Spain, a country on Europe’s Iberian Peninsula, includes 17 autonomous regions with diverse geography and cultures. Capital city Madrid is home to the Royal Palace and Prado museum, housing works by European masters. Segovia has a medieval castle (the Alcázar) and an intact Roman aqueduct. Catalonia’s capital, Barcelona, is defined by Antoni Gaudí’s whimsical modernist landmarks like the Sagrada Família church.

  • Capital:Madrid
  • Dialing code:+34
  • Official language: Spanish
  • Did you know: Spain has the ninth-largest crude oil imports (1,224,000 barrels / day) in the world.


There are around 1.8 million students in Spain and some 3 percent of these are international students. According to the Ministry of Education, in 2012/13 the top five nationalities of foreign students were Italian, Columbian, Chinese, Romanian and Moroccan. At some universities, international students account for around a third of all Master’s students and over half of all doctoral students.

Most courses at Spanish universities are taught in Spanish and some courses are taught in a regional language such as Catalan. But there are increasing numbers of courses at both undergraduate and post-graduate levels taught in English. The Internationalization of the Spanish Higher Education Unit has an online database of English-taught programmes at Spanish universities.

Most Spanish universities divide the academic year into two semesters: the first generally runs from mid-September/early October to the end of December; the second runs from late around January/early February to the end of May. Some universities have trimesters.

Types of universities in Spain

There are 76 Spanish universities (universidades): Most of the leading universities are in Madrid and Barcelona. There are also prestigious business schools and other specialized schools.

The largest university in Spain is the National University of Distance Education (UNED), a distance learning and research university run by the central government, combining traditional onsite and distance learning programs.

The types of university establishments in Spain can be grouped into four types:

  • • university schools (escuelas universitarias), where shorter courses are offered, such as undergraduate courses
  • • university colleges (colegios universitarios), where the first three years of study leading to a licenciadois completed
  • • faculties (facultades) where longer courses are offered in all academic disciplines (except technical courses)
  • • higher technical schools of engineering and architecture (escuela superior de ingeniería y arquitectura) where long-term technical courses are completed.

The Spanish university system is rigidly structured and in some cases students have to choose a fixed curriculum and may not be permitted to change universities during their studies (except in outstanding situations).

International universities in Spain

There are several international universities and institutions – generally business schools – that offer higher education in Spain, usually in English or bilingual education.

International education offers a degree and credit structure that is widely accepted at higher education institutions around the world. These institutions offer a very diverse faculty, host students from around the globe, and are generally accredited by international bodies.

Qualifications awarded in Spain

Spanish universities offer official and non-official degrees. Official degrees follow the Bologna ECTS (European Credit Transfer and accumulation System) and are recognized within all the countries making up the European Higher Education Area (EHEA):

  • • Grado – Bachelor’s, four years, 240 ECTS.
  • • Posgrado – Master’s, one to two years, 60–120 ECTS.
  • • Doctorado – PhD, three to five years, 60 ECTS.

Under the ECTS, one credit corresponds to the student workload required to successfully complete the course modules, and these credits can be accumulated and transferred.

All Spanish universities also award masters and graduate degrees specific to each university. These ‘non-official degrees’ or maestrias – non-official degree, Magister or non-official master, or Expert Master – are awarded by individual universities, do not give access to PhD courses and are usually not recognized outside of Spain. However, they are often linked to specialized sectors and therefore can be very useful in gaining employment in Spain.

Exchange programmes, grants and scholarships in Spain

Spain has fewer scholarship opportunities than other European countries. It is signed up to the Eurasmus+ programme, an EU initiative which allows students from the EU and elsewhere in the world to study in other countries. American students may be able to study in Spain on a grant through the Fulbright US Student program. You can search for scholarships across Spanish universities on the Internationalization of the Spanish Higher Education Unit’s scholarship database and look at individual university websites. If you’re already enrolled in an university abroad, ask your university about any exchange programs.


You have to apply directly to each university because there’s no centralised system in Spain and each university sets its own entry requirements and deadlines for applications. However, you may need to get qualifications validated first. Competition can be fierce as there are usually too many applications for the number of available places. Most universities reserve about five percent of places for international students.

Foreign qualifications and accreditation to study in Spain

To enter higher education in Spain, local Spanish students are required to reach a certain level of academic achievement in secondary school and pass an entry exam.

If you are from within the EU/EEA/Switzerland or another country which has a reciprocity agreement with Spain, you are usually eligible to enrol at a Spanish university if you hold an equivalent valid school leaving certificate/university entrance level qualification from your home country. You may be asked to get your qualifications verified through the National Distance Education University (UNED). If you’re from outside the EU/EEA/Switzerland and hold a European or International Baccalaureate you are also eligible.

If you are from outside the EU/EEA/Switzerland, you may be asked to apply for official accreditation (homologación) or partial recognition (convalidación) of your qualifications. To get your qualifications approved, you will need authenticated and translated copies of your qualification, course details and proof of identity. For more information on official recognition for foreign qualifications, see the Ministry of Education.

Undergraduates may also be asked to sit an entrance exam called the Prueba de Acceso a Estudios Universitarios (PAU) and popularly known as the Selectividad, similar to Spanish students.

Language skills for studying in Spain

You will need to have a good knowledge of Spanish (Castilian) on undergraduate courses, or the regional language (such as Catalan, the regional language of Catalonia).

Most universities offer preparatory summer, intensive or extensive Spanish language courses alongside your degree course – or you can take classes at a private school.


The fees (tasas) for official degrees at public universities are set by the autonomous communities within guidelines set down by the General Assembly for University Policy.

Students from within the EU are charged the same tuition fees as Spanish students.

Tuition costs for a Bachelor’s degree at a public university in Spain ranged from EUR 700–3,700 per year.

For a Master’s or Doctorate, fees were set from EUR 17–65 EUR pre credit (one credit = 25 to 30 hours student work).

If you come from outside of the EU, or you are repeating a subject, you will pay more. Public universities set their own fess for non-official degrees.

Private universities set their own fees. Enrolment costs for Bachelor’s, Master’s or Doctorate courses can be between EUR 5,000–15,000, depending on the course and institution.

Student accommodation in Spain

Some universities have their own halls of residence (colegios mayores) and student flats but places are limited. Look on the university website for information on university residences on and off campus as well as home stays with Spanish families.

The cost of living in Spain also varies between cities and regions, with Madrid and Barcelona being the most expensive; budget for between EUR 350 and EUR 1,000 per month for all living expenses.


If you’re from the EU/EEA/Switzerland you don’t need a visa to come and study at a Spanish university but you do need to register with the Central Office for Foreigners.

If you’re from outside of the EU/EEA/Switzerland you’ll need to apply for a student visa from the Spanish embassy or consulate in your home country but only after you’ve been accepted onto a course at a Spanish university. You will also have to apply for an Autorización de Estancia por Estudios within 30 days of your arrival in Spain. This gives you temporary right of residence. It is valid for a year and can be renewed every year so long as you are doing well on your course.

Working while studying in Spain

Students can work either in employment or self-employment as long as the employment does not interfere with studies. In practice, this means that work may be part time during term-time and up to three months full-time work in the holidays. If you’re from outside of the EU/EEA/Switzerland, you’ll need a Spanish work permit to do so (unless the work is an internship as part of your course).

Spain offers a broad array of jobs for international student who wish to work while they pursue a degree in any of the country’s renowned institutions. You can check your university employment helpdesk for listings of jobs. Newspapers and job portals are another great way to look for part time jobs in Spain. Some of the most common jobs that international students engage in are:-

  • • Bartenders & Waiters
  • • Amusement Park Attendants
  • • University on-campus jobs
  • • Language tutors (for international students fluent in Spanish)

International students taking up part time jobs in Spain can earn anywhere from €7 - €10 per hour. The money made from part time jobs covers some of the living expenses here.

Working after Graduation:

Spain is one of those countries where it is very difficult for non-EU students to obtain a work permit after graduation. There is no visa specifically designated for foreign graduates of Spanish universities. Before getting a work permit, you need to get a job first. Your employer then has to authorise your hiring by proving that the job has been advertised but there were no suitable candidates from Spain or the EU. After you obtain the work and residence permit with the help of your employer, you then can apply for a work visa. In Spain, unlike in many other EU countries, a permit and a visa are not the same thing.

As you see, the post-study work visa road can be a bumpy one, however, it is not impossible to obtain a work permit if you have the right qualifications and skills. Therefore, it is essential to choose your study location carefully and plan accordingly.


IT Jobs in Spain: The Spanish IT markets and the jobs opportunities

Spain has a shortage of qualified, experienced information technology (IT) professionals to meet the growing demand – especially in the major cities, which dominate the IT market in Spain.

The jobs market is not always easy, but some professions can open a future up to you in which you can earn large wages, and even more than 100,000 euros a year. They obviously require high qualifications.

1. Commercial pilot

How much do they earn? : The initial base wage of captains ranges between 56,000 and 120,000 euros a year depending on the company for which they work, but bonuses and compliments come in addition to this. But the best thing is that pilots who already have a certain amount of experience, for instance more than ten years of flying, easily exceed these pay levels and can get a base salary of up to 200,000 euros.

What studies do you need? ; To be a pilot, you have to go through the academy and pass the tests to obtain your commercial aviation licence (ATPL). Between 2016 and 2034 a total of 1,167,000 jobs will be created, and more specifically, 558,000 commercial pilots and 609,000 aircraft maintenance engineers will be needed.

2. Surgeon

How much do they earn?: Their work in the public sector can also be combined with a similar post in private health, where wages range from a gross 60,000 to 100,000 euros a year, depending on the speciality and the professional prestige of the doctor in question.

What studies you need?: This is an obvious case of high pay being preceded by a considerable effort in training. To be a surgeon, you have to earn a Medical Degree and then become an Internal Resident Physician before specialising in surgery.

3. Orthodontist/implantologist

How much do they earn?: Orthodontists or implantologists, with an average gross wage of 65,000 euros a year, are also among the best paid jobs. Although their wage can oscillate upwards or downwards by almost 22,000 euros, depending on the size of the company for which they work, this is still one of the best paid professions.

What studies do you need?: To be an orthodontist, you have to earn a Degree in Odontology and then specialise in orthodontics through a master’s degree or postgraduate course. This is also a profession in which the continuous scientific development makes ongoing training a key factor in the profession.

4. Engineering project director

How much do they earn? : They have an average wage of 60,000 euros a year.

What studies do you need?: In addition to a degree in engineering, this management post also requires a very high level of English, a master’s degree or specific training in project management. And although this is not part of regulated education, leadership and communication skills are essential, as well as the ability to mediate in conflicts and solve problems.

5. ICT Director

How much do they earn?: There is one of the professions with which you can earn a higher wage: they earn an average wage in excess of 50,000 euros a year.

What studies do you need?: An ICT director normally has to have a Degree in IT Engineering. Obviously too, broad knowledge of computer systems, networks and software products is also necessary, as well as good communication and organisation skills to plan the work and manage teams.

6. Real estate jobs

For a number of years the real estate industry has without doubt been the biggest source of employment in Spain. As long as property prices kept rising, builders kept building and Agents kept selling. It was Win, Win for everyone, for a while anyway.