Master’s programs in Spain are known for their strong studies in the humanities, social sciences, and economics. Business management particularly stands out among them. Spain boasts three schools that are included in the list of the fifteen best MBAs in the world, according to the QS World University Ranking. For comparison, only one British university managed to make the list.

In this article, we will talk about the distinguishing features of Spanish master's programs, the academic process, prices, admission, and what to do after graduation.

Briefly about master's programs in Spain

  • Price. The cost of a master's program depends on several factors: the region, type of university, and chosen specialty. Studying in Madrid and Barcelona is more expensive at both private and public universities. Additionally, foreign students pay more than residents of EU countries. The average price in the country is 3,802 USD/year, but prices at prestigious universities can reach 5,432-7,605 USD/year. Private universities cost from 5,432 USD to 19,555 USD.
  • Requirements. There are no special requirements for admission to a Spanish master's program. Admission is based on a general package of documents: a previous degree, letter of motivation, resume, and recommendations. Some universities do not even ask for a Spanish proficiency certificate. However, it is preferable to get one in advance and attach it to the application. Certain programs, including MBAs, will additionally require GRE or GMAT scores and a TOEFL/IELTS certificate.
  • Language. The country has programs in Spanish and English. There are fewer English programs, and they are more expensive. Universities of the autonomous communities also teach in their national languages: Catalan, Basque, and Galician.
  • Visa. There is little risk of being denied a Spanish visa. In 2018, the country refused only 9% of applicants — the average rate for Schengen countries[1]. That being said, it is important to note that a long-term visa is not a tourist visa, and the requirements for obtaining it are more demanding. Therefore, be sure to check that your documents are completed correctly, and that your bank account has sufficient funds for study and accommodation in the amount of 7,605 USD/year.
  • Work after study. After graduation from a master's program and expiration of the student visa, the graduate has the right to request a special visa to search for work. It is valid for 12 months.
Advantages of a master's degree in Spain
  • Reasonable cost. A master's degree in Spain, is, of course, not free, but it outperforms other countries in Europe. It is cheaper to study in Spain than in Italy (5,432 USD/year), France (4,096 USD/year), or Sweden (8,691 USD/year). Accommodation in the country is also relatively inexpensive. For a comfortable life, you will need 706 USD/month for large cities (Madrid, Barcelona, ​​Bilbao) and 641 USD/month for smaller ones (Malaga, Seville). The cheapest among the university cities are Salamanca, Granada, and Santiago de Compostela[2].
  • The quality of teaching. Not everyone associates Spain with business education, but world rankings confirm that they offer the best MBA programs. In addition to business, the faculties of tourism, linguistics, and philosophy are popular at Spanish universities.
  • Spanish language. It is the fourth most spoken language in the world, used by 540 million people[3]. Even if you enroll in an English language program while studying in Spain, you will have the chance to learn the local language. Another foreign language won't hurt your resume!
Disadvantages and features of a master's degree in Spain
  • National languages. Officially recognized in the country, Castilian Spanish is not the only language of instruction. The universities in Barcelona have programs in Catalan, in the Basque Country — Euskar, and in Galicia — Galician. Universitat de Barcelona, for example, adheres to the principle of linguistic transparency, meaning that a course can be taught in any language of instruction — Spanish or Catalan. This is announced in advance so that students can choose which one suits them best. In general, students are allowed to use both languages ​​in the classroom setting[4].
  • Spanish language. If you learn Spanish not out of desire, but out of necessity, it can be difficult. This language is distinguished by a high rate of speech and a complex grammar system. For example, the same word changes its meaning depending on the lexical gender: el cometa — comet, la cometa — kite. Plus, it will be difficult to live in the country without knowing Spanish. In the ranking of countries in terms of English proficiency, Spain is in 34th place out of 100: it is inferior to Argentina, Greece, and France[5].
  • Employment. There are not many chances for successful employment in Spain. Unemployment in the country is at a high level — 14%, and among foreign citizens it is even higher. In 2020, foreigners made up 40% of the officially registered unemployed[6].

Cost of a master's program in Spain

The cost of a master's program in Spain depends on the region, type of university, specialty, and even the chosen discipline. In fact, the total price of the course is calculated from the number of ECTS credits. These are special units that are used to measure study and work hours. Typically, 60-120 ECTS credits are required to obtain a master's degree.

  • Region. The cost of a credit depends on the region. The most expensive credits are in Madrid, Castilla Leone, and Catalonia (Barcelona) — 30-50 USD per credit. This means that a year of study will be 1,825-2,998 USD. For foreign students, the cost is often higher and averages 3,802-4,345 USD/year. In other regions, for example, Andalusia and Galicia, it is cheaper to study — only 11-15 USD per credit, or 652-913 USD/year.
  • University type. Public universities tend to be slightly cheaper because prices are regulated by the government. Private universities, on the other hand, are free to set their own costs of programs. Costs vary from 5,432 USD to 19,555 USD per year, but do not exceed 21,727 USD (unless it is a business school).
  • Speciality. The choice of a field also affects the cost of education. Technical, medical, and natural science specialties are more expensive, while humanities are cheaper. For example, the program in contemporary history at the Autonomous University of Madrid costs 3,965 USD/year[7], and in neurobiology — 8,257 USD/year[8].
An interesting fact
If you re-enroll at a Spanish university, the cost of one ECTS credit increases. We are talking specifically about students who, for some reason, dropped out and then decided to return. For example, The University of Granada offers the following prices for the credit:
  • 15 USD — first enlistment
  • 30 USD — second enrollment
  • 57 USD — third enrollment
  • 76 USD — fourth enrollment (yes, such people exist)[9]

List of universities and the cost of master's programs

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How to enroll in a master’s program

Admission to master's programs is regulated by universities, therefore the requirements and procedure for submitting documents will depend on the specific university and faculty. Moreover, it is advisable that your previous education corresponds to the chosen master's program. For example, if you received a bachelor's degree in chemistry, then it is preferable to enroll in the same field. In practice, exceptions are possible for similar fields.

All deadlines for applications are also determined by the universities themselves — there is no general time frame. As a rule, for the autumn-winter semester, documents are accepted from January to late May-early June.

An application for admission is submitted on the website of the selected university. You can apply to several universities and to several fields of study at once. Applications are filled out in electronic form. In addition, you should attach scans of the required documents.

List of documents

For admission to a Spanish university you will need:

  • Degree of previous education (bachelor's or master's level)
  • Motivation letter
  • Spanish and/or English proficiency certificate
  • Recommendations from former teachers (1-2 pcs.)
  • Registration fee (up to 109 USD)

If you submit copies of documents, they must be notarized.

Please be aware that the requirements differ depending on the institution and faculty. As an example, you need to pass the GRE or GMAT for MBA programs, and sometimes pass an interview. Always check for the exact list of documents on the official website of the university.

Confirmation of language levels

To study in Spain, you must provide a certificate confirming the level of proficiency in a foreign language.

  • To study in Spanish, you need a DELE language certificate at the B2 or C1/C2 level. The latter level is preferred, and for some programs, such as medicine or law, B2 may not be accepted at all. In these areas, international students are expected to have the highest level of Spanish proficiency possible. Outside of Spain, the exam is administered by the Instituto Cervantes.
  • For programs in English, a TOEFL (from 80 points) or IELTS (from 6.0 points) certificate is required.

In case of admission to a bilingual program, certificates must be provided for both languages.

Recognition of a degree

Before submitting documents, you must also go through the procedure of legalizing your previous degree. This confirms that your previous education meets Spanish standards. If your country has signed the 1961 Hague Convention, then it is enough to affix an apostille to the diploma. This can be done at the Ministry of Education in the country where the document was issued. Otherwise, a more complex consular legalization process is required[10].

Applying for a master's?

Master’s programs in English

Spain actively attracts international students. For 2021, they accounted for 12.6% of the total number of students in the country[11] — not the highest rate for Europe. Therefore, universities are introducing more and more programs taught in English. Of course, this is not Germany, where there are more than a thousand of them offered, but there is a choice. There are a total of 322 programs in Spain taught entirely in English, and another 400 that are bilingual. In bilingual programs, half of the courses are in Spanish, while the other half are in English[12].

Best English-language programs in Spain

QS Ranking in the WorldQS Ranking in SpainUniversityCityPrograms
1681Universitat de BarcelonaBarcelona
  • Biological Anthropology
  • Translational Medicine
  • Economics
  • Astrophysics, Particle Physics, and Cosmology
  • Research in Language and Literature Teaching
2072Universidad Autónoma de MadridMadrid
  • International Economics
  • Bioinformatics and Computational Biology
  • Democracy and Government
  • Nuclear Physics
2093Universitat Autònoma de BarcelonaBarcelona
  • Bioinformatics
  • International Security
  • Photonics
  • Economics and Business Administration
  • Data Science
Note
For a complete list of English-language programs in Spain, visit the SEPIE website. It lists the courses, language of instruction, and admission requirements. It also clarifies what percentage of the program is taught in English. Just in case, always double-check the information on the official website of the university.

Popular master's programs

The most popular programs in Spain are architecture, service, hospitality and tourism, business and management, civil engineering, linguistics, and philosophy. In medical and natural science specialties, Spanish universities are inferior to other European ones.

UniversityCityProgramLanguage of instructionCost per year
Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya — BarcelonaTech (UPC)BarcelonaArchitectureSpanish or Catalan2,705 USD
University College of Hospitality Management and Culinary ArtsSant Pol de MarHospitality ManagementEnglish16850 EUR
University of NavarraPamplonaTeaching Spanish as a Foreign LanguageSpanish14,231 USD
Universitat Pompeu FabraBarcelonaPolitical PhilosophyEnglish6,245 USD

Budget master's programs

Budget-friendly universities are located in the remote regions of Spain. Studies in Madrid and Barcelona are most expensive. There are several budget universities where the price is less than the national average.

UniversityCityRegionAverage cost per year
University of GranadaGranadaAndalusia892 USD
University of Santiago de CompostelaSantiago de CompostelaGalicia1,738 USD
University of ValenciaValenciaValencia2,607 USD
University of Rovira and VirgiliTarragonaCatalonia3,150 USD
Faculty of Sciences of the University of Granada

MBA programs

MBA programs in Spain deserve a special mention. Of all the master's programs in the country, they are the most prestigious and take high positions in world rankings. In the 2021 QS World University Ranking, Spain's IE Business School moved up to 9th place, IESE Business School — to 11th, and Esade — to 13th[13]. Among the fifteen best MBA programs in the world, American and Spanish business schools have the most rankings (the ratio here is nine to three — after all, the USA is the birthplace of MBA programs).

The cost of an MBA is higher than that of other master's programs. In Spain, it is kept in the range of 27,159-32,591 USD/year — the average price in Europe. However, at universities as prestigious as IE Business School and IESE Business School, prices reach 76,045 USD. For admission to a business school, you must provide:

  1. Degree of previous education
  2. TOEFL iBT(80-100 points) or IELTS (6.5-7.5 points) certificate, since MBA programs are taught in English
  3. Proof of work experience
  4. GRE or GMAT exam results
  5. Letter of recommendation
  6. Essay or motivation letter
  7. Many universities also conduct an interview or entrance exam
QS RankingBusiness schoolCityLength of studyCost
9IE Business SchoolMadrid11 months78,435 USD
11IESE Business SchoolBarcelona19 months92,341 USD
13Esade Business SchoolBarcelona15 months78,218 USD
131EU Business SchoolBarcelona12 months19,392 USD
141EADA Business SchoolBarcelona10 months42,368 USD

More information about the Business Administration programs in Spain can be found on the Find MBA website.

Features of a master's degree

Spanish master’s programs can be divided into two categories:

  • Official master’s — those that give an official master's degree
  • University-specific degrees — special qualifications offered independently by universities

Both types are taught at public universities, but differ in several ways:

  • Regulation. Official master’s are assessed and listed in the Register of Universities, Centers and Qualifications (RUCT). That is, the state recognizes these programs, controls them, and guarantees the quality of education to students. University-specific degrees are independently created by universities and are not subject to government regulation.
  • Price. "Special" university degrees are usually more expensive. The average cost across the country starts from 5,432 USD/year.
  • Recognition. University-specific degrees are not accepted everywhere in Spain, not to mention other countries.
  • Further training. You cannot continue your studies in a PhD program with a university-specific degree. This requires an official master's degree[14].

Therefore, when choosing a master's degree program in Spain, you should make sure that the qualifications you receive will be recognized abroad.

Get a master's degree

The process of studying in a master’s program

The duration of a master's program at Spanish universities depends on the direction of study. For the humanities, exact sciences, and engineering, a master's degree is usually calculated for 60 European credits and lasts one academic year. But at the faculties of psychology, medicine, and biology, studies continue for one and a half to two years, and you need to gain from 90 to 120 ECTS.

Master's programs consist of modules (asignatures), which are divided into three groups:

  • Asignaturas troncas — basic subjects common to all students
  • Asignaturas obligatorias — specialized disciplines
  • Asignaturas optativas (or de libre elección) — electives that can be chosen based on personal interests

Master's level studies at Spanish universities include lectures, seminars, and a research project led by a mentor. For some forms of study, there are no strict requirements for attendance. However, we strongly recommend not to miss classes so as not to fail the semester exam. Lectures last 50-60 minutes. In general, 4-5 lectures are held per week at the master’s level.

Student performance is assessed during final exams in June. Exams can be retaken in September. To obtain a master's degree, you must also write and defend a final thesis — tesis de titulación.

UPF

Scholarships and grants

Master's students can receive state or university scholarships, along with grants from the European Union. There are two main scholarships from the Spanish Ministry of Education, Culture and Sports to look out for:

  • Becas de colaboración. Designed for undergraduate and graduate students in research. The total amount of the grant is 2,173 USD[15].
  • General Scholarships for studies of post-secondary level. This scholarship is awarded for academic achievement. Applicants are selected based on academic performance. The payment amount varies from 65 USD to 1,630 USD[16].

Details can be found on the official website of the Ministry of Education, but all of the information is in Spanish. There is little information about government scholarships in English.

There are slightly more chances to find out about financial aid on the official websites of the universities. For example, the Autonomous University of Madrid offers its students a variety of scholarships up to 1,086 USD[17]. The same is at the University of Barcelona[18]. Be attentive and always read the terms of participation in the competition. Often, only Spanish citizens or students with at least one relative of Spanish citizenship can apply for a scholarship.

Another way to sponsor your studies is through the Erasmus Mundus Scholarships. The payment amount depends on the level and length of study, along with the nationality of the student. In general, the Erasmus Scholarship covers travel costs, part or all of the course cost, and monthly living expenses. To receive such aid, you must enroll in one of the Erasmus Mundus Joint Master Degree (EMJMD) programs. EMJMD is the result of a partnership between universities in different European countries. During the entire period of study (one and a half to two years), the student changes countries and universities several times. For example, in the Erasmus Mundus Human Rights Policy and Practice program, the first semester is held in Sweden, the second in Spain, and the third in the UK[19]. Students receive a monthly stipend of 1,086 USD and full tuition coverage.

More information on this topic can be found on the website of the European Commission. There are more than 70 included programs, part of which take place in Spain.

Working while studying

To supplement your budget, you can try to find a side job. Unfortunately, it will not be possible to get a full-time job. A student visa allows you to work no more than 20 hours a week (4 hours a day). A full-time work schedule is only allowed during the summer holidays. Of course, it is also important that your job does not interfere with your studies or affect your academic performance.

It is a little more difficult for students from non-European countries to find a job. Even for a part-time job, you must obtain an official permit — the AUT05a form[20]. Moreover, only your employer can request it. That is, you first need to find a person or a company that will agree to take you on an incomplete schedule. And, unfortunately, there are not many of them. Therefore, foreign students are more likely to get jobs that do not require special knowledge: waiters, babysitters, couriers, bartenders, or hotel assistants.

Note
While it is possible to study in the country without knowing Spanish, there is no way to obtain work without the language. Even if you plan to become a tutor and teach your native language, you should be able to communicate with your students in Spanish. For any other job, be it a waiter or a courier, you will need at least an average proficiency of the local language.

The minimum wage in Spain is 1,222 USD per month[21]. For part-time work, you can receive up to 543 USD/month.

Applying for a master's?

What to do after a master's degree

Jobs related to your degree

A master's degree does not guarantee successful employment. There are numerous reasons for this: immigration, the real estate crisis, shadow markets, and other economic indicators. Finding a job in Spain can be difficult not only for foreigners, but also for locals. In 2021, the unemployed made up 14% of the total working-age population — an extremely high rate for a developed European country. For comparison: the unemployment rate in Germany is 3.6%, in Italy — 9.3%, and even in neighboring Portugal — only 6.4%[22]. The highest unemployment rates are among young people — 33%. However, considering that the rate once reached 50%, this is considered not so bad[23].

On the other hand, statistical indicators are not that important for a particular graduate. A student with a quality education, excellent knowledge of Spanish, recommendations from professors, and professional skills will be able to find a job in the country. To "prepare the ground", it is advisable to undergo internships while studying. This way, you will have a chance to find employment immediately after graduation.

Note
For a foreigner, the process of finding a job in Spain is long and complicated. In fact, not only for himself, but also for the company that hires him. Your potential boss must convince the state that he needs you in particular, and that no Spaniard or EU citizen can replace you. For an employer to agree to go through this bureaucratic inquisition, you need to prove that you are irreplaceable.

After graduation, you have the opportunity to apply for a job search visa (estancia por estudios superiores que cesa, para búsqueda de empleo). It is valid for 12 months and cannot be extended[24]. If you manage to find a job within the specified period, you will receive a resident card and can stay in Spain. In 2021, there was a high demand for IT specialists of various fields (data analytics, artificial intelligence, software engineering), people employed in the field of electronic commerce (e-commerce), workers in the service and tourism sector, as well as "eternal" professions: doctors , teachers, and others[25]. ‎

Doctoral degrees

Another path after graduation from a master's program is to obtain a doctorate degree. In Spain, doctoral studies last 3 years and take place in special colleges at universities or research institutes. The good news is that there are more scholarship and grant programs available for doctoral students. Moreover, the amount of financial assistance is several times higher than the amount offered for master’s and bachelor’s programs. For example, Pompeu Fabra offers grants up to 6,518 USD.

However, building an academic career in Spain is not much easier than finding a job in your field. This is time-consuming and requires complex bureaucratic procedures. Ultimately, there are no more than 3-6% of foreign teachers in the country[26].

Barcelona, La Rambla
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