CAO choice: Three ‘old favourites’ continue to appeal

Competition in teaching, law and medicine remains tough

Competition for college places in these disciplines remains tough and, while they can lead to rewarding and prestigious careers. Photograph: Getty Images

Competition for college places in these disciplines remains tough and, while they can lead to rewarding and prestigious careers. Photograph: Getty Images


It’s hard to overstate the appeal of a career in one of the ‘old favourites’ of teaching, law or medicine. After all, not everyone grows up wanting to be a manufacturing process specialist, an IT helpdesk manager or work in digital marketing.

Competition for college places in these disciplines remains tough and, while they can lead to rewarding and prestigious careers, each has problems and pressures unique to their sectors. This makes them highly demanding roles, so you’ll need dedication and resilience, especially in the early stages.

In other words, you have to really want to be a teacher, a lawyer or a doctor.


Teaching isn’t called the most noble profession for nothing. You get to educate and possibly inspire future generations, and pass on knowledge and essential life skills in the process.

There’s also a good balance between work and life that suits many people, particularly those who already have children or who plan to have them in the future.

Where to study

For primary teaching, six teacher-training colleges offer four-year degree programmes, including DCU, Marino College of Education in Dublin and Mary Immaculate in Limerick. The Church of Ireland College of Education in south Dublin trains primary teachers for Protestant schools, while Froebel College of Education at Maynooth University is the only publicly funded secular college of education in the State. There is also a private online-learning college, Hibernia, which has gained a good reputation.

You can study to be a post-primary teacher at post-graduate level at Trinity College, UCD, and NUI Galway.

Selection of CAO points in 2015

Primary teaching at Marino Institute of Education: 465; Maynooth University: 495. Post-primary education, DCU: 380.

Salary expectations

The basic starting wage for second-level teachers is € 28,092 and the maximum is €59,359. Teachers can receive extra allowances for additional educational qualifications. But the issue of the ‘two-tier’ pay scale has been proving a serious bone of contention for the current generation of new entrants to the profession.

Teachers who entered the profession after 2010 remain on significantly lower pay scales and fewer hours than their colleagues, even though they have the same responsibilities.


So you study law basically to become a solicitor or a barrister, right? You can, yes, but a law degree, much like engineering, can also form the basis for a skillset that lends itself to a wide variety of fields, and therefore a range of career options.

These skills include analysis, research and reasoning, but you can add communication and problem-solving to the list, as well.

The legal sector includes a wide variety of specialisms, including banking, property, family, company, EU, intellectual property, employment, human rights and criminal law.

Where to study

There are lots of options here for studying law, including at Trinity College, UCD, DCU, NUI Galway, UCC, Maynooth University and UL, along with Griffith College, DIT, WIT, Letterkenny IT, Athlone IT, IT Carlow and Dublin Business School.

Many colleges offer programmes combining the study of law with a language, economics, business, or even psychology.

Selection of CAO points 2015

Law and business, TCD: 580; Law, UCD: 520; Law and arts, Maynooth University: 450; Law and accounting, UL: 435; Law, DIT: 420; Law, WIT: 300; Law, Letterkenny IT: 270.

Career opportunities

According to the Law Society of Ireland, which represents solicitors, there is a strong demand at the moment for solicitors with commercial experience, while most large commercial firms are snapping up new qualified solicitors beyond their own intake of trainee solicitors.

“Increased activity in areas such as corporate mergers and acquisitions, commercial property, banking and funds and asset management is the main driver of this growth,” said a spokeswoman.

Work is also available in smaller practices in Dublin, but she conceded, however, that work opportunities outside of Dublin “lag behind somewhat”.

Salary expectations

According to Morgan McKinley’s salary survey, a newly qualified solicitor can expect to start on € 45,000 whether in a private practice or a commercial firm.

If you stay in private practice, your salary should rise to more than € 120,000 after five years, although solicitors in the Limerick or Waterford areas might only earn €90,000 over the same period.

The potential for higher pay (but presumably more responsibility) is, of course, greater in the big firms, with a head of legal in Dublin with more than five years’ experience earning as much as €300,000.


There’s a lot to be said for medicine as a career. As jobs go, it’s hard to find one more meaningful than helping to save lives and alleviate pain and suffering. It’s a respected profession and there’s a wide choice of careers, with many specialties.

There’s also scope to get involved with teaching, research and even management. It’s arguably one of the most recession-proof sectors, too.

But it can also be hugely demanding with very long hours. And there’s no doubt the many problems with our public health service contribute to or exacerbate these pressures.

So even if you have grown up wanting to be a doctor and understand how tough it is to start off with, all the media coverage about relatively poor pay and conditions in Ireland that has reportedly seen disconcertingly high numbers of Irish doctors (and nurses) emigrate overseas may be giving you second thoughts.

If so, it might be worth speaking to a few doctors and ask them for their opinions about the long-term career outlook for the profession.

Where to study

Trinity leads in the international rankings for medicine, followed by UCC, the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland (RCSI) and UCD. NUI Galway also has an undergraduate medical course. UL has a four-year graduate entry medical degree programme open to graduates of any discipline.

Career opportunities

Selection of CAO points 2015

Medicine, TCD: 733; Medicine, RCSI: 729; Medicine, UCC: 726; Medicine, UCD: 736.

Salary expectations

The starting salaries for junior doctors range from € 30,000 for an intern just out of medical school to about € 80,000 for a specialist or senior registrar at the top of the scale.