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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 atrracted to the traditional artistic pursuits such as painting, sculpture, singing, or music. Or they may show more interest in design activities, 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.

Leaving Cert 2018

Other Options outside CAO

Every year at this time, thousands of students are actively engaged in pursuing other further education and career options outside the CAO system. Though it is the main third level course allocation system in Ireland, the CAO is not the only option to school leavers or those wishing to continue into further education.

Explore some the non-CAO options open to students below:


Employer-Sponsored Programmes

Some companies provide specialised training programmes where candidates start working immediately but also complete training alongside their work responsibilities.

These programmes normally afford candidates trainee contracts, which entitles them to a salary as they work and train. 

Lidl runs a Retail Management Degree Programme in conjuction with Dublin Business School. The programme features on-the-job and off-the-job training, based in store and at DBS. For more information on the programme, click here.

The Central Bank of Ireland runs a scholarship scheme which offers candidates the opportunity to work in the Central Bank while working towards a degree qualification at Griffith College Dublin. This is a salaried position where candidates split their time between work and study. More details here.

Graduate Entry Programmes

Some popular courses which are in high demand at undergraduate level are also offered as graduate degrees. Disciplines such as Medicine and Teaching always attract a lot of interest from CAO applicants, but not everybody who applies to these courses is offered a place. However, many of those who are employed in the teaching and medical professions pursue the disciplines as graduates through graduate-entry degree programmes. Once students have completed their primary degree, they can then apply to the graduate-entry degree programme of their preferred profession. This can be a great alternative route to your preferred course.

Note: Entry requirements to graduate-entry degree programmes vary from college to college. It is best to check with the degree provider to determine specific entry requirements.

Post Leaving Cert Courses

What is a PLC Course?

A PLC or Post Leaving Cert / further education course is a recognised programme of study. It forms a bridge between secondary school and third level education. 

PLC qualifications are usually Level 5 or 6 on the NFQ. They are fully accredited and recognised by colleges, employers, and employment organisations.

Courses typically consist of eight modules and a work placement. They are usually year-long programmes of classroom learning coupled with applied practical learning. Students are assessed on assignments, research, placement and end of year exams.

PLCs offer courses across a comprehensive range of career interests

What are the advantages of doing a PLC?

PLC colleges offer a broad range of programmes [search here] covering a range of career interests, including many with a practical content.

  • The Higher Education Links Scheme offers PLC students an alternative route into Third Level college – full information on course listings available here. If a student fails to meet the Leaving Cert Points requirement, they can still access their course of choice by meeting the entry requirements.
  • The compulsory Work Experience module is useful, allowing students to gain valuable experience of their chosen workplace
  • Courses offer a more gentle progression from school to college
  • It can be useful and cost-effective way to spend a gap year if a young person is waiting to take up a deferred place or remains undecided about their plans
  • It offers a taster course for subjects not available in a Leaving Cert Curriculum
  • Students that have completed the Leaving Cert Applied can access third level education through the PLC route. 

How and when are applications made?

Application is made online directly to the college in question by completing the appropriate application form. Most colleges also have an interview process.

PLC courses fill up quickly. Many students apply during their Leaving Cert year to be sure of having a contingency plan.

For information on financial support to PLC students go to www.studentfinance.ie

UCAS Clearing

UCAS is the British system for undergraduate University entry. Clearing is a service available for colleges in the UK between July and September. It is similar to the 'vacant places' system in the CAO process.

For most people, UCAS clearing is used after the leaving cert exam results are published in August. It can help students without a university or college place to find suitable vacancies on higher education courses in the UK.

College fees in the UK have risen steeply over the last number of years and there may be less interest in UCAS options now, with Brexit on the horizon. However, for some students, it remains a good option.

If you have the flexibility and reasonable exam results, there is always a good chance that you will find another course through UCAS Clearing. For full details click here

Repeat Leaving Cert

Repeat Leaving Cert courses are available at a number of specialised colleges, ETB colleges and some schools.

Repeating is a particularly good option for students that have a:

  • Strong likelihood of improving their results with work and study
  • Solid existing record of study and ability to apply themselves to study
  • Have gained stronger educational focus and will genuinely benefit from spending the year repeating the Leaving Cert
  • Narrowly missed the course of choice by just a few points
  • Missed the course of choice on random selection
  • Students that experienced health, trauma, family issues or bereavement etc.
  • Students whose focus was on sports or other areas of talent or expertise.

Find out more here.

Study Abroad

Key websites: www.learnabroad.ie; www.eunicas.ie

Studying abroad can offer fantastic opportunities to students for learning, travel, networking, internship. The quality of educational experience can be very high. In terms of value, the cost of living in some European countries is significantly lower and tuition fees can be lower than at home.

Why is this option growing in popularity?

Many EU countries offer courses through English, with more affordable tuition fees. Students that wish to study Medicine, Veterinary or Dentistry & Pharmacy can find it easier to access a place on English speaking degree programmes abroad, where the entry requirements are more accessible than at home.

Gap Year

The trend of taking a year out between school and college - or Gap year - tends to fluctuate. But taking time out, away from the formal educational path can work well if there has been personal or family upheaval of some kind, if the young person has heavy sporting, creative or voluntary sector commitments, if there is a health issue that needs to be addressed or for financial reasons.

For some young people it is just not the right time for college or they have not yet decided on a career or course of study. If you think Gap year may be a realistic option for your child, some discussion round planning and goal-setting may make the process a more rewarding one for everyone. Students who found the gap year most valuable have said that setting clear goals, planning and organising carefully for the experience helped them to reap the maximum benefit from taking a year out.  

A number of voluntary organisations offer voluntary work abroad including:




Non-CAO Undergraduate Courses

There are a small number of courses run by Higher Education providers that take on students each year outside of the CAO system.

These are fee paying courses, but in many cases, the fees are not that much more than the registration fees paid by CAO students and it is worth remembering that you can claim some back in tax.

These courses are accredited by a number of different bodies, sometimes in the UK, so it is important that you check out and understand who is the qualifying authority.