I want to do my bit to save the planet. Is there a college course for me?

Interest in environment-related courses has grown hugely in recent times

I’m due to sit my Leaving Cert shortly and am still deciding on course choices. I want to do my bit to help save the planet through a degree programme in the environmental area, but I’m not sure what’s right for me.

You’re not alone: interest in environment-related courses has grown hugely in recent times. This year, CAO first preferences for these programmes are up by 35 per cent. It is likely that Minister for Education Norma Foley’s plans to introduced a new Leaving Cert subject – “Climate Action and Sustainable Development” – will add to this.

You can study courses related to the environment from a range of disciplines including science, engineering, earth science, health science and agricultural science.

Qualifax.ie is a good place to start to see what courses are available across higher education. You’ll find, for example, DCU’s environmental science and technology (DC166), NUI Galway’s environmental science (GY308) and TU Dublin’s environmental health (TU869).

Degrees related to the environment are also available through common entry courses, but the course listings on the CAO website won’t include all the degree subjects available in such programmes.

A useful tip is to use the advanced search facility in Qualifax.ie and enter environment-related words into the search field for both "course title" and "prospectus content".

For example, the UCD science (DN200) course offers degrees in environmental biology, zoology, plant biology, geology and chemistry with environmental & sustainable chemistry.

Sustainability is one of the greatest challenges facing us today and many of these courses will combine the economic, environmental and social dimensions

The advantage of this common entry science course in UCD is that the first year for the biological, earth sciences and chemistry disciplines are similar, so it gives you time to make an informed decision about the degree path you would like to focus on.

If, for example, you wish to apply for environmental biology in UCD, you select science (DN200) and then the biological, biomedical and biomolecular sciences stream.

Interdisciplinary courses

There are also many interdisciplinary courses available in areas such as sustainability and engineering. Sustainability is one of the greatest challenges facing us today and many of these courses will combine the economic, environmental and social dimensions of sustainability and have a broader appeal.

Examples include: UCD’s sustainability (DN240), TCD’s environmental science and engineering (TR064), and DCU’s climate and environmental sustainability (DC294).

If you're worried that CAO points requirements are out of your reach, you could explore courses related to the environment offered at Levels 5/6 through your local further education (FE) colleges. Fetchcourses.ie, run by Solas, has good information on this.

Many higher education institutions now offer reserved places on their degree programmes to FE graduates. These alternative pathways are competitive and the third-level institutions admissions teams are best-placed to advise you on these routes.