My daughter is worried about high CAO points for nursing. Are there other options?

Ask Brian: Even if she misses out on points, there are alternative entry routes available

Nursing is a diverse and rewarding career and offers excellent job and life satisfaction from helping others. Photograph: iStock

My daughter is completing transition year. She is a kind, caring and empathetic teenager who really wants to be a nurse. I fear she could miss out on the high CAO points required for nursing. What alternative pathways exist for people like my daughter who want to pursue a career as a nurse?

Nursing is a diverse and rewarding career and offers excellent job and life satisfaction from helping others. However, it is an extremely competitive career to enter and requires relatively high CAO points. There are about 2,000 places available for nursing and midwifery programmes in colleges from Letterkenny to Waterford annually.

There are 45 honours degree programmes for nurses in Ireland, which are divided into four disciplines: general nursing; intellectual disability nursing; psychiatric nursing; and children's and general nursing (integrated).

When your daughter is considering her CAO options, it would be useful to consider the four disciplines that are available. They all lead to a career in degree and registration with the Nursing and Midwifery Board of Ireland (NMBI), which is mandatory for any nurse who practises here.


If your daughter’s first choice is general nursing, she might also consider psychiatric nursing or intellectual disability nursing as an option, as the points requirements for these are often less.

An alternative route is to apply through the Further Education and Training route. Pre-nursing courses are offered by many Post-Leaving Cert colleges. Unfortunately, only tiny numbers of places in higher education courses are offered to graduates of these programmes. Minister for Further and Higher Education Simon Harris has pledged to address the shortage of places available through this entry route.

Hibernia College has recently offered a new undergraduate level eight nursing degree over three years and four months, in partnership with the RCSI group. The course, which combines online and in-person classes, is open to those with minimum entry requirements in the Leaving Cert or via the further education route. Tuition fees are €7,995 annually, with a reduced fee of €3,000 for the first three stages of the course.

Your daughter could also choose to work in the health sector and seek entry to nursing as a mature entrant. An option that many people choose is the role of a healthcare assistant. At age 23, your daughter would then be eligible to apply as a mature applicant through the CAO. She would be required to complete an NMBI-approved assessment test as part of this process.

The most important thing for your daughter to remember is that there are various entry routes. She shouldn’t be disheartened if she does not get a CAO place.

For more information on nursing careers, visit the NMBI website or email