Change career paths with conversion courses

Last updated: 14 Jul 2023, 09:59

If you find that your career path may lie in a different direction to the path you studied for your undergraduate degree, don’t panic. It’s normal for some people to change path and there are a host of conversion courses out there to help you.

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It’s always the best choice for any student to pursue something that they are passionate about. Nothing gets you successfully through the rigours of a four-year degree programme, where your own self-motivation is crucial, than your passion for its content. But, as you move into the final year of your degree, your own personal development over those years, as you grow into your early twenties, alongside the opportunities in areas that interest and excite you in the labour market, may lead you to consider a postgraduate degree programme either entirely or marginally unrelated to your undergraduate studies. This is a totally normal aspect of career development and should not in any way call into question the validity of your undergraduate course choice. Choosing to convert disciplines prior to seeking to enter the labour market is a perfectly rational decision.

One-year taught courses

Conversion programmes are typically one-year taught courses and are available in most subject areas, with many in business subjects (such as human resources and marketing), arts and humanities, IT and finance. Conversion courses can be taken as the first step towards a postgraduate degree or standalone qualifications and are highly valued by employers. If you feel you didn’t reach your full potential at undergraduate level, a conversion course can offer a chance to redress the balance.

Convert to IT

Given the high rate of graduate employment in the area, it’s not surprising many graduates consider a conversion programme in information technology. Courses typically last for one year and offer a solid grounding in the theory and practice of computer science. Many colleges offer cross-departmental programmes such as the Higher Diploma in Applied Computing Technology at University College Cork, the MSc in Computer Science at UCD and the higher diploma in science (software development) at the National University of Ireland, Maynooth. Students who wish to move into IT in a particular subsector of the industry may wish to explore the UCD taught master’s programme in computer science by negotiated learning. This flexible programme helps students to customise their learning to their individual student needs and their prior learning experiences.

As well as data science, cloud computing, software engineering, forensics and security, artificial intelligence and cognitive science, students can choose a range of tailored modules to aid their specialisation such as app design, data mining, recommender systems or computer graphics. A postgraduate conversion course in IT can fast-track you on to a master’s, such as UCC’s MSc in Interactive Media or an MSc Computer Science or Data Analytics at Technological University Dublin.

Convert to teaching is a central application centre for postgrad teaching programmes. It processes applications for the recently introduced two-year Professional Master’s of Education (PME), which saw its first graduates enter the teaching force in September 2016. To teach in Northern Ireland you need a Postgraduate Certificate in Education (PGCE). Graduates of many disciplines can do a teaching postgrad, but check your primary degree meets the entry requirements for your proposed teaching subjects (see DCU Institute of Education offers the Professional Master of Education, a conversion course for non-teaching graduates wishing to teach at primary or post-primary level.

Convert to psychology

For graduate degrees and training in psychology, you need a first qualification in psychology which grants you graduate membership (GM) and the graduate basis for registration (GBR) in the relevant professional organisation. GBR is a pre-requisite for entry to postgraduate training in applied areas of professional psychology.

Trinity College Dublin offers a two-year Higher Diploma in Psychology for people who wish to pursue a professional career in psychology (e.g. in counselling psychology, clinical psychology, educational psychology, occupational psychology or other related areas). The course is open for those with a degree in any discipline with at least an upper second-class honours. It allows students to go on to do postgraduate training and to specialise in an area of professional psychology.

Convert to social work

The level-nine postgraduate diploma in Social Policy and Practice at Trinity College Dublin has particular appeal to graduates who wish to pursue a master’s programme in social work, social studies and social policy but who do not have an undergraduate social science qualification in these fields. This fully online postgraduate diploma can act as a conversion course for such graduates and enhance their application for specialised programme such as a master’s in social work. The programme will also appeal to applicants from outside Ireland, in particular North America, who wish to study in Ireland’s leading university with expertise in Irish, EU and global social policy, without disrupting their current living and work arrangements. The place of study is flexible as online delivery allows students to engage in learning activities at home or in the workplace and there is no requirement to attend at the Trinity campus in Dublin. Students will have access to weekly materials using a virtual learning environment and the opportunity to engage with other students and lecturers using discussion boards.

Convert to law

There are more than 100 postgraduate programmes in law on the website, many open to non-law graduates. A postgraduate law degree increases your expertise and specialisation in a particular area of law but is also widely respected in other sectors. The MSc in International Law and Business is for graduates with an education background in law or business, or in a related academic area such as economics and is run jointly by the UCD Sutherland School of Law and the UCD Michael Smurfit Graduate School of Business. The programme lays the theoretical foundations in the areas of law and business and places them in the real-life context of the international business environment and can lead to careers with international law firms and multinational professional service firms through to multinationals requiring in-house legal advisers. For a career as a solicitor or barrister you must take the examinations of the professional body: the legal practice course (LPC) or the bar professional training course. A graduate diploma in law is the fast-track route on to these courses and is ideal for students without accredited undergraduate degrees in law.

Convert to business

A master of business administration (MBA) is aimed at graduates of business and other disciplines who wish to enhance and develop managerial and leadership skills. They can be full-time for a year or part-time over two years. Many of the large professional service firms are hiring graduates from non-business backgrounds, as they bring a different perspective to business challenges and situations. Now in its sixth year, the UCD Michael Smurfit Business School MSc in Aviation Finance has a specific focus on the practical features of global aviation markets. It is a one-year full-time or two-year part-time programme suitable for graduates from a wide variety of disciplines including business, economics, finance, engineering and science who want to pursue a career in the highly dynamic international sector of aviation finance and leasing. Each year, UCD Michael Smurfit Graduate Business School offers a range of scholarships to both domestic and international students. They are awarded to exceptional students who will be ambassadors for the school during their studies and after graduation.

Convert to medicine

The graduate entry medical schools at the University of Limerick, UCC, University College Dublin and the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland all offer four-year medical degrees for graduates of any discipline. The degree is not strictly a postgrad programme as the award is the same as that of an undergraduate medical student. Applicants need a 2.1 honours bachelor’s degree and a sufficiently high mark in the GAMSAT (Graduate Australian Medical Schools Admissions Test).

Other conversion courses

If none of the above fields are of interest to you, don’t worry, this is not a comprehensive list of conversion courses. Many of Ireland’s higher educational institutions offer a range of interesting conversion courses. These include UCC’s higher diploma in economic science, TU Dublin’s MSc in event management and the University of Galway’s MA in journalism, to name a few.

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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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