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 Nora Barry from Civil and Public Service Jobs to give some advice for people considering this job:


Nora Barry

Third Secretary

Civil and Public Service Jobs

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  Nora Barry
A keen interest in current affairs, a willingness to travel and an acceptance that this role is a lifestyle choice are all necessary. I believe having lived abroad for a period of time and experiencing different cultures are also an advantage.

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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Further Education - (2 & 3)

Courses in Ed Zone 2 include the Leaving Certificate and many one-year PLC/FET courses.

Some PLC colleges also offer two-year programes (Advanced Certificates) which fall into the Ed Zone 3 category.

Leaving Certificate

Many adult learners decide to do the leaving certificate, particularly if they did not get an opportunity when they were younger and use it as pathway to returning to education.

If you want to do the Leaving Certificate, you should contact your local ETB (Education and Training Board) and ask for information. 

Find your Local ETB

Repeat Leaving Certificate

Education and Training Boards offer repeat Leaving Certificate courses in a number of colleges throughout the country. Alternatively a number of private colleges offer repeat Leaving Certificate courses. The good news is that repeat classes tend to be small, which allows for individual attention and there is a big focus on study skills.

Enrolment and advice on subject choices normally takes place from the beginning of August to mid September each year, depending on the college.

The cost of doing a repeat Leaving Certificate varies. ETB colleges (formerly VECs) are the less expensive option, however students are advised to check with their local ETB to see what exact costs are involved. If you choose to repeat it with a private college the cost is considerably higher.

You should contact your local Adult Education Guidance Initiative based in the ETB if you are thinking of repeating your Leaving Certificate

To find contacts for your local Adult Guidance Initiative or ETB visit

For a list of Repeat Leaving Certificate Courses: click here

PLC/FET Courses

PLC courses are run around the country and provide an excellent opportunity to study an area of interest, for either the fun of learning, or to gain an award that can be later used to access third level education. Most PLC courses are QQI accredited, though some are not. Those that are not may be accredited by a internationally recognised UK body (e.g. City & Guilds).


  • Most PLC courses lead to a QQI Level 5 Certificate and last one year.
  • Some PLC courses lead to a QQI Level 6 Advanced Certificate or equivalent, and last 2 years.
  • Competition for places is competitive
  • Entry requirements are usually a pass Leaving Cert and may be subject to an interview.
  • Some courses are two-year and lead to Advanced Certificates.
  • Many courses allow progression into a second year in the same college.
  • Most PLC courses can be used to enter Third Level courses using what is known as Progression Routes
Go to PLC Search Wizard hereSearch for PLC Courses here is a course search for Further Education & Training in Ireland.

  Hint: Civil and Public Service Jobs

Ongoing training is an important and ongoing feature within the performance management and development system of the Civil Service.

The Training Unit in the Department offers a very wide spectrum of courses on everything from MS Word, to time management, to presentation skills, to stress management to policy analysis.

I have already undertaken a number of courses in the Department this year. I have also just started studying for a Higher Diploma in Public Management in the Institute of Public Administration.

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