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The Higher Education System of Costa Rica

In Costa Rica, higher/tertiary education is offered by both public and private higher education institutions-universities, institutes of higher education and colleges.  The first university in Costa Rica was the University of Costa Rica, established in 1941. Higher education in Costa Rica is not free of charge, but it is affordable by all. 

Types of Higher Education

Higher education in Costa Rica is of two types:
  • University higher education
  • Non-university higher education

University Education

In Costa Rica, university education is offered by public or state universities, private and other universities. 
  • Public or state universities: In Costa Rica, there are five public universities offering studies at all degree levels-undergraduate and graduate.
  • Private universities: There are many private universities operating in Costa Rica. These universities offer a wide range of programmes- technical, scientific, education, humanistic, etc.

Non-University Higher Education

Non-university higher education in Costa Rica focuses on technical, business and industrial studies.
  • Duration: 2 to 3 years
  • Credits: 60-90
  • Credential: Higher level technician (Tecnico Superior)

Higher Education Institutions

Following are the types of higher education institutions in Costa Rica

State or public universities: In Costa Rica, there are 5 state universities- - The University of Costa Rica (UCR), the National University (UNA), the Technological Institute of Costa Rica (ITCR), the UNED, and the Universidad Tecnica Nacional(UTN)

Private universities: There are about 50 private universities in Costa Rica.

Para-universities: These universities are both private and state/public universities. In Costa Rica, there are 7 public para-universities and 34 private para-universities. 

To get the complete list of universities in Costa Rica, click here

Higher Education Qualifications

Following are the higher education qualifications offered in Costa Rica: 

Undergraduate Level Qualifications (Grado)

Bachelor/University Baccalaureate (Bachiller Universitario)
  • Duration: 4 years
  • Credits: 120-144 
Licentiate (Licenciado/Licenciatura) 
This degree is awarded in professional fields, like law, medicine etc.
  • Admission requisite: Bachiller Universitario
  • Credits: 30 – 36 credits 

Graduate Level Qualifications (Postgrado/Posgrado)

Master (Maestria/Master)
This degree requires students to prepare and defend a master’s thesis. 
  • Admission requisite: Students must have completed Bachiller Universitario
  • Duration: 1-2 years
  • Credits: 60 – 72 
Doctorate (Doctorado/Doctor) 
This is the highest degree awarded by the universities in Costa Rica. This degree requires students to defend a dissertation. 
  • Admission requisite: Students must hold master’s degree in order to gain admittance into the doctorate level programme.
  • Credits: 100 to 120

Admission Requirements

In order to be enrolled to a Costa Rican higher education first level studies, students must possess a high school/secondary education degree-Bachillerato recognized by the Ministry of Education. Students must undertake a baccalaureate test for further studies. To know the admission requirements at various levels of study, click here
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