Fourth level education in Ireland is offered in all Universities, most Institutes of Technology and a range of private and professional organisations. Qualifications are included in the National Framework of Qualifications (NFQ). Fourth level courses (postgraduate) can lead to qualifications at 2 NFQ Levels depending mainly on the type of programme as follows:
- NFQ Level 9 – Masters Degree
- NFQ Level 10 – Doctoral Degree
Currently there is a trend for graduates to continue their education, and some 25% continue to Postgraduate programmes in Ireland. There are a number of different reasons for this, examples include:
- It’s essential for the chosen career (e.g. teaching, law, psychology)
- Converting to another subject (with a conversion course)
- Want to focusing on a career area having initially done a general degree
- Want to develop specialist knowledge in the area
Fourth level study has become a major growth area in recent years and allows students to make much more informed career decisions. Not only can the higher level skills and knowledge you develop enhance your employability but your connection with a new group of peers will increase your network of contacts, creating more opportunities in the future.
Recent figures from The Higher Education Authority indicated that in terms of Master and PhD graduates:
- 57% are working in Ireland
- 10% are working oversees
- 12% are engaged in further study and training
- 1% are on work experience schemes
- 16% are seeking employment
- 5% are unavailable for work or study
Programmes differ in type and delivery method. There are three main strands of Postgraduate study:
- Postgraduate & Higher Diplomas are conversion courses, usually of one year’s duration, aimed at Honour Bachelor Degree graduates. They are often vocational in nature (thereby providing students with training directly applicable to the labour market). A large number are subsidised and the current rate for the graduate skills conversion programme is €2,750.
- Taught masters and structured doctorates: these can vary in duration but, depending on the mode of study chosen can last from one to three years. Most include a major piece of research in the form of a dissertation.
- Research programmes can be at masters or doctorate level and take from two years to four or more. Research based study requires a far higher level of self-motivation and organisational skills than taught options.
Some post-graduate taught programmes are also available on-line. For example: students who live on the other side of the world are are tuning into on-line lectures at IT Sligo. This year, employees from an Australian based multinational CSL Biotherapies are among 800 on-line students studying a range of 21 online courses offered by the institute.
Under the budget changes students entering postgraduate courses in the forthcoming year (2012/2013) will not be entitled to any maintenance payment under the student grant scheme. However, existing post-graduates will not be affected.
For people who want to further their studies, post-graduate courses on offer include law, business, digital media, criminology, sociology, history and theatre. In 2012, among the most popular post-graduate courses in various colleges in Ireland included:
Trinity College Dublin:
- Master of Laws LLM
- Master in Social Work
- Master in Finance
University College Dublin:
- Master of Science: Finance
- Master of Science: International Business
- Master of Accounting
Dublin Institute of Technology (DIT)
- MSc in Creative Digital Media
- MSc in Environmental Health and Safety Management
- MSc in Strategic Management
- MSc in Regenerative Medicine
- MA in Drama and Theatre studies
The Cost of Fees and Funding:
Fees range (for Irish students) from €3,000 at the lower end of the scale to an average of around €5,000 and up to €20,000+ for some programmes.
Outside of the regular fe support and grant system traditionally offered by the State there are a range of sources through which you can seek financial support for your studies including:
- Loans: while the financial institutions do not have a good reputation for lending at present, you may be able to secure some of the money depending on the amount needed and if you can guarantee your credit record.
- Employers: your employer may be in a position to support your studies fiancially in exchange for some tenure. For example: post-graduate teachers are often expected to engage in teaching hours or research.
- Other sources: there are scholarships, bursaries, grants and awards offered by a variety of bodies to help support post-graduate students in their studies. These include the college you are currently studying in or wish to study in. Contact each college directly to find out. Also, many public and private sector organisations offer funding opportunites including: Department of Education and Skills, Teagasc, Enterprise Ireland, Irish Research Council for Science, Engineering and Technology and Health Research Board.
- SUSI process: Student Universal Support Ireland, the Department of Education and Skills announced the centralisation of the student grant process (available from May 2012) The 2012/2013 Student Grant Scheme will outline the eligibility criteria for post-graduate fee support. A wide range of resources on financing your education and information on the SUSI process can be found on www.studentfinance.ie
Detailed information on studying at Postgraduate level is available at:
Qualifax.ie - Postgrad Course Database
Postgraduate Applications Centre
While there is no central system for applying for all post-graduate programmes in the Republic of Ireland the Postgraduate Applications Centre (PAC) www.pac.ie hosts application pages for a limited number of higher education institutions including DCU, NUI Galway, NUI Maynooth, UCC, CIT and WIT.
For certain programmes such as teaching, including The Postgraduate Diploma in Education (PDE) which is the required qualifcation for all teaching posts in secondary, community and comprehensive schools, application is throught the PAC.
In some cases you will need to apply directly to the institution. Applicants to Trinity's Postgraduate diploma in education apply directly to TCD.
Studying Abroad: US and EU
It is also worth noting that there are many opportunities to study post-graduate and doctorate courses abroad. Those proving most popular are where the universitites are hungriest for native speakers of English for example: the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, Denmark and Germany.
In Denmark and Sweden you will have no fees to pay and in some countries where there are fees very often you can apply to the government for financial assistance.
For information on studying in the EU go to eunicas.ie
There are also approximately 1,700 institutions open to students who wish to study in the US. In order to apply for courses and funding in the States you need to network and be proactive as possible. Many lectures and professors in Irish universities may have spent time in the US and therefore know people you can help you. It is recommended to start an application process to the US at least 18 months in advance.
For information on studying in the US go to petersons.com and fulbright.ie
How to choose the right Post Graduate Course for you:
The range of post graduate options both in Ireland and abroad is vast. Undertaking a post-graduate programme is a big investment of your time and generally your money. A number of factors come into play when selecting the option and programme that is right for you:
- Your interest in the area: while cost may be a factor, the most important factor is whether the course is of interest to you. This may seem obvious but it is crucial.
- The mode(s) of study offered: if you already have a full busy life even before you take on then the mode of study you choose can make all the difference. Many educational providers offer options beyond full-time including part-time, distance or open lor virtual learning environments with flexible options. So check this out first.
- Opportunities for Graduates: most providers should be able to provide you with a copy of "first destination survey" this will tell you where previous graduates have gone and what they are doing.
- Supports for students and graduates: does the provider have a career service and other supports during your studies such as counselling, disability support, pastoral care, library, on-line access?
- The cost of the programme: in a time of grant cuts it is a challenging time for students. If you have been in receipt of a social welfare payment you may be able to apply for a funded post-graduate programme through the Springboard programme, see www.bluebrick.ie
- www.postgradireland.com is a good place to start your research. Also, contacting the graduate studies office in each university and college is useful in offering the best match for you.
- While there is no central system for applying for all post-graduate programmes in the Republic of Ireland www.pac.ie does host application pages for a limited number of institutionsand for certain programmes such as teaching. In most cases you will need to apply directly to the institution.