despite the optimism for the Food and Beverages Sector reflected in Harvest 2020, companies have recorded difficulties recruiting technical staff.

The EFGSN reports skills shortages for the sector including: R&D Scientists; Food technologists; New Product Development Skills; Laboratory Technicians for niche areas; International Sales/Marketing with languages; and Production/Supervisory Management shortages for process control software engineering, up-skilling operatives, and supervisory level staff.

The National agri-food strategy Food Wise 2025 is available here
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