Costa Rica

Why study a Bachelor or Master in Costa Rica

Find all the study programs in Costa Rica

  • About
  • Study
  • Living
  • Universities
  • Student Visa
  • How to Apply
  • Scholarship

About Costa Rica

Costa Rica is home to four of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) locations. These stunning locations are the Cocos Island National park, La Amistad National Park, the Precolumbian Chiefdom Settlements with Stone Spheres of the Dequis, and the Area de Conservation Guanacaste.


Another fun fact about Costa Rica is that the life expectancy in Costa Rica is 80 years because Costa Rica ranks as the happiest place on earth. Bye-bye, Disneyland! International students should come study in Costa Rica to increase their happiness and life expectancy through a good ecological footprint and incredible experience of wellbeing. 


If this isn’t a good enough reason to study in Costa Rica, it also has great weather and high ranking universities, especially in the field of medicine, with a healthcare system that ranks top in the world. Read on to learn more about why you should study in Costa Rica for your bachelor’s, masters or postgraduate degrees. 


In Costa Rica, Spanish is the official language. It’s also the language spoken the most in the country. Some other people in Costa Rica also speak English, Creole, and some Indian languages. However, all official business is conducted in Spanish and major newspapers are also printed in the language, though English is used in areas where tourists flock.  


The main currency used in Costa Rica is the colón (plural: colones). However, USD (dollars) are accepted as a currency in touristic areas. To better understand the conversion rate, 1 USD is equal to 656 colones. 

Geographical information

Geographically, Costa Rica is located in the Central American Isthmus. It has over 200 active and extinct volcanoes, many high mountains and numerous beautiful beaches with different coloured sands from white to rose-pink to black.


Roman Catholicism is the main religion practiced but religious freedom is highly regarded. Almost 50 per cent of Costa Ricans are Roman Catholics while 27% are non-religious. A further 20 per cent are Evangelical Christians while around 1 per cent are Traditional Protestants.


Political stance

Politically, Costa Rica has a presidential, representative democratic republic system that has multiple political parties in the government. The president and the cabinet that follows him exercise executive power. In addition, the president of Costa Rica is head of state and also head of government at the same time.


Costa Rica is a bustling touristic country, with access to two stunning oceans and much natural beauty for people to enjoy. Since the year 1995, a fun fact is that tourism has outranked bananas as the country’s main source of foreign exchange. Popular touristic destinations include Manuel Antonio Park and the surrounding area which are renowned for their features like the lush forest, stunning beaches and wildlife that lives there. Tourists also visit Arenal Volcano National Park, located in Cordillera de Tilarán. This spot is one of the top areas to look at volcanos in the country. The most popular tourist site there to visit is the Arenal Volcano. 



Costa Rican food is delicious, flavourful and spicy. Many people around the world enjoy this type of cuisine, including many international students who go to study there. Popular foods include Gallo Pinto, referred to by the locals as Pinto, which is a breakfast plate filled with rice and beans. The Casado is also a popular dish there, one made up of a diverse number of foods. Because Casado means marriage, the dish represents a marriage of several foods such as rice, beans, tortillas, salad, fried platano maduro, and a kind of meat, whether it is beef, pork, chicken or fish, depending on where you are in Costa Rica. 


Study in Costa Rica

Many students head to this beautiful country to study there. From the fact that it has a very high happy rating to the fact that it has an incredibly high literacy rate, there are many reasons why international students choose it as their study destination. This section takes a deep dive into these reasons and elucidates on how much it would cost you to study there if you chose to do so. 

Why should you study in Costa Rica?

Here are some good reasons why you should study in Costa Rica as an international student: 


Peaceful and Relaxed Lifestyle

A major reason to study in Costa Rica is that it was named the happiest country in the world two times recently. In Costa Rica, the people live a very peaceful and relaxed lifestyle. As an international student, you’ll be able to experience that lifestyle and truly chill out and be happy. The country is one of the only ones without an army, and life expectancy there is around 80, with senior citizens super active past the age of 100. This is due to the lovely climate, healthy diet and their carefree attitude, which many international students can learn from and change their lifestyles. 


High Literacy Rate

Costa Rica also has one of the highest literacy rates in the world and the highest in Latin America. When the country got rid of the military, they instead declared that they would have an army of teachers, as education brings more return than the military ever would to the country.  This is a very inspiring reason to study in Costa Rica, among people who place education so highly. 

Amazing Healthcare System 

Costa Rica also has a great healthcare system which is considered one of the best in the region. It’s even ranked higher than the US healthcare system, according to the WHO. Medical students who want to learn there will join the ranks of physicians that are very highly ranked and knowledgeable. 

Reasonably Priced Costs

Costa Rica is also a very affordable place to study. The cost of living in Costa Rica is moderate when you compare it to most another tropical study abroad countries. The cost of rent is average and so are other costs of living, like groceries and transportation, so you can be sure that studying there won’t break your bank. 


How much does it cost?

If you’re studying an undergraduate course load of 17 credit hours per semester, which is the average course load, you can expect to pay around 2,800 dollars a year. If you’re a graduate student, taking around 14 credit hours, you’ll pay around 4,000 dollars a year. 

Living in Costa Rica

The cost of living in Costa Rica can amount from 500 to 1500 a semester. It is more expensive if you are living in a big city like San Jose. Read on to learn more about the different kinds of accommodation and how much it will cost you to live in each option, as well as costs of other living expenses. 



The different types of accommodation available for international students in Costa Rica are as follows: 


Host Family

Students have the chance to live with a Costa Rican host family or host, giving them a deep dive into the culture, food and Costa Rican lifestyle. Students get their own private room and share the rest of the living areas with the family. 


Costs will differ based on the room size, facilities and amenities offered by the host.  In most cases, the paid rent will include two meals for the weekdays and three meals on weekends. They can also expect to have laundry and room cleaning services weekly. 


In this kind of accommodation, you can expect to pay anything starting 300 USD a month.

Apartment or Studio Rental 

Another choice for international students are apartment or studio rentals. These are fully furnished and have basic appliances so students can cook and clean. These also differ in cost, based on size, location and services included in the cost. Rent also usually includes utilities, and internet services, but you should check when making your choice so you know if you’ll need to add extra costs. 


In this type of accommodation, you can expect to pay anywhere between 300 and 900 USD a month.  

Shared Rental 

Students may also choose a 3 or 4 bedroom house the rent with other students. These houses are usually fully furnished and provide basic appliances, bedding and kitchen utensils to students. Students share all costs together and split them between them. They will pay somewhere between 200 and 500 dollars a month for a room in a shared rental apartment. 

Other costs of living

Students should keep in mind other costs of living like 200 dollars a month for groceries. They should also expect to pay about 75 dollars for utilities a month and 20 dollars for their cellphone. Transportation will also cost students around 50 dollars for a monthly unlimited pass. 


Universities in Costa Rica

In Costa Rica, there are several degree types available on the undergraduate and graduate levels. There are also top-ranking institutions, especially those that focus on the medical fields of study. Read on to learn about the top-ranked universities and the different degree types that are available there. 


Degrees available

When it comes to undergraduate degrees in Costa Rica, it is made up of two types: bachelor’s (Bachillerato) and Licenciatura: 

Bachillerato (bachelor’s)

Duration: 4 years

Academic cycles: 8

Credits: 120-144

Certificate awarded: Bachillerato Universitario/ Grado de Bachiller 


After students have completed the bachelor’s degree, they can go on to 1 more year of study and complete a thesis to get the “Licenciatura” degree. 

Duration: 1 year after bachillerato universitario degree

Credits: 150-180

Certificate awarded: Licenciatura in the corresponding study area.


For postgraduate degrees, there are professional qualifications, master’s and doctorate degrees:

Professional (Especialidad Profesional)

This degree is offered in a certain professional field. To be eligible for this degree level, students must hold a Licenciatura in a related study field. 

Duration: 2 years

Students must pass a practical exam to achieve this degree certificate. 

Master’s degree (Maestria)

Duration: 1-2 years

Credits: 60-72

Certificate awarded: Master’s degree in the corresponding field of study. (Grado Academico/Profesional de Maestria).


Academic Doctorate Degree (Doctorado Academico)

This certificate is the highest qualification given by institutions. The goal of this higher education qualification is to train future researchers. To obtain this degree, you’ll need to hand in and defend a doctoral research thesis. 


Duration: 3 years

Credits: 50-70 in addition to the Master’s degree. 

Certificate awarded:  Academic Doctorate (Doctorado Academico)


Top-ranked universities

In Costa Rica, there are several universities that are ranked very highly across the world. These are mostly specialized in the medical and science fields. Read on to learn more about these universities and know which one is most suitable for you to look into. 

1. Universidad de Costa Rica

Location: San Jose

The University of Costa Rica, founded in 1940, is a public university in San Jose. It is the biggest and most ancient university in Costa Rica. It was originally founded as the Universidad de Santo Tomás in the year 1843. It has 12 offices and university campuses and offers several undergraduate and graduate courses, across its 13 faculties and 46 schools that pertain to each faculty. 

2. Universidad Nacional

Location: Heredia 

The National University of Costa Rica is a public university that was founded in 1973. It has many undergraduate and graduate degrees over 5 schools. The schools there are the schools of Philosophy and Letters, the school of Social Sciences, the school of Land and Sea, the school of Exact and Natural Sciences and the school of Health Sciences.

3. Instituto Tecnológico de Costa Rica

Location: Cartago 

Established as a public university in 1971, Instituto Tecnológico de Costa Rica (Costa Rica Institute of Technology) is located in Cártago, Cartago. The university prioritises teaching, research and the innovation of technology and related sciences to help develop Costa Rica. Its purpose is to help train professionals in the fields of technology related to their discipline and make a positive impact on the country. 

4. Universidad EARTH

Location: Guacimo, Limon; Liberia, Guanacaste


Universidad EARTH (EARTH University) was founded in 1990 and is a private university with several branch campuses. It uses an innovative and new educational approach to help young people from Latin America, the Caribbean, Africa, and other regions to help develop their home communities while contributing to the good of a global society. 

5. INCAE Business School

Location: Alajuela 


INCAE business school was founded in 1964 and is a private university located in the large city of Alajuela.


The university aims at producing global executive experts in developing businesses in third world countries, especially those in Latin America. The school offers students both business master’s and executive business programs.

Examples of other universities

Examples of other good universities to look into if you want to study in Costa Rica are the Universidad Latina de Costa Rica, Universidad Latinoamericana de Ciencia y Tecnología and La Universidad Veritas. You should also look into the American University in Costa Rica or the Universidad Americana, Costa Rica.

Student Visa - Costa Rica

Like any other study destination, you’ll need a student visa to study in Costa Rica. In fact, every foreigner who wants to study in Costa Rica needs one, no matter where they come from. You’ll also need to have been accepted into a university there first before you can apply for one. 


The general case is that anyone who wants to stay for longer than 3 months in the country needs a residence permit. Read on to learn more about the requirements of the Costa Rican study visa. 


Required Documents 


When applying for the student permit, the required documents you’ll need to submit to the Immigration Department are:


  • Filled out and signed application form
  • A letter to the Immigration Department, saying the reason why you want a student permit. The letter should be signed in front of the immigration official or be authenticated by a lawyer. It should include your full name and nationality, your age, your occupation, your exact address in Costa Rica and information to be able to contact you easily.
  • A certificate by your university, proving enrollment. It must be signed by a legal representative or the head of the university. 
  • Proof of payment of the application fee. 
  • Two recent passport-size pictures
  • Evidence of fingerprint registration, issued by the Ministry of Public Security
  • Proof of registration with the consulate of Costa Rica 
  • Your birth certificate
  • Proof you are able to support yourself financially during the course of your studies in Costa Rica, issued by an approved public accountant of economic solvency
  • Evidence of your scholarship, if applicable
  • Photocopies of all the pages in your valid passport, notarized by a Costa Rican public notary


It’s crucial to prepare all the needed documents before your journey to Costa Rica. You should also translate all documents that aren’t in Spanish to the Spanish language by an official translator, then have the translations notarized.


Visa Process 

The process of obtaining your student visa to study in Costa Rica is made up of obtaining two parts: getting your provisional student visa and then obtaining your student permit.


Before you can obtain your student permit, you must be authorized to enter Costa Rica as a student, via a provisional student visa, which you can apply for from the Costa Rica consulate in your home origin. 


Application for provisional visa

You apply for your provisional student visa at the Costa Rica consulate in your home country. You’ll need one to enter Costa Rica, even if you don’t need a Costa Rica tourist visa. You should also register with your consulate.


The process to apply is the following: 

  • Reach out to the Costa Rica consulate to make your appointment
  • Gather the documents needed 
  • Submit them on your appointment date 
  • Take the interview, if needed
  • Wait for your visa to be processed (takes up to 30 days). 


Once the visa is processed, you have 60 days to enter the country, where you will need to then apply for your student permit.


Application for a student permit

You will then be responsible for getting a student permit. The University you are applying to also shares responsibility. In most cases, your university will apply for you at the Dirección General de Migración y Extranjería. You’ll need to hand in all the required documents to them so they can apply on your behalf. 

How to apply - Costa Rica

When applying to universities in Costa Rica, the application process depends on the kind of university you are applying to, whether private or public. Students who want to apply will need to register themselves. Learn more about the process in the following section to know exactly how to apply. 

Public universities

There are two ways to apply to public universities in Costa Rica. The first way includes registering at the admission portal on the website and following the instructions there. After registration, you’ll get a confirmation of your registration and application number sent to your email. You have to have a valid identification document to be able to register so keep this in mind.


The second way is through direct application to the higher education institution of your choice. You Fill in an application form, pay the registration fee and then hand in the application form with the required documents and payment proof to the university you have chosen.


For all other universities 

For all other universities, like private universities or technical institutes, students should apply directly to the university. They will complete an application form and submit it to the institution along with the needed documents. 


General Required Documents 

In general, when applying to universities in Costa Rica, you’ll need to hand in the following documents: 

  • Completed Application form
  • Proof of application fee 
  • General secondary education certificate or Bachelor’s or master’s diploma: Original and photocopy
  • A copy of passport or any other valid identity card
  • Passport-sized photos
  • Previous Educational transcripts with grades obtained
  • A copy of the thesis or dissertation (for candidates applying for PhD studies)
  • Certificate proving good health
  • At least two letters of recommendation
  • Proof of Spanish language proficiency
  • Police report stating good conduct
  • Admission essay including academic strengths and weaknesses, reasons why you are applying to this particular study degree and university. You should also mention professional career goals, work experience (if you have any) and what motivates you. You should also talk about what you intend to do after graduation. 


Keep in mind that all documents must be translated to Spanish and certified by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Costa Rica. 


Admission Test

Many universities in Costa Rica have Spanish entrance examinations for their degrees. Students need to score higher than the stated cutoff score to be accepted into the university. International students who pass this exam are exempt from the Spanish language test as this test is enough to prove Spanish language proficiency.

Scholarship in Costa Rica

There are several scholarships offered to international students who want to study in Costa Rica. This is to offer them financial aid and help them study in the country. Read on to learn about a good scholarship program that you should try to apply for if you need financial aid. 


The Colombia Government Scholarship


The Colombia Government Scholarship Program gives out scholarships to foreign citizens who want to pursue a Master’s or PhD in a university in Costa Rica. The scholarship covers all expenses related to study. It has a maximum of twelve months for specialization and twenty-four months for master’s students. It gives PhD students up to thirty-six months covered by the scholarship. That means that students with doctorates that last more than three years will have to support themselves for the rest of the program.


Selection Criteria

  • Academic excellence
  • Fit between candidates’ academic area, work experience and academic program
  • Professional working experience
  • Fulfils eligibility  
  • Prove that they obtained a minimum of one year of experience in their field of study.
  • Should start Academic Program in the second semester
  • Can’t be living in Costa Rica before obtaining the scholarship, even if a foreign citizen residing there prior to study