WHAT career paths should the classes of 2012 follow in order to make a living after college? If the school leavers don't know by now, they'd better make up something quickly, because it's CAO form-filling time.
Yes, the deadline to decide what you want to do with the rest of your life comes up at the end of January. So no pressure then, eh?
Traditionally safe and lucrative professions are looking dicey: banking, teaching, medicine, architecture -- they're not the solid ways to earn a livelihood that they once were.
So, where will the jobs be when you graduate in 2015, and what courses can you choose in order to bag them?
Technology and Science
No surprises here. Forty per cent of new jobs in coming years will be in the technology and science arena, the IDA has predicted.
Companies like Zynga, Quest, Google, Intel and Amgen have made big investments here in the past 12 months, and that bodes well for employment prospects in a few years' time.
The IDA has €600m-plus worth of business wins lined up for 2012, mainly in the technology, biotechnology and science fields.
"The technology sector generated 4,000 jobs last year," said ICT Ireland director Paul Sweetman, "and there will be 200 job announcements this month alone."
So courses like software engineering, computer science, software development and design are ones to consider.
Meanwhile, big pharma should continue to be a big employer. Billion-dollar drug maker Alkermes came to Ireland in 2011, and Botox maker Allergan announced a €270m expansion in Westport, happening over the next four years and adding 200 jobs there.
Earning power: €40,000 a year and upwards
Not putting your college money on a horse, but rather considering the bookmaking sector as a great career bet. The growth of online gambling is opening up huge opportunities here.
"The business needs maths graduates, actuarial graduates, computer programmers, digital marketers, social media and Google analytics experts," said Sharon Byrne of the Irish Bookmakers' Association.
Now Europe's biggest bookmaker, Paddy Power, employs 2,500 people. Its graduate trainee programme takes on people with degrees in business, IT, eCommerce, maths, statistics, marketing and business analytics.
Earning power: Paddy Power grads get an "attractive package" including salary, bonus, pension, healthcare and life cover.
It's one of the few traditional safe havens left. Big four firms KPMG, PwC, Ernst & Young and Deloitte have been taking in more graduates despite the economic gloom. There's big money to be made in hand-ling all these administrat-ions, receiverships, liquidat-ions and restructurings that the recession has brought about.
You don't need to have an accountancy degree; a good 2:1 degree in any discipline could get you in.
Earning power: Starting at around €20,000 a year for graduate trainees, with potential to move into six figures if you're made partner in a big firm
Retail spend may be falling off a cliff but people still need to eat. The two German discounters have been eating up market share and opening new branches monthly.
Both Lidl and Aldi have rather well-paid graduate programmes. You need a decent 2:1 degree in any discipline to apply.
Lidl funds its own retail management degree in partnership with the Dublin Business School and even pays students a salary and holiday leave throughout their studies. (Application is via Lidl directly rather than the CEO system).
Earning power: A €60,000 starting salary plus a fully expensed car. At Aldi the car is an Audi A4 -- not bad at all if you're 22 and fresh out of college. Salary rises to more than €80,000 over time.
IFSC back office
It's cold comfort to Ulster Bank employees, but if financial services tsar John Bruton follows through on his mission, the IFSC will employ thousands more in coming years. This is where back office and clearing house functions are carried out for some of the biggest companies in the world: hedge funds, reinsurance giants, banks and asset financing firms.
On top of the 33,000 people employed there, there's a plan to provide 10,000 more jobs there over the next five years. Almost 90 per cent of employees there are third-level graduates.
Earning power: €50,000-plus
Companies like Glanbia and Kerry Group are turning a tasty profit despite the recession and the agrifood sector is the second biggest employer in the country.
Points for degree courses in fields like agribusiness and food innovation leapt up by an average of more than 20 points last year.
Kerry Group recruits graduate trainees from disciplines as diverse as finance, engineering, IT, product development and science. Glanbia looks for food technologists, business analysts, finance, IT, engineering and food science graduates.
Earning power: Circa €20,000 during graduate traineeship, then €50,000-plus
Almost all of the world's big aircraft leasing firms have offices in Ireland and it's a multi-billion euro industry.
Aviation leasing hires a big mix of professions as it takes a cross-section of people to put complex deals together, including lawyers, accountants, sales people, credit risk analysts, engineers and marketers. Training tends to be in-house and informal.
"While Europe is very shut down in the current market, business is booming in Asia and Latin America," one aviation leasing executive said.
Earning power: Six figures plus bonus, once your career is in full flight
The company that runs KFC and Pizza Hut in Ireland made big profits last year, and Supermac's and McDonald's are growing their businesses. McD's is planning an €8m-a-year expansion for the next four to five years. While it doesn't have a dedicated programme, graduates who enlist at management level make a decent living.
Earning power: A second assistant manager at McDonald's makes around €38,000 plus benefits like health care. A business manager makes up to €59,000.
Your parents won't thank us for telling you this, but skipping college altogether can be profitable too. Steve Jobs was a college dropout, and that didn't exactly hold the Apple founder back.
The Irish entrepreneur behind one of last year's biggest deals left school early. Greg Turley sold part of his business, Cartrawler, for a cool €100m.
Michelle Mone, the Scottish businesswoman who founded the Ultimo bra empire, left school at 15. Her company is worth €20m.
Earning power: Extremely variable, but potentially huge.
Sunday Indo Business