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 Marie Kinsella-White from McDonald's to give some advice for people considering this job:


Marie Kinsella-White

Operations Consultant


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  Marie Kinsella-White
The job that I do is highly specialised and the skills that I am required to have to do my job can only be acquired in our restaurant. However, by taking a job in McDonald's you are opening a career path to use those skills anywhere - the skills you acquire are very transferable. It doesn’t matter where you start, the opportunities are there.

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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Options after Junior Cycle
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Options after Junior Cycle

As a Junior Cycle student, you will soon be required to make choices that can influence your future career options. You may choose to take one of the available Leaving Certificate programmes, or to do Transition Year. For many people, this choice is linked to the type of job they may be interested in and the type of education they might need for that job.

What subjects should you choose?

If you want to study a specific course in third level or you want to embark on a particular career, then you'll need to decide on the right subjects to study. Some students may wish to wish to leave school at this point. This decision requires careful consideration. Where possible, this should be discussed with parents, guidance counsellor or simply someone whose opinion you respect.

Options within school

Transition Year

This is a one year course that may be taken by students after completing Junior Cycle. The idea behind this one-year programme is to offer the students the opportunity to explore and discover areas of learning not covered in the normal exams orientated Leaving Cert. courses.

Unlike the other Senior Cycle options (Leaving Cert., Leaving Cert. Applied, Leaving Cert. Vocational) there are no fixed subjects laid down for Transition Year. This gives the school the freedom to design a course that suits the needs of its own students.

As well as studying sections of the normal Leaving Cert. the following are typical of activities that students get involved in during Transition Year.

  • Computer Studies
  • Enterprise Education and Mini-company
  • Social Work and Community Care
  • Scientific Field Trips
  • Outdoor Adventure Sports
  • Media Studies
  • Drama and Theatre Studies
  • Career Investigation
  • Work Experience
  • Art and Crafts

One of the main aims of the Transition Year is to help students to become better at working and communicating with others. The Programme tries to achieve this through active research and activity based learning. For example, you don't just learn business studies from a text book - you will take an active part in running a mini-company.

The importance of 'learning to find things out yourself'or 'independent research' is another important objective of Transition Year.

Why consider Transition Year?

  • It gives you a year to mature before facing a demanding Leaving Cert. programme.
  • It gives you the opportunity to experience new subjects.
  • It's a year to reflect and investigate what future career area/subjects at Leaving Cert. would suit you best.
  • It's a chance to get involved in social/community work, work experience, mini-company, field trips or other interesting projects.
There is no state exam at the end of the TY course. Your school will nevertheless test your progress and participation on a continuous basis during the year.

Leaving Certificate [Established]

This is the traditional Leaving Cert. course that most people are familiar with. Students usually take 7 subjects and study them at higher (honours) or ordinary (pass) level. The vast majority of schools require you to take Maths, Irish (which can be studied at Foundation, Ordinary or Higher level) and English (studied at Higher or Ordinary level.) In addition, most schools tend to offer their students a range of subjects from which to choose.

Go to Leaving Cert. Subjects

Leaving Certificate [Vocational] Programme (LCVP)

The Leaving Cert. (Vocational) Programme is a Leaving Cert. in every sense of the word. You sit the same exams, take the same subjects, follow the same course of studies and get marked in the same way as the traditional Leaving Cert. student.

What's the difference?

As well as studying a minimum of 5 Leaving Cert. subjects (at Higher, Ordinary or Foundation Level), including Irish*, LCVP students learn additional skills and qualities essential in coping with and succeeding in the world of business.

In order to qualify for LCVP you must:

1. Take two of the Leaving Cert. Vocational Subject Groupings. 

The Specialist Groupings consist of subjects which complement one another naturally. The Services Groupings comprise subjects which complement one another in a commercial context.

Specialist Groupings:

  • Construction Studies or Engineering or Technical Drawing (any two)
  • Physics and Construction Studies or Engineering
  • Agriculture Science and Construction Studies or Engineering
  • Agriculture Science and Chemistry or Physics, or Physics & Chemistry (Combined)
  • Home Economics and Agriculture Science or Biology
  • Home Economics and Art
  • Accounting or Business or Economics (any two)
  • Physics and Chemistry
  • Biology and Chemistry or Physics & Chemistry(combined)

Service Groupings:

  • Engineering and Business or Accounting or Economics
  • Construction studies and Business or Accounting or Economics
  • Home Economics and Business or Accounting or Economics
  • Agricultural Science and Business or Accounting or Economics
  • Art and Business or Accounting or Economics
  • Music and  Business or Accounting or Economics

2. Study a Leaving Cert. Continental language or Vocational language module:

This must be a recognised course in a Modern European Language, other than Irish or English. The school has the discretion in this case – there are various options open to students:

  • Take a language at Junior Certificate level or
  • Follow one of the FETAC language modules or
  • The language teacher can devise a school programme in the language.
Students must take the language class for a minimum of one class period per week or equivalent over the two years of the programme within school time.
*Note: If a student is exempt from Irish for the Leaving Cert, they are automatically exempt for the LCVP and students should repalce Irish with another subject

3. Take two Link Modules which are are:

  • Enterprise Education 
  • Preparation for the World of Work
Your work on the Link Modules are assessed by a written examination at the end of two years of study and by a portfolio of work put together throughout the course. The result gained may be at: Pass, Merit, or Distinction level.

Link modules have been recognised as a subject by Universities and IT Colleges in Ireland. Your Link Module result may therefore be used to help you to get into College.

Why consider LCVP?

  • You would like to build work experience and studies about the world of work into your Leaving Cert.
  • If you are selecting the Leaving Cert. subjects required for the programme in the first place.
  • If you feel you would be prepared to work hard at 'Link Modules' and get good grades from the subject for Third level colleges.
  • A chance to get involved in social/community work, work experience, mini-company, field trips or other interesting projects.

Leaving Certificate Applied (LCA)

This is a separate and distinct programme offered by many schools. Although it is a Leaving Certificate course, it does not overlap the other Leaving Cert. programmes.

The LCA course places an emphasis on learning from 'doing' rather than learning from textbooks. It is aimed at students who would like to go directly from school into the 'world of work' or 'training for work.' In common with the other Leaving Cert. programmes, LCA lasts for two years.

The LCA course is divided into four half year blocks called 'sessions'. Students are expected to have a body of work completed at the end of each session and this work is credited (awarded marks).

LCA courses are offered in the following areas:

  • Vocational Preparation - students get involved in work experience, job hunting skills such as interview skills, CV preparation, form filling, practical writing skills, preparing talks.
  • General Education - this section is concerned with life skills such as languages, arts and social education, leisure studies, religion.
  • Vocational Education - concentrates on practical maths and computers. The specialist areas of the course are delivered under this heading. The course may deal with some of the following:
    • information technology
    • craft and design
    • community care
    • construction and manufacturing
    • hotel catering and tourism
    • office and retail distribution
    • engineering
    • leisure studies
    • agriculture/horticulture

Assessment takes place over two years under the following headings:

  • Satisfactory completion of modules (a body of work to be completed at the end of each session).
  • Performance of students tasks (additional practical activities such as organising an event, providing a service to your local school or community, making a product.
  • Performance in the final examination (final exams in English and Communications, Specialist Vocational subjects, Maths applications, Languages, Social education).

It is important to note that students are awarded a Certificate by the Department of Education. Results are gained at the following levels:

Pass (120 -139 credits)
Merit (140 - 169 credits), or
Distinction (170 - 1200 credits) levels.

Why consider taking the Leaving Cert. Applied ?

  • The school exams system does not suit you. You haven't experienced great success at Junior Cert. but you want to remain at school to get a Leaving Cert. qualification.
  • You would much prefer a course that would recognise and credit (award marks to) your practical skills.
  • You want to go directly into a job, or into job training after school.
  • You want a course after Junior Cert. that is closely linked to the world of work.

After completing the Leaving Cert. Applied, students are well placed to gain employment in a wide range of careers in industry and commerce.

Options outside school


Youthreach is a one / two year programme for unemployed 15-20 year olds who have left school without completing 2nd level education.

The Back to Education Initiative (BTEI)

BTEI offers short courses to young people and adults. Those aged over 15 years with less than the Leaving Certificate are eligible to take part on a BTEI. There are several being run in communities around the country for a wide variety of age groups and levels.


An apprenticeship is a way of combining work experience and training to get a ‘trade’ or become a qualified craft person. It generally takes 4 years to complete an apprenticeship.

Apprentices must be at least 16 years of age and have a minimum of grade D in any five subjects in the Junior Cert or equivalent (some apprenticeships require certain subjects).

Find an employer who is willing to register you with FÁS for a standard-based apprenticeship.

Pre-apprenticeship training courses are also available for those who don’t have their Junior Cert.

The Defence Forces

General Service Recruitment - Recruits are required to undergo an initial training period of approximately 16 weeks, during which time they are required to live in barracks. This includes foot drill, arms drill, fieldcraft, first aid, rifle marksmanship, tactical and physical training. Candidates must:

  • be at least 17 and under 25 years of age
  • be at least 5ft 2in/157.4cm.
  • pass a medical examination and a physical fitness test
  • satisfy an interview board and recruiting officer that you have a good enough level of education for service in the Defence Forces.

Military Apprenticeships - Apprentices in the Defence Forces receive
training for their chosen trade, as well as military training. All apprenticeships in the Defence Forces are recognised by FÁS.

Army and Naval - Most of the schemes are open only to serving members of the Permanent Defence Force, however there are limited direct entry opportunities.

Air Corps - take direct entry for most of their apprenticeships. There are
several specific requirements which should be checked out on their website or competitions line.

"The one I have!  I'm happy as I could be."


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