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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Leaving Certificate
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Types of Awards

There are many different awards or qualifications that Leaving Cert students can work towards achieving, but what do they all mean?

QQI stands for Quality and Qualifications Ireland. QQI gives awards in further and higher education and training. Further education and training is education and training between post-primary level and higher education. Higher education and training is provided mainly in universities and colleges of technology or equivalent bodies.  Different bodies are entitled to award or validate qualifications:

  • Universities: The State-supported universities all award their own degrees and other awards.
  • Institutes of technology: DIT also makes its own awards, but the other institutes of technology grant degrees, diplomas and certificates which are validated by QQI.
  • Other colleges: The other State-supported colleges generally grant awards that are validated by Quality and Qualifications Ireland.
  • Private colleges: The private colleges make awards, some of which are validated by foreign universities and some of which are validated by QQI. Some of their awards are not validated by any outside body.  

NFQ is The National Framework of Qualifications (NFQ). It works on a scale from 1 to 10, with 10 being the highest point. All qualifications recognised through the NFQ system are quality assured which means you can have complete confidence that your course and college are constantly reviewed to ensure consistent high standards.

Each of the 10 levels on the NFQ grade learning from beginner to advanced. It is based on standards of knowledge, skill and competence and it incorporates awards made for all kinds of learning, wherever it is gained. School qualifications (awards) awarded by the State Examinations Commission (SEC), further education and training qualifications awarded by FETAC and higher education and training qualifications awarded by HETAC , DIT, Institutes of Technology and the Universities are all included in the Framework.

Having completed your Leaving Cert, you can apply for college courses from Level 5 to Level 8. To find out if a course meets your particular needs, it is essential that you know what qualification is awarded at the end of the course.

There are four main categories or classes of awards:

  • Major awards are the main class of award made at a partiular level e.g. the Leaving Certificate (Level 4 or 5), Advanced or Higher Certificate (Level 6) or the Honours Bachelor Degree (Level 8). There are 16 major award categories in the Framework (See the NFQ ‘fan diagram' here)
  • Minor awards provide recognition for learners who achieve a range of learning outcomes but not the specific combination of learning outcomes required for a major award. These awards allow learners to build up units of learning at their own pace
  • Special-purpose awards are awards made for a specific purpose e.g. Driving - Heavy Goods, Rigid
  • Supplemental awards are awards for learning which is an addition to a previous award e.g. for updating and refreshing knowledge or skills, or Continuing Professional Development (CDP)
Qualifications from other Awarding Bodies include:

Edexcel - these are part of learning company Pearson, UK academic and general qualifications or awards which include GCSEs, A levels, BTEC, as well as some National Vocational Qualifications (NVQs) and Functional Skills. Edeexcel vocational qualifications include BTEC awards which are popular work-related qualifications related to specific careers rather than academic subjects. They are internationally recognised in over 90 countries. BTEC awards are available for areas such as Art & Design; Business & Management; Creative Media (online, television, radio); Engineering; Health & Social Care; Hospitality & Catering; Land Based; Performing Arts; Public Services; Sport & Leisure and Travel & Tourism, among others. A list of centres providing BTEC courses in Ireland is available here.

See Qualifications Across Boundaries for a comparison between UK and Irish awards and qualifications.

City & Guilds - The City and Guilds of London Institute (City & Guilds) is a vocational education organisation based in the UK. City & Guilds offer vocational and technical qualifications in a wide range of areas such as Beauty Therapy, Hairdressing, Business, Construction, Conservation, Digital Technology, Dog Grooming, Electronics and Film Production among others. City & Guilds Awards are 'aligned' to the NFQ in Ireland, meaning that they are recognised under the framework. This allows learners to progress seamlessly onto the next level of their training and career progression. As well as in Ireland, City & Guilds operate in over 80 countries, ensuring worldwide recognition of certified skills and competencies.

The Open University - The Open University offers a range of courses and degree programmes that are taught in English, online. OU courses can be taken in your own time, at your own pace. OU Qualifications are aligned to the National Framework of Qualifications in Ireland.  See Open University for detailed course information.

The qualifications system can be seen as a ladder, so regardless of which step a student starts at, it is possible to add more and climb higher.

What are your Career Interests?

Creative people are drawn to careers and activities that enable them to take responsibility for the design, layout or sensory impact of something (visual, auditory etc). They may be drawn towards the traditional artistic pursuits such as painting, sculpture, singing, or music. Or they may show more interest in design, such as architecture, animation, or craft areas, such as pottery and ceramics.

Creative people use their personal understanding of people and the world they live in to guide their work. Creative people like to work in unstructured workplaces, enjoy taking risks and prefer a minimum of routine.

  Go... Explore Career Interests here...