Business degrees are among the most popular course choices

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

Students at work at the IADT in Dún Laoaghaire. Photograph: Cyril Byrne / THE IRISH TIMES

Students at work at the IADT in Dún Laoaghaire. Photograph: Cyril Byrne / THE IRISH TIMES


One in every six applicants to the CAO seeking a college place in a level 8 higher degree in 2016 has listed a business degree programme as their first choice, second only in popularity to arts, an increase of 8 per cent on 2015.

At ordinary degree and higher cert level, the numbers seeking a business qualification rises to one in three applicants. At 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 318 CAO courses in business, from accounting in UCC on 465 points to tourism marketing in DIT on 295.

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 PLC or CAO levels?

A typical level 8 programme will deliver modules, such as UCD’s bachelor of commerce. The modules include accounting, economics, organisational behaviour, management theory, maths, statistics, and information and communications technology (ICT).

Many degree programmes such as business and management at DIT are offered over an additional fourth year, which will be spent 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 NUIG’s commerce (international with French), the year abroad will be 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 degree programme in cultural enterprise, focused on employment opportunities in radio, film and television production, theatre management, music management, visual arts management, festival and events management, advertising copyrighting, arts venue management, marketing, programme management, event logistics management, market research, and social media marketing.

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.

What skills will business graduates acquire during their studies?

They will also come to understand key functions within all businesses such as marketing, accounting and finance.

Business graduates 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?

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

Third-level colleges and private business school are all accessed through the CAO application process.

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 fail at the first fence.