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Conversion courses and beyond

A well chosen conversion course can give you a distinct advantage in the jobs market. These courses are proving increasingly popular, so what are the potential options?
Students studying in classroom

Your undergraduate degree can be a great springboard for further study in a more vocational or specialised area. Typically, conversion courses are one-year taught postgraduate courses and can be found in most subject areas, with a very high concentration in business subjects (such as HR and marketing), arts and humanities, IT and finance. They can be the first step in a postgraduate degree programme, or standalone qualifications in their own right, and are highly valued by employers. A conversion course can also provide an opportunity if you didn’t feel you reached your full potential at undergraduate level to redress the balance.

Entry requirements

These will vary according to the course and college you choose. It’s important to check the specific entry requirements which you can find on colleges’ websites. The minimum requirement is a degree and although a pass degree will be considered in some cases, the more competitive courses will require an honours degree of 2:1. Where some courses will require a degree in a specific area – a postgraduate diploma in chemical engineering will require a science or engineering qualification, for example– others will require competence in a particular subject, such as mathematics. However, a great many conversion courses are open to graduates from any discipline, and this is their big attraction.

Convert to IT

IT is one of the easiest fields to convert to and there are huge opportunities in this sector. One-year courses are the normal route in, such as the Higher Diploma in Applied Science (Applied Computing Technology) offered by University College Cork, or the Higher Diploma in Information Technology at the National University of Ireland, Maynooth. Courses like these welcome students with degrees in unrelated disciplines, and other applicants with relevant experience who are looking to upskill. Students receive a solid grounding in theory and practice which brings them up to the equivalent level of a computer science graduate. Many colleges offer cross-departmental postgraduate programmes to entice people into the sector. A postgraduate conversion course in IT can fast-track you onto a masters such as University College Cork's MSc in Interactive Media, or an MSc in Data Analytics at Dublin Institute of Technology, both of which are likely to make you extremely valuable to Ireland's 'smart economy.

Convert to teaching

Education is currently one of the most popular areas with students looking to convert. As of September 2014 the course for a postgraduate diploma in teaching has changed. A 2-year full time Professional Masters in Education (PME) is now the relevant course needed to qualify as a teacher in the Republic of Ireland. It is set to replace the previous 1-year full time course Professional Diploma in Education (PDE).In Northern Ireland you will need a Postgraduate Certificate in Education (PGCE). Both the PME and the PGCE are recognised in Europe and other English-speaking countries.Courses welcome applicants from all manner of disciplines; you don’t need to have an undergraduate qualification in teaching or education, however you will need to check that your primary degree meets the entry requirements.

Convert to law

Many non-law graduates go on to pursue vocational legal training and carve out successful careers as lawyers after first completing one of the approved preparatory and conversion courses available, the Master in Legal Science at Queen's University Belfast. A postgraduate law degree naturally increases your expertise and specialism in a particular area of law, but is also widely respected by employers in many other sectors.

Convert to medicine

The Graduate Entry Medical School at the University of Limerick, University College Cork, University College Dublin and The Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland, Dublin, all offer a four-year medical degree programme to graduates of any discipline. While not strictly-speaking conversion degrees these programmes are notable because, unusually, they do not require their students to have studied medicine at undergraduate level. Some Schools prefer science graduates, but others take students from any background. Applicants must hold a minimum 2:1 bachelor honours degree and then pass the GAMSAT (Graduate Australian Medical Schools Admissions Test) to be accepted.

Masters of Business Administration (MBA)

MBAs are aimed at professionals and are designed to enhance and develop managerial and leadership skills. They can usually be taken full time over a 12-month period, or part time over two years. These courses, such as that offered by the UCD Michael Smurfit Graduate Business School or the Queen’s University Management School, Belfast, are not designed for graduates fresh out of college; you will normally be expected to have a set number of years’ solid experience within a business environment under your belt.

Issues to consider:

  • How will this qualification complement my primary degree?
  • Is the course respected by the relevant employers?
  • What's the employment record of graduates on the course?
  • Am I eligible for a reduction in fees, or any funding?