Higher Options career talks: from architecture to zoology

All school-leavers need to know about study options and job prospects — from the experts

It’s an anxious and exciting time for school-leavers: you want to make the right career decision, but the blizzard of options can be mind-boggling.

At Higher Options, Ireland’s leading education expo for second level students, we have staged dozens of careers talks ranging from sport to sustainability and construction to climate science to help guide you on the next step of your education journey.

We asked leaders in their field on the best study routes, what prospects are like for graduates and what it’s like to work in their area of expertise.

They include: how to choose the right course; agriculture; architecture; climate science and sustainability; bio and medical sciences; creative industries; working in the Irish language; hospitality & tourism; law; technology; construction; commercial sports; applying to the CAO; apprenticeships; applying for a Susi grant; applying to the Dare access scheme; and studying in the UK.


‘I haven’t a clue what to do’

There are hundreds of potential courses out there – so how do you find the one that’s right for you? Careers expert Brian Mooney shares expert advice with Evelyn O’Rourke on how to assess your interests and aptitudes and match them with relevant courses.

Links: Careers Portal tool for assessing aptitudes; how to choose the right course; Brian Mooney’s weekly advice column


Gerry Looby, strategy and development manager UCD, discusses courses available across agriculture, horticulture and forestry, as well as further education and alternative entry routes into courses for students outside the CAO points system.

Links: UCD school of agriculture and good science


What is it really like work as an architect? What courses should I consider? And how do I know this area is really for me? Joe Stokes, an architect, discusses his interests growing up, his route into architecture and what his day-to-day work involves. [Recorded in 2021]

Links: What does an architect do?; careers in architecture; courses in architecture

Bio and medical sciences

Carl O’Brien of The Irish Times discusses study and career options with Dr Linda Mulligan, Chief State Pathologist; Luke O’Neill, professor of biochemistry at Trinity College Dublin; and Gianpiero Cavalleri, professor of human genetics at the RCSI. [Recorded in 2021]

Links: Bio-medical research news; careers in biomedical sciences; courses in bio and medical sciences

Climate science and sustainability

Find out more about careers in renewable energy, energy regulation and forest management in this discussion with Brigid Walsh, co-founder of Solar Evolution; Connall Heussaf, energy analyst; and Joe Codd of forestry company Veon. [Video recorded in 2021].

Links: Careers in sustainable energy, the environment and environmental science


With big skills gaps there are lots of opportunities in construction. Brian Mooney of The Irish Times discusses study and career options with Ronan Murphy, apprentices training manager with John Sisk; John Sweeney, senior contracts manager with Collen Construction; and Joanne Cluxton, head of group HR at Mercury. [Recorded in 2021]

Links: Skills shortages in construction; careers in construction; further education courses; apprenticeships

Creative media

Cathal Gaffney, co-founder Brown Bag Films, discusses missing out on his chosen course, how he got into a further education course in animation and how his company has grown to employ 360 people around the world. He also explores the variety of roles available within animation. “Everyone can fit into animation,” he says. “It takes a village to make a cartoon.”

Links: BCFE (Ballyfermot College of Further Education); Brown Bag Films job opportunities;

Féidearthachtaí le Gaeilge (working in the Irish language)

Éanna Ó Caollaí of The Irish Times discusses career and study options with Eimear Ní Bhroinn, language affairs officer with the European Commission, Susan Folan, coordinator of the MA/postgraduate diploma in conference interpreting at University of Galway; and Dr TJ Ó Ceallaigh of Mary Immaculate College. [Recorded in 2021]

Links: Ag obair le Gaeilge; careers in translation; languages and the EU

Hospitality and tourism

Carl O’Brien of The Irish Times discusses study and career options with Cáit Noone, head of the Galway International Hotel School at Atlantic Technological University; Dr Seán T Ruane of the Shannon College of Hotel Management; and David Maxwell, managing director of Boojum. [Recorded in 2021]

Links: Skills shortages in hospitality & tourism; careers in hospitality & tourism; courses in this sector

Studying in tourism and hospitality

Max Reid, a marketing graduate with Fáilte Ireland, talks about studying international tourism and management at Atlantic Technological University, doing work placements abroad, study trips and job opportunities in the hospitality sector.

Links: ATU’s international tourism course


Law is an area with lot of career paths and opportunities for those who enjoy research, analysis and problem-solving in a fast-paced environment. Carl O’Brien of The Irish Times discusses study and career options with David Kenny, associate professor of law at Trinity College Dublin; Caoilfhionn Gallagher QC, barrister at Doughty Street Chambers; and Dearbhla O’Gorman, associated solicitor with Arthur Cox. [Recorded in 2021]

Links: Why choose law?; careers in law; courses in law;

Nursing & midwifery

What skills and aptitudes do you need to flourish as a nurse or midwife? What study pathways are available? Are lower points options available? Mary Devane, professional officer at the education department in the Nursing and Midwifery Board of Ireland (NWBI) answers all your questions.

Links: Becoming a nurse (NWBI)


Technology is a broad area with lots of different courses and career pathways. Ciara O’Brien, Irish Times technology journalist, discusses career and study options with Paul Collins, regional security officer Europe with Elavon; Edel Hesnan of Fastrack into IT (FIT) and Daniel CM Browne, founder of Autistic Spectrum IT / Cybersecurity Recruitment Initiative. [Recorded in 2021]

Links: Jobs in cybersecurity; careers in software; technology courses

Sports (commercial)

Kevin Quinn is head of commercial and marketing at Leinster Rugby, Ireland’s most successful domestic rugby team. He discusses his interests growing up, the courses he studied, his career path and what is involved his day-to-day work in helping to grow and expand the rugby team.

Links: Leinster Rugby; courses in advertising, marketing and public relations;

CAO applications process

Guidance counsellor Brian Mooney discusses the dos and dont’s of the college application process with Eileen Keleghan of the CAO.

Links: CAO; How to help with your child’s CAO application;


There are more and more opportunities to “earn and learn” as an apprentice. Guidance counsellor Brian Mooney discusses the different options with Alan McGrath, director of apprenticeships at Solas; Emily Clarke, an apprentice with ESB; Harry Angel, apprentice negotiator with DNG. [Recorded in 2021]

Links: Apprenticeships: all you need to know; Is an apprenticeship for me?; Apprenticeships and PLCs go mainstream;

Applying for a Susi grant

College is expensive – but grants can help cushion the financial blow. Are you eligible? What kind of supports are available? Can you get a grant for studying abroad or a postgraduate course? Guidance counsellor Brian Mooney guides you through the Student Universal Support Ireland (Susi) process. [Recorded in 2021]

Links: Susi website; New grants payment levels for 2023

Dare access routes

The Disability Access Route to Education (Dare) is a third level alternative admissions scheme for school leavers whose disabilities have had a negative impact on their second level education. Guidance counsellor Brian Mooney gives you all the information you need to make an application.

Links: Dare website

Studying in the UK

Thousands of Irish students study in the UK every year – but how do you go about it? What kind of fees do you face? And how do you go about applying to Oxford or Cambridge? Brian Mooney of The Irish Times discusses the process with Samantha Sykes of UCAS, Sarah Hales, regional manager with the University of Cambridge’s admissions office and Jonathan Holland, student outreach officer with Ulster University.

Links: Applying to UCAS; applying to Cambridge; applying to University of Ulster

Applying to Cambridge

Rachel Pennycock at University of Cambridge’s admissions office explains how to apply to Cambridge such as questionnaires, assessments, the interview process and timelines involved. She also explains what accommodation is available and how the college system works.

Cambridge Admissions Officehttps://www.cao.cam.ac.uk/