EYCS Graduate Profiles/Employment Routes

Graduate Profile: Triona O'Connor

Triona O'Connor EYCS Graduate

Triona O’Connor - Creche Manager – 2008 Graduate

I entered into the 2nd year of the degree programme following two years studying in a college of further education to attain a Diploma in Childcare and Education. I had been offered employment upon completion of my Diploma and thought that I had learnt enough to enter the world of work but my parents encouraged me to study the Degree Programme in UCC. I found the move to a university very daunting and I was concerned about getting lost amongst the crowd. I was all wrong, everyone on the degree programme, the wider university and the lecturers themselves were so warm and welcoming. It was the best decision I have made in my career yet. 

Now you have to work hard, and find a way of balancing life and study but what I got from those two years was invaluable. I had the chance to work for longer periods of time in settings learning hands on and feeling like part of a team. I learnt a great deal about how to carry myself in a more professional manner, I got to experience classes like psychology and child health that gave me a wealth of knowledge when I entered full time employment.

UCC even helped me in getting my first job too; I was given my work experience in a crèche in my final year and was lucky enough to work in that setting for a further four years after graduation. I have, since graduating in 2008, completed an MA in Visual Arts Education and managed three very unique full day care childcare settings. I think the early years is a wonderful sector to be in and the UCC B.A. programme was defiantly a fantastic platform, I guess you could credit them with some of my success and for that I am eternally grateful.

Graduate Profile: Alan McCarthy

Alan McCarthy EYCS

Alan McCarthy – Graduate 2000 - Vice Principal, The International School of The Hague, The Netherlands

I completed my BA in Early Childhood Studies in 2000. From there I began a career in education and I have been lucky enough to have enjoyed a tremendously rewarding experience thus far. After graduating I immediately started working as a special needs auxiliary at Scoil Eanna, Cope Foundation in Cork where I stayed for almost one school year. I left this post to study for a Postgraduate Diploma in Primary Teaching at Edinburgh University. Whilst on placement, I was fortunate enough to get offered a teaching post at St. George’s School for Girls, Edinburgh and successfully gained full teaching status after my first year. It was then I decided to venture overseas for the first time where I worked as a class teacher in Auckland, New Zealand, in a residential school for children with severe emotional and behavioural difficulties. Following on from New Zealand I worked in the special needs sector in Scotland for one year before eventually returning to St. George’s, remaining there as a class teacher for three more years.

In 2008 I got itchy feet again and decided to work internationally. I moved to the Middle East to work as Nursery Leader in a school in Qatar. After one and a half years I got promoted to the senior leadership team and continued working there until 2014. I then successfully applied for my current post, Vice Principal, at The International School of The Hague, in The Netherlands. In May of this year I completed my headship studies gaining a National Professional Qualification for Headship (NPQH) from the National College, UK and I have just applied to study a Masters in Education focusing on Leadership and Management.

In 1996 I was in the second year of a BA in French and Mathematics at UCC when I realised it wasn’t for me. After a lot of soul searching and deep thought I visited the Early Childhood Studies Department at UCC and met Dr. Frances Douglas and Dr. Mary Horgan.  After talking to them I decided to apply to study for a BA in Early Childhood Studies. It has only been in the last few years that I have realised what a great decision this was. The Early Childhood Studies course has had an incredibly positive influence on me both as a person and a professional.  Firstly, it helped me develop a deep appreciation for the importance of education but in particular the education of young children. Secondly the course provided me with an incredible insight into the workings of some of our greatest educationalists, which in turn helped shape my philosophy as an educator.

However, I think the greatest influence on me during my time studying was not in fact the course but actually one of the course lecturers, whose pure passion and enthusiasm for the education of young children sparked a similar passion in me. To this day, these feelings drive and motivate me to ensure every child receives what they deserve: an outstanding learning experience, which allows them to achieve beyond their potential. I will forever be indebted for such inspiration.

Graduate Profile: Anne Sheehan

Anne Sheehan EYCS Pic

Anne Sheehan – Graduate 2015 – Childcare Worker – Full Time Day Care Centre

I began looking at early years jobs that were being advertised in my home town in the middle of April. I also sent C.V.'s via email to childcare facilities at home. Within a week of doing that, I was contacted and invited to come for an interview. To my surprise, I was called back for a second interview and very soon after that I was offered the position. I was delighted to have found a job so quickly! I settled very quickly into the job.   

I found that the majority of early year’s jobs that were being advertised were looking for someone who had a level 8 degree. Where I work, my degree is acknowledged and appreciated by the management and staff in the childcare setting. I also feel that the work placements I experienced in both second and third year helped to prepare me very well for the job and I am able to apply what I had learned while at UCC, both theory and practice. I am glad that I chose to study Early Years and Childhood Studies at UCC as I am thoroughly enjoying working in the early year’s education sector. 

Graduate Profile: Sarah Beasley

Sarah Beasley EYCS Graduate

Sarah Beasley - Graduate 2009 - AHCB Hippotherapy Certified Therapist

From an early age and years of “helping out” at my local horse riding school I decided I wanted to combine working with horses and people living with disabilities, I just never knew how.  After some research I discovered Hippotherapy, the use of equine movement used as a treatment strategy by Occupational Therapists, Speech and Language Therapists and Physiotherapists.  Now all I had to do was become a therapist. Unfortunately my leaving certificate said otherwise so I had to change my game plan.  I registered for the B.A. Degree in Early Childhood Studies in 2006 and thoroughly enjoyed my experience.  While on my first of two placements I was offered a job by the Brothers of Charity who I continued working for up until recently.  I had the opportunity to work in a variety of settings such as school based services; home support; residential; day service; challenging behaviour.  On completing my degree in 2009 I then got a job in Togher Family Centre where I worked as a pre-school assistant and then as an assistant supervisor in the crèche.  I had come out of the degree with great hands on experience as well as theory so found the transition to working life easy.  

After taking a break from work I traveled to Canada and while there decided it was time to re-look at my options for training in Hippotherapy.  I decided to apply for the MSc Occupational Therapy in the University of Limerick.  The degree in Early Childhood Studies was a great foundation to be coming from and was recognized by the University of Limerick as a degree in a related subject so allowed me to apply directly for the Masters.  The same can also be said for the Masters in Speech and Language Therapy that the University offers.  The application process and interview were very challenging but the Early Childhood Studies Degree had me well prepared and was a great foundation to be coming from. 

On completion of the MSc Occupational Therapy I then began the training route for Hippotherapy.  I took the American Hippotherapy Association Level I course in Barcelona, Spain with a number of different professionals from all across Europe.  I then traveled to Skyline Therapy Services in New Mexico, USA where I worked to gain invaluable experience and took the Level II course.  Skyline is a huge private therapy service employing 7 therapists and meeting the therapy needs of over 200 clients a week.  On returning from Skyline I sat the Hippotherapy entry level exam through UCC and am now a AHCB Hippotherapy Certified Therapist.  The next step is to become a Clinical Specialist in the use of Hippotherapy.

With great help and support I was able to develop my own business and I now have a private occupational therapy clinic specializing in the use of Hippotherapy as a treatment strategy, Strides Therapy Clinic.  Currently it is just myself and a horse handler working here, but my long-term plan is to follow in the footsteps of Skyline and be able to offer a full multidisciplinary service, catering for both adults and children. 

Facebook: Strides Occupational Therapy

Web: www.strides.ie 

Graduate Profile: Nora Anne Luck

Nora Anne Luck - Graduate 2012 - Bainisteoir Naíonra

Following seventeen years in a varied nursing career, and seventeen years as a Naíonra educator, embarking on the ECS honours degree course seemed something of a natural progression.. However, the catalyst that propelled me into action was a deeply felt frustrating need to afford a more deserving, professional status to early years education - this most precious, privileged, responsible, yet undervalued profession – educating our youngest citizens in the most enlightened manner possible.  Yet, the decision to re-enter student life was daunting, not least the trepidation of combining full time study with the on-going responsibility of running a Naíonra, the implications of which were yet to unfold, hence a leap in courage!  Encouragement from course leaders helped clinch the decision, while direct entry into 2nd year – a concession available to students who met the prevailing criteria of five years Early Years’ experience, offered a most attractive incentive, as did the concession of being facilitated to undertake placement practice in one’s own service.  

The broad-based course content was stimulating, Illuminating and more diverse than anticipated, all the while reinforcing prior learning by validating knowledge, skills and competence already acquired.   The complementarity of course disciplines inspired a deeper understanding of preschool children, their needs and potential.  It revealed just how vast and boundless this field of study is, and hence the need to ultimately decide how to best utilise this new learning for maximum benefit to the child.  A thought provoking decision indeed, and for me, striking a balance between theoretical and experiential understanding and its application seemed to work best, hence my return to the Naíonra organisation, with refreshed conviction and energy to strive anew for best practice and greater professionalization of our service.  

In reflecting on how this ECS degree has impacted on practice, I find that while, some advantages have been specific, the net effect may be less quantifiable, but no less real.  It feels as if fertiliser has been scattered to enrich the growth of seeds sown a long time ago.  A broader awareness regarding the varying preschool pedagogical approaches has emerged and their merit in supporting child development.  There is a heightened regard for observation and reflection as key tools in understanding each child and each other as team-members, also as indispensable to curriculum planning, and to following the criteria of Aistear and Síolta.  Having undertaken this degree course - has tangibly added credence and confidence in relation to all aspects of good practice, that which already exists as well as those areas in need of strengthening.   

For a mature student with previous EYE experience, knowing that some ECS lecturers came from professional practitioner backgrounds, added substance and a reassuring feeling of being understood.  This is important for a long term practitioner, whose daily experience can place them in a somewhat solitary position, whereas the ECS course offered an environment of belonging and being part of a larger, more diverse EY community.  It is comforting to know that so many people are working in parallel, united by an idealistic vision of enriching early childhood education & care, maximising the value of this EYE course to advance and nurture the child’s developmental trajectory.  The ensuing inspiration is indeed welcome to the practitioner student, whose idealism is likely to have been frequently tested while grappling with the daily challenges inherent to EYE settings, not least the endless bureaucracy and excessive regulation which do little to enthuse the spirit or fan the flames of creativity.  To someone who has now worked in the field for over two decades, that unity of purpose was and remains both energising and gratifying.   

Another value on the power of self-reflection has emerged in the ensuing insights which often create a broader vista from which to view a situation objectively, adding clarity, honesty, and a deeper authenticity to every assessment and the resultant decision making and planning.  More benefits come to light with time, each pointing to the journey travelled and also to the road ahead, warranting vigilance, generosity, united vision and purpose.  This degree course offers both a local and global perspective on where early years education is positioned today, providing a most helpful roadmap with which to proceed and a plentiful fuel supply of inspiration.  Buíochas do chách

Graduate Profile: Amy Walsh

Amy Walsh EYCS PicAmy Walsh – Owner/Manager Playschool - 2010 Graduate

My name is Amy Walsh and I am 28 years old. I am Owner and Manager of LITTLE SCHOLARS PLAYSCHOOL in Carrick-on-Suir, Co. Tipperary. I graduated from UCC in 2010 with a First Class Honours Degree in Early Childhood Studies. Since completing my degree, I have worked in a number of educational settings as an SNA including Primary Schools and special needs settings.  The experience and knowledge I gained within these settings and throughout my placements in UCC paved the way for me to open my very own preschool in September 2011.

However, it was the Early Childhood Studies Degree itself that shaped my career path and my career choices by providing me with the knowledge and skills to become an Early Years Practitioner. I found the course well-structured and started from a beginner’s level of theory in many subjects which gave us a taste of the different routes we would be able to take once the course was completed. These included Social Studies, Psychology, Education and Child Health, all of which were extremely interesting. As you can see from my current career, I found the Education modules the most interesting. Part of the course in second and third year is placement which gave us exposure to the practical side of what we were learning in lectures. These placements gave us the opportunities to put our skills to work and become reflective practitioners, preparing us for the ‘real world’. During these placements we were mentored and guided by our helpful and understanding tutors and lecturers, which I find gives the course a very personal touch.

Some of my main achievements during my years at UCC, include: Getting awarded ‘Title of College Scholar’ for my academic performance; Group Research: Member of a team of 17 who focused on researching around Children and Global Diversity which was a project of the Hope Foundation, UCC and Kolkata. Achieved First Class Honours Degree.


These achievements, and the knowledge I gained over the 3 years of this degree, gave me the confidence and professionalism I needed to get me to where I am today. I would highly recommend this course to any student who is interested in pursuing a career in the Early Years sector. If I was given the chance to do this degree all over again, I would in a heartbeat.

Graduate Profile: Clodagh Quane


Clodagh Quane

My name is Clodagh Quane and I graduated from Early Years and Childhood Studies in 2015 with a 2:1 degree. Currently, I am completing a two year Masters in Audiology (CKX51) here in UCC.

My interest in Audiology initially stemmed from the third year placement that I undertook in a language class in a primary school. I was always very interested in working with children in education but this placement highlighted that I also enjoyed working in the area of clinical therapies. While on this placement I observed the work that is done by Speech and Language therapists as well as Occupational therapists and I was fascinated by what I saw. I researched the other options that were available to me within the area of clinical therapies and I found the masters in Audiology. I conducted some research into the course and shadowed an audiologist before beginning the application process for the Masters. One aspect of the Masters that I found very appealing was the placement aspect of the course, similarly to Early Years and Childhood Studies there are two 12 week placements involved in this course.

I can confidently say that the aspect of the Early Years and Childhood Studies course that I enjoyed the most was the placement. Being given the opportunity to put the theory you have learned into practise is invaluable. There is a huge difference between reading about what to do in certain situations and being able to competently follow the steps when you are in the real life situation. Both placement periods gave me a taste of the real world and I was very lucky to be given the chance to work alongside professionals such as Early Year’s practitioners, Primary School Teachers, Special Needs Assistants, Speech and Language Therapists and Occupational Therapists.

Many of the modules that I studied in the last three years have a direct link with Audiology. One module on Special Needs Education included a section on hearing impairment. While studying this module I learned about the daily struggles that children with hearing impairment face while also looking briefly at the rehabilitation and treatment options available to them. Other modules that pushed my interest in the area of Audiology were the Social Policy modules I studied throughout the three years. Learning about disability and how it impacts a person’s feeling of belonging encouraged me to get involved in an area that helps people to feel more accepted in society. As hearing is the basis for communication, impairment can mean that people fell disconnected from society. Studying many different Psychology modules allowed me to develop my knowledge of critical periods in development and the importance of development of senses. My realisation of critical periods and how important they are in a child’s development makes me appreciate how beneficial and rewarding it will be to work in a career that attempts to assist a child when they are developing their sense of hearing.

Although my undergraduate degree did not touch on the scientific aspects of my Masters it did ensure that after the three years I developed into a hardworking, ambitious individual who is confident in my own ability. During the three years of Early Years and Childhood Studies I was involved in group presentations, individual presentations and reflective work as well as essays and exams. Having already had these experiences going into the Masters has been a great help to me.

To apply for the Masters in Audiology in UCC I was required to complete a personal statement. I found writing this statement to be a daunting task but having already completed reflective work in EYCS where I was required to identify my skills and competences really helped me to promote my abilities in a professional manner. The next step was an interview, while I was nervous before I sat the interview I took some comfort in the knowledge that this was not my first time meeting professionals in the area in which I wanted to pursue a career. Having gone through the process of meeting my placement mentor and the other professionals I worked with during the placement periods gave me the confidence I needed when I met with the Audiologists and lectures for this Masters. The support and guidance I received from the lectures in EYCS has without a doubt given me the confidence I needed to continue my studies. I would recommend EYCS to anybody who is looking for a rewarding career that is based on working with people and I cannot emphasise enough how much the placement aspect of this course helped me to develop both professionally and personally.



School of Education

Scoil an Oideachais

Leeholme, O' Donovan's Road, Cork, Ireland