Leaving Certificate – Advice for choosing subjects

Students are aiming to choose a meaningful, manageable package of subjects, (ie. A set of subjects, which will give students a sense of direction, will provide self-motivation and is achievable.

Students must ultimately make 3 decisions:

  1. The total number of subjects.
  2. The actual subjects.
  3. The levels at which each subject is taken.

Thought, planning, research and accurate information is a pre-requisite to making the above decisions. Research online using www.qualifax.iewww.cao.ie, and www.ucas.com will give students all the information that they need. It is advisable to also refer to the National Framework of Qualifications website www.nfq.ie which will explain the level that each qualification that one does fits onto a grid which is used by European countries to ascertain the level of a qualification. It will also make clear the difference between a level 6, level 7 and level 8 degree.

The following is designed as a guideline to help you make the above decisions.

  1. Irish, English and Mathematics are considered core subjects. Students choose four other subjects.
  2. Students should familiarise themselves with the range of subjects available, especially new subject areas. Be aware of the differences in content and approach between Leaving and Junior Cert. Subjects, e.g. History, Science. The subjects we have available this year are:
    Accounting Business Geography Music Applied Maths
    French German Physics
    Biology History Social and Scientific Home Economics
    Chemistry Agricultural Science
  3. What subjects are students interested in?
    Genuine interest is important in terms of motivation. 

    What subjects are students good at?
    Chatting to teachers may help gauge students ability within subject areas but remember attitude is as important as ability.

  4. Are there subjects that complement each other?
  5. What careers/career areas are of interest to the student?
  6. Do students intend to attend Third Level or directly enter the workforce?
  7. What subjects are:
    essential (needed)
    desirable for courses/areas of work
  8. Do students have a definite career direction? If so, choose a combination of appropriate subjects to enhance career prospects but beware of the cost of not doing a subject.
  9. What should students do if they are unclear and wish to keep options as open as possible. It may be advisable to choose subjects from different groups:
    (a) Science: Physics, Chemistry, Biology
    (b) Applied Science: Home Economics (Social and Scientific)
    (c) Languages: French, German
    (d) Social Studies: History, Geography, Music
    (e) Business Studies: Accounting, Business


    The number of courses and jobs, which require specific subjects, are quite small but these need to be researched.
    Practically all science, medical, paramedical and engineering courses require at least a laboratory science subject (Biology, Chemistry, and Physics). Some courses at Certificate level in and Institute of Technology do not.
    If you wish to choose a Science or paramedical career, it is advisable to choose a second Science subject.
    If interested in a specific area check out the admission requirements in the specific colleges.
    admission to the college
    admission to the specific courses.





Accounting involves the recording of financial information by an individual voluntary organisation or business, the presentation of this financial information and the interpretation and uses of this financial information.


  • How and why financial information is recorded
  • The information contained in Bank Statements
  • How a small business records its financial information
  • How to interpret and use the information in the accounts of a business from the point of view of shareholders, creditors, customers and employees
  • How to record, and interpret the financial information for a voluntary organisation
  • The importance of financial information for good decision making


  • Collect, organise, record and present financial information
  • Analyse and interpret financial information
  • Think clearly and logically
  • Perform the duties of a treasurer of an organisation properly
  • Prepare your own accounts if you set up your own business


Accountancy, Auctioneer, Auditing, Advertising, Banking, Bookkeeping, Building Society Clerk, Business, Law, A vast array of Clerical Work, Company Secretary, Hospital Administration, Hotel Management, Insurance, Market Research, Purchasing Officer, Quantity Surveyor, Receptionist, Sales Representative, Taxation Consultant, Teaching, Computers


Business is concerned with understanding the environment in which business operates. As a Business student you are encouraged to show enterprise, initiative and self-reliance, which you may apply in further education and in your personal, working and public life.


You study about all aspects of the business world. You learn about:

People Consumers, Producers, Investors, Interest Groups, Employers, Employees, Industrial Relations.
Enterprise Entrepreneur, Management of Business, Financial Management, Human Resource Management, Marketing, Household.
Environment Types of Business, Community Development, Government and Business, International Business, E.U., Role of Information Technology in Business.


  • You can make informed business decisions
  • You understand the structure and management of business.
  • You will be able to use established commercial principles and knowledge
  • You will understand and appreciate ethics in business
  • You practice your Communication, Literacy, Numeracy & Problem Solving skills
  • You will be able to understand & discuss current affairs as they relate to business.
  • You have a foundation for further studies.


Accountancy, Auctioneer, Auditing, Advertising, Banking, Bookkeeping, Building Society Clerk, Business, Law, A vast array of Clerical Work, Company Secretary, Hospital Administration, Hotel Management, Insurance, Market Research, Purchasing Officer, Quantity Surveyor, Receptionist, Sales Representative, Taxation Consultant, Teaching, Computers


Our students follow the Social and Scientific course which covers topics such as food constituents, physiology, microbiology, food preservation, the family and the home.


Baking and Confectionery, beautician, catering, Chef, Child Care, Consumer Adviser, Demonstrator – food, wines, etc., Dietician, Environmental Designer, fashion Designer, Food Science, hairdressing, Health Inspector, Home Management, Home Economics Teacher, Hotel Housekeeper and Manager, Institutional Management, Nursing, Occupational therapist, Parenthood, Social Worker, Sewing Machinist, some Artistic Careers, Textile Designer, Waitress, Sales Nursery and Pre-school Management.


History can be a most enjoyable challenge, embracing the world of politics, economics, religion and philosophy. It develops skills such as identifying main issues and the ability to select relevant information.

Knowledge of history, or access to such knowledge, will enable a student to throw light on other subjects, especially Art, Literature and Language, thus making them more comprehensible and more satisfying.


  • The history and of Ireland and of Ireland’s relations with Great Britain 1898-1966
  • The history ;of Europe (studied in a world setting) 1870 – 1966

Irish history is studied in the context of

  1. the Land question
  2. the development of cultural nationalism
  3. the evolution of the Ulster Question

European history is studied in the context of

  1. the Imperial system
  2. the rise of fascism and dictatorships in the inter-war years
  3. the World Wars
  4. the beginning and development of the Cold War
  5. The drive towards European Unity.

Leisure Use: Reading is one of the most pleasurable of leisure time activities. History, which encompasses all human life, is the basis of many works, fiction and non-fiction alike, which bring endless hours of pleasure to those who read.

Everyday Use: The problems of the world today are all the results of events in the past. These problems remain incomprehensible unless people are aware of their causes.

Politics, Journalism, Local government, Social Work, Sociology, Archaeology, Barrister, Civil Service, Guide, History Teacher, Law Clerk, Museum Work, Researcher, Solicitor, Trade Union Official, Prison Service, Probation Officer, Garda, Tourism, Writer, Broadcaster, Librarianship, Genealogy.


More than any other Science, Biology is part of everyday experience. When you visit a Nature Reserve, watch the behavior of a pet animal, or collect a prescription from the chemist, there is a close encounter with biology. Switch on the TV, for a documentary on transplant surgery, on AIDS, or open a familiar textbook, and it is clear that peeling off the surface layer of the biological onion reveals some fascinating science underneath.

At another level, open your newspaper and read about the success of a new biotechnology company, or a new campaign by Greenpeace, and the economic and political importance of the subject can be seen.

From the employers viewpoint there are some qualities developed during the study of biology, which make it especially valuable as a preparation for other jobs.

  1. Because of the complexity of living things, studying them usually involves dealing with a wide range of variables and complex sources of data. Interpretation requires judgement and, at times, the ability to compromise. As such this is a good preparation for real life problems outside science e.g. in managing people.
  2. Most biologists become familiar with statistics and computers used in data processing. This skill is directly transferable to many other jobs.
  3. Field work and some laboratory work together with others in a group, are qualities valued highly by employers.
  4. Speaking the language of science is a valuable asset in this era of high technology.

Health Profession, Environmental Officers, Publishing, Journalism and Broadcasting, Library Work and Information Science, Environmental Conservation, Marine and Freshwater Biology, Animal Nurse, Education, Horticulture, Zoologists, Food Industry, Production Management, and Brewing Industry.


Chemistry gives you an excellent training for many jobs, both scientific and non-scientific. To be successful in the subject you need to be able to think logically, and be creative, numerate and analytical. These skills are much sought after in many walks of life and would enable you to pursue a career in, say, computing and finance, as well as careers, which use your chemistry directly.


  1. New ideas and materials are constantly being used in technology to improve the society in which we live. You could work in a field where research and innovation are of primary importance to standards of living, so you could see the practical results of your work in every day use around you.
  2. Chemistry offers many career opportunities whether working in a public service such as a water treatment plant, or a high level research and development in industry.
  3. You should remember that, as the society we live in becomes more technically advanced the need for suitably qualified chemists would increase. Although Chemistry stands as a subject in its own right, it acts as the bond between physics and biology. Thus, by entering the world of chemistry you will be equipping yourself to play a leading role in the complex world of tomorrow.

Pharmacy, Nursing, Chemical Engineering Industrial Chemistry, Food Science, Veterinary Science, Applied Science, Metallurgy, Materials Science, Dentistry, Agriculture, Forestry Mining, Polymer science, Dairy Science, textile Science, Forensic Science, Photographic Processing, Teaching, Pollution Control, Cosmetic Science, Geochemistry, Quality Control, biotechnology, Health Care and Pharmaceutical Industries.


Physics is the most exciting of all science and technology. It explains everything from the smallest atoms to the largest galaxies in the universe; it involves living as well as non-living things. Through Physics we begin to solve stimulating and important scientific, practical and social problems.


Successful physicists need imagination and creativity. They also need mathematical ability. It is not enough to describe an event using words as words can sometimes be ambiguous. Therefore mathematics is used since every term has a precise meaning.
Explanations and theories require to be tested so a physicist may need to be practical.

Industrial, Academic, Environmental, Development of new sources of energy.


Agricultural Science is a popular subject amongst senior cycle students in the school due to the fact that the examination consists of two parts – a written examination and an assessment of the work of the candidate during the course. The subject matter is also enjoyable for the students as it is delivered in a practical manner with visits to relevant establishments to see the reality. The topics include soils, plants, farm crops, trees and shelter, genetics and the animal body, the cow, the sheep, the pig and poultry.


It is an excellent subject to choose for students who are interested in horticulture as a career or any area that involves animals.



  1. Geography keeps you up to date with current affairs in a rapidly changing world. The subject encourages in students a sensitive awareness of our environment and provides a good understanding of important issues and problems in modern society.
  2. When you study Geography you will acquire a wide range of skills which are extremely valuable from an employers point of view. Students learn how to correct, record, and analyse information, draw conclusions and present sensible solutions to problems with realistic plans for action. These skills are righly valued in the workplace.
  3. Field work is an integral part of the subject so students learn to work as members of a team taking responsibility to complete a specific task. From an employers point of view this is a very important characteristic in a worker.


Urban and Rural Planning, Tourism, Travel Agency, Archaeology, Meteorology, Estate Agency, Environmental Protection, Surveying, Cartography, Landscape Architecture, Agriculture, Forestry, Transport and Communications, Architecture, Marketing, Leisure Industry, Local Government, Education, Airline Industry.


  1. Studying a modern language enables students to communicate effectively by fostering the four language skills of listening, speaking, reading and writing.
  2. Provides students with the knowledge of the grammatical workings of the language which will assist them in further study whether for academic, business or leisure purposes.
  3. Offers insights into the culture and civilization of other countries.
  4. Encourages an openness of mind to the customs and culture of other people.


Knowledge of a continental language will always be useful and is essential for many courses at third level e.g. Applied languages, Marketing, Clinical Speech, Primary Teaching, European Studies, Computer Studies and Linguistics.

Travel Agency and Tourism, International Marketing, Transport and Communications,
Export Careers, Business, Banking, Teleservices, Interpreter, translator, Journalism, Librarian, Department of Foreign Affairs, Hotel Management, Computers, Engineering.


Music broadens students horizons in an enjoyable subject with lots of variety. It develops a students creative and imaginative skills, their powers of description and social skills. It builds confidence, is a passport to jobs, leisure activities and relaxation. It also promotes involvement in musical activities.

Entertainment – groups, orchestra, bands, etc., Aerobics, Music Shop Sales, Speech therapy, Disc Jockey, Folklore Studies, Composer/Arranger, Dancer, Film and Television Director, Instrument maker, Musician, Primary School Teacher, Occupational Therapist, Physical Education, Television and Radio Production, Actor, Communications.


Art consists of Imaginative Composition or Still Life, Design for a specific craft such as fabric-printing, calligraphy, lino printing, embroidery, weaving, pottery, modeling, carving and publicity design. There is a section on life sketching and a section on History and Appreciation of Art.

Art is desirable and, for some courses essential, for Art and Design, Industrial design, some Architecture courses. It is also a very helpful subject for Primary and Montessori Teaching and for some apprenticeships.


For CAO Courses there are two aspects to securing a place. There are (1) the points required to get in and there are (2) the Subject requirements This may mean: (a) A pass in the subject is all that is required (b) A certain grade/level is often required and.
(c) Combinations of certain subjects.

  1. Primary Teaching – Higher Level ‘C’ in Irish (oral and written)
  2. Nursing – A laboratory science subject is required.
  3. Science subjects are essential for the study of the following at NUI: Medicine, Dentistry, Architecture, Veterinary (Chemistry), Food Science, Engineering, Radiography, Physiotherapy, Computer Science, Theoretical Physics, Agriculture, Engineering. In some cases two science subjects are required and this can be found on the web site www.qualifax.ie
  4. Applied Languages – H.L. ‘C’ in languages to be studied.
  5. Journalism – H.L. English is generally required
  6. Pharmaceutical Technician – a science subject is essential
  7. Many of the courses in University of Limerick have special requirements in relation to Mathematics, Sciences, and Languages. Students need to refer to these before making subject choices.
  8. Engineering courses require higher level mathematics or the passing of a special mathematics exam to secure a place (not all colleges offer a special mathematics exam.


N.B. As course requirements are constantly changing, it is important that students make themselves familiar with college literature which is available in the Careers Library.

Click here to download a PDF version of the Subject Choice Information Pack.