Leaving Certificate students across the country have spent the last week mulling over the first round of CAO offers. Many will have been thrilled with the offer of their 1st preference, while others must decide if they should go with one of their lower preferences, or consider repeating their Leaving Certificate next year. This is one of the most important decisions of their young lives and students must carefully weigh their options before making a decision. It is the culmination of years of study and for many it will determine what career they will ultimately enter into.
The promotion of STEM careers and the Project Maths programme have continued to influence students. There has been a 10% increase in students taking higher level maths for their Leaving Certificate. Similarly, physics has risen by 12%, chemistry by 7%, and biology by 4.5%. The greater interest in STEM subjects is also reflected in college applications, with science courses seeing an 8% increase in applications and engineering courses receiving a 5.8% increase.
With an increasingly competitive job market it is more important than ever to choose the right career. Students appear to have a greater awareness of the importance of choosing a career with good employment prospects. The increase in applications for STEM courses, and the greater number of students sitting the higher level science and maths papers, are trends that reflect the opportunities available in the current job market. The greatest increase in demand for graduates and experienced professionals is being seen in the life science, engineering and ICT sectors, which offer competitive salaries and numerous opportunities for advancement.
Points for STEM courses have gone up in certain instances, but the increase in demand has largely been offset by a greater number of places being made available on these courses. This is particularly true for ICT courses where the points total required for these courses has remained stable. The increase in the number of places being made available in science, engineering and ICT courses will be crucial in ensuring that enough graduates are produced in coming years to meet the demand in these industries.
There are many options available to Leaving Certificate students if they do not receive the offer they want – they can accept a different CAO course offer, study in Europe or the UK, repeat their exams, or do a PLC course. The most important thing for students to remember is that whatever their Leaving Cert results are, they are still able to determine what can kind of career they have. Most people at 17 or 18 years of age don’t know what career they want to have, so if you are in a similar position, don’t panic. I frequently meet people at 27 or 28 years old who are still unsure what they want to do for a career. People regularly change careers 2 or 3 times over their working life, so no matter what your plans are, your career will likely take you in many directions that you never anticipated and give you opportunities you never thought you would have.
Best of luck to everyone making career decisions around this time.
Niall Murray, General Manager
Collins McNicholas Recruitment & HR Services