Changing your mind? Ten courses to consider

You still have a chance to change your mind, so if you want to consider a change of tack why not consider some of the following options

Doing the research when considering your course of study should result in a more fulfilling and successful college experience. File photograph: Antonio Guillem

Agriculture: Agricultural science at UCC (CK412)

There was, perhaps, a time when an agriculture degree invoked pastoral images: sowing crops, milking cows, bringing sheep to the market.

Today, that has changed: food is now a major export for Ireland, and the agriculture sector across the world is grappling with the challenge of how to feed the world in a sustainable way that does not destroy our fragile ecosystems and further increase global temperatures. It makes it a hugely exciting area for research and innovation and means that agriculture graduates are as likely to be working in a lab or a food business as they are to be out working the land.

UCC’s agriculture degree is an upstart compared to UCD’s longer-established course, but in just a few short years it has gained global recognition as one of the world’s 60 best places to study the subject.

UCC’s course has a slightly higher emphasis on dairy farming - not surprising, given its location in the heartland of Munster — but students also learn about farm management, business, technology and a range of other topics. There is also a 12-week work placement that forms the basis of student projects.


Arts and humanities: Global languages at UCD (DN541)

Arts and humanities courses are often considered as the fallback option for CAO applicants who aren’t quite sure what course they want to do, or what career they’d like to pursue, but an arts degree is useful in its own right because it produces graduates with strong critical thinking, research and analytical skills.

Many arts graduates go on to study a postgraduate course — and they cost more money — where they can develop more specific qualifications, so an arts course may not be your best bet if you’re eager to get straight to work.

There are many, many arts and humanities courses that students might consider, but UCD’s global languages course is a standout for anyone with any kind of aptitude for languages. Because so many global companies have headquarters in Ireland, there’s a strong demand for graduates with language skills.

Applicants for this course choose two of French, Spanish, Italian and German on the CAO form. Applicants who wish to take a third language can choose one at the start of the first term.

Business: International business at UL (LM056)

Business more often brings to mind stockbrokers and the world of high finance and banking — a big part of it, yes, but business is everywhere.

In this list of courses, business stands out because, no matter what company you work for — or whether you ultimately set your own up — it is, ultimately, a business, and it will need people who understand business.

The Kemmy School of Business at UL hosts a number of undergraduate business courses, including the BA in International Business, where students can pick from over 100 modules and also have the option of learning a language. An international study and work placement is a core part of the programme.

Perhaps the most interesting dimension of this particular degree: students can, if they wish, pursue a dual degree, studying the first part of their course in Limerick and then transferring to a business school in France, Poland or Japan. At the end of their four-year course, they will have a degree from two third-levels.

New module at DCU: Computer science (DC121)

Despite recent cutbacks in the technology sector, anyone with a degree in computer science is well-placed for the jobs market both at home and abroad — and to have a lucrative salary.

DCU’s computer science course has a broad scope and prepares students for a professional career in computing and information technology.

Among its most exciting modules is Introduction to Machine Learning (in the real world) a new, first-of-its-kind machine learning module, developed by the DCU School of Computing in association with the Insight SFI Research Centre for Data Analytics.

Machine learning is a rapidly developing AI application that enables systems to self-programme using learnings from patterns in large data sets. The technology is transforming decision-making processes in fields ranging from manufacturing to retail, healthcare to law.

This module will engage students in the latest applications of machine learning in fields such as water quality, health, smart cities, autonomous vehicles, logistics, fintech and agri-tech.

DCU undergraduates will develop a deeper understanding of the methods employed by data scientists, as well as a broader understanding of the real-world applications of machine learning. The students will learn when and how best to use the methodology and, most importantly, the ethics associated with using AI.

Construction: Quantity surveying and construction economics at TU Dublin (TU837)

Have you no homes to go to? Well, no actually — and students are among those hardest hit by the housing policies of successive Irish governments, which have led to a major shortage of places to live.

One of the factors that is slowing construction down is a lack of suitably qualified construction graduates. With Ireland’s population on an upward trajectory, a growing demand for retrofitting and sustainable homes to address the global climate change and biodiversity crisis and — hopefully — lessons learned from the mistakes of the last entangled housing boom and property crash, the need for more construction graduates is likely to continue.

Students on TU Dublin’s quantity surveying and construction economics course will gain an understanding of the technical, economic, legal, financial, managerial and administrative framework that the industry operates within. Ultimately, they will be prepared for a career as a quantity surveyor and economic advisor or manager, or as a building development coordinator and manager.

Creative arts: Film at Trinity College (TR042)

Guidance counsellors always tell students to follow their passion, but many parents and guardians will be wary of their children exploring a career in the creative arts, whether that’s through animation or visual arts, music, writing, theatre or film.

But, while some sectors can be harder to get established in than others, there are career paths available in the creative arts — and, in any case, even if it doesn’t pan out, most employers value the skills and creativity that are developed through a music, film, art or creative writing course.

Ireland’s recent haul of Oscar nominations highlighted how this country has become a hub for animation and film, and Trinity College’s well-regarded film degree takes a more academically focused approach to the study of film, while also learning about screenwriting and film-making.

Engineering: Engineering (Energy Systems) at University of Galway (GY413)

Engineers are the world’s creators and innovators, and you wouldn’t be reading this — either in print or on a mobile, tablet or other electronic device — without them.

The climate crisis may be the greatest challenge the world has ever faced, but innovation is bringing hope that we can avert the worst effects of global heating and biodiversity breakdown — and engineers are among those at the forefront.

At the University of Galway, the Bachelor in Engineering (Energy Systems) course is creating graduates for careers in power generation and transmission, smart-grid design, green hydrogen, energy supply management, sustainable transformation of organisations and so much more. All students on this course undertake an eight-month work placement, and there are options for studying abroad.

Health sciences: Advanced therapeutic technologies at RCSI (RC006)

Health sciences have always been popular with students, which is perhaps why medicine, nursing, dentistry, physiotherapy and pharmacy have always had relatively high points.

But there are other options. In recent years, the Royal College of Surgeons Ireland — long-known at home and internationally for its medical training — was awarded university status, and it has been expanding its course offerings to undergraduates, postgraduates and healthcare professionals both in Ireland and overseas.

Last year, it launched a new undergraduate course, designed with employment in mind, aiming to meet the current and future needs of the (bio) pharmaceutical and related industries.

The BSc in Advanced Therapeutic Technologies, run by the university’s School of Pharmacy and Biomolecular Sciences, will bring its students to the cutting-edge of medical advancements.

The course provides students with knowledge of healthcare innovations and technologies in areas such as genetics, precision medicines, computational biology, data analytics, drug delivery, pharmacology and connected health, fusing traditional scientific knowledge with digital technology. It has a real-world focus, ensuring that students have the chance to apply their skills to modern, complex healthcare problems, and there are professional formation modules and an eight-month pharmaceutical industry placement in year three, either in or outside Ireland.

Law: Law at Maynooth University (MH501)

A law degree would seem like the pathway to a career as a barrister or solicitor and, although this is often the case, some law graduates ultimately pursue a different pathway. This is because a law degree provides rigorous critical thinking and research skills, producing graduates who know how to analyse information and put forward a strong case — whether that’s ultimately in law, business, education or something completely different. And, with or without a law degree, postgraduate training is required in order to be allowed practice

Maynooth University’s four-year well-regarded law degree provides a thorough grounding in legal principles, with students able to apply for a work experience placement or a year abroad. There’s a strong emphasis on written and verbal advocacy skills.

Science: Nutrition and health science at TUS (US950)

Science degrees can be very broad, with many third-levels offering a general entry degree where students cover a range of topics in the first year before specialising in their second or third year. This can be a good option for students who enjoy science but may not know exactly where they would like to specialise, or where they would like to expand their knowledge between the three most familiar disciplines of physics, chemistry and biology.

Other universities, however, allow students to specialise from the outset. At the TUS Midlands campus —formerly Athlone Institute of Technology — the Bachelor of Science (Nutrition and Health Science) focuses on nutrition through a scientific lens, with an emphasis on emerging issues such as biotechnology, food sustainability and security. Like all technological university courses, there’s a strong emphasis on preparing graduates for employment in the real world.