Find the right business course for your needs

Finding right course can seem daunting so make sure to research your next step in education

All businesses need staff to manage, balance the books, market their work and develop the firm. Photograph: iStockphoto/Getty Images

All businesses need staff to manage, balance the books, market their work and develop the firm. Photograph: iStockphoto/Getty Images


How can a student even begin choosing a business course? Business is a hugely diverse profession and, while some will opt for a course because they want to work as an accountant, others might have a wish to set up their own music or food business and use the business degree as a way to take control of their destiny.

Restaurants, law firms, media companies, agricultural producers, schools and colleges, engineering firms, hospitals, shops and retail, scientific researchers and labs: all of them need people to manage, balance the books, market their work and develop the firm.

Finding the right course can seem daunting, with hundreds of choices on offer and all sorts of unexpected permutations and combinations – think of business with Irish, equine business, business with law and even business with psychology – and you get a flavour for how diverse this area is.

You can get a sense of the range of courses on offer by browsing through qualifax.ieand, from here, it is a good idea to visit the websites of the institutions you are interested in.

For further education courses, which contains clear and accessible information about all types of courses in the sector including post-Leaving Cert, vocational training opportunities, community education and more. It is a really well-designed site and easy to navigate through.

Of course, words on a page cannot give you a sense of what the college might be like and whether it is a place you would want to study in. Therefore, it is a good idea to organise a visit to the open day if you can – especially if you are opting for a full-time course.

Pay attention to whether or not there is a work placement element on the business course, especially in the higher education sector, as this will be particularly useful if you aspire to set up your own business. A good business course should also give you some sense of how to be a self-starter and how you might begin building your own company.

Here, we have rounded up a selection of courses in further education, apprenticeship, higher education and postgraduate.

Level 5 and 6

Not everyone wants to go to third-level and it is not always the right move. A level 5 or 6 certificate can be particularly useful for school-leavers and older applicants who want to get a business qualification for a particular purpose, although most of these courses provide an opportunity to progress to third-level.

Start your own business

Why bother with a three- or four-year degree course to set up your own business, when you could learn it after college in a shorter evening, online or part-time course? This would free you up to, for instance, train as an engineer and invent your product, or as a chef to set up your own food business or as a graphic designer to set up your own design firm.

A number of local Education and Training Boards (ETBs) and training centres around the country, including in Dublin, Cork, Navan, Dundalk and Limerick, offer evening courses focused on how to start your own business. All that is needed is a standard Leaving Cert and the students learn about the essentials of starting a business, conducting a personal assessment and conducting a business assessment.

In Cork Training Centre, modules on the course include formulating a business plan, accounts and break-even analysis, selling skills, marketing, franchising, legislation and insurance. It runs for two evenings a week over six weeks.

Higher National Diploma in Business, Ballyfermot College

Work experience, managing financial resources and decisions, marketing, financial reporting and decision-making are among the fundamentals of this one-year, full-time level five business diploma course. The course contains a considerable amount of practical work assignments. The course runs for 40 weeks and can be a stepping stone to further study or a valuable qualification in its own right. See for more information.

Professional diploma in digital marketing (online)

Trust me, I am a journalist: digital is where it’s at. This diploma is aimed at professionals looking to develop their skills in marketing and reaching out to the vast audiences online (sure where else would they be?). This course is developed by the Digital Marketing Institute and is typically completed in about 16 weeks although students have the option of finishing it over 26 weeks.

– For more courses, go to

Level 7: ordinary degrees

These courses are a good bet for those who can’t or don’t want to commit for a four-year degree course but still want a qualification and an opportunity to build a career. In most cases, transferring to a level 8 honours degree is fairly straightforward.

Business, Griffith College Dublin

This three-year full-time BA degree programme at the fee-paying college takes a broad sweep, and includes IT skills for business, business management, business maths, introduction to business law, employability skills, marketing, HR management and much more. Students then choose a specialisation in third year, and the course has received good feedback. Students who complete the ordinary BA degree are eligible to progress on to the final year of the honours BA in business studies. Griffith also offers a business programme in Limerick.

Business information systems, Galway-Mayo IT

This is a three-year full-time course with students based in Galway city. The aim of this course is to produce graduates who can bridge the gap between IT systems and techies on the one hand and the business side of the organisation on the other. The course prides itself on an up-to-date knowledge of new and emerging technologies, particularly cloud computing and data analytics. Students on the three-year level 7 programme have the option of progressing to a level 8 honours degree.

Spa and wellness management, Athlone Institute of Technology

A good example of how a career in business can often take you to unexpected places. This three-year, full-time BA course provides a good start for people who would like to build a career in Ireland’s thriving health, wellness and tourism industry. The programme’s modules include customer care and reception, anatomy and physiology, diet and nutrition, therapeutic massage and body treatments, accounting and human resource management. There is also 120 hours of work placement. Successful graduates are eligible to move on to the Bachelor of Business (hons) in wellness tourism.

Level 8: honours degrees

Apprenticeship in insurance practice, IT Sligo

Apprenticeships have long been associated with trades, but this newly developed insurance apprenticeship allows students to learn on the job and build up vital experience while being paid the same as any other new employee. Students also attend online lectures once a week which are delivered from IT Sligo. Students gain a certification for each of the three years of this course, culminating in a level 8 degree. When they graduate, they have three years of industry experience – a big headstart over other business graduates. More professional apprenticeships will be rolled out over the coming years.

Bachelor of Commerce (International), University College Dublin

One of the most popular commerce degrees in the State, this four-year programme gears students up for a career in international business, with a grounding in both theory and practice. One of the standout features of an international commerce degree is, of course, an international language. In semester one, students choose two languages from French, Spanish, Italian, German or Chinese, most of which can be studied from beginner level; at the end of first year, students choose one language to specialise in. Other modules include accounting, economics, maths and statistics, the role of business in society, management theory and marketing. Modern language students spend third year abroad in a partner university or business school, although Chinese language students will take modules in English.

Business, economic and social studies (BESS), Trinity College

This is a particularly popular course which includes, as the title suggests, a broad spectrum of courses across business, economics, sociology and political science. In a common first year, students study all four disciplines and then, in second year, they can either choose one of these as a speciality or, alternatively, a joint honours degree with a combination of business and economics, business and political science, sociology and business, economics and political science, economics and sociology or political science and sociology. There are also complementary modules on offer in law, languages, philosophy or social policy. There is a study abroad option in third year and, in the final year, a research dissertation.

Law and accounting, University of Limerick

A four-year, full-time BA degree aimed at people with a mathematical mind, and which allows students leave with both a full law and full accounting degree. An understanding of accounting is particularly useful for corporate law, while a knowledge of the law is very useful in accounting firms. Students on this course will learn core law and accounting subjects as well as economics, tax and maths, while there is also an eight-month period of “co-operative education” in third year (effectively, a work placement with a focus on learning).

Food marketing and entrepreneurship, University College Cork

All through the recession, the State food industry grew in size and has now become a major export leader. This BSc course, offered on a full-time basis over four years, combines food science with business and enterprise skills, helping students to develop products and bring them to market. Consumer, business and policy perspectives are all considered, with modules including food business, supply-chain management, principles of food science and technology, food market research methods and enterprise and innovation. There is also a compulsory six-month industrial placement during third year.

Gnó agus Gaeilge – Business & Irish, Dublin City University

Whatever you might hear in the rather tired radio and TV debates about Irish, there is a whole cohort of people who live the language every day and simply want to get on with their lives and use their first language where possible. Because of this, there are many employment prospects for business graduates with a command of Irish across a range of creative and business roles. This full-time course, offered over three or four years, includes business modules such as marketing, organisational studies, corporate law and governance alongside language modules.

BBA in equine business, Maynooth University

The Republic has a thriving horse industry and one which has been consistently and heavily backed by consecutive governments. Students can leave after three years with a BBS qualification or can choose to opt for a year of work placement and leave after four years. Modules on this course include accounting, marketing and business landscapes. Equine business electives include operations and supply-chain management, corporate finance, stud farm business management and racehorse and equine event management.

Bachelor of Commerce (Accounting), NUI Galway

This is a three-year degree course, although students can opt to add a year consisting of one semester on work placement and one semester studying in the US or Europe. The course is built around a broad business education with modules including business law, contemporary management and management, alongside more specialised modules for students who want to pursue a career in accounting or a related discipline.

Level 9: Postgraduate

This is where graduates can go on to develop a speciality. Students on postgraduate courses do not need an undergraduate business qualification; it is just as likely that they could have an arts, science or law degree, which gives them a broader range of skills and knowledge.

Supply-chain management – conversion programme, Dublin Institute of Technology

Think of everything you buy, from essentials such as food to big ticket purchases such as phones and TVs, or even holidays: every item or experience has supply chain managers in the background. These are the people that purchase raw ingredients and make sure that the product ends up on the shelves. This is a part-time course leading to a master of science (MSc) qualification. The programme’s modules are all 40 hours in duration and take place from Thursday evenings to a Saturday.

Masters of Business Administration, various colleges

The daddy of business postgraduates and the most valued of all. It is a fairly expensive option: the fees for the full-time MBA course in UCD, the highest-ranked of all from one of Europe’s leading business schools, come in at €34,500. You can find cheaper and well-regarded courses – often less than half the price – in NUI Galway, DCU, WIT, DIT, UL, UCC and other third-levels. These courses are usually only open to graduates who have at least three years of experience in business. Surveys and studies have generally shown strong wage and career prospects for MBA graduates.