Education Levels

National Framework of Qualifications (NFQ)

Outline of NFQ Levels
Levels 1 & 2 Level 3
Certificates Certificate
Core skills mainly in literacy and numeracy, for those with limited prior education. Awarded by QQI. Recognises knowledge gained, personal and practical skills. Awarded by QQI.
  Junior Certificate
  Successfully completed exam after first 3 years of secondary school. Awarded by SEC.
Levels 4 & 5 Level 6
Certificates Certificate
Vocational skills developed in L4. General understanding of vocation in L5, can apply for further study. Awarded by QQI Comprehensive range of skills, may enter employment or proceed to further study. Awarded by QQI.
Leaving Certificate Higher Certificate
Completion of exams after final 2 or 3 years of secondary school. Continuation to further education depends on exam results. Awarded by SEC. Completion of a 2 year programme, may transfer to further education. Awarded by QQI, Institutes of Technology, some Universities.
Level 7 Level 8
Ordinary Bachelor Degree Honours Bachelor Degree
Usually a 3 year programme, may be able to transfer from a Higher Certificate to obtain a degree. Awarded by Institutes of Technology, QQI, Universities. A 3 or 4 year programme, though sometimes longer in certain areas of study. Awarded by Institutes of Technology, QQI, Universities.
  Higher Diploma
  One year programme, usually requires Honours Bachelor Degree, often in a different area of study than the degree. Awarded by Institutes of Technology, QQI, Universities.
Level 9 Level 10
Masters Degree Doctoral Degree
Two types, taught or research Masters Degrees, usually after an Honours Bachelor Degree. Mainly 2 years duration. Awarded by Institutes of Technoloy, QQI, Universities Honours Bachelor or Masters Degree required, 3-4 year duration. Variety of programmes available. Awarded by Institutes of Technology, QQI, Universities.
Post-Graduate Diploma Higher Certificate
Intermediate qualification after Honours or Ordinary Bachelor Degree, one year duration. Awarded by Institutes of Technology, QQI, Universities Recognises excellent contribution to learning, used for career progression to advanced levels of academia or research. Awarded by Institutes of Technology, QQI, Universities.


Quality & Qualifications Ireland

QQI is an independent State agency responsible for promoting quality and accountability in education and training services in Ireland. They promote, maintain and develop the Irish National Framework of Qualifications (NFQ), a 10-level framework for the development, recognition and awarding of qualifications in Ireland. They also approve programmes offered at a variety of schools, colleges and further and higher education and training institutions. These programmes lead to qualifications (QQI awards) listed in the NFQ, which are recognised internationally.

The State Examinations Commission

The State Examinations Commission (SEC) makes school awards including the Junior Certificate (NFQ Level 3) and the Leaving Certificate (NFQ Levels 4 and 5). As an awarding body, they have the power to give you a qualification in order to recognise your learning and accomplishments.

Institutes of Technology

There are thirteen Institutes of Technology in Ireland. They are Athlone IT, IT Blanchardstown, Cork IT, IT Carlow, Dundalk IT, Dun Laoghaire Institute of Art, Design and Technology, Letterkenny IT, Galway-Mayo IT, Limerick IT, IT Sligo, IT Tallaght, IT Tralee and Waterford IT. Each of these has been delegated the power to make awards to varying levels on the NFQ (and at least up to Level 8) by QQI. The former Dublin Institute of Technology (DIT) is now called Technical University Dublin.

Central Applications Office (CAO)

All students in Ireland looking to obtain a college place must apply through the CAO. If you wish to share information about your disability at this point, there are some extra forms you may need to complete. You are not obliged to tell the CAO or prospective educational institutions, and they are legally required to support students with disabilities and not discriminate against them. Read more about disclosing your disability.

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