Leaving Cert Options for Adult Learners

25 Aug 2017
Returning to education to sit the Leaving Cert as an adult can provide a vital second chance for those that left school early. It can be difficult to take that first step back into education but there are plenty of opportunities and supports available if you wish to choose this route.

As An Adult Learner What Are My Leaving Certificate Options?

Each year AONTAS get many calls through its One Step Up Freephone Helpline (1800 303 669) from adults looking to do their Leaving Certificate. In 2016, 10% percent of calls to the service were from adults looking to do their Leaving Certificate for the first time or to complete one subject to gain access to a college course.

Often these adults want to do the Leaving Certificate as they never had the chance first time round, as they left school early to start their working life. As an adult it can be difficult to take that first step back into education, but there are plenty of opportunities and supports available if you wish to choose this route.

Where do I Start?

The Education and Training Boards (ETBs) are the main providers of education and training in Ireland and offer Leaving Certificate courses through local ETBs. The Vocational Training Opportunities Scheme (VTOS) offers a range of full-time courses designed to meet the education and training needs of unemployed people. The Back to Education Initiative (BTEI) provides part-time courses, aimed at those who have not completed upper secondary level qualification. Both programmes often offer the Leaving Certificate. Further Education Colleges also offer full-time and part-time Leaving Certificate options. Contact your local ETB for more information on criteria and the options available.

If you are looking for a specific Leaving Certificate subject check with your local ETB to find out if the subject(s) you require are offered. If not, there are a number of private colleges that offer the Leaving Certificate programme or you may consider applying as an external applicant.

How Much Will it Cost Me?

The cost of doing the Leaving Certificate varies. ETB colleges are the less expensive option, however check with your local ETB to see what exact costs are involved. If you choose a private college the cost is considerably higher.

Are There Any Other Alternative Options?

There are plenty of other Further Education and Training options available, for example a QQI Level 4 course, also offered by the ETBs, is equivalent to Leaving Certificate level. To find courses visit

Who Can I Talk To?

Enrolment for the Leaving Certificate take place from August to mid-September each year, depending on the college or centre. There are also many Open Days taking place around this time, where you can talk to tutors about your options.

If you are thinking about doing your Leaving Certificate you should contact your local Adult Education Guidance Initiative based in the ETB. To find contacts for your local Adult Guidance Initiative or ETB visit or contact our Freephone Helpline on 1800 303 669.