EducationCollege Choice

Thinking outside the box: Unusual and unconventional college courses on offer

Being open to different ideas and approaches can lead to a more dynamic and rewarding career journey

What do you want to be when you grow up? Ask a seven-year-old and their answers are often limited to the most visible professions we see around us: usually a teacher, doctor, nurse, farmer, firefighter or perhaps a garda.

As we get older, of course, we see that the range of career paths is much wider, and many teenagers might also consider architecture, arts, engineering, law, music, science and more.

But, with the CAO handbook alone listing so many higher education courses, and a growing number of further education and apprenticeship options, it is easy to miss some of the more unusual and unconventional courses on offer. Here, we list just a few that may have flown under your radar.

BA Voice (LM134), University of Limerick

Always wanted to take that singing out of the shower and on to the stage? The four-year BA Voice at University of Limerick, offered by the Irish World Academy of Music and Dance, aims to develop the vocal performance skills, repertoire and knowledge of participants, with a number of practical, research and vocational modules. There are weekly one-to-one, choral, ensemble, theatre and performance classes, as well as a variety of classes aimed at building up transferable skills in areas including keyboard, music theory, sight-singing and conducting.


Students can expect to learn from all genres of music, and cover multiple styles.

The Irish World Academy of Music and Dance also offers BA programmes in contemporary dance, Irish dance, Irish music, world music and more.

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Outdoor Activity Instructor (6M5147), Kerry College of FET, Killorglin campus

Office jobs often bring to mind a vaguely business-related career, although, they could also cover, to at least some degree, arts, journalism, law, architecture and so much more.

Either way, they are not for everyone. In the sitcom Parks and Recreation (finale spoiler alerts ahead), our hero Ron Swanson gets his ideal job as a park ranger, left to roam, protect and care for large swathes of land.

This level six advanced certificate creates opportunities for learners in such areas as activity instruction, tour guide and social care activity provider. Participants are trained in hillwalking, kayaking, orienteering and rock climbing, with many other progression opportunities.

Applicants should have a high level of fitness and Garda vetting is required for this programme.

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BBS Equine Business (MH404), Maynooth University

Irish horse racing punches well above its weight internationally. It is an industry that some say is cruel, because we are using animals for entertainment, and they argue that it should be abolished. Defenders, however, say that the horses are incredibly well cared for and that the eradication of the industry would create thousands of unwanted animals.

At Maynooth University, this unique course provides graduates with a detailed understanding of the equine industry, both here and abroad. Participants can expect to be developed as a person and a leader, with a heavy focus on sustainability alongside modules on stud farm business management, equine leisure and tourism, racecourse and equine event management, economics, marketing, human resources and much more.

Graduates will be well-prepared for roles in the equine business sector, but will also be well able to pursue general business careers.

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Courses at the Code Institute

Not everybody wants, needs or can do a degree. A four-year commitment is expensive, not just in terms of fees but also when you consider that is four years where earning potential is limited. Instead, many want specific, accelerated training that can help them get work in a specific area, as well as serve as a basis for further learning.

Enter the Code Institute. Working in collaboration with the education and training boards, they offer education in coding to people of all ages. The course attracts school leavers, students who may have dropped out of a computer science degree (a course with a relatively high dropout rate) and people looking to change careers.

It can also be a good option for neurodivergent people who may struggle in a campus setting.

Courses include a part-time, flexible diploma in full stack software development, and an intriguing, free, five-day boot camp where participants can learn the basics of HTML, CSS and JavaScript to find out if they would be suited to a coding career, before making a longer commitment.

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Arts – Irish/Gaeilge (DN520), University College Dublin

What use is Irish to me? It is a transactional question that ignores the richness and poetry of our national language. Think of a language as a car that carries boxes of culture and keeps it dynamic: without that car, culture can become stagnant and, ultimately, lost.

But there is also an answer to that transactional question. Since the implementation of the new Language Act in 2023, there will be a significant increase in demand for people with Irish language skill. By the year 2030, one-fifth of Civil Service recruits will be required to have proficiency in the language. And, with Irish now an official working language of the EU, there are further opportunities for advancement.

This course in UCD runs over three years, or four years if students choose the BA international option. Graduates have gone on to teaching, translating and interpreting, research, media, the Civil Service and so much more.

Check out Arts & Humanities – UCD Undergraduate Courses at

Wood manufacturer and finisher – apprenticeship

Every school leaver should ensure that they check out the full range of apprenticeships on offer.

These courses, from level six certificates to level eight degrees (and with some newer apprenticeships also offered at postgraduate level nine and PhD level 10) allow students to earn money while they learn. They cover a wide range of areas including auctioneering, biopharma, ICT and recruitment alongside the craft apprenticeships such as plumbing and motor mechanics.

In an apprenticeship, learning is hands-on, with a combination of on-the-job training and classroom teaching. On this four-year course, comprising a seven-phase mix of learning in local, ETB-run training centres as well as work-based training and assessments, participants will learn how to cut, shape and join wood and wood-based products using tools and machines, to manufacture furniture and construction components including tables, chairs, doors and stairs. There is also a focus on skills such as planning and organising schedules, liaising with other professionals and clients, knowledge of computer aided design and computer aided manufacturing, and much more.

Courses run in a number of ETBs. Contact your local ETB for details, or check out

BSc in Clinical Measurement Physiology (AU973), Atlantic Technological University

Students considering healthcare careers often veer towards medicine, nursing, physiotherapy or pharmacy. But a new level eight degree in clinical measurement physiology at ATU offers a different approach to patient care.

The course aims to create graduates with the skills, qualification and competency to perform and report diagnostic tests for patients. Clinical measurement physiologists work across five disciplines including gastrointestinal, vascular, neurology, respiratory and cardiac.

The course has been developed in association with the Irish Institute of Clinical Measurement Physiology to address a national shortage, but graduates will also find their skills in high demand across the world, and their degree will open up many additional career pathways.

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