Healthy amount of jobs in medical area

Career Guide: Health Science

Chris Healy at  the UL Graduate Medical School in the clinical/anatomical Skills Education Centre

Chris Healy at the UL Graduate Medical School in the clinical/anatomical Skills Education Centre


Maybe you’ve wanted to be a doctor, nurse or dentist since you were little. Maybe you made up potions in your make-believe pharmacy. Or it’s an area you’ve only flirted with since the Leaving Cert ended.

Either way, many health science courses are among the most competitive of all CAO choices. Unless you sat the Hpat in March, it’s too late to change your CAO form to a medicine course. But it’s not too late to choose nursing, dentistry, pharmacy or physiotherapy.

These can be challenging courses, with varying financial rewards. It’s fair to say that nursing graduates are relatively underpaid given the important nature of their work, but there are higher levels of pay in pharmacy and dentistry.

Where to study

Nursing students are spoilt

for choice, with general nursing courses at UCD, Trinity College, DCU, NUI Maynooth, UCC, and NUI Galway.

General nursing is also available at Galway-Mayo IT, Dundalk IT, IT Tralee, St Angela’s Sligo, Letterkenny IT, WIT, and Athlone IT.

Some students may be interested in a specialised nursing degree and, to this end, psychiatric nursing is available at Athlone IT, Galway-Mayo IT, Dundalk IT, Letterkenny IT, UCC, DCU, NUI Galway, UCD, and WIT.

Options for intellectual disability nursing include DCU, Dundalk IT, St Angela’s College Sligo, UCC, UL, Letterkenny IT, and WIT.

DCU offers an integrated children and general nursing degree. Meanwhile, students interested in midwifery can choose courses at Dundalk IT, NUI Galway, Trinity College, UCC, UCD, and UL.

There are only two places where you can study undergraduate dentistry: UCC and Trinity. The Royal College of Surgeons Ireland has a post-graduate dentistry courses. Dental nursing courses can be undertaken at Trinity College (Level 7) and Athlone IT (Level 6).

Physiotherapy students can opt for either the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland, Trinity College, UCD, or UL. DCU also has a course in athletic therapy and training.

Pharmacy students, most of whom will either work in jobs where they dispense medicine to patients or in the pharmaceutical industry, can choose between Trinity College, UCD, and the Royal College of Surgeons.

Trinity also offers a degree in medicinal chemistry where graduates gain an understanding of molecular chemistry and biology and work in the design and preparation of new drugs.

Pharmaceutical science courses, which do not qualify graduates to dispense medicine but train them for careers in research and development, and lab analysis in the pharmacy, industry, can be taken at WIT and Athlone IT. Level 6 pharmacy technician courses are available at IT Carlow, DIT, Athlone IT, and Letterkenny IT.

Career opportunities Nursing can be a challenging area, with the number of jobs fluctuating over time

. Some Irish nurses emigrate for better pay and conditions. By and large, however, most nursing graduates will find work in Ireland.

Nurses don’t just work in hospitals; they can also be found in community settings, general practice, nursing homes, hospices, and in the armed forces.

Nurses may also travel with NGOs such as Doctors Without Borders. Some nurses may choose to specialise and do post-graduate study.

It’s still difficult for physiotherapists to find suitable work in Ireland, although once in employment, there are good career prospects.

Dentists are often self-employed. Some pursue post-graduate training and specialise in orthodontics, paediatric dentistry, or periodontics. Unemployment is very rare.

Salary expectations

Controversially, graduate nurses

start on relatively low salaries of €23,129. Pay rises in annual increments.

A senior staff nurse or midwife earns a basic rate of €45,954, while a director of nursing can earn more than €77,000.

Physiotherapists have a starting salary of around €30,000, but this can rise to over €70,000 for HSE-employed physiotherapists in senior management.

Dentists have a high average starting salary, earning €50,000 a year on graduation; this figure rises substantially with experience, and some dentists or consultants in successful private practice can earn in excess of €200,000 a year.

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