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 Mark Spain from An Garda Síochána to give some advice for people considering this job:


Mark Spain

Garda Trainee

An Garda Síochána

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  Mark Spain
If you are unsure I would recommend coming to an open day in the college and if possible also doing the Garda Reserve. It gives the best insight imaginable into the work of Gardaí.

Realists are usually interested in 'things' - such as buildings, mechanics, equipment, tools, electronics etc. Their primary focus is dealing with these - as in building, fixing, operating or designing them. Involvement in these areas leads to high manual skills, or a fine aptitude for practical design - as found in the various forms of engineering.

Realists like to find practical solutions to problems using tools, technology and skilled work. Realists usually prefer to be active in their work environment, often do most of their work alone, and enjoy taking decisive action with a minimum amount of discussion and paperwork.
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Adult Learner

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Who are Mature Students?

Adult learners are often referred to as 'mature' students.

Most third-level colleges reserve a small number of places specifically for mature students who want to participate in full-time day programmes. Many of these students have decided to return to edcation for a variety of reasons, and some will get a place in college without having taken the Leaving Certificate. In general, once you are over 23 (although some colleges accept over 21) you can apply for a mature student college place.

For some colleges, mature students apply through the Central Applications Office (CAO). The CAO processes all applications to first year, undergraduate, diploma and certificate courses. If the course you are interested in is offered in a college that requires you to apply via the CAO, applications must be submitted before the 1st February of the year you plan to start the course.

So, if you are an adult without a Leaving Certificate, and you want to access college courses normally undertaken by people who have the Leaving Certificate, the good news is that you can!

You may be able to apply directly to the particular course as a mature student, or take a foundation course first, to help you prepare for the college workload.

Check out the following options...

Foundation/Access Courses

Foundation courses are sometimes referred to as 'Access Courses' or 'Return to Learning'. They are designed for mature students (people over 23 years) who for social, economic or educational reasons, were unable to access third level. Some access courses are aimed at students from disadvantaged areas who are not mature students. Access programmes are for people who have been away from formal education and would like to improve their skills, confidence and knowledge, so that they can get a place on a Third Level college course.

For further information about access courses, contact HEA or phone 1890 200637

Tips and Advice for Mature Students

  • Each Third Level college has a particular application process for mature students. Read the information available in the Mature Student section of individual college websites.
  • Mature Students are often unaware of specific admission rules that may be in place, or requirements for supplementary forms and/or other information.
  • A CAO application on its own may not be enough for university access. Application to some courses can include admission tests, aptitude tests and/or interviews.
  • Mature applicants also need to be aware that aptitude tests like MSAP or Hpat have specific, seperate deadlines.
  • A good example is mature students applying for Nursing degrees -  it is important to be aware of the role of An Bord Altranais* in the application process.

*An Bord Altranis requirements for mature students are set out in the publication "Nursing/Midwifery  A Career for You" (P.19).  Click here to view.

Detailed information about accessing third level as a mature student is given in the Network of Irish Mature Student Officers (NIMSO) publication, 'The Mature Student Directory'.

Much of the information continues to be relevant and it also contains some useful case studies.  [Click image to view PDF]

Climbing up the educational ladder

In Ireland courses that lead to internationally recognised awards are placed on the National Framework of Qualifications (NFQ). All citizens are encouraged to broaden their education, and course providers help by allowing people to progress their education upwards. As a mature student, once you achieve an award recognised on the Framework (e.g a Level 3, 4 or higher) you can then use this as a stepping stone to move up the ladder.

The most common progression pathways include the progression from Level 5 or 6 awards up to Level 7 and 8. Colleges have put in a flexible system of progression pathways to help people achieve their potential, no matter where on the Framework they are at now.

For more information on Progression Routes into Heigher Education Institutes: click here
  Hint: Bank of Ireland

Banking 365 have a comprehensive training programme in place. When I first started I had a number of weeks classroom based training to learn about all the products, policies & procedures, call handling techniques etc.


I also had on the job training where I listened in to calls my colleagues were handling before I was ready to go on the phones myself. Then I initially started out taking calls from Republic of Ireland customers.


There is ongoing training provided to keep us up to date with any changes re: policies / products, etc. I am now trained to take calls from 3 jurisdictions - ROI, Northern Ireland and Great Britain.

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