Agricultural courses: What are the options to consider?

As agricultural education has evolved to continue through the Covid-19 lockdowns that have been in place over the past year, a number of students are currently considering their options at third level.

To assist in this process, Teagasc education officer Serena Gibbons outlines what is available for prospective agri students heading into 2021.

Explaining the importance of fully exploring one’s options, Gibbons said: “With lots of courses available, it is important to give careful consideration to course choice.”

For example:
  • Which course will bring the qualification I require?
  • Will it suit my current home/work situation?
  • Is completing the Green Cert all I need or will an alternative third level course in agriculture also qualify students as young trained farmers?
  • If I don’t get the points for a straight entry into a degree course, do I have options?

The education officer – based in the Teagasc Galway/Clare office – pointed to three different broad options prospective students can choose from: Green Cert options; further education; and higher level courses.

Green Cert Options

With courses available nationwide, the Green Cert – also known as the Certificate in Agriculture – is the most widely accepted course to qualify for the Department of Agriculture schemes such as The Young Farmers scheme and TAMS (Targeted Agricultural Modernisation Scheme).

It is also the qualification required for Stamp Duty exemption to those under 35 years of age on the transfer of land, Gibbons noted.

There are three options available to student wishing to complete the Green Cert:
  • Full-time course in agricultural colleges – which includes placement on a host farm. For this, students can apply directly to their chosen agricultural college;
  • Part-time course, available in regional Teagasc offices, to over 23-year-olds. Students for this option can apply to the local Teagasc Education officer;
  • Distance course, available at colleges and some regional offices for students who hold a level 6 or higher non-agricultural award, i.e. students with a trade (Level 6), diploma (Level 7), degree (Level 8) in an non-agricultural area.

In an added note on this, Gibbons said: “Students who successfully complete the Certificate in Agriculture / Advanced Certificate in Agriculture may have the opportunities to gain entry to higher education courses.

“This is a great opportunity to further your studies post Green Cert,” she added.

Further Education

The further level courses are suitable for people who wish to make a career in agriculture but who do not wish to complete a higher level course.

On this, the education officer explained: “QQI [Quality and Qualifications Ireland] accredited courses are suitable for future farmers and for people seeking employment on farms.”

Examples of further education courses are:
  • Dairy Herd Management;
  • Drystock Herd Management;
  • Forestry;
  • Crops and Machinery Management;
  • Pig Management;
  • Poultry Management.

“All courses are two-year full-time courses and are delivered at various agricultural colleges,” Gibbons said.

Higher Level Courses

Turning to the higher level courses that prospective students can consider, the education officer said:

“University College Dublin offers agricultural degree programmes in a variety of areas such as Forestry, Environment, Engineering, Horticulture and Food Science.

“Other agricultural degree courses are run in partnership with the Institutes of Technology [WIT, DKIT, GMIT, ITT, etc].

“These courses are accredited by QQI. They provide the education and training needed by future farmers and skilled workers in the agri industry,” Gibbons said.

All higher level courses are available at level 7 or level 8 [Honours Degree Level] level 7 course duration is three years, while the level 8 honours degree will take four years.

“Students apply for higher level courses courses through the CAO [Central Applications Office] application.

“These courses also include valuable work placements in the many different agricultural industries both in Ireland and aboard, affording students’ great opportunities and experiences.

“These work placements often lead to graduate employment opportunities,” Gibbons concluded.