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Tuesday 17 September 2019

The jobs that could earn school leavers €100,000s in the future

The best-paid jobs for young people are likely to be in law, finance and Stem firms, writes Louise McBride

Ciara Rogerson from Sallynoggin, Aoife Swan from Ballybrack and Saoirse Mangan from Dun laoghaire analysing their Leaving Cert Results at Rockford Manor Presentation, Blackrock, Dublin on Tuesday. Photo: Gareth Chaney/Collins
Ciara Rogerson from Sallynoggin, Aoife Swan from Ballybrack and Saoirse Mangan from Dun laoghaire analysing their Leaving Cert Results at Rockford Manor Presentation, Blackrock, Dublin on Tuesday. Photo: Gareth Chaney/Collins
Louise McBride

Louise McBride

The 60,000 students who got their Leaving Cert results last Tuesday must now decide which career to pursue. And for those after the best-paid jobs, a career in technology, engineering, finance or law could eventually earn a salary running into the hundreds of thousands.

Specialising in an area where there is a shortage of skilled staff - and where demand for such skills is high - is one of the keys to securing a well-paid job in the future. So for those school leavers mulling over their CAO offers, or those considering alternatives to third-level education, which jobs could be the most lucrative by the time they enter the workforce?

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Some of the best-paid jobs today are in the Stem (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) field. As this trend is expected to continue, Stem jobs should also be lucrative earners by the time today's Leaving Cert students graduate in three to four years' time.

"Stem-related jobs, data-related jobs, and jobs which require cloud-based skills, will all be hugely important in a few years," said Ruairi Kavanagh, editor of Gradireland. "This is where there will be skills gaps."

Some of the best-paid careers in the coming years will be in life sciences and highly skilled engineering roles, according to Mike McDonagh, managing director of the recruitment agency Hays Ireland.

"Within technology, some of the better-paid jobs will be in software development, data, business intelligence, business analyst roles, and roles which involve the testing of software and computer systems," said McDonagh. "All these roles have strong starting salaries - and good prospects going forward."

Degrees in computer science and business information systems are among some of the more sought-after qualifications at the moment, according to McDonagh.

The more experienced the technology professional, and the more senior the role, the better the pay prospects. A chief technology officer can expect to earn between €150,000 and €200,000, according to CPL.

"The salaries of experienced solution and technical architects, who currently earn between €85,000 and €110,000, and the salaries of heads of analytics, data science or IT, who currently earn between €100,000 and €150,000, are on the up," said Siobhan O'Shea, director of client services with the recruitment firm.

"Database administrators - especially those with a language - are in high demand. In web design, employers are crying out for people to work in web-related applications which focus on enhancing users' online experience.

"Business intelligence solutions specialists, IT technicians, and big data analysts (including those with Hadoop, Cassandra and SQL) are needed." (Big data analysts examine large and varied amounts of data.)

The engineering sector is experiencing a lot of growth and there is an "acute shortage" of engineering professionals in Ireland, according to O'Shea. "Issuing work permits outside the European Economic Area has been necessary to fill these vacant positions," said O'Shea.

"Engineering job opportunities have become more diverse over recent years, with an increased demand for engineers across manufacturing, services, technology, life sciences and medical device engineering."

This skills shortage has pushed up salaries in a number of engineering disciplines. The emigration of qualified civil and structural engineers during the recession meant there was a major shortage of experienced people last year - which in turn pushed up salaries for graduates and newly chartered candidates in that field, according to Hays. The latest salary guide from Hays found that a chartered civil or structural engineer with 10 or more years' experience could earn up to €70,000 last year.

The Hays salary guide also found that senior engineers in cloud technology earned up to €95,000 last year, while a senior process engineer in life sciences earned up to €80,000.

A general manager in engineering could earn up to €150,000, according to CPL.


A new - or nearly qualified - actuary can currently expect to earn between €65,000 and €85,000 a year, according to CPL. "A shortage of skilled actuaries in Ireland means salaries are likely to increase further in 2019," said O'Shea. An experienced actuary could command a salary running into the hundreds of thousands. For example, a chief actuary working in insurance can expect to earn between €170,000 and €320,000, CPL has indicated.

Outside actuaries, some of the best-paid financial roles include chief financial officer and executive-level jobs within funds and fund accounting, tax and compliance, according to O'Shea. Such jobs could secure a salary of between €150,000 and €350,000.

Starting salaries for graduates are clearly much lower than that. The average starting salary for a graduate in banking, investment banking and financial services is €30,550, while the average graduate starting salary in accountancy and financial management is €26,468, according to Gradireland.


Law is traditionally a highly paid profession; with several years' experience behind you, your salary could run into the hundreds of thousands.

"Ireland's legal market is strong, with a particularly busy compliance market and several new international firms setting up in Dublin as a result of Brexit," said O'Shea. "Salaries across the board have been increasing, with the top-paying positions being head of legal for a large multinational company, salaried partner, and senior legal counsel with over six years of experience." A head of legal in a large multinational - a position which typically requires several years' experience (or more) - can expect to earn between €120,000 and €215,000 today, according to CPL.

Starting salaries for law graduates are often higher than average and could be as high as €40,000, according to Kavanagh. "Only a minority of employers take on law graduates though," he said.


"Marketing continues to play a crucial role in almost all businesses and sectors," said O'Shea. "This is being reflected in salaries. Salaries for entry-level marketing jobs are rising, but the highest-paying jobs within marketing this year are specialist, senior roles, such as marketing director and chief marketing officer - specifically within finance, pharmaceutical and healthcare companies."

A marketing director can expect to earn between €100,000 and €150,000, while a chief marketing officer can expect a salary of between €100,000 and €160,000, according to CPL.

Almost half of Irish marketers expect to spend more on marketing in 2019, according to a survey earlier this year. Brexit, however, could take a toll on company marketing budgets in the coming years.


There has been a surge of interest in third-level courses with an environmental focus among this year's school leavers. It remains to be seen what prospects await school leavers pursuing an environmental career. Some recruiters believe it may be more prudent to get an 'all-rounder' qualification, which equips one with a range of skills, including environmental ones.

An environmental manager can expect to earn between €44,000 and €58,000 today, while an environmental engineer can expect between €26,000 and €61,000, according to CPL.

There could be a lot of opportunities in the future for environmental engineers to work in the field of sustainable resources, according to Kavanagh.

"The whole area of the environment is important - as is having a qualification which is related to the environment - whether that be agriculture, civil engineering and so on," said Kavanagh. "If I was a student looking to work in the environmental area, I'd be optimistic - due to the challenges which a lot of countries are facing in relation to meeting environmental targets."

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