Guatemalan Educational System

Similar to the U.S. system, the Guatemalan education system is divided in three tiers: primary school, secondary school, and university (tertiary). All students that graduate from secondary school are eligible to study at the university level.
Country Profile
The school year starts in January and ends in October. Spanish is the main language of instruction at most schools. Also, many schools offer bilingual programs (Spanish-English), English U.S. accredited high school diplomas, and other foreign language programs (Abitur, Baccalauréat, etc).
42,042 square miles
Guatemala City (populvation: 2.9 million, including surrounding area).
Natural Resources
Petroleum, nickel, rare wood, fish, chicle, hydro power.
Coffee, sugar, petroleum, apparel, bananas, fruits and vegetables, cardamom, and non-traditional crops like cauliflower, snow peas, strawberries, exotic flowers, and fern.
Topography and Climate
Guatemala’s diverse topography includes tropical rainforests, mountains, valleys, lowland forests, beaches, and more than 30 volcanoes. In the highlands, the average high temperature is 77°F. The northern and western regions are much warmer year-round. The dry season lasts from October to early May and the rainy season lasts from late May until the end of September.
Population: 19 million; 52% urban, 48% rural

Ethnicity: 43.75% Indigenous, 56.25% Mestizo

LadinoLanguage: Spanish (official), 23 Mayan languages

Religion: 76% Catholic, 24% Protestant

High School

Secondary school education is divided in two cycles: Básicos and Diversificado. For the first three years of secondary school (Básicos) students have the same curriculum which includes Communication and Language (Spanish), Local Language (Maya, Garifuna or Xinca, depending on the region), Foreign Language (English), Natural Sciences (Physics, Chemistry, Biology), Social Sciences, Fine Arts, Physical Education, Accounting, Technology of Information, Industrial Arts, and Home Education.

Students choose their course of study for Diversificado (2 or 3 years):

  • Bachillerato (2 years)
    This two-year program gives students a general preparation to continue their studies in higher education institutions. They choose an area of specialization. Sciences & Letters (Ciencias y Letras), Computer Science (Computación), and Education (Educación) are among the most popular tracks. Students take Language & Literature, Mathematics, Science (Chemistry, Biology and Physics), English as a Foreign Language, Social Studies, and other subjects specific to their area of specialization.
  • Perito (3 years)
    This three-year program gives students vocational training in Accounting (Perito Contador), Advertisement (Publicidad), or Management (Administrador), among others. Students complete 200 hours of supervised practice to graduate.
  • Secretariado (3 years)
    This three-year program prepares students in secretarial and management skills to become a bilingual secretary (English/Spanish). This program has a strong focus on Management, Marketing, and Communication. Increasingly, schools are also including Science and Mathematics as part of their curriculum. Students complete 200 hours of supervised practice to graduate.
  • Magisterio (3 years)
    This three-year program gives students a general preparation to continue their studies in higher education institutions, and vocational training to become pre-school teachers.


Higher Education in Guatemala is offered at one public university and fourteen private universities. Universidad de San Carlos de Guatemala (USAC) is the only public institution, with twenty campuses around the country.

The private universities are:
Universidad Francisco Marroquín, Universidad Rafael Landívar, Universidad Del Valle de Guatemala, Universidad Mariano Gálvez, Universidad del Istmo, Universidad Galileo, Universidad Rural, Universidad Panamericana, Universidad Mesoamericana, Universidad San Pablo de Guatemala, Universidad InterNaciones, Universidad de Occidente, Universidad Da Vinci de Guatemala and Universidad Regional de Guatemala. Every university has to be authorized by the Consejo de la Enseñanza Privada Superior – CEPS (Higher Private Education Council –

Another institution related to higher education in Guatemala is Facultad Latinoamericana de Ciencias Sociales- FLACSO Guatemala, FLACSO has a different status as an autonomous multilateral Latin American organism dedicated to the promotion, teaching, research and technical cooperation in the social sciences.


Universities in Guatemala offer the following degrees:
  • Técnico/Profesorado (Associate’s Degree)
    These are 3-year programs for those interested in technical training (técnico) or interested in teaching primary and secondary school (profesorado). Most tecnico/profesorado programs allow students to continue their Licenciatura studies after they finish their degree.
  • Licenciatura (Bachelor’s. degree)
    This is an undergraduate degree that varies from 4-6 years, usually completed with practical training, a thesis and an oral, public exam. It is the initial preparation for graduate studies. Unlike in the United States, in Guatemala students go directly into a professional school (medicine, law, architecture, engineering, anthropology, biology, etc.) at the university. A student who earns this degree is considered to be a professional/expert in his/her field of study and can gain access to a professional college to exercise the profession.
  • Posgrado (Postgraduate degree)
    This is an academic degree awarded after completing 1 year of graduate studies. Usually, students don’t have to write a thesis.
  • Maestría (Master’s degree)
    This is an academic degree awarded after completing a 2-year graduate studies program. Master’s programs are still fairly uncommon in the country, but they are becoming more popular. Usually, students complete a thesis to obtain this degree.
  • Doctorado (Doctorate, Ph.D.)
    The minimum time for completing a Ph.D. is usually 2-4 years after completing a Master’s degree. Generally, it is divided in course work as well as research. Similarly to the U.S., students must conduct research and write a thesis to obtain this degree.