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 Brian Macken from Smart Futures to give some advice for people considering this job:


Brian Macken

Science Communicator

Smart Futures

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  Brian Macken

I would strongly advise you to do the Masters in Science Communication in DCU. It really gives you a feel for the different kinds of media and ways of explaining things. And it's a good place to make contacts, which is also useful.

I would also recommend that you read science books. Not textbooks, good popular science books are just as useful for this kind of work, as it's already been broken down into simpler language for you. And only read the ones that you're interested in - it shouldn't be a chore to read them.

But I would recommend reading outside your subject area, so if you're into physics, then read some books on biology and vice versa (everyone should read Stephen J. Gould).  However, the more knowledge you have, the more questions you'll be able to answer.


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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Qualifications & Levels +

In Ireland, most qualifications fit into what is known as the The National Framework of Qualifications (NFQ). This framework divides all qualifications into ten levels. It can be useful to think of it as a ladder system; entry at the bottom is at Level 1 and Level 10 is at the top.

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The range of Levels include different types of qualifications:

  • Basic Education (Levels 1-3) 
  • Certificates and Diplomas (Levels 4-7) 
  • Undergraduate Degrees (Levels 7-8) and
  • Postgraduate Qualifications (Levels 9-10)

Awards on each Level are sub-divided into Major, Minor, Special Purpose and Supplemental awards, each according to the amount of time and learning completed.

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The structure of the Framework (NFQ) is based on levels and award types, which are outlined in the diagram above.

Ten award levels indicate the standard of learning (ranging from the most basic to doctoral awards).

There are four award-type categories, which serve as an indicator of the purpose, volume and progression opportunities associated with a particular award.

A major award is the main class of award made at any given level; examples of major awards include the Leaving Certificate, a QQI major certificate or an honours bachelor degree.

A minor award provides recognition for learners who achieve a range of learning outcomes but not the specific combination of learning outcomes required for a major award. A minor award is linked to a major award.

A Special Purpose award is made for very specific purposes; an example of a special-purpose award is site suitability for wastewater treatment.

A Supplemental Award is for learning which is additional to a previous award; it could, for example, relate to updating and refreshing knowledge or skills, or to continuing professional development.

Click here to learn more about different types of awards

Completion of a Major award at each level usually means you can progress to the next, so the framework helps you to build up your education and training, thus improving your employment prospects. So it is always advisable to find out what level the course you are interested in is at and if it is a full Major award or one of the lesser awards. 

Click here to learn more about the different levels and their indicators

ED ZONES and links to Job Zones

On CareersPortal we classify courses according to their educational zone. This is a simple 5 level classification system that ties in closely with the JOB ZONEs used to classify occupations on this site. In effect, if a job or occupation is classified as Job Zone 3, then it typically requires a person to have qualifications in Ed Zone 3 or Level 6 on the NFQ. (See diagram above)

  Hint: McDonald's
I have recently qualified as an Accountant. As part of the required professional development with ACCA - I must continue to complete a certain numbers of hours in relation to accountancy.
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