Returning to education

Adult learners returning to education

You may have left school early, be unemployed, or want to reskill for a new job.

No matter your reason for wanting to return to education, there are many options available to you and a range of supports.

You can return to education with a full-time course or a part-time course.

This page provides information about returning to education and the organisations providing support. You can find out more about further education and training courses.

Courses with low or no entry requirements

You don't need to have a Junior Certificate or Leaving Certificate to take part in many full-time courses or part-time courses.

There are adult literacy supports to help with reading, writing and maths. There are opportunities to study for the Leaving Certificate or other certificates. There are also a wide range of courses linked to business and industry.

Many courses are provided by your local Education and Training Board.

You may also qualify for a free course under the Back to Education Initiative (BTEI).

Evening classes

Evening classes can offer you a social way to learn or to get a qualification.

Evening classes take place during term time in Education and Training Boards (ETBs), schools, colleges and universities throughout the country. The courses on offer vary from centre to centre, so you should look around if you have interests you'd like to pursue.

Courses with an entry requirement

Some courses are only open to you if you have completed your second-level education (post-primary school). However, you should check the with the school or college, as some courses make exceptions for mature students and people returning to education.

Courses with an entry requirement can include:

Can I get a qualification with adult education?

Yes, you can get a qualification with many adult education courses.

Getting a qualification is not always a goal for learners, but you can get advice from your local ETB.

The National Framework of Qualifications (NFQ) outlines the levels of qualifications across the Irish education and training system. It shows how you can move from informal education (starting with a part-time course or evening class) to further education, and then to higher education.

Help for adults returning to education

Education and Training Boards

Education and Training Boards (ETBs) are the main providers of adult education through local schools and colleges. Education and Training Boards Ireland (ETBI) also has a list of Adult Guidance Services.

The Right Course portal

You can get more information on courses, how to access them, and the supports available on The Right Course portal.


Qualifax has a database of all further education courses. It can help you make an informed choice about your education, training, and career path.

Adult educational guidance and information

The Adult Educational Guidance and Information Service provides free career and education guidance to adults who want to return to education and training.

This service is available to:

  • Everyone over 18, and
  • People over 16 who are not in full-time education.

The service prioritises people who are unemployed.

It is confidential and you can get one-to-one guidance or group guidance to help you make an informed decision about your education, career and life choices.


AONTAS (the Irish National Association of Adult Education) provides adult education and lifelong learning.

The AONTAS One Step Up website is an information and referral service. It helps people find out about their education and training options.

AONTAS provides:

You can read the One Step Up booklet on finding your education and training options (pdf).

National Adult Literacy Agency

The National Adult Literacy Agency (NALA) helps adults with literacy difficulties.

NALA runs free courses to help you improve your reading, writing, maths, and technology skills.

With NALA, you can learn:

  • In a group
  • One-to-one
  • Online
  • Over the phone

You can contact NALA on Freephone 1800 20 20 65.

You can also use the Learn with NALA website to get a qualification up to Level 3. Or, you can browse NALA’s available courses.

Guide for mature students

Visit the Mature Students Ireland website for information on admission requirements for higher education.

Financial supports

Depending on your situation, you may be eligible for financial supports to return to education.

The range of possible supports include:

You can contact your local Citizens Information Centre for information about the financial supports available to you.

You can also read about the financial supports for training and education on

How to apply for adult education

You can contact your local ETB and college for details on the courses in your area.

Enrolment usually takes place around mid-September, and again in mid-January.

You can also search for courses on Qualifax or the Further Education and Training Course Hub.

Or, you may find courses advertised locally in your:

  • Local newspaper
  • Community centre
  • School
  • Parish hall.
Page edited: 30 April 2024