Francis O' Toole Author – Careers Ireland

Students' embarking on their career journey – Is Féidir linn

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5 Tips for 6th Years to Get Ahead over the Christmas Holidays

Posted by Francis O' Toole on December 13, 2018


How to take advantage of the holiday period and still take a break!

5 Tips for 6th Years to Get Ahead over the Christmas Holidays
5 Tips for 6th Years to Get Ahead over the Christmas Holidays

“It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas” and Leaving Cert students across the country are looking forward to a long awaited rest; a break from school and the endless study.  Take this two week period to recharge your batteries and return fit and ready for the last five months of second level education. Here are some tips to help you to get the most from the Christmas period – I’m guessing Tip #1 will be the most popular!

#1 R&R – Rest and Relaxation

Give yourself a respite period of three to five days where you do no study; instead relax and enjoy the festive season. Socialise, catch up on your sleep, give yourself a duvet day and binge on Christmas TV, check out the sales and spend your vouchers; do whatever you find takes your mind off school and exams and ENJOY IT. These are guilt free rest days.

#2 Review Targets and Goals

Now that your Christmas exams are behind you, you can finally breathe and take a step back and look at the bigger picture. Re-examine your exam targets and goals. How are you doing? Are you meeting your subject targets? Do you need to reconsider exam levels in one or more subjects? It is a good idea to be realistic. If you are struggling in a subject, now might be the time to drop to a lower level. Consider the effort it will take in the coming months to get this subject over the line – will the effort eat into the time you could be devoting to other subjects? Be realistic and make informed and logical decisions.

#3 Research Careers

It is difficult to find the time to research careers when you are steeped in study notes, grinds and exams. Researching careers is always something that can be put on the long finger, especially if you are feeling unsure about what career you want to go into. Now that you have a bit of a break it would be a good time to browse career sectors and occupations. Finding the right career for you is a decision you don’t want to make lightly. You need to invest time exploring career sectors and occupations to get a sense of what appeals to you. But where to begin?

CareersPortal have seven broad career areas that are subdivided into career sectors. Begin broad and whittle your way down. Explore our occupations database and browse through our career interview videos to get a flavour of working in your chosen sector. Need more information? Read what our Sector Experts have to say and browse our employer insights.

#4 Get your College Application Ready

Many students postpone college applications until after Christmas. This is understandable as school commitments and exams are prioritised. Now that you are getting a break from school, the Christmas holidays is a good chance to invest time in researching courses and getting your college application underway.


CAO applications are due by 1st February. If you plan on applying for a restricted course you must enter it by this deadline. This deadline also applies to HEAR and DARE applicants. CAO do offer a Change of Mind facility that enables students to put off making a decision on courses up until 1st July but why wait so long? When will you ever find time to research courses in the next term when you have Mocks, Orals, Portfolios and Coursework due, Practical exams and of course Leaving Cert exams to prepare for. Use this two week period to get the bulk of the research done; use the Change of Mind window to tweak it.

The coursefinder on CareersPortal is great way to find all courses listed on CAO. Watch some of our course videos and find out what current students and lecturers have to say about their courses. Click here to read the CAO Guide.

Further Education / Post Leaving Cert (PLC)

PLC colleges are already accepting applications for 2019/2020. If you wish to be considered for a place in Further Education you will need to start researching now and applying. Applications for Further Education are made directly to the college. Check out the relevant college’s website to register and make an online application. Click here to use coursefinder to research PLC courses.

For more information on PLC courses click here.


If you are planning on applying to college in the UK you will need to urgently give attention to your UCAS application. The 15th January deadline is fast approaching. You will need to get a reference and write a personal statement; both of these require a good deal of time to prepare and submit. For tips and advice on writing a personal statement and asking for a reference read the two articles linked below.

How to Ask for a School Reference

Writing a Good Personal Statement

#5 Study

The words holidays and study don’t usually go together but in 6th year study unfortunately cannot be avoided – even during holiday periods. Tip #1 told you to take a break for 3-5 days. That leaves 11 – 13 days of study! It doesn’t need to take away from your Christmas break though. Just make sure to pencil in a few hours a day. If you aim to get three hours of study completed each day you will be well set up for your return to school in January. For advice on studying check out the study section in CareersPortal.

 All that is left to say is….

Merry Christmas

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completing the CAO form

Posted by Francis O' Toole on December 13, 2018


When completing the CAO form, all applicants may apply for 10 Level 8 courses and 10 Level 7/6 courses. What’s the difference?

All qualifications are organised on the National Framework of Qualifications. This framework allows for learning achievements to be measured and related to each other in a coherent way. The higher the level of qualification, the deeper the learning.

The Leaving Cert is a Level 5 qualification. It allows students to progress to higher education courses at levels 6, 7 or 8.

The framework can be thought of as a ladder, with all qualifications placed from lowest to highest. The system allows for students to move up the ladder at their own pace. For example, a person with a strong Leaving Cert may access a Level 8 programme directly, while a person with fewer points may decide to take a Level 6 course and work their way up the ladder until they achieve a Level 8, or even a Level 9 (master’s) or Level 10 (PhD). Level 8 is also known as an honours degree.

This is what many people think of when they think of a traditional university degree. They are generally four years in duration, with some notable exceptions. Architecture, for example, is five years and many arts degrees are three years. Students mainly apply for these courses through the CAO, with some private colleges offering Level 8 courses both through the CAO system as well as direct entry.

School-leavers are required to meet the minimum entry requirements and essential subjects for these courses and then compete for a place based on CAO points. Minimum requirements for Level 8 courses are normally two H5 grades and four O6 grades (with the exception of Trinity College Dublin which requires three H5 and three O6/H7).

Level 7 degrees are known as ordinary degrees. They are generally three years in duration and students mainly apply for these courses through the CAO, while some private colleges also offer level 7 courses outside the CAO. Once again, Leaving Cert students are required to meet the minimum entry requirements, essential subjects and then compete for places on CAO points.

Many institutions require a student to achieve five O6/H7 grades for entry to Level 7, although there are some exceptions. Essential subject requirements are also lower than for Level 8 courses – for example, if a student wished to study engineering at Level 8 in DIT, he or she will require a H4 in maths while engineering courses at Level 7 in DIT require an O4/H7 in maths. Level 7 degrees are offered at universities, institutes of technology, and private colleges.

Level 6 courses are also available through the CAO. They are generally two years in duration and require five O6 grades for entry. These courses also have add-on years available which allow students to progress all the way to Level 8.

In order to identify if a Level 7 or Level 6 course offers an add-on year to achieve a Level 8, students can check their CAO handbook. The third column of the course listing pages is dedicated to this purpose. Irish Independent

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Careers News

Posted by Francis O' Toole on December 11, 2018


  1. Solving Darwin’s Dilemma
  2. Preparing your portfolio for NCAD?
  3. Beyond IoT 2 – How to harness the next wave of digital technology and investment
  4. NCGE News Bulletin
  5. BPS accredited Cert Ability Training
  6. Participation of Women in the EU Digital Economy Still Lags Behind
  7. UL Open Day Jan 2019
  8. Maynooth University CAO Information Evening
  9. IICP – Free Taster Evening
  10. IICP  Certificate Programme in Integrative Counselling and Psychotherapeutic Studies
  11. Psychometrix Courses End-Of-Year Discounts
  12. Digital Transformation: the impact on Ireland’s Workforce
  13. Marketing students to develop ‘real-world’ digital marketing strategies
  14. CAO & Mature Student Information Evening – UCD
  15. Soil and its importance to Mankind
  16. UCD Open Events – Engineering & Architecture
  17. Setting up a Career Guidance Practice
  18. Crumlin College of FE Open Day

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Posted by Francis O' Toole on December 6, 2018


Parents Guide

If you want to understand the basics of careers guidance and how it can work for your child, help is at hand with this concise guide.

Parents play a huge role in the choices children make when they start looking for a career. They influence the level of education or training that their children achieve; the knowledge they have about work and different occupations; the beliefs and attitudes they have to working; and the motivation they have to succeed.

Most of this is learned unconsciously – children and teenagers absorb the attitudes and expectations of them as they grow up. Some of the key influencers are:

  • The expectations parents have for their children’s education and career;
  • The examples they set for their children;
  • The values they show to their family, friends and to society;
  • The opportunities they offer their children to learn and develop; and
  • The kind of parent-child relationship they develop.

To nourish a healthy and rewarding career for your child, the following factors are worth considering:

  • Encourage your children to get the most education possible.
  • Strengthen their self-understanding.
  • Develop their knowledge about work.
  • Teach them decision making skills.
  • Value gender equity and cultural diversity.
  • Become aware of career resources.
  • Help them become skill-oriented. (careers portal)

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The CAO is opened for applications for 2019

Posted by Francis O' Toole on November 28, 2018

This week we shall examine the CAO account home page.

To reach the account home page, applicants must first register with the CAO and pay their application fee. The fee is €30 if this step is completed by January 20 (€45 after this date). This particular part of the CAO application is no more difficult than setting up a social media account or purchasing something online.

Applicants will be requested to submit personal details and pay using a credit or debit card. If applicants do not have access to, or would prefer not to use, a card, they can request a bank giro, which allows them to pay cash through their local bank. Applicants will then receive a CAO number which they can use in conjunction with their date of birth and a password (if they wish) to log into their account home page in future.

Personal Details

This is simply a list of all the personal details entered during the registration process. It is very important not to rush past this section and check that all these details are correct.

Course lists

Courses should be listed in genuine order of preference. Applicants may enter 10 courses on the Level 8 list and another 10 Level 6/7 courses. The deadline for this is February 1.


The CAO requests that applicants are logged into their CAO form when sending any queries or questions. This will allow for a record of contact to be maintained.

SUSI grant

If an applicant thinks there is even a small chance they will apply for a SUSI grant, they should complete this section. The SUSI applications process itself does not open until late spring, and even if an applicant later decides not to apply for a grant, it is a good idea to tick this section.

Exemption from minimum entry requirements

Any applicant who has an exemption from Irish or will be applying for a third language exemption from NUI, should indicate their intention to do so here. Such applicants must apply for this exemption separately.

Qualification and assessment section

Details of which schools the applicant attended, the year in which they sat the Leaving Cert, including any previous sittings of the Leaving Cert, or alternative qualifications, should be entered. It is especially important for repeat students to enter the exam numbers from their previous Leaving Cert attempts so that the CAO can find their results during offers season.

Matures, DARE/HEAR

The last three sections of this page bring applicants to the supplementary information forms for mature applicants and HEAR and DARE applicants. Each of these will be the subject of future columns, however it is important to note that applicants must indicate their intention to apply for any of these programmes through these sections no later than February 1. Aoife Walsh

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Going to College: Feeling confused already? Check out the resources to help students and parents

Posted by Francis O' Toole on November 28, 2018

Guidance counsellor Aoife Walsh1
Guidance counsellor Aoife Walsh

In this busy year for sixth year students and, from time to time, sit can be helpful to take stock of where we are. The first deadline for UCAS has passed, the CAO has opened for applications, we are seeing the first of the PLC colleges opening for applicants and most open days, especially ones in the larger colleges, have taken place.

If applicants are beginning to feel confused about their choices, that is ok! Often confusion comes before a decision and it just means we are really thinking about our options. For parents, especially those going through Leaving Cert for the first time, it can be even more confusing. There are ample excellent resources available for any person who wishes to educate themselves on this process, including some aimed specifically at parents who want to support their child.


All parents should take time to read the CAO handbook. Your child will have been provided with one in school and there is a PDF version on the CAO website. In addition, the CAO has published a parents’ guide, which is available through the student resource section of the website. Here, you will also find a demo application, where students and parents can familiarise themselves with the application form. There are also video guides available to explain the offers and acceptance process as well why it is important to list courses by order of preference. – Parents

This website has everything needed for college and careers choices and there is a dedicated section for parents. It contains everything from how to talk to their son or daughter, how to choose a career and apply to college and even how to cope after making the wrong choice. Everything you might ever need is here in one place and it is a great place to start for any novice or even experienced senior cycle parent. – Course Search

A relatively new addition to my bag of tricks, this is my go-to course search tool. I like it for a number of reasons: it links with the REACH programme, which many guidance counsellors use in careers’ class; it’s easy to flick between the CAO and the further education sector; it is clearly laid out and offers detailed course descriptions. What I like most are the filters – students can exclude courses from certain areas of the country or courses that require certain subjects, or seek courses that match their ‘career interest’ results (the career interest test is available on the site). Applicants can save their courses in an easy-to-use personal file, which can be revisited.

Applying for medicine

The ‘applying for medicine’ PDF available on the CAO website offers a summary of how the CAO points and HPAT systems work, as well as giving the entry requirements for every medical degree in the country and more. There is also a version for graduate medicine. Both are essential and easy reading for anyone considering entering this field of study, and for any parent trying to support a prospective applicant.

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Careers News

Posted by Francis O' Toole on October 15, 2018



  1. The rise of Artificial Intelligence in China
  2. What use is the Internet of Things?
  3. Project to help Parents teach Computing
  4. UCC Announce new Lectureship in Plant Genetics
  5. Inclusive Practice Pyramid – Disability Support in Third Level
  6. Apprenticeship Fees
  7. Think Waterford for Work
  8. UL Newsletter
  9. Computing Workshops for Teachers
  10. Polar Exploration Vehicle made of Recycled Materials
  11. LYIT welcomes €0.25 Million funding for Cross-border Further and Higher Education Cluster


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Logistics Apprenticeship

Posted by Francis O' Toole on October 4, 2018

Ireland's First Ever Logistics Apprenticeship Launched by DIT
Ireland’s First Ever Logistics Apprenticeship Launched by DIT

Dublin Institute of Technology (DIT) launched Ireland’s first ever Logistics Apprenticeship aimed at addressing the skills gap in the industry while providing ‘earn as you learn’ opportunities to schools leavers and mature students.

Apprentices work four days a week and then spend a day in DIT College of Business on Aungier Street.

Over the two-year programme, students will develop the skills necessary for Logistics Associates, who are responsible for coordinating the movement of goods in a company, including the planning and coordinating of all warehousing and transportation activities in the supply chain.

The Logistics Associate Apprenticeship was announced by the Ministers Richard Burton TD and John Halligan TD last year as part of the government’s Action Plan for Education.

18 employers and 26 apprentices from across the Freight, Transport, Distribution and Logistics sector are participating in the programme on a day-release basis.

How to apply:

To begin an apprenticeship, you must be employed in your chosen occupation by an approved employer. To be accepted, you must be at least 16 years of age and have a minimum of grade D in any five subjects in the Junior Certificate. Interested candidates can find out more about the Logistics Associate Apprenticeship here.

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Careers News

Posted by Francis O' Toole on October 4, 2018


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Walking On Air

Posted by Francis O' Toole on September 22, 2018


Out on sale now

  • A page turner book about resilience
  • Short stories and poems to support positive approaches to life
  • Personal stories to support authentic  reflection on life

“All profits from proceeds of the book to go to help the Peter McVerry trust, a charity working to reduce homelessness

Purchases Walking On Air




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