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.
This page provides information about returning to education and the organisations providing support. You can find out more about further education and training courses.
You can also Freephone AONTAS on 1800 303 669 for advice.
Courses with low or no entry requirements
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 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 it is worth looking around if you have a particular interest you would 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 Post-Leaving Certificate courses and college-based training courses for apprentices, as well as Springboard and full-time and part-time third-level courses.
Can I get a qualification with adult education?
Yes. Many courses offer a qualification.
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
The right course
Qualifax has a database of all further education courses. It also provides the information you need to 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. It prioritise people who are unemployed.
The service 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. AONTAS has an information and referral service to make the adult learner's first encounter with education as easy as possible.
The AONTAS One Step Up website helps all adults to enhance their learning by promoting access to learning opportunities.
- A Freephone Helpline: 1800 303 669
- Answers to frequently asked questions
- A calendar of learning events.
National Adult Literacy Agency
NALA can help you improve your reading, writing, maths or use of technology. You can learn with NALA in a group, one-to-one, online or over the phone.
You can contact NALA on Freephone 1800 20 20 65 or text LEARN to 50050 and they will call you back.
You can also use their website Learn with NALA to get a qualification up to Level 3.
Guide for mature students
Check out the Mature Students Ireland website for information on admission requirements for higher education.
National Centre for Guidance in Education
The National Centre for Guidance in Education (NCGE) provides advice and information to people who wish to study or train in another EU country.
The financial supports available will depend on your situation.
You can find out more about financial supports available to you from your local Citizens Information Centre.
How to apply for adult education
Your local ETB and college can give you details on the courses in your area.
Enrolment usually takes place around mid-September and again in mid-January.
Courses can also be advertised locally in your local newspaper, community centre, school or parish hall.