Study in El Salvador | Top Universities

El Salvador may be the smallest nation in Central America, but it still has much to offer prospective international students. From sophisticated urban life in capital San Salvador, to some of the world’s best surfing at Punta Roca, there's lots to do here - and spending time studying abroad in El Salvador is certainly bound to be an unforgettable experience.

As a former Spanish colony, many elements of El Salvadorian culture – including language – can be traced back to the legacy of its former European rulers. However, like other Latin American nations, El Salvador’s fusion of indigenous and external cultures has produced a unique national identity and culture. And of course also in common with the rest of the continent, El Salvador has many areas of great natural beauty – not on the same vast scale as some of its larger neighbors, admittedly, but still large enough to give a real sense of wilderness.

Universities in El Salvador



There are six universities in El Salvador featured in the latest QS Latin America University Rankings, though many of the country’s institutions are smaller both in size and global reputation. According to the 2018 edition of the Latin American rankings, the highest-ranked of all universities in El Salvador is the Universidad de El Salvador (191-200 in Latin America).

Completing a bachelor’s degree in El Salvador will usually take between four and five years, with higher levels of study available. The language of instruction is usually Spanish, so a solid grasp of the language is essential.

In December 2014, the government of El Salvador joined with the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) to launch a project that aims to boost economic growth in the country through higher education development. With an overall investment of US$22 million, the project is expected to continue until 2019 and hopes to significantly boost the nation’s competitiveness. It’s hoped the scheme will not only boost the employment prospects of El Salvadorian graduates, but also lead to improvements in teaching, more relevant curricula and more extensive research initiatives.

Universidad de El Salvador 

The Universidad de El Salvador, also based in San Salvador, is the country’s oldest university, and its flagship public institution. The Universidad de El Salvador also has other branches located across the country, in the cities of Santa Ana, San Miguel and San Vicente and the northern area of Chalatenango.

Universidad Centroamericana "José Simeón Cañas" (UCA)


Universidad Centroamericana


A private university based in San Salvador, the Universidad Centroamericana "José Simeón Cañas"(UCA), offers a wide spectrum of courses in sciences, social sciences, engineering and technology, and arts and humanities. Applicants to Universidad Centroamericana are assessed on the basis of selection tests held in April and October each year. Accepted students are then required to take a six-week pre-university course, either from May to July or from January to February, before commencing their degree studies in either August or March. The School of Languages at UCA also offers three levels of Spanish course for non-native speakers.


Other universities in El Salvador featured in the QS Latin America University Rankings are the Universidad Tecnológica de El Salvador (UTEC) (201-250 in Latin America), Universidad Católica de El Salvador (301-400), Universidad Francisco Gavidia (301-400) and Universidad Evangelica de El Salvador (301-400).

See the full results of the QS Latin America University Rankings


Life in El Salvador

This is a country that certainly packs in the attractions – and it packs in people too. With a population approaching 6.3 million, El Salvador is Central America’s most densely populated nation. Since the civil war of the 1980s ended, El Salvador has been a peaceful and democratic country, and has seen significant political and social reforms. It has also enjoyed steady economic growth, and now has the third-largest economy of the seven Central American countries.

Across the country, the climate is tropical – which means hot weather all year round, though temperatures are cooler in the mountains.

International students who come to study in El Salvador are likely to be based in capital San Salvador, which is widely recognized as one of the most exciting cities in the region. Even by Latin American standards, San Salvador is famed for its lively nightlife, culture and music scene. 


There are many other places to visit in El Salvador, including towns, cities and more remote locations. In terms of natural adventures, you can hike up Santa Ana Volcano, circumnavigate Lake Coatepeque, take a dip in the falls of Chorros de la Calera or get closer to the forests in El Imposible National Park – or one of the others! For cultural stimulation, there are numerous historic sites, museums, restaurants and clubs, with particularly vibrant culture and nightlife in the cities of Santa Ana, San Miguel, Santa Tecla, Soyapango, Mejicanos and Apopa.


If you are considering studying in El Salvador, it’s impossible to avoid hearing about the country’s high rates of violent crime. However, this is almost entirely confined to inter-gang violence, and rarely affects those not in gangs. You may also be aware that El Salvador is located within the ‘Pacific Ring of Fire’, an area with a relatively high frequency of earthquakes, volcanic activity and extreme weather conditions. Again, this is unlikely to seriously affect most international students, but make sure you know what to expect and how to keep yourself safe.

See the results of the QS Latin America University Rankings

Applying to universities in El Salvador


Universities in El Salvador fix their own entry requirements, which you’ll be able to find on each school’s official website. Much of this information, particularly among the less prominent institutions, will be listed solely in Spanish, reflecting the fact that admission is only open to Spanish speakers. In some cases, the school will also list information in English, but this does not necessarily mean academic programs are offered in English.


You’ll need to check official program details and admission requirements for precise information. But generally, when applying to universities in El Salvador you will be asked to provide a completed application form, identification, valid passport, certificates of recent qualifications, academics references (for graduate students) and a statement of purpose, along with proof of proficiency in the language of instruction (most likely Spanish).

Student visas for El Salvador


After gaining acceptance at a university, you may require a student visa to be able to study in El Salvador legally. Citizens of the US, Australia, Canada, the UK and the rest of the EU do not require a visa and are eligible to enter the country as a tourist for up to 90 days, a period which can be extended after arrival. For Australian citizens, a tourist card will be needed. For longer stays or for students from any country not listed above, you should contact your local El Salvadorian authority or your chosen university for exact details.


If you find you do require a visa, you’ll need to provide proof of acceptance into a recognized university, a valid passport, proof of fee payment and sufficient funds to cover living costs, and proof of medical insurance. For official information on visas, visit this website (Spanish only).

Safety in El Salvador


Crime rates in El Salvador are some of the highest throughout Latin America. Although this does not mean studying in El Salvador is particularly dangerous, anyone wishing to spend time in the country should be aware of the crime issues and stay alert to danger at all times.


In order to best ensure your safety, take care to avoid downtown San Salvador, as well as the outer roads of all major towns and cities at night, as these are places where abductions and theft rates are high. Avoid dressing expensively or wearing expensive-looking jewelry, as this can make you a more appealing target for criminals. For the same reasons, you should safeguard your belongings at all times and try to avoid displaying any of your valuables in public.

Weather in El Salvador

While it’s unlikely you’ll be affected, you should be aware that El Salvador is home to a number of active volcanoes, one of which (the Chaparrastique volcano) erupted in December 2013 causing disruption to flight schedules and local communities. You can get updates on volcanic activity here.

Rainy season in El Salvador begins in June and runs until November. Tropical storms are common during this time, so stay aware of weather reports and warnings.

Get more information on studying abroad with our guide

Fast Facts

  • The most densely populated country in Central America, with a population of 6.3 million
  • Borders with Guatemala, Honduras, the Pacific Ocean and the Gulf of Fonseca
  • Located on a volcanic plateau approximately 2,000ft above sea level
  • Smallest country in Central America
  • Capital and largest city is San Salvador
  • Main language is Spanish
  • The Pipil Indians, descendants of the Aztecs, are thought to have migrated to the area in the 11th century
  • Major exports include coffee, sugar, shrimp, textiles, chemicals and electricity
  • Undergoing successful reforestation – tropical forest grew by 20% between 1992 and 2001
  • Traditional dishes include fried plantain, deep fried cassava root, and stuffed corn tortillas
  • Currency is the United States Dollar