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A Guidepost Report


Since the adaptation of the Spanish university system to the guidelines of the European Higher Education Area (EHEA), the structure of university studies in Spain now comprises three levels (or cycles): Bachelor’s degrees (in Spanish, Grado), Master’s degrees, and Doctoral degrees. The Bachelor’s and the Master’s degrees are taught in the following areas:

• Arts and Humanities
• Experimental Sciences
• Health Sciences
• Social and Legal Sciences
• Engineering and Architecture


Level 2: Master’s degree

Master’s degrees require between 60 and 120 ECTS credits spread over one or two academic years.
Official Master’s studies aim to prepare students for academic, professional or research work. The Master’s degree is valid in all countries that are members of the European Higher Education Area (EHEA).


Level 3: Doctoral degree

The goal of Doctoral programs in Spain is to train the student in advanced research techniques. These programs are divided in two parts (ciclos): the first part consists of 60 classroom credits (courses from the Master’s degree can count); the second part is the actual research, which culminates in the student’s public defense of his/her original research project (Doctoral thesis). The program mandates a maximum of three years as a full-time student (study and research), or five years as a part-time student.


Academic Calendar

The majority of Spanish universities divide the academic year into two semesters. The first semester typically starts in mid-September or early October. Classes finish in December and are followed by an exam period in January. The second semester starts at the end of January or the beginning of February, finishes at the end of May and is followed by an exam period in June. This schedule can vary between universities, and some schools have a trimester system.


Graduate Admissions

​Foreign students interested in carrying out Master’s or Doctoral studies in Spain should apply directly to the Spanish university where they wish to study.

To be admitted to a Master’s program, students must meet one of these requirements:

• Be in possession of a Bachelor’s degree obtained at either a university in Spain or in a country in the European Higher Education Area (EHEA)
• Be in possession of a Bachelor’s degree obtained at a university in a country other than those indicated above. The Spanish university must be satisfied that the level of studies leading to this degree is equivalent to that required to obtain a Bachelor’s degree in Spain.

To gain admission to a Doctoral program, applicants must also have obtained at least 60 ECTS credits. These credits may form part of the study period in the Doctoral program or may correspond to a Master’s program.

If  you earned your Bachelor’s degree in the United States or the EHEA, official accreditation of that degree is not necessary to be able to apply for and complete a Master’s or Doctoral degree in Spain. If you graduated elsewhere, there may or may not be additional requirements.


Do I need a student visa?

For studies and research periods lasting less than three months no study visa is necessary, unless the interested party is from a country for which a visa is required as standard practice.

For periods of between three and six months a visa is required, but no other documents need be applied for in Spain.

For studies and research periods lasting more than six months, visitors must apply for both a visa and a student’s residence card in Spain.

For US citizens please see Visa Information section of the embassy web site for more information.


How do I get an official translation?

All documents presented by applicants for admission to Spain’s university system must be in Spanish. Documents issued abroad must be accompanied by an official translation into Spanish.

The official translation may be carried out by:

• A Sworn Translator duly authorized or registered in Spain (the list of English-Spanish translators starts on pg. 486 of the MAEC document).
• Any diplomatic or consular representation of Spain abroad.

As much as possible, when the original document is written in an alphabet other than the Latin alphabet, the corresponding translation should reflect the name of the qualification in the original language, but transcribed in the Latin alphabet, rather than a translation of the name.


Main source: US Embassy in Madrid ( )

Featured image (Rectorate of the Universidad Complutense de Madrid) Carlos Delgado /Kadellar, Creative Commons Attribution.Share Alike 3.0 Unported via Wikimedia Commons