| 6.5°C Dublin

Going to college 2010: Still a healthy interest in nursing careers

NURSING has taken another leap in the points table, making a place on a degree programme the preserve of the top 30pc of Leaving Cert performers.

It means nursing is almost as competitive as primary teaching, traditionally one of the most closely fought disciplines.

Even with restrictions in recruitment, the relative security offered by the traditional public service careers is clearly a factor in CAO choices.

Nursing's strong performance in the CAO this year comes on top of an across-the-board leap in points in 2009, triggered by a competition-sharpening cut of 310 training places.

General nursing courses are the most popular options and the increased competition saw points for almost all programmes rising.

Two years ago, school-leavers with points in the mid to late 300s could expect to get into general nursing, but today the points are firmly in the 400-460 bracket. The cut-off for one nursing course is 500.

Of the 14 general nursing programmes for school-leavers, there are only three with a cut-off points level below 400 -- Athlone and Galway-Mayo institutes of technology, both at 395* points, and Trinity's Adelaide intake (380), which also involves an interview.

The highest cut-off points for a general nursing course is NUI Galway, reaching 450*, up from 435 last year. (The asterisk indicates that not all with the points are guaranteed a place).

At University College Dublin, which has the general nursing course with the biggest intake of students, the points have risen to 395*, up from 390 last year.

There are also about 30 other specialist nursing courses, such as psychiatric, intellectual disability and children's and general combined.

The nursing course with the highest points is children's and general nursing in Cork, which has a limited number of places. It rose to 500*.

Primary teaching also kept up its high points status, continuing to attract from the pool of the top 25pc of Leaving Cert students, although some courses are down slightly.

But, after the big jump in points for teaching in 2009, there was a little relief for applicants this year. While points remained at the traditionally strong levels, there were no major jumps,and in some case a slight easing.

At St Patrick's College, Drumcondra, the biggest teaching course in the country, the points cut-off this year is 475 on random selection. The St Pat's course for Gaeltacht applicants remained at 435.

At Mary Immaculate College Limerick, points slipped to 475*, down from 480* last year.