Don’t give up on your dream career

Every year, many Leaving Cert students are upset because they did not secure a place on their preferred course, causing many to feel they have to give up on their dream career. There are alternative ways to obtain a place in courses such as medicine, physiotherapy, dentistry, veterinary, speech and language therapy (SLT ) as well as occupational therapy (OT ). It is very important to do the research.

Medicine, dentistry, pharmacy and physiotherapy are offered at undergraduate level in Hungary and Poland. These courses are recognised by the Irish governing bodies, meaning that Irish students who obtain qualifications in these countries can return and practice in Ireland. However, they may be subject to more exams in Ireland to satisfy professional body requirements. Find out more or Postgraduate medicine (a four year accelerated course ) is offered in UCD, UL, UCC, University of Galway and the RCSI. The UK and the Northern Ireland also offer postgraduate medicine although the application process is still competitive and the fees are costly. For example, Queen’s and Ulster University offer a four year postgraduate medicine course.

Studying physiotherapy at undergraduate level in Holland is very popular with Irish students as it is cheaper and easier to meet the entry requirements. provides support to Irish students applying to Holland. There are also accelerated (two year pre- registration ) postgraduate physiotherapy courses available in the UL, UCC and the UK allowing graduates to become fully qualified physiotherapists. The University of Aberdeen and the Metropolitan University of Manchester are very popular with Irish students. Check out the individual university websites for more information.

Postgraduate course in veterinary

Veterinary medicine is offered at undergraduate level in UCD. Work experience in veterinary along with honours Leaving Cert chemistry are requirements. There are also five postgraduate places available in veterinary in UCD for science graduates who have experience in veterinary related work. The Irish Government is currently in the process of developing a postgraduate veterinary course to allow more graduates to pursue a career in veterinary.

A two year accelerated pre-registration course in speech and language therapy and occupational therapy is also offered in UL. Graduates with a degree from any discipline can apply to these courses but are required to sit the HPAT as an entry requirement. This HPAT exam however is slightly different to the HPAT exam used for medicine. Check out the University of Limerick website for more information.

All of these courses are highly competitive and require a lot of planning to secure a place. Many of the postgraduate courses require a 2.1 primary degree, mostly in science with the exception of OT and SLT, as well as personal statement and certain scores in alternative exams such as the GAMSAT or HPAT. Gaining experience through a job, or shadowing a professional in the course you want to pursue, will strengthen your application.

Sometimes students lose hope when the Leaving Cert doesn’t work out the way they had hoped, but the good news is that there are plenty of alternative pathways to gaining a place on competitive courses either through postgraduate study or studying abroad, but the most important thing is to research all your options and plan well in advance. Plenty of Irish students have managed to secure their dream career through these alternative pathways so don’t give up on your dream.

Claire Murphy is a qualified guidance counsellor with career guidance experience at second and third level. Claire is also the chairperson for the Galway/Mayo branch of the Institute of Career Guidance Counsellors. You can contact Claire at


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