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Different Road, Same Goal!

With all the talk of applying to university, it can be easy to forget that there are other routes to your chosen career. Whether you have left school early, are completing Youthreach, don’t have a Leaving Cert, didn’t get your CAO offer or have left a course because it wasn’t for you – there are many reasons why you may need to look at education options other than the university/ college route.

If you have any questions about your own situation, you can chat online to a trained Youth Information Officer or leave us a message and we can get back to you.

Quick video guide to your options outside the CAO.

Exploring what options are out there.

FE to HE Degree Route – new for 2023

This new scheme allows you to start your degree course in a local FE (Further Ed.) College and then progress with guaranteed access to continue your degree studies in higher education institution (University or Institute of Technology).

e.g. General Nursing degree which will start for one year in a College of Further Ed (PLC) in Donegal, Sligo or Mayo and finish up in either ATU Donegal/ ATU Mayo or St. Angelas, Sligo for 4 years.

Students will not go through the traditional progression route system,  to see if they get a college place from a PLC for these specific course. They will be guaranteed access subject to passing exams.

Apply through a new online portal hosted by the new National Tertiary Office, which has information on the courses and entry requirements for each. It will also connect you to a regional co-ordinator.  Application opened 7th July.

Colleges of Further Education.

Colleges of Further Education offer post leaving cert courses that are a mixture of academic, practical and work experience. These courses are a great option as they are designed as a step towards skilled employment and, as such, they are closely linked to industry and its needs. The courses are full-time and last for one to two years and you receive a QQI level 5 or 6.

You can see information on further education & Training (Level 5/6) and apprenticeships through the CAO options. Please note: CAO is not currently accepting applications for further education courses or apprenticeships. FET Course Hub for all queries and information about Further Education and Training or Apprenticeship options. Here is a short video explaining further education & training and details on how to apply for courses.

You are eligible to apply for the SUSI College Grant

Check out  PLC Courses and Further Education in Ireland – PLC Courses

  • Progression Route from Level 5/6 to Level 7/8 :
  • Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) e.g. ITs & Universities, offer preferential entry to students who successfully complete a QQI Level 6 (sometimes 5) Awards. Competition for these places are separate from all other applicants.
  • Such applicants compete for these places separately from all other applicants.
  • Application for Higher Education courses are made through the CAO and applicants are ranked based on their performance in the eight modules that make up their award.
  • Careersportal Higher Ed. links – a useful tool to calculate have you acquired enough credits from your course to put towards to application to Level 7 or 8 application
  • Information on progression route opportunities can usually be found on the website of the PLC/ College of Further Education you are going to.
  • Check out our post on Progression Routes for further information


An apprenticeship is the recognised way people train in a craft trade or profession. It gives you an opportunity to combine education with hands-on experience while earning a wage. Common apprenticeships include construction, electrical, engineering, hospitality or cooking, mechanics, or IT. Read our post on apprenticeship for more information.

The main craft trades and professions  are coordinated and managed by SOLAS along with the Department of Education and Science, employers and unions.

  • Craft Apprenticeships:  You can train to become a plasterer or electrician etc.  While you are training, you work with an employer learning the necessary skills and receive a wage. Most apprenticeships last 4 years. Apprentices must be at least 16 years of age and have a minimum of grade D in any five subjects in the Junior Certificate or equivalent. However, employers may require additional minimum qualifications. To apply for a place on an apprenticeship, you must first register with SOLAS.
  • Professional Apprenticeships:  NFQ Level 5 to 9 is offered through the individual industries in areas as diverse as; financial services, accounting, medical devices, software development etc.  Professional bodies such as Accounting Technicians of Ireland/ Insurance Practitioners of Ireland have programmes to link you to the employers and relevant academic institutes.

You can access information on how to apply for further education & Training (Level 5/6) and apprenticeships through the CAO options. However, CAO does not currently accepting applications for further education courses or apprenticeships. Here is a short video explaining further education & training and details on how to apply for courses.

More information on apprenticeships can be found on

Online Courses

Online programmes can make getting a qualification more accessible for many students. Many Universities and ITs have online options – check out their websites for online and blended options available.

eCollege is a SOLAS-funded online training facility that provides a range of high quality interactive online learning courses, available any time through broadband Internet access, for those who wish to learn at their own pace. eCollege courses are currently free of charge to anyone over 18 who wishes to do a course. If you are not sure what to expect from an eCollege course, you can do a short starter course

FET Courses

FET (Further Education and Training) is for anyone who is over 16 who wants to learn new skills or enhance existing skills to get the right job, progress to third-level or to support the achievement of personal goals.

FET offers a wide variety of life-long education options, including apprenticeships, traineeships, Post Leaving Cert (PLC) courses, community and adult education as well as core literacy and numeracy services. FET courses and programmes are provided through the Education and Training Board network throughout the country as well as through other local providers including online through SOLAS’ eCollege.


Offers training and further education programmes to both jobseekers looking for employment and employees wishing to improve their skills.  Part-time, full-time, evening and online courses for jobseekers.

Garda Síochana

Applications for the position of Garda Trainee are made by way of an online application process which is managed by the Public Appointments Service  Applicants must be 18 but not yet 35 years of age.  For education requirements and other information check out

Defence Forces

Recruitment competitions are held as required, check out for further information.

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