Back to Education Allowance


If you are unemployed, parenting alone or have a disability and are getting certain payments from the Department of Social Protection, you may attend a second-or third-level education course and get the Back to Education Allowance (BTEA). This weekly allowance is paid at a standard rate and is not means-tested. In addition to your weekly BTEA payment, you also get an annual Cost of Education Allowance of €300, paid at the start of each academic year.

Study options

  1. 1.   Second-level option

You can attend a second-level course of education at any secondary, community, comprehensive or vocational school. The course must be full-time and lead to a certificate recognised by the Department of Education and Skills or approved by the Further Education and Training Awards Council, e.g Junior Cert, Leaving Cert, Post Leaving Cert (PLC), City and Guilds.

  1. 2.   Third-level option

You can attend a third-level course of education at any university, third-level college or institution, provided that the course is a full-time day course of study and is approved by the Department of Education and Skills for student grant purposes and/or is recognised by the Higher Education and Training Awards Council (HETAC).

Undergraduate courses are eligible but for postgraduate courses you can only get the BTEA that leads to a Higher Diploma (H.Dip.) qualification in any discipline or a Graduate Diploma in Education (primary and secondary teaching). Other types of postgraduate qualifications are not recognised for BTEA.

You will not get BTEA if you already have a postgraduate qualification.

Qualifying for BTEA

You can qualify for the BTEA in different ways depending on your age and circumstances. You must always have been accepted onto a qualifying course. In general you must be over 21 or over 24 for post graduate courses and have been getting a qualifying social welfare payment.

Qualifying period

For second level courses you must have been getting a qualifying social welfare payment for at least 3 months (78 days of unemployment*) immediately before you start the course.

For third level courses you must have been getting a qualifying social welfare payment (see above) for 9 months (234 days of unemployment*) immediately before you start the course. However, if you are getting Jobseeker’s Allowance, Jobseeker’s Benefit or One-Parent Family Payment for the required period (3 or 9 months), are aged between 18 and 20 and have been out of the formal education system for at least 2 years you may qualify.

*If you are getting a jobseeker’s payment, each day you are unemployed, except Sunday, is counted as a day of unemployment.

How to apply

When you are accepted on a course, you should notify the Department of Social Protection by filling in the relevant form which is also available from your Social Welfare Local Office.

Further details about the BTEA can be found on

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