As an Adult Learner, What Are My Leaving Certificate Options?

14 Aug 2019
In our latest blog, we break down the different options and supports available to adults who are looking to sit the Leaving Certificate exams.

Each year AONTAS receives numerous enquiries through the One Step Up Information and Referral Service from adults looking to do their Leaving Certificate. In 2018, nearly 1 in 10 people who contacted the service were adults looking to sit the Leaving Certificate for the first time or to complete one subject to gain access to further or higher education. This can provide a second chance for those who left school early and did not have an opportunity to complete state exams.

As an adult, it can be daunting 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?

Education and Training Boards (ETBs) are the main providers of education and training in Ireland and offer Leaving Certificate courses through local centres. 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’. Find out more from the State Examinations Commission.

How Much Does It Cost?
The cost of doing the Leaving Certificate varies. ETB colleges are the less expensive option:  check with your local ETB to see what exact costs are involved. If you choose a private college the cost is considerably higher.

Image from pages 19-20 of the One Step Up Information Booklet               

Are There Any Other Alternative Options?
There are plenty of other Further Education and Training options available, for example, QQI Level 4 or 5 courses, also offered by the ETBs, are equivalent to Leaving Certificate level. To find courses visit For more details about equivalent qualifications at Level 4 and 5 you can visit and you can find clear and detailed information about all the options available to you through the One Step Up Information Booklet.

Who Can I Talk To?
Enrolment for the Leaving Certificate takes 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. To find an Open Day near you, visit the One Step Up Calendar.

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