CAO deadline: What are you going to do in college?

22 Jan 2016

The deadline for CAO applications is just around the corner, with just a short week-and-a-half separating us from the date by which you have to pick the courses that will likely have a big impact on the course of your career.

While, of course, there are further opportunities to change your mind between now and the end of exams, you should by now have at least a rudimentary idea of what courses you’d like to apply for through the CAO.

If you’re still unsure of what direction you’d like to take, our article on the hottest jobs of 2016 may be of some help, giving you guidance into some of the tech industry’s growth areas and indicating where your collegiate efforts may be best applied.

We realise, though, that knowing what you want to do is not the same as knowing how you’re going to do it. The path to a specific job is not always a straight one.

This is especially true when it comes to jobs in the tech industry, for which numerous areas of study can lead to a single career, and the process – from college to first job application – can seem labyrinthine to the uninitiated.

It’s worth bearing in mind that, in each of the cases below, studying that particular course may lead to the career you want, but does not guarantee that career by itself. Often, companies look for a broad range of skills and experience in addition to the right academic background.

In saying that, though, each of these courses is a great jumping off point for a career in tech.

While we focus below on how these courses can be applied to the hottest jobs of 2016, the skills you learn over the period of your study can be used in a whole host of other exciting careers. The future is wide open.


Mathematics courses vary from college to college, but tend to cover the gamut of mathematical theory and practice, taking what you learned in secondary school many steps further.

They offer a broad view of mathematics, allowing you to study a wide range of topics – from statistics to applied maths – without getting too specific.

A BSc in Mathematical Sciences can lead to a career as a data analyst, data governance manager or data scientist.

While numerous courses feature maths modules, courses that focus solely on mathematics can be taken at UCC (CK407), DIT (DT205), NUI Galway (GY319), UL (LM060) and TCD (TR031).


Much-maligned by many a poor Leaving Cert student slogging their way through probability and statistics, stats can be a hugely useful area of study when it comes to tech careers.

With a background in statistics, you can head into a career in data governance, data science or data analytics.

Straight statistics courses don’t really exist, but statistics can be studied as part of various mathematics and science degrees, including science courses at UCD (DN200) and Maynooth (MH201).

Courses: abacus
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Business Studies

Business studies is by far one of the most ubiquitous courses in the Irish third-level landscape, designed to give graduates a solid grounding in how the wheels of business turn. Course content includes management, accounting, economics, marketing and organisational studies.

Most colleges and ITs in Ireland offer a business studies degree. In addition to straight business, specific specialisations are in place throughout the third-level sphere, from business and information technology at Institute of Technology Blanchardstown (BN103) to business analytics at DIT (DT315).

A business degree can get you a job as a business analyst, data analyst, data scientist or data governance manager.

Data management

One of the biggest employment trends of recent years – and likely into the foreseeable future – sees the massive growth of areas relating to data science, analytics and big data.

While most students can prepare for careers in these exciting areas by studying for computer science degrees, a specific qualification in data analytics or data management can be advantageous.

Although these aren’t typically offered at undergraduate level – a masters is likely required – the tech management degree from the National College of Ireland (NC023) allows you to specialise in data analytics in your final year, and is probably the undergrad course that best fits the bill.

With a qualification in data analytics, you can pursue a career as a data analyst, data scientist or data governance manager.


Computing courses offer a broad overview of computer-related areas and can cover everything from programming to statistics to app development.

While a degree in computing can stand on its own (like DCU’s DC120), they’re often seen as entry-level degrees, taken with a view to progressing on to a more focused computer-related degree – such as computer science or software development – at a later stage.

CIT (CR016), IT Sligo (SG246), Griffith (GC335 or GC340), Dundalk IT (DK821) and Dublin Business School (DB500) all offer computing courses.

A background in computing can lead to a role as a UX/UI developer, solutions architect or .net developer.

Computer science

Computer science courses explore many facets of the modern world, looking at how computers play a part in health, banking and finance, security and personal interactions.

Qualified computer scientists work in areas as diverse as artificial intelligence and computer animation, and a qualification can lead to a career as a solutions architect, UX/UI developer, .net developer, security engineer or DevOps engineer.

Computer science courses are offered at most of the leading education institutes in Ireland, including UCC (CK401), UCD (DN201), DIT (DT211 or DT228), Griffith (GC230 or GC430), Maynooth (MH601 or MH602) and TCD (TR033).

Courses: computer screen with code
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Software development

Software development is an area of high demand, and one of those most desperately crying out for qualified candidates to fill the massive talent gap.

Software development courses give students a grounding in everything from the programming languages used by developers to maths and design.

A software development qualification can be useful for those interested in a career as a solutions architect, .net developer or DevOps engineer.

Courses are offered at Athlone IT (AL801 or AL705), CIT (CR106 or CR116), DCU (DC122), IT Carlow (CW238 or CW207), Galway-Mayo IT (GA787 or GA775), IT Sligo (SG136), Limerick IT (LC233) and IT Tralee (TL810 or TL710).

Technology management

Technology management courses give students the skills and knowledge to manage the information technology infrastructure in an organisation. They cover topics as diverse as information systems, networking, web and multimedia development, and business and management knowledge.

DIT (DT080), IT Tallaght (TA313), TCD (TR034) and UL (LM063) all run technology management courses.

A background in technology management can lead to a career as a project manager or DevOps engineer.

Computer systems

Computer systems plays into most aspects of our everyday lives, with telecommunications, education, business, health and transport just some of the areas they support.

Courses in computer systems help students to become well-versed in the very systems that facilitate modern life.

With a computer systems qualification, you can pursue a career as a solutions architect or .net developer.

Computer systems courses are offered at Carlow IT (CW217 or CW248), DCU (DC121) UL (LM051) and Sligo IT (SG137).

Courses: app displayed on laptop, smartphone and tablet

Information systems

Information systems courses look at both the hardware and software behind modern communications, primarily in relation to workplaces.

Aiming to help students understand IT practices, systems and their related software, students look at the business and technical sides of sharing information in the workplace.

Information systems courses are run at DIT (DT255), IT Tralee (TL805) and TCD (TR034).

Students of information systems can go on to work as solutions architects, DevOps engineers, UX/UI developers or .net developers.


Multimedia is a bit of a catch-all term for new digital technologies, and takes in everything from art and design to computer skills, to digital media projects.

Depending on the course, specialist modules can lead to areas like e-learning, game development, design, interactive programming or animation.

Careers in UX/UI and .net development can spring from a multimedia background.

Dundalk IT (DK890), DCU (DC133) Dorset College (DS602, DS603 and DS702), Limerick IT (LC234) and Waterford IT (WD153) all offer courses in multimedia, each with a web/computing leaning.

Updated at 4.00pm on 22 January to include additional courses.

The deadline for the first round of CAO applications is 1 February at 5.15pm. Complete your application here.

With thanks to Hays Recruitment for their input into relevant areas of study.

Main image via Shutterstock

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