Job descriptions and industry overviews

Defence Forces

25 Jan 2023, 13:37

Defend their country and support international peacekeeping and humanitarian work.

Blurred image of a person in an office setting with the text "Defence forces" overlayed.

The main branches within the permanent Defence Forces are the army, air corps and naval service and each offers a wide variety of careers for both graduates and school leavers; those of most interest to graduates tend to be cadetships and specialist entry.

While the main mission of the Defence Forces is to contribute to the security of the state by providing for the military defence of its territorial integrity, in effect it carries out a range of additional functions, eg search and rescue, air ambulance service, ministerial air transport service, assistance on the occasion of natural or other disasters, assistance in connection with the maintenance of essential services and assistance in combating oil pollution at sea.

Work activities

Work activities will vary depending on the branch and the role.

Work conditions

Travel: can be a regular part of the working day. Overseas travel also a possibility.
Working hours: can be regular office hours, although much depends on role and can involve unsocial hours including nights, weekends and bank holidays.
Location: opportunities exist mainly in towns or cities throughout the country.
Opportunities for self-employment: not possible.

Typical employers

Defence forces

Career Development

The defence forces have very well defined career progression.


Salaries vary depending on grade.

Entry requirements

There are different methods of entry into the defence forces, each with their own requirements:

  • Cadetships – for those wishing to become an Officer (leader/manager)
  • Specialists – for those already qualified in a profession, eg medical professionals, engineering professionals, musicians/conductors, or those wishing to become a groom in the Army Equitation School.

Specific degree subjects required

Cadetships: Open to graduates of all disciplines. Nautical science or marine engineering is required for Operations Branch and Engineering Branch Naval Cadetships respectively.

Specialist: For direct entry, relevant qualifications in specialist areas are essential.

Specific entry requirements

Cadetships: All applicants (male and female) must be a minimum of (157.48 cm). There are also minimum and maximum age requirements which vary depending on the branch. An offer of appointment is conditional on passing a comprehensive medical examination, including hearing, vision and a physical fitness test. There are also requirements in relation to citizenship and minimum periods of residency in Ireland.

Specialists: Minimum levels of experience may be required.


Cadetships: Training is comprehensive, demanding and varied. Its location and duration depends on the type of cadetship, but will consist of the initial socialisation into developing as a leader in a military institution and with learning military skills, including military law and weapons use.

Specialists: All new recruits undergo a comprehensive military induction training which includes military law and weapon use as well as leadership and decision-making skills.

Tips for applications

Complete a four week programme for prospective applicants. The programme is pitched at a basic level and is designed with the defence forces induction test in mind.

Prepare as best you can; competition for places is high and the selection process includes a number of stages involving:

  • Job simulation exercise and aptitude tests
  • Physical fitness test / personality questionnaire / group assessment / realistic job review
  • Interview

Skills and qualities

  • Ability to plan, prioritise and organise people and other resources
  • Ability to carefully analyse problems, in order to generate appropriate solutions
  • Preparedness to stand by a decision and to accept responsibility for its consequences
  • Aptitude for absorbing information and the ability to identify what is relevant
  • Aptitude for working within a team environment and to be supportive of others
  • Clear, concise and effective communication skills
  • Leadership ability and motivation to take responsibility for others
  • Ability to delegate to others
  • Initiative, resilience and calmness when faced with conflicting demands and when working under pressure
  • Mentally and physically fit to meet the standards set.

Labour market information

Recruitment is done in concentrated phases but there are positions currently being recruited for within the Defence Forces. See for more information.

gradireland editorial advice

This describes editorially independent and impartial content, which has been written and edited by the gradireland content team. Any external contributors featuring in the article are in line with our non-advertorial policy, by which we mean that we do not promote one organisation over another.

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