CAO options: Courses you may have missed

A selection of popular and less well-known courses that may be right for you

There’s still time to change your mind. While some courses – including architecture, art and various performing arts courses – require an interview and/or portfolio (or in the case of medicine, a HPat test to determine whether it is suitable for you), the vast majority of courses remain open to applicants. Here’s just a small selection of popular and less well-known courses you may have missed.

Maynooth University: BSc Physics with astrophysics CAO code: MH204

There is simply no source of wonder like stepping outside on a clear night and looking at the stars.

This course is designed to give students a thorough grounding in the principles of experimental physics, but with an additional emphasis on exploring and understanding the planets, stars and galaxies, as well as how the universe works as a whole.


There is still so much we don’t know about the only universe we know definitely exists, and modules here include physics with astrophysics, maths and a choice – timetable clashes permitting – of two other science subjects including biology, chemistry, computer science, engineering science and mathematical physics.

Students on this course will also learn about the latest telescopes, satellites, detector technology and data analysis techniques of modern astrophysics.

Graduates have gone on to work in Met Éireann, St Luke's Hospital Dublin, the European Space Agency, Nasa, Caltech, Intel, Hewlett Packard, and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, as well as positions in medical physics, forensic science and computational physics. In 2021, the course required 422 CAO points.

NUI Galway: Social science CAO code: GY123

This is a four-year, level-eight course aimed at school-leavers and mature students who care about some of the most important issues facing society.

Modules on the course include introduction to social science, digital citizenship and principles of geography. There is also an international field trip in year two, a workplace internship in year three and a dissertation project in final year. There is a strong focus on problem-centred learning and research methods, helping students to develop skills in using social science technology tools to tackle current and future societal challenges.

Social science graduates are equipped for careers in a number of roles including, perhaps most obviously, social work, but there are also opportunities to work in Irish and international NGOs, local authorities, national authorities, EU and international bodies, public service, politics, community work, marketing, journalism, business and much more.

Many graduates of these and similar courses go on to pursue postgraduate studies in order to specialise in a particular area. In 2021, the course required 419 CAO points.

Royal College of Surgeons Ireland: Physiotherapy CAO code: RC004

RCSI was awarded university status in 2019, making it a specialist, high-level institution for the study of health and medicine.

School-leavers entering this programme study for a four-year honours degree, but graduate entry students only study for three years.

RCSI physiotherapy students have a unique advantage: they study alongside their future colleagues in medicine and pharmacy, and work together on interprofessional projects, ensuring that they have a thorough and well-developed understanding of the multidisciplinary nature of patient care.

Students on this course take modules in anatomy, physiology, physics, neurology, neuromusculoskeletal and research methods. About a third of the course is spent on clinical placements.

Publicly available data from the HSE indicates that physiotherapists start off on 36,296, with pay rising to 62,493 for a senior physiotherapist and over 80,000 for a physiotherapist manager. Physiotherapists may, however, earn more in private practice.

University College Dublin: Agricultural science CAO code: DN250

Until recently, UCD was the only place in Ireland where students could get an honours degree in agriculture. That all changed when UCC launched its own course three years ago, but UCD’s course remains popular.

Students on this four-year, level-eight degree can choose to apply to the general agriculture degree and choose their speciality down the line, or they can go straight into one of the other courses on offer which include agricultural systems technology, animal and crop production, food and agribusiness management, forestry and horticulture.

Core subjects in the common first year programme include animal biology and evolution, introductory chemistry, cell and plant biology and introduction to biomolecules.

Careers from an agriculture degree are wide and varied, and so it is difficult to project salaries, but graduates go on to work in enterprise management, marketing and communications, research, education, environmental management, business and farming. Applicants required 440 CAO points in 2021.

University of Limerick: Law plus CAO code: LM029

A different approach to studying law, this four-year, level-eight course allows students to also choose elective subjects in other subjects including economics, history, languages, maths, politics, psychology and sociology.

The course is focused on developing practical skills including analysis, communication, negotiation, research and teamwork, and students develop their knowledge through practical involvement in moot courts and through working with community partners on topics including miscarriages of justice, sentencing, street law and legal app development.

Modules on the course include constitutional law, contract law, criminal law, EU law and land law. There’s a work placement in year three of the programme and opportunities to spend this time abroad.

Legal salaries vary, from as low as 38,0000 in the early years to well over 100,000 with experience, but lists the average salary at 73,000. The course required 530 points in 2021.

TU Dublin: Product design CAO Code: TU811

One of the courses on offer at TU Dublin’s school of creative arts, this four-year, level-eight course teaches students how to create a new product that businesses can sell, providing them with the necessary theoretical and practical skills.

Modules on this course include applied physics for design, creative design fundamentals, design mathematics, innovation in design and prototyping and modelmaking.

Graduates go on to work in various industries including agri-tech, medical devices, sports technology, toy and game design and user experience design, with an option to undertake a semester abroad in year three. lists the average salary of a product designer at 53,457. The course required 440 CAO points in 2021.

Munster Technological University: Coaching science and sports pedagogy CAO Code: MT915

This new, four-year full-time course will introduce students to the applications of coaching science and the principles underlying the teaching of physical education, as well as the science of sports performance and health.

Graduates will be prepared to work as sports coaches and in athletic development and in health and wellbeing settings. They’ll also be well-prepared to apply for a postgraduate course in physical education (PE) teaching.

Modules on this course include recreational and youth sports coaching, sports nutrition, strength and conditioning, health promotion, personal training and gym instruction and sports marketing. lists the average base pay of a sports coach at 34,019. As this is a new course, the CAO points are yet to be determined.


TUS: Bachelor of engineering in mechanical and polymer engineering CAO code: AL820

The honours degree in mechanical and polymer (plastics) engineering at the Athlone campus of TUS (formerly Athlone IT) has an interesting place in student folklore. On the one hand it was, in its earlier days and in an earlier incarnation, seen by many as a fallback for students who didn’t get enough CAO points.

It’s an instructive story: the CAO points weren’t low because the course was too easy; they were low because, at the time, there simply wasn’t a huge amount of interest from students. Last year, it required just 327 points.

But graduates of the polymer course are having the last laugh: today, lists the average base pay of a plastics engineer at 80,066 and, if you ever happen to meet (or interview) a polymer engineer, you’ll find they have both job satisfaction and a rewarding salary.

Modules on this course include maths, 3D modelling and CAD, mechanics, quality and project management, product design, design of experiments and Lean and Six Sigma.

Graduates of this four-year, level-eight degree course are in demand, particularly in Ireland, with 18 of the world’s top 25 medical device companies located in Ireland.

There are roles in the polymer and medical technology sectors including mechanical engineering, manufacturing and process engineering, project development engineers and quality assurance managers.

There’s also a six-month placement in year three of the course.