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: 2021-11-05







Salvadoran Students in the United States







Source: Open Doors Report on International Educational Exchange

The lack of economic opportunities in El Salvador and eagerness to seek better opportunities for the future have increased Salvadoran students’ interest in studying abroad.  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 Open Doors Report 2020 in the academic year 2019/2020 there were 1,581 Salvadoran students enrolled in the United States; an increase of 0.7% compared to the previous year.  Of those students 1,183 are at the undergraduate academic level, 189 at the graduate level, 66 studying in a non-degree program, and 143 in Optical Practical Training (OPT). 

The top states receiving Salvadoran students are Texas, Florida, Maryland, Virginia, and California. In addition, El Salvador is ranked #20 worldwide for sending international students to attend U.S. community colleges. 

Education in El Salvador is composed of preschool, primary school, secondary school, and higher education levels, offered by public and private institutions, and is regulated by the Ministry of Education (MINED). The school cycle is from the end of January to the end of October/early November, except in the case of 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. There are 41 higher education institutions in the country, 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 have better market opportunities in El Salvador. The main deterrents for Salvadoran students who want to attend U.S. universities is the U.S. visa application process, high cost of tuitions, 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 through its website scholarship opportunities offered by foreign governments to study abroad.  In addition, the Government of El Salvador offers 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 education programs. In April 2021, the Ministry of Education authorized private and public schools that implemented biosecurity measures to start in-person classes. As of July 2021, many private and public schools have hybrid systems in place, which are expected to continue until the end of 2021. One the of the main challenges the sector had to overcome during the pandemic is the lack of equipment and connectivity for students, teachers, and professors. In 2020, the Ministry of Education certified over 30,000 teachers of public schools in Google Classroom; they distributed 250,000 printed education guidelines for students with no computer or access to internet; and the government also launched a daily “Educational Strip” in TV (Channel 10). In February 2021, the government started delivering laptops to students in public schools, as part of their Innovation Strategy that will seek to benefit a total of 1.2 million students. For virtual classes, private schools have chosen platforms such as Microsoft Teams, Google Classroom or Zoom.

In general, there is a need to improve the education system in El Salvador. Private universities are focusing on alliances and agreements with foreign schools to seek joint programs, exchange of students and professors, dual certification, and recognition of credits. Also, there is a demand for English Language proficiency by local and multinational companies. The 2020 EF English Proficiency Index ranked El Salvador at number 56.

The “100,000 Strong in the Americas Initiative” offers funds for innovative partnerships between the U.S. and Latin American and Caribbean institutions of higher education. 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 main opportunity, 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 have potential in the market as well.

The U.S. Commercial Service works closely with EducationUSA to promote education in the United States. Networking with school counselors or working through agents are the primary means to successfully recruit students in the Salvadoran market. Other important recruitment activities include 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 Specialist Lidia Sosa at Lidia.Sosa@trade.gov