The wait for results is over for more than 58,000 students who sat this year's Leaving Certificate exams.

Six students earned eight A1s.

Data released by the State Examinations Commission shows that numbers sitting the exam are up for the third year running.

This is likely to increase pressure on college places.

However, the proportion of students opting for the more practical skills-orientated Leaving Certificate Applied programme continues to decline.

At schools and education centres throughout the country the results are being handed out this morning and candidates can also access them online from midday.

Overall, this year's results are broadly in line with previous years.

Minister for Education Richard Bruton has, in a statement issued this morning, congratulated candidates and he has urged them to consider not just college as their next step but also more vocational pathways such as apprentice and traineeships.

The minister's appeal is in line with a national strategy to develop a much greater focus on practical skills.

However today's Leaving Certificate data shows that numbers opting for the more vocationally based Leaving Certificate Applied course continue to decline.

Of the more than 58,000 who sat this year's exams, just under 5% went for that option.

Girls who left Syria behind get Leaving Cert results

President Michael D Higgins congratulated the students, saying it was an important day in their lives.

"Young people in Ireland and elsewhere have the ability to transform our society and help build an Ireland where young and old can live happy, fulfilled lives in a strong and vibrant society."

The President of the Institute of Guidance Counsellors has said no matter what their result, Leaving Cert students should celebrate the commitment and efforts they put in over the past five or six years.

Speaking on RTÉ's Morning Ireland, Betty McLaughlin advised those who did not do as well as they wanted not to panic and to speak to a guidance councillor to assess their situation.

She said for those who wish to have their results reviewed they can lodge an appeal at a cost of €40 per subject. If the appeal is upheld the €40 will be refunded.

In relation to Maths grade at Ordinary Level, she said for those who did not score a D grade, which is the minimum needed for most third-level courses, there will be opportunities in most colleges to sit a second-chance maths exam.

Speaking on RTÉ's Morning Ireland, Mr Bruton said there has been an almost 50% increase in the number of people sitting Higher Level maths, but that there were other elements of the curriculum that need to be looked at.

"I understand that there have been some difficulties in areas like algebra and trigonometry and the level of understanding of those and we may need to look at that.

"The curriculum board will be looking at the whole maths area this year and we will see how we can work on that to make sure that the teaching methods reflect accurately the curriculum and give pupils the very best chance."

Minister Bruton said a report by the chief examiner, which was published earlier this year, will provide material for both the curriculum and teaching professionals to look at whether the teaching methods need to be improved in order to improve the results.

Meanwhile, a career guidance expert has said he agrees with Minister Bruton's assertion that people should also focus on apprenticeships and training schemes.

Speaking on RTÉ's Today with Keelin Shanley, career guidance exper Brian Mooney said Irish people are obsessed with third level education.

He said in Germany, where around 45% of young people study at third level, but there is also a high take up of apprenticeships and high-skilled training schemes, the youth unemployment rate is 5% compared to over 20% in Ireland.

"So effectively we need to think in this country, are we obsessed with getting our kids into an academic route?"

Mr Mooney also advised students who might be disappointed with their results to seek support and said there are options open to everyone.

"Go and talk to your guidance councillor, go and ask for an appointment. Don't just sit at home feeling miserable. Seek a bit of support and a bit of advice.

"There is no bad result, there is an option for every single individual. There is nobody who is stuck. There is a route from your Leaving Cert result today," he said.