There has been a rise for the third year running in the number of student applicants for third-level education, new CAO data shows.

This year sees a 2% rise in applications generally. There was also a similar increase last year and the year before.

76,000 people have applied to go to college this year, compared to 71,000 in 2013.

The latest CAO data shows an increase in applications for college courses such as architecture, law and engineering. 

This CAO data relates to the choices that students made in initial applications they submitted in January.

They can still change their minds, but these figures are usually a reliable indicator of trends.

Applications for architecture and engineering are both up again, by 13%. Interest in law is still also on the rise, up this year by almost 6%.

After some years in decline, nursing applications have risen too, by 11%.

The data also shows a strong rise in the number of applications from Northern Irish students, up by almost a quarter compared to last year.

1,700 Northern Irish students have chosen to apply this year for courses in the Republic.

A guidance counsellor has said the increase in those applying for engineering, technology and architecture college courses is a sign that people believe the economy on the way back and they believe they will get employment in these areas after graduation.

Speaking on RTÉ's Morning Ireland, Brian Mooney added there has been a significant fall in the number of those applying for agriculture, horticulture and veterinary courses which were very popular in 2009.

He said this was another indicator that students believed they would gain employment in other areas.

He described the increase in those applying for nursing places as very significant and said the Health Service Executive should increase the number of places back to at least 2009 levels.