Business degrees among the most popular choices

A qualification in business is a great investment in your future career and there is a huge selection to choose from

One in every six applicants to the CAO seeking a college place in a level 8 higher degree lists a business degree programme as their first choice, second only in popularity to arts.

There is even greater demand at ordinary degree and higher cert level where the numbers seeking a business qualification rises to one in three applicants.

Post-Leaving Certificate (PLC) level, business courses are hugely popular with students, either as a route back into the CAO, or as a means of starting a career journey in a business environment.

A quick search on the website identifies 195 CAO level 8 courses in business, ranging from accounting in CIT on 316 points to tourism digital marketing in TU Dublin on 84.


There is a wider choice of options in the area of business for prospective students of every level of academic ability than in any other area of study.

Why opt to study a business programme at CAO levels?

A typical level 8 programme will be delivered in modules offering subjects such as accounting, economics, organisational behaviour, management theory, maths, statistics, and information and communications technology (ICT).

Many degree programmes such as business and management at TU Dublin offer a year on a work placement in companies operating in all the key business sectors from financial services, pharmaceutical, retail and ICT to consultancy, or a year abroad in another university.

Where the degree programme includes a language, such as NUI Galway’s commerce (international with French), a year abroad will be spent in a French university, where lectures and other academic activity will take place through that language.

Some universities such as DCU have specific global business degree programmes, in partnership with universities in other countries - France (DC112), Germany (113), Spain (114), USA (116) and Canada (119), where the country in which they will study for a year is selected by the student on their initial CAO application.

From a student’s perspective, the option to attend some of the top business schools in the world for a year - where their classmates will have paid annual fees of $40,000-$50,000, for the €3,000 registration charge, or nothing in the case of those who secure Susi grant funding - is very attractive.

There are many colleges which offer specialised business degree programmes. Dún Laoghaire’s IADT, for example, offers a business studies, entrepreneurship and management degree, which is very practical, with students learning how to identify and take business opportunities by combining knowledge, skills and competencies, through setting up a market stall in first year, followed by an online business in second year, as a core part of their assessment.

IADT also offers a postgraduate diploma in business in Cultural Events Management at Level 9, addressing the specific needs of the cultural and creative industries. The programme is aimed at those seeking employment as cultural events managers, working with an events management company, or being a freelance cultural entrepreneur or specialist manager within cultural industries.

The National College of Ireland was originally the College of Industrial Relations, and it continues to offer degrees specialising in the field of human and industrial relations, alongside accounting, finance, and business degree programmes.

PLC Business Programmes

Many of the Business degree programmes in our top universities requiring the highest CAO points, reserve up to ten per cent of places on these prestigious programmes to students progressing on from Level 5 or in some cases level 6 programmes offered through the local ETB College.

Many universities have come to realise that students who may have secured good to average Leaving Cert results, but who excelled in business subject, can after completing a PLC programme in Business, often outperform their high CAO point’s former peers, when they progress into the prestigious business degree programme, through the Further Education (FE) reserved places route.

If you are interested in seeking a place on one of the business degree programmes where the points pass the 500 mark, but will not secure CAO points in that range, then explore the business programmes on offer from your local FE College.

The costs associated with these options are modest and are locally based, thus avoiding accommodation and maintenance expenses.

What skills will business graduates acquire during their studies?

Business graduates will come to understand all the key functions within businesses such as marketing, accounting and finance, human resource management, ICT, etc.

They will also develop a set of generic skills which they can apply throughout their working lives in any career area. These will include: analytical ability; communication and presentation skills; goal setting; leadership skills; numeracy; problem-solving; team work; and time management.

As students’ progress through their business programme, they will decide to focus on business management or management consultancy, or opt to specialise in areas of accounting, economics, leadership practice, innovation and enterprise.

Advertising, public relations, retail management, sales, banking investment or financial services or marketing will also be options.

Where can I research my course options?

Third-level colleges and private business school are all accessed through the CAO application process, details of all courses are available on

Video and online profiles of those working in a wide range of business roles are freely available on the website, which will show prospective students where their course may ultimately lead them.

How do I decide which courses to apply for?

Happily, unlike other areas such as science, there is no requirement on commerce applicants to have studied a business subject for the Leaving Cert, so this option is open to all.

Another positive factor is the fact there are suitable courses for every applicant, from those who secured passes in five ordinary level papers in the Leaving Cert, to those who got 600 plus CAO points.

Adults who may not have ever sat the Leaving Cert can access business programmes at introductory levels and progress upwards to graduate and post graduate levels over time.

The key is to know your own competencies - better to start at a level 6 higher cert programme and progress up through the qualifications ladder, than to attempt a level 8 course beyond your current level of competency and fall at the first fence.

Brian Mooney

Brian Mooney

Brian Mooney is a guidance counsellor and education columnist. He contributes education articles to The Irish Times