Before starting to consider courses, it is important to have a few questions in mind to help you in choosing the correct course for your particular life situation. By finding answers to some of these questions could help in making the decision about which course suits your own personal circumstances.

The course provider will tell you the qualification the course provides.  It is essential you check the course or qualification is what you need, is worth doing and the provider is credible.

You may wish to check which qualification is required for your career preference at CareersPortal.

The National Framework of Qualifications provides a structure to compare qualifications and to ensure the qualification is quality assured and recognised both at home and abroad.

A typical query about courses is, “Is this course recognised?”  To answer this question, one must ask another question first – “Who do you want the course to be recognised by?”

If you want to do a course to qualify for a particular job – then you must check if the course is recognised by employers in that job area.


“Will this course be recognised by the employer I want to work for and/ or in the area of work I am interested in?”

It is not usual to be required to have different qualifications for different employers within a sector.  Usually, employers in an area of work are looking for similar qualifications.   These qualifications may sometimes be an informal requirement of the job area without being written down, e.g. manual handling and first aid courses for applicants to Care Assistant positions.

In other cases employers are members of a professional organisation e.g. Engineers Ireland, Psychological Society of Ireland and the Royal Ireland Association of Architects and through this organisation agree the requirements for new entrants to their career area.  In these cases it is possible to check which courses are “recognised” for the career area by checking with the relevant professional organisation.  Click on the link for a list of – professional organisations or have a look at the “IPA Administration Yearbook and Diary” in your local library.

If the career area is among the public services then it is likely to be a government department who will decide the type of qualifications required to deliver such a service.  For example the Department of Education and Science decide the entry requirements for its teaching and other staff.  The Department of Health decide the entry requirements for its staff.

If there is a particular employer in a particular location you specifically hope to work for then it is advisable to check directly with that employer about which course(s)/ qualification(s) they “recognise”.

Education Provider

You may be taking a course in order to become eligible for a higher level course e.g. studying for a degree to become eligible for the Professional Master of Education (Primary Teaching).  It is advisable to check with the provider of the higher level course about which courses they “recognise” for entry.

Working Abroad

Perhaps you are planning to work abroad and are concerned as to whether your course will be “recognised” there.  It is again essential to check with the employers and/ or professional organisations as described above in your destination country.  Your situation will also be considerably helped if the body who awards/ accredits your qualification is recognised internationally.

Have you come to Ireland to work?

You may have the qualifications required for a particular career in your own country and would like to know if those qualifications will allow you to work in the same career here.  The following information on gaining recognition of qualifications obtained outside out of Ireland might be of assistance to you.

Please refer to the list of contact details for Irish professional organisations or in the IPA Administration Yearbook and Diary (available in local libraries).  If your profession is on the list please contact the relevant association/ institute or state department directly to find out the procedure you must go through in order to gain recognition of your qualification in Ireland.

If your profession is not on this list or you would like to take part in further education in Ireland you should contact NARIC Ireland.

Reasons to get qualifications recognised

There are a number of reasons why it is beneficial to get an international award recognised in Ireland.  If you would like to take part in further studies, the education provider will need to see if you fulfil the entry requirements for the course or employers (who might not be familiar with the education system outside of Ireland) can determine that you are qualified to undertake a specific function in an organisation.

NARIC Ireland does not operate a public office or a call-in service. If you are unable to find your qualification on their database you should send your query by registering with their QHelp service.

Documentation that may be required by the NARIC Ireland:

  • A certified photocopy of the qualification
  • An official translation of the qualification into English or Irish
  • A certified photocopy of your transcript/ mark sheets/ list of subjects passed in original language
  • An official translation into English or Irish of transcript/ mark sheets/ list of subjects passed
  • Documentation in support of name change (if applicable) e.g. marriage certificate
  • If you are applying for recognition of a postgraduate qualification, you must provide evidence regarding your undergraduate qualification

Translation of qualifications:

You may be asked to provide certified copies of qualifications in the original language.

(A certified photocopy is a copy that has been signed and stamped by an authorised person such as a Justice of the Peace, a Notary Public, a lawyer or a solicitor etc. The authorised person needs to sign your copies stating that they are true and correct, print their name and position and if possible affix an official stamp.)

NARIC Ireland does not translate qualifications.  You must get your award translated by a registered translator.  You can contact your country’s embassy in Ireland who should be able to provide you with a list of registered translators.
This link will give you a list of foreign embassies in Ireland.

Simply curiosity

You may be taking a course for leisure purposes and you might simply be curious about who awards your course(s)/qualification(s).  Please refer to the section below on “awarding/accreditation body”.

Knowing the body which awards/accredits the course you want to do is important.

The course provider

Some course providers e.g. Higher Education Institutions like Dublin City University, University of Limerick, UCD, Trinity College Dublin, have the authority to “award” qualifications.

An External Accreditation Body

Where a course provider does not have sufficient authority to award qualifications that will have national and international recognition, they will usually request permission to provide courses awarded by an external accreditation body e.g.

National Qualifications Framework

Apart from the awarding body you might want to understand what level of course you are taking and how it compares to other qualifications you have already.  A National Qualifications Framework has been developed for Ireland and categorises courses into ten levels.  This allows you to compare and contrast courses according to their level.  For example on the framework you can see that a standard Leaving Certificate and a QQI level 5 award are considered to be of an equivalent level.

The course you are hoping to study could be available to you locally.  If you are not sure where the course is running, you should contact your local Adult Educational Guidance and Information Service.

Travel information to and from Carlow is listed in the ‘Available Support‘ Section on this website.

Course duration can vary from four hours to six years.
Work experience could be a mandatory component of the course you are planning to study with the aim of providing learners with the opportunity to acquire an understanding of the world of work and to gain an insight into their skills and abilities.

The education centre might have a dedicated placement officer to assist in finding and securing placements for learners, while other centres will expect each individual learner to secure their own placement.

It is important to try and source work experience in a job area you are interested in, to get maximum value from the placement. Ask the course providers, where previous learners have gone to, you might be able to approach these companies or organisations also. It is important to keep in mind the reason for undertaking the placement and if assessment is involved to ensure all the necessary elements are being carried out.

Low fees or no fees

A considerable range of educational opportunities, mostly full time, are subsidised by the government leading to no fees or low fees for the participant.  Examples of such education opportunities are:

  • ETB (Education & Training Boards) Adult Education Service – Adult Learning Schemes, BTEI, Community Education, Further Education courses in Training Centres, VTOS.
  • Post Leaving Certificate/ Institutes of Further Education Courses (A registration fee is charged by some centres)
  • Courses provided by the State Training Agencies e.g., Bord Iascaigh Mhara, Coillte, Crafts Council of Ireland, Failte Ireland, Teagasc.
  • Courses run by community groups

Check with your local ETB Adult Educational Guidance and Information Service for information on low fees or no fees courses.

Free Fees Initiative – Higher Education Institutions

Approved third level courses are free to the following groups first-time undergraduates and those who hold E.U. nationality or official refugee status and have been ordinarily resident in an E.U. Member State for at least three of the five years preceding their entry to an approved third level course.

Please note there is a registration fee of €3,000 for full time courses in Higher Education Institutions. This is a charge separate to tuition fees and is paid at the start of each year of the course. Check the Eligibility Reckoner on the SUSI website to see if you are eligible for assistance with the payment of this fee.

Private Centres

Other education centres which are not subsidised by the Department of Education and Science or other government departments, will have individual fees specific to their own centres.  The fees can include tuition fees, registration/ administration charges, books, exam fees etc. You will need to check with each individual centre for up-to-date information on their fees.

In the ‘Available support’ section on this website you will be able to find more information on financial and childcare supports.

Examples of entry requirements/eligibility requirements:

  • A course might be for women or men only
  • The course might be for people from a certain residential area – e.g. RAPID funded courses.
  • You might need to be a social welfare/ medical card recipient.
  • The course might only be for people with a Leaving Certificate or perhaps, for people without a Leaving Certificate.
  • Specific work experience might be required

Some further education courses have no, few or flexible (decided on individual circumstances) entry requirements. Examples are:

  • Adult Education Providers (see our list of adult education centres in Carlow)
  • Short evening classes e.g. in local schools
  • Many of the courses organised by local community organisations

Where a course requires previous educational qualifications e.g. Leaving Certificate or QQI 5, then there is usually a distinction made between:

  1. Applicants under 23 years at the 1st of January of the year of the course start
  2. Applicants over 23 years at the 1st of January of the year of the course start (called “Mature Students”)

Applicants under 23 years

  • You will usually have a Leaving Certificate or QQI Level 5 qualification to enter a course at Third Level/ Higher Education Institutions – NFQ levels 6-8.  However, always check with the Education Provider as there may be alternative entry routes e.g. Access courses.
  • You will usually need Leaving Certificate qualifications to enter QQI Level 5 courses at Institutes of Further Education/ Post Leaving Certificate Centres. However, these requirements may be flexible depending on individual circumstances, the demand for the course and the specific requirements of the course (e.g. external examining bodies).

Applicants over 23 years (Mature students)

Course providers who usually have Leaving Certificate/ other entry requirements will usually assess each mature student’s application individually and accept relevant work or life experience or interests or other courses instead. A mature applicant, who can satisfy the course provider of his / her suitability otherwise, will not have to have done a Leaving Certificate to enter a course at a Higher Education Institution, NFQ level 6-8 courses, for example.


Never assume that you are not eligible for a course – always check with the course provider. You may, in fact, be eligible or they may have alternative entry routes available to you.

There are courses for which you simply need to turn up at the venue before the start of the course with the course fee.  However, with many courses it is necessary to complete an application form and return it to the education provider by a specified deadline, which may be anything up to nine months in advance!

As soon as you know which course you want to do it is essential to find out immediately the application procedures and deadline so that you do not miss out on attending the next course available.

Institutes of Further Education/ Post Leaving Certificate Centres

Application is made directly to each of these centres individually.  They vary hugely in their application deadlines, the complexity of the application form, the existence of interviews or other assessments for entry, the demand for the courses and the flexibility of last minute entry.  It is essential that you check out the application procedure, not only for the centre, but for the individual course you are interested in as the above factors can vary between courses.  It is ideal to attend the Open Days for these centres.

Higher Education Institutions – Undergraduate Courses

Application to most undergraduate courses in the Republic of Ireland is done through a national system at the Central Applications Office in Galway.

The equivalent system in the UK is the UCAS system.

These systems provide detailed instructions on how to make an application correctly.  If you do not follow these instructions exactly, you may find yourself not being considered for a place on the course of your choice.

Higher Education Institutions – Postgraduate Courses

To apply for postgraduate courses in University College Cork, Dublin City University, NUI Galway, NUI Maynooth, Waterford Institute of Technology, Institute of Technology Carlow, Cork Institute of Technology and Galway Mayo Institute of Technology and for the Professional Master of Education (Post Primary Teaching) courses in NUI colleges, you must apply through the Postgraduate Applications Centre in Galway.

For applications to postgraduate courses in other Higher Education Institutions, you should check with each institution individually.


Applications for financial supports (there can be more than one) are usually made separately to course applications and usually to a totally different organisation!  Do not assume that the offer of a course place also includes the offer of any financial supports you are eligible for.  Please refer to the financial supports section for more information.

The application deadline for courses can be anything up to nine months in advance.  Other courses you can apply directly before the course starts.  It is important, therefore, as soon as you know which course you want to do, to find out immediately from the course provider, the application procedures and deadline so that you do not miss out on attending the next available course.

An explanation of different assessment procedures are listed below.  Certain courses might just have one assessment option whereas other courses might have a combination of different assessment procedures.

Assignment – An exercise carried out in response to a brief with specific guidelines and usually of short duration.

Attendance – on some courses, attendance at class or tutorials, are taken into account during the assessment process.

Collection of work is a collection and/ or selection of pieces of work, produced by the learner over a period of time that demonstrates the mastery of skills.

Continual assessment – during the course, learners are assessed by, for example, tasks, exercises, activities, assignments which are spread throughout the time of study rather than a concentrated assessment taking place at the end of the course.

Examinations are used to determine how students are performing academically.  Examinations usually consist of questions or exercises to evaluate what students’ know or have learned.

Group assignments involve learners working together with other learners on assignments, presentations etc.

Learner record – A self-reported record by an individual, in which he/she describes specific learning experiences, activities, responses, skills required.

Practical work involves learning by ‘doing’/ hands on work rather than being shown or demonstrated how to do something.

Presentations involve explaining and presenting information on a topic in front of a group of people.

Research involves collecting and analysing information to increase understanding and knowledge of a particular issue/ phenomena/ problem or question.

Work placement provides the opportunity for learners to experience a specific occupation.

Some of the above definitions have been taken from QQI module descriptors – on the QQI website.

Some adult learners have to combine full time work and other life commitments and if considering returning to education, a full time course might not suit their particular life circumstances. It is important, therefore, to check if the course of study is available in another format i.e. part time, distance or online learning.

Distance learning generally takes place when the teacher is not in the same location as the learner. This flexible study option provides the opportunity for adults, to study at times that are suited to the learners’ personal life circumstances. The courses usually consist of learning materials, workshops and assignments. Some of these courses involve occasionally attending workshops and/ or tutorials.

Online learning is a form of distance learning where courses and learning takes place online via the internet. Students have the option to learn in their own environment using technology and/or the internet.

You should also consider if there are any special requirements or arrangements attached to the course e.g. is it a compulsory part the course to complete a work placement and perhaps this might be abroad or you might have to attend a college abroad as part of the course. Also, you need to consider additional costs such as travelling costs or having to purchase special equipment as these costs can all add up.