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 Des Lalor from Sustainable Energy Authority to give some advice for people considering this job:


Des Lalor

Wind Engineer

Sustainable Energy Authority

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  Des Lalor
Go for it – it’s a great job.

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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Postgraduate Study

Why post-Graduate Education?

Students opt to pursue postgraduate education for different reasons:

  • Progression - to become more expert in their undergraduate degree subject
  • Conversion - holders of a degree in one discipline who want to add knowledge and skills from another
  • Professional - students who want the qualification gained from a particular postgraduate course

International and local research shows that higher levels of education increase your employability as well as your salary! 

"One-fifth of places on public service application panels  will be filled by people who are able to speak irish fluently the Taoiseach has pledged"

Read: PostGrad Courses through Irish valuable in the Job Market

An advanced degree can help an undergraduate become more employable and earn a higher salary than if they entered the labour market directly after their undergraduate qualification. Being 'job ready' is hugely attractive to employers.

"Graduates with higher qualifications continue to report higher initial salaries."

What do Graduates do? HEA, December 2014

In recent years, the Irish universities have expanded their graduate education and research capacity, with a particular focus on encouraging more masters and doctoral graduates to gain employment outside the world of academia, in the wide range of public and private sector organisations where graduate-level skills are now vital.


Many graduates opt to do postgrad conversion courses in a completely field to that of their undergrad studies, towards becoming job ready, in accordance with the demands of the market.

A conversion course can be a springboard to a more specialised or vocational area. These are typically 1-year taught courses resulting in standalone qualifications. They are available in most subject areas, with a big emphasis currently on IT and business areas which are highly valued by employers.

Did you know ...

Springboard+ offers free places on over 280 courses leading to awards at certificate, degree and post-graduate level. Springboard+ is primarily targeted at jobseekers with a previous history of employment, but not exclusively. There are also a range of Level 8 ICT skills conversion courses available leading to qualifications for enterprise sectors which are growing and need skilled personnel, including information and communications technology (ICT); manufacturing; international financial services; and key skills for enterprise to trade internationally.

Qualifications are also available in cross-enterprise skills such as innovation, enterprise/entrepreneurship, digital marketing, and project management.   

Many graduate programmes are offered on a collaborative basis between several universities, or between business and universities. The interdisciplinary master’s is an example of how universities are responding to the needs of students and potential employers.

Visit Fields of Study to explore the options available.

Examples: UCD run an MSc in Biotechnology and Business specifically for life-science and chemistry graduates looking for a career in management or entrepreneurship in technology and science-based fields. The course is a close collaboration between UCD’s school of biomolecular and biomedical science and its Smurfit school of business and is open to graduates with a 2.1 or higher.

A one-year master’s in Medical Device Design that combines science and engineering modules, is offered jointly by UCD and TCD and subsidised through the HEA graduate skills conversion programme, so tuition fees are €3,800.

This is one of a small number of joint offerings from UCD and Trinity; many other courses are offered jointly by universities and ITs, for example UCC and CIT in Cork offer a joint Biomedical Science master’s.

Visit Researching Postgrad Programmes to find out more about the range of programmes available to you.

The National Qualifications Framework

Graduate Level Qualifications are included in the National Framework of Qualifications (NFQ) at Level 9 and Level 10.

National Framework of Qualifications (NFQ) ~ Click image for interactive version

A Master's degree or a Postgraduate Diploma (the first stage of a master's degree) are placed at level 9 on the framework. A doctoral degree is a level 10 qualification.

ECTS Explained ...

ECT stands for European Credit Transfer, the standard across the European Union. It aims to makes programmes and the performance of students in higher education more transparent and comparable across Europe.

By successfully completing a course module or programme you are awarded ECT-credit points. Each ECT credit point represents a certain work load. 1 credit represents 20-25 hours estimated student input, so a 10-credit module will be designed to require 200-250 hours of student input including class contact time and assessments. One-year of a programme typically corresponds to 60 ECTS-credits. So, a 3-year Bachelor's Degree programme is usually valued at 180 ECTS and a 2-year Master's programme is 120 ECTS. 

Postgraduate Diploma

The Postgraduate Diploma is normally awarded following completion of a programme of one-year duration (60 ECT credits). Entry to a programme leading to a Postgraduate Diploma is typically for holders of Honours Bachelor Degrees but can also be for holders of Ordinary Bachelor Degrees. The Post-graduate Diploma is an intermediate qualification. It may help you to become more 'vocational' - closer to the particular field of work or profession e.g. Higher Diploma in Education for teaching. The subject area may be different to that studied in your first degree. Sometimes it is possible to 'convert' into a Master's degree e.g. from IT undergrad to business masters. A good quality first degree required for many courses.

Master's Degree

This is one of the most common postgraduate qualifications. There are two types of master's degree in Ireland as discussed above, taught and research.

The Taught Master's Degree is awarded following the completion of a programme of one to two years duration and is valued at 60-120 ECTS credits. Entry to a programme leading to a taught Master's Degree is typically for holders of Honours Bachelor Degrees. In some cases, entry to such programmes can be permitted for those with Ordinary Bachelor Degrees or equivalent.

Research Master's Degree programmes are typically of two years duration (120 ECTS credits) though not all such programmes are credit rated.

Master's titles awarded include (but are not limited to):

  • M. A. (Master of Arts)
  • M. BA. (Master of Business Administration)
  • M. Ed. (Master of Education)
  • M. Phil. (Master of Philosophy)
  • M. BS. (Master of Business Studies)
  • M. Sc. (Master of Science)

The most common format for a master's course is a combination of taught modules followed by a research project, although there is considerable variation. Most taught master's courses are one year in length if completed full time, or two years if studied on a part time basis.

The MBA (Master's in Business Administration) is one of the most popular postgraduate degrees, and the qualification is recognised worldwide. It is a form of taught masters course, but because of its popularity and relation to the business world it is often treated as a separate type of qualification.

Most MBA courses take around one year's full time study to complete, but some take up to two years. Many courses are available on a part time or distance learning basis.

Most MBA courses are not only postgraduate, but also ‘post experience’ courses, with several years in industry expected. MBA courses are often very expensive, but MBA graduates also have high average incomes.

Doctorate (PhD)

A traditional PhD is a substantial piece of original research, presented in a thesis (essentially a long essay or report) and examined by a viva (an oral exam in which the candidate is questioned about their work). It takes several (3-5) years to write a thesis by research.

Studying for a PhD develops extensive skills and independence, appropriate to many jobs. However, employers may be less familiar with the benefits of PhD study in this respect, and you may have to market your transferable skills to prospective employers after graduation

Irish universities have developed a range of innovative structured doctoral programmes, bringing the traditional strengths of the PhD together with a range of relevant specialist and generic skills which are highly sought-after by private and public sector employers.

See IUA publication

PhD Graduate Skills Statement 2014”.

Vocational Postgrad Programmes

Some postgraduate programmes qualify graduates to practise in a particular profession. For example, the postgraduate qualification to become a Patent Agent or a Speech Therapist, or the new Graduate Entry Route to Medicine.

Other vocational courses are directly linked to, though not compulsory for, entry into a particular employment sector. Examples include journalism, human resources, business or Law e.g. the Bachelor of Law (LLB) is a postgraduate degree lasting one year -  most students continue from the LLB degree into the legal profession.

Programmes such as the Chartered Institute of Management Accounting (CIMA) Certificate in Business Accounting lead to professional accreditation for students with any degree discipline.

Students already employed in the relevant sector may be sponsored by their employer to gain a professional qualification in this way. Employer support might include arranging the course, day release to attend it, payment of course fees and/or time off for study and exams.