What are your best career options?

A little help for students as the CAO deadline looms...

What are your best career options?

Students from Trinity College, Dublin celebrate after receiving their degrees from the college. | Photo: PA Images

With a 5.15pm deadline for normal CAO applications on February 1st, Leaving Cert students are being urged to consider a wide range of future opportunities when filling out their form.

When it comes to employment prospects, new figures from IrishJobs.ie show an increase of nearly 50% in construction, architecture and property jobs in the past year.

The much-touted STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) subjects are becoming ever more popular with students, with 42% opting for STEM-related college courses last year.

Saffon McCarthy from IrishJobs.ie said:

"When we look at what's going on and the different roles and the different job opportunities that are out there, our message would really be, if you feel the STEM courses appeal to you, great, go for them. But don't worry, they're not the only thing that's out there."

"For the last two or three years, we've seen production and manufacturing really driving the growth in the economy, which has been terrific. And I think, now there's that extra bit of stability there, it's really an opportunity for the country to turn back to all of the building that was going on pre-2009."

The huge array of options out there can make the form-filling a big of a head scratcher. No need to panic, however, as you'll be able to change your mind later down the CAO road.

If you're in it for the money (and most people are) and are feeling ambitious, The Irish Times reported last May that the best-paying jobs continue to be at the high levels of accountancy and taxation.

In the area of insurance and financial services, chief actuaries can earn up to €300,000. Senior actuaries are paid around €160,000, due to a shortage of supply in the area.

Managing roles in the world of finance came out on top in a January 2017 report predicting which jobs will be the most desirable to land this year.

Glassdoor based its findings on earning potential, job satisfaction, and the number of vacancies in the area.

Finance managers top the list in the UK, with median salaries of £68,000 (€79,000) and a healthy number of open posts.

In the US, Careercast's 'Best Jobs of 2016' list named "data scientist" as the best job you can possibly have, taking factors such as income, stress and future prospects into account.

The 'M' in STEM featured heavily, with statistician ranked second, mathematician in sixth and actuary rounding off the top 10.

And what jobs, according to Careercast, should really avoid?

The "top 10" of the worst jobs around doesn't feature refuse collectors or waiters, but the logging industry is in trouble and DJs are underpaid. Here it is, in descending order of awfulness...

10. Firefighter
9. Taxi Driver
8. Advertising Sales Person
7. Retail Salesperson
6. Pest Control Worker
5. Enlisted Military Personnel
4. Disc Jockey
3. Broadcaster
2. Logger
1. Newspaper reporter

US logger Tom Edwards in the woods near Spanaway, Washington. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

Whatever path you take, here are the key CAO dates you need to know:

  • February 1st (5.15pm): Closing date for normal applications to the CAO, for entry to all 1st year undergraduate places. People applying for restricted application courses (those with early assessments such as interviews or portfolio assessment) must list any such course on their CAO application by this date.
  • February 5th: Online facility to amend course choices becomes available for a late fee of €10 until March 1st.
  • February - April: Interviews and portfolio presentations for restricted application courses in colleges throughout the country during this period. Following these assessments, applicants learn if they are approved for consideration for a place on each programme. Marks are awarded in many cases, which are added to an applicant’s CAO points score in August, to determine offers of places.
  • March 1st (5.15pm): This is the final date for CAO applicants to complete the online forms under the HEAR (Higher Education Access Route) and/or DARE (Disability Access Route to Education) schemes.
  • HEAR is an admissions route for school leavers who for social, financial or cultural reasons are under-represented at third level. DARE is a supplementary admissions scheme offering places on reduced points to school leavers with a designated disability.
  • April 1st (5.15 pm): All supporting documentation for HEAR or DARE must be supplied to the CAO by post by
  • 27th March - 7th April: The State Examinations Commission’s Leaving Cert oral tests in Irish, French, German, Spanish, Italian, Russian and Japanese, in all second-level schools.
  • Late April: Results are released for UL and mature applicants who sat the HPAT undergraduate medical entry aptitude test on February 25th.
  • May 1st (5.15 pm): Closing date for late CAO applications. The fee for an online application up to this date is €50. After this no further applications will be accepted for the 2017 academic year.
  • May: The CAO change-of-mind facility opens on May 5th. Candidates get a statement of application record by post before the end of May, listing all details supplied by applicants to date. Inform the CAO if you do not receive it, or if there are any errors on this form.
  • June 7th: Leaving Certificate written examinations begin, and continue until Friday 23rd.
  • June 26th: Applicants under 23 who sat the HPAT test on February 25th receive results, to enable them to factor these marks into their final consideration of course choices before July 1st CAO deadline.
  • July 1st (5.15pm): Final date for any amendments to course choices and order of preference on all CAO applications for entry to college in September 2017. The vast majority of current year Leaving Cert applicants make their final course choice decisions/amendments during this “Change of Mind” period in May-June each year.
  • Initial CAO offers during first week of July: The CAO makes over 6,000 offers to mature (over-23) applicants, and to applicants who accepted and then deferred places in 2016. These offers are made by post and online on CAO.ie, and remain open for a week. Mature and deferred applicants who may be away from home should ensure any offer in early July is dealt with, as offers lapse if not accepted within a week.
  • July 22nd: An exceptional closing date for current third-level students who wish to drop out of their current college course and re-apply for a new list of choices through the CAO. Over 300 students exercised this option in 2016.
  • Round Zero offers, early August 2017: Over 2,000 places on courses are offered to applicants presenting further education awards and to an additional cohort of mature applicants. Applicants for graduate medicine are also offered places in this round. Offers are open for one week.
  • Wednesday, August 16th: The State Examinations Commission delivers 2017 Leaving Cert results to over 700 schools, and makes them available through a secure online service at examinations.ie from noon.
  • Monday, August 21st: The CAO releases Round One offers to candidates online at 6am. Offer notices posted to candidates to arrive on this date. Minimum points required for entry to each course are available on the CAO website from 6am and are printed in full in that day’s Irish Times first round college offers supplement.
  • Tuesday, August 222nd: Leaving Cert students who are unhappy with a grade and wish to view their marked exam scripts in their school must return the application forms, in their Leaving Cert results envelope, to their school by this date. There is no charge for viewing your marked exam scripts.
  • Monday, August 28th (5.15 pm): Closing date for receipt of acceptance of CAO Round One offers.
  • Wednesday, August 30th: The CAO posts round two offers to applicants, to arrive by post on Thursday August 31st. The minimum points required for entry to each course are released on the CAO website at 6am on that date.
  • Friday-Saturday September 1st-2nd: Students, along with one person of their choice, can view their scripts in school. The scripts cannot be viewed by anyone else unless the student is present.
  • Wednesday, September 6th (5.15 pm): Closing date for receipt of acceptance of CAO Round Two offers. Final date for receipt by the State Examinations Commission of Leaving Cert appeal applications. A fee of €40 per subject applies, which is refunded in the case of an upgrade.
  • Mid October: Results of Leaving Cert appeals released by the SEC. Final offers of places by the CAO will be made up to October 18th.

Additional reporting by Michael Staines