What should I do after the Leaving Cert?

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The most searched education/career guidance question by school leaving students is “What should I do after the Leaving Cert?”.

It’s a question that many ask themselves as they approach the end of their secondary education and prepare for the next stage of their lives.

There are a number of different options available to students after the Leaving Cert, including:

  • Higher Education & Training HET/HE i.e. going to university: This is by far the most common option for students who wish to pursue a degree. Universities and colleges in Ireland & Europe offer a wide range of academic and applied courses with a broad or definite career focus.
  • Further Education & Training FET i.e. going to a further education college or into training via a craft or modern apprenticeship: This is a good option for students who wish to develop specific skills for a particular career. Training and apprenticeships are for those who prefer ‘learning by doing’ and most also come with some pay. There are further education colleges/institutions in nearly every large town/city in Ireland with many offering a wide range of courses.
  • Get a job i.e. enter the workforce: Some students may choose to enter the workforce directly after the Leaving Cert because they already have an offer, are not yet ready to commit to a HET/FET qualification or their circumstances dictate this as the best option right now. This is a good option for students who know what they want to do and have the skills and experience to get a job which does not necessitate further or higher education.
  • Taking a gap year: Some choose to take a gap year after the Leaving Cert. This can be a good way to gain work experience and maybe save a bit, travel, volunteer. This break from education gives more time to reflect and investigate future options.

The best option for a student will depend on their individual interests, skills, and goals. It is important for students to do their investigating and consider all of their options before making a decision.

Here are some tips for school leaving students:

  • Talk to your parents, teachers, and friends.  They can offer you support and advice as you make your decision or they may know someone who can help you with some insider information.
  • Do your own investigating & research. CareerPortal is a great, free tool for investigating qualifications and careers in Ireland; Qualifax is dedicated to providing detailed course information; EUNICAS is so handy for finding HET courses taught through English within the EU; & UCAS for the UK. It’s also wise to visit universities and colleges, talk to current students and staff, and attend open days. Or if you focused on a specific career/job read up on it and then try to talk to someone who’s already in that role. This is all about getting informed.
  • Consider your interests, skills, and goals.  What do you enjoy doing? What are you good at? What skills would you like to develop? What do you just love to know about? What’s your greatest talent? What do you want to achieve in your career? What are your priorities?
  • Don’t be afraid to change your mind.  It is normal to be unsure about what you want to do after the Leaving Cert and many students change their preferences – it’s ok and you should allow yourself the option to change your mind later on.
  • Take control of your own destiny. Coming to a decision involves a process of clarifying you vision of yourself and getting informed so you can identify the direction you’ll be taking in the coming years. It’s worth the investment of your time and effort so you can get it right.

The most important thing is to make a decision that is right for you. There is no one-size-fits-all answer to the question of what to do after the Leaving Cert.

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