Alan Whelan – Career Change From Accountant to Sports Psychologist and Lecturer

Alumni of Psychology Coaching & PE


“Having spent the previous 10 years working in the world of accounts, I knew I did not want to stay tied to a desk for the next 30 years.”

Like many Portobello Institute students and graduates, Alan Whelan came to a crossroads in his professional life. He could continue down a path he wasn’t enjoying or go back to education and reignite an old passion from his schooldays.

“I had always had a passion for sport, and it was only as I got older that I realised there were ever-growing options to work within a sporting environment outside of being a professional sportsperson, a coach or a personal trainer,” he said.

Alan began to research sports psychology courses within Ireland which brought him to Portobello. From there he was able to enrol in an introductory course.

“I thought I would use it as a stepping stone. Being a mature student I had concerns in relation to my capacity to return to an educational setting.

“I loved the course, and before the 10 weeks were complete I had already signed on to start the full-time three-year degree course with Portobello,” he said.

Here at Portobello, we pride ourselves on not just finding any course for someone, but the right course for someone, as part of our application process.

“The application process was simple.

“I attended an open evening held in Croke Park where I got to speak with some of the key tutors and admissions staff who were able to comprehensively answer all my questions and any concerns I had.

“They were able to give me a great insight in relation to the modules I could expect to take, and even the potential advancements of my studies should I decide to go on and study a Master’s degree,” he said.

One of Alan’s biggest concerns coming back to college as a mature student, he admits, was not being able to fit in among a younger cohort of students. But he says these fears soon became unfounded.

“The mix of students and how everyone gelled and worked together was amazing. There were obviously students straight out of sitting their Leaving Cert.

“However, there were also students who were already several years working in-person weekdays within a sports environment.

“Some students were changing their careers similar to myself, and there were students who had withdrawn from courses in larger colleges and were returning to their studies with Portobello instead,” he said.

At Portobello, one of our key mantras is nurturing the one in everyone. This is something that resonated with Alan throughout his time here.

“Being a smaller college, you really feel like you get an opportunity to interact with your fellow students, and more importantly with your tutors, each and every time you attend lectures.

“There is a lot of time dedicated to each individual where required, you are not just one name of many within a large auditorium,” he said.

For Alan, his qualifications from Portobello Institute allowed him to continue on to complete a Masters in Sport and Exercise Psychology at Ulster University in Belfast.

Since then he has also been able to set up his own sports psychology business. And, in a full-circle moment, he has returned to Portobello as a tutor across a number of our sport and physical education courses.

This is something that, even when he began studying in Portobello, he didn’t think was possible.

“Lecturing was something I had never contemplated doing; however it is something I really, really enjoy now, and something I enjoyed from the moment I began.

“There were several lecturers from my time in Portobello who I believe set a great example in relation to what a good lecturer should be.

“I strive to follow that example and provide a personal touch to all my lectures, assisting students with queries and feedback as much as possible, and being available to respond to all email queries in a timely and informative manner no matter the time of day or day of the week.

“I feel this is the extra touch Portobello provides that many of the other larger colleges do not,” he said.

For Alan, whose career once came to a crossroads, his message for those in a similar situation is simple.

“For anyone contemplating studying with Portobello, or who is maybe unsure on the next step to take, I would highly encourage you to get in touch with the admissions team or attend any of the online open evenings to see what the college has to offer you.

“We are a very inclusive college, catering to the needs of many with excellent flexibility through the in-person weekdays and blended learning courses on offer. I have seen this through my time here as a student and now as my time here as a lecturer,” he said.

Portobello Institute has a dynamic sports department with a range of top qualifications for the next step in your career.

If you are interested in any of our sports courses or have any questions you can book a consultation call with our expert sports advisor Jason Lester, email [email protected] or call 01 892 0029. 

Alan Whelan – Career Change From Accountant to Sports Psychologist and Lecturer Alan Whelan – Career Change From Accountant to Sports Psychologist and Lecturer