Education system in Ireland

Secondary Education in Ireland

  • Completed at a secondary school, vocational school, community college, comprehensive school or community school.
  • Secondary education is divided into two stages called cycles:
    1. The first cycle is called the Junior Cycle, which lasts from year 1 to 3 and is for students, typically from the age of 12 to 16. To successfully complete the Junior Cycle students must take a Junior Certificate Examination.
    2. Year 4 is a transitional year in which students can take a one-year informal course.
    3. The second cycle is called the Senior Cycle, which lasts from year 5 to 6 and is for students, typically from the age of 16 to 18.
  • A Leaving Certificate Examination taken at the end of the Senior Cycle with three program options: Leaving Certificate Program, Leaving Certificate Vocational Program and Leaving Certificate Applied.

Higher Education in Ireland

Technical/Vocational Post-Secondary Study
Technical and vocational programs are available in the applied fields of Business Studies, Science and Engineering & Technology. The awarded qualifications are internationally recognised by professional, academic, craft and trade bodies. The Higher Education and Training Awards Council (HETAC) monitors and makes awards in the non-university sector.

  • Offered at Institutes of Technology and specialised colleges.
  • A two-year program to receive a Higher Certificate.
  • A one-year course to receive a Graduate Diploma.

Bachelor’s Degree
A variety of Bachelor’s degree programs are offered in Ireland.

  • During the admissions process universities evaluate students’ Leaving Certificate Examination results, among other criteria.
  • A Bachelor’s degree is a three to four-year program at a university or independent college.
  • Degree options include Ordinary or Honors Bachelor’s degree.

Master’s Degree
Master’s programs in Ireland are offered in a wide range of fields. In a master’s program, students usually take course work, research work or a combination of the two

  • Requires successful completion of a Bachelor’s degree or Graduate Diploma.
  • A Master’s degree is a one to three-year program at a university.

Doctoral Degree

  • A PhD is awarded on the basis of original research.
  • Lasts for a minimum of three years at a university.

International students

International students who wish to study in the Republic of Ireland must prove their English language aptitude. Students should contact the admissions office at each school to find out which tests are accepted.

The following tests may be accepted:
International English Language Testing System (IELTS)
Cambridge English for Speaker of Other Languages (ESOL)
Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL)

In addition to proving English proficiency, international students must also check that their qualifications satisfy the school’s entry requirements.

The Kaplan International Colleges English school in Dublin offers preparation courses for the IELTS and Cambridge exams. Our preparation courses provide international students with the skills, test taking techniques and encouragements needed to succeed at achieving a higher test score and opening doors to more Irish universities.

If it is your aim to get a degree from an Irish university, the Kaplan International Colleges University Placement Service (UPS) will help you gain entry. Student using this service will benefit from our extensive network of partner institutions and our long experience of guiding students through the admission process.

For more information, email or visit the Department of Education and Science, Education Ireland or the Higher Education and Training Awards Council.

View a diagram of the routes to university or college in Ireland.

Search Our Schools & Courses


Course Type