El Salvador - Country Commercial Guide

This is a best prospect industry sector for this country. Includes a market overview and trade data.

Last published date: 2022-12-29


Salvadoran Students in the United States










Source: Open Doors Report on International Educational Exchange

The United States is one of the leading study destinations due to its proximity to El Salvador, the high quality of education, the opportunity to improve English skills, the possibility of living with a family member, and higher employment opportunities.

According to the 2021 Open Doors Report, during the academic year 2020/2021, there were 1,492 Salvadoran students enrolled in the United States, a decrease of 5.6% compared to the previous year. Of those students, 1,092 are at the undergraduate academic level, 201 at the graduate level, 54 are studying in a non-degree program, and 145 are in Optical Practical Training (OPT).

The top states receiving Salvadoran students are Texas, Florida, Maryland, Virginia, and California. In addition, El Salvador is ranked #19 worldwide for sending international students to U.S. community colleges, moving up a spot from the previous year.

Education in El Salvador is comprised of preschool, primary school, secondary school, and higher education levels. There are public and private institutions at all levels and are regulated by the Ministry of Education (MINED). The school cycle is from the end of January to the end of October/early November, except for private bilingual schools that use the U.S. cycle from August until early June. A university bachelor’s degree takes five years to complete under the semester model. The country has 41 higher education institutions, including technical institutions, specialized institutions, and universities.

Salvadoran students finance their education mostly with scholarships, student loans, and assistance from overseas relatives. Universities that offer financial aid are more competitive in El Salvador. The main deterrents for Salvadoran students who want to attend U.S. universities are the U.S. visa application process, the high cost of tuition, and cumbersome paperwork in the application process.

Although U.S. education programs are preferred, there is competition from Canada, Mexico, Chile, Costa Rica, Germany, Spain, Korea, and China. European and Asian countries offer several scholarship opportunities for Salvadoran students. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs in El Salvador announces scholarship opportunities offered by foreign governments to study abroad through its website. In addition, the Government of El Salvador provides scholarships to students with excellent academic records and credit lines for higher education studies through El Salvador Development Bank- BANDESAL.

Leading Sub-Sectors

  • Undergraduate Programs
  • Graduate Programs
  • English Language Programs for children or adults
  • Partnerships with Higher Education Institutions for exchange programs
  • Online programs


The Covid-19 pandemic created new opportunities in the education sector for virtual programs. At the beginning of the 2022 school year, the Ministry of Education continued to authorize semi-presential and multi-mode academic activities. In 2020, the Ministry of Education certified over 30,000 public school teachers in Google Classroom; they distributed 250,000 printed education guidelines for students with no computer or access to the internet. The government also launched a TV daily, “Educational Strip” (Channel 10). In February 2021, the government started delivering laptops and tablets to students in public schools as part of their “Enlaces con la Educacion” program (Links to Education), that will seek to benefit a total of 1.2 million students. Private schools have chosen platforms such as Microsoft Teams, Google Classroom, and Zoom for virtual classes.

Private universities are focusing on alliances and agreements with foreign schools for joint programs, exchanges with students and professors, dual certification, and recognition of credits. Also, there is a demand for English Language proficiency by local and multinational companies. The 2021 EF English Proficiency Index ranked El Salvador 54th out of 112, and its position in Latin America is ninth out of 20 countries.

The “100,000 Strong in the Americas Initiative” offers funds for innovative partnerships between the U.S. and Latin American and Caribbean higher education institutions. Funds are assigned through grant competitions. In El Salvador, the program is promoted by the Public Affairs Office at the U.S. Embassy and EducationUSA.

Although undergraduate programs are still the primary opportunity for U.S. institutions in El Salvador, there has been increased interest in community college programs because of their lower tuition options. Career development programs and Optical Practical Training (OPT) involving internships also have potential in the market.

The U.S. Commercial Service works closely with EducationUSA to promote education in the United States. Networking with school counselors is the primary means to recruit students in the Salvadoran market successfully. Other important recruitment activities include working with an agent, visiting schools, social media, attending student fairs, and participating in seminars. The U.S. Commercial Service in El Salvador can support U.S. schools and universities interested in recruiting Salvadoran students.


  • Ministry of Education
  • 100,000 Strong in the Americas
  • Ministry of Foreign Affairs
  • Open Doors Report
  • FANTEL Scholarships (Becas FANTEL)
  • EF English Proficiency Index
  • El Salvador Development Bank (BANDESAL)
  • EducationUSA in El Salvador

Interested parties may contact Commercial Assistant Karla Tejada, at karla.tejada@trade.gov