Frustrated man looking at signposts for careers

With CAO applications due on February 1st, Leaving Certificate students are considering their future careers. Obviously, this is a crucial decision, which takes time to weigh up all of the options. Without any real practical work experience, it can be very difficult to know if the 3rd level course you select is one that will reward you with a career path in a sustainable environment for the future.

From what we are seeing in today’s market, there is a genuine demand for skilled personnel in the areas of cience, technology and engineering. In particular, the medical device and pharmaceutical industries are performing well and offer excellent long term career opportunities.


If you are technically minded then engineering may be a good option for you. From what we have seen in recent years there is a high demand for engineers in manufacturing, especially in the medical device and pharmaceutical sectors. Newly graduated mechanical, electrical or mechatronic engineers can diversify into roles such as maintenance, process development, validation, automation, design, quality and manufacturing engineering. Any of the above roles could range from new product design to maintaining and modifying manufacturing equipment.

Science & IT

Science has also become a key area, with intensifying skill shortages, as the economy recovers. If this is an area that interests you, there are many opportunities for chemical and biological scientists and biochemists, typically in the areas of analytical development, product formulation and industry regulation. Biotechnology technicians are also in demand in GMP / cleanroom environments.

Continued growth is also expected for the IT sector this year and for a number of years ahead. Job categories in high demand include software developers, cloud, databases/big data, testing, security, technical support, networking and infrastructure.

How qualified do I need to be?

The National Framework of Qualifications (NFQ) is a system of ten levels used to describe the Irish qualifications system. The Leaving Certificate is a level 5, Advanced Certificate is level 6, Ordinary Bachelor Degree is level 7, Honours Bachelor Degree is level 8, Masters / Post Grad. is level 9 and Ph.D. (Doctor of Philosophy) is level 10. A level 8 Honours Degree is generally the most common level of qualification associated with Engineering, Science & IT-based roles. A Technician level role generally requires a level 7 Ordinary Degree. It is also possible for people to gradually progress through the system by starting at a Level 6 Advanced Certificate which tends to offer a more practical qualification such as a craft or trade certificate. This can often act as a stepping stone into a level 7 or level 8 course. In addition to this, Post-Graduate qualifications, such as a Masters or Ph.D. are also sought after when it comes to roles particularly in Research & Development or more advanced career levels. This higher level qualification can result in better salaries and often opens the door to more employment opportunities.


To wrap up, if you are considering a certain career path, it is always advisable to try and speak with someone you know who may work in or have some exposure to the job you are considering for your future. They should be able to offer solid advice on what is involved and potentially offer an opportunity to volunteer or shadow them at work for a day. This type of knowledge would really help you make an informed decision for CAO application and for your future. Best of Luck!

Davin Ferguson

Recruitment Consultant

Collins McNicholas Recruitment & HR Services Group