Case Studies is an ongoing series on Scholar Escolar where foreigners who have taken the graduate school plunge in Spain share their experiences. Today’s case study focuses on James, a Californian who did a Master’s degree in Industrial/Organizational Psychology in Madrid.

Name: James

Place of Origin: Los Angeles, California

Time in Spain: 4 years

Degree Program:

Master’s in Industrial/Organizational Psychology, Universidad Complutense Madrid

1 year + time to complete thesis and internship

Academic Background: B.A. Psychology, University of California Santa Barbara

Professional Background: ESL Teacher


What made you decide to go to graduate school in Spain?

I decided to do a Master’s here in Spain for a few reasons. Number one being that it was so cheap. In the US, this Master’s degree can cost over $30,000 but in here in Spain they’re a fraction of the price. Another reason was that I felt like by teaching English, I wasn’t progressing myself professionally. I wanted to advance my career while living abroad and enjoying the experience.

Why did you pick that particular program?

It was one of two Industrial/Organizational Psychology programs in Madrid. I chose to do the program at the Universidad Complutense Madrid because it’s public and therefore cheaper to do. Additionally, at UCM for postgrad it is not necessary to legalize your undergraduate degree through the government because they have their own legalization process.

What was the application process like?

The application process was much less demanding than in the States, though you do need to get everything translated, apostilled and turned in to apply to a graduate program in Spain.

If you have nothing translated before applying, then the whole process can take a bit longer: Also if you have a degree from the USA and want to apply to graduate school, you will need to get that degree legalized in Spain before doing so, which is a lengthy process. Thankfully they have their own legalization process at UCM, which is much less effort and time but still requires some paperwork.

The process starts in the spring of the same year, so you apply in the same calendar year of the academic year you would like to do the program (for example, if you want to do it during the academic year 2018-2019, you would do the application in the spring of 2018). There are three plazas: if you apply for the first plaza and your application is denied, you can fix it in order to submit for the second and third plazas up until the September of the academic year.

What language(s) were the classes in?

My Master’s program was all in Spanish. A B2 level of Spanish was needed and usually you need a certificate verifying your Spanish level. Thankfully, I did my entire application in Spanish so I was able to bypass that requirement.

My program also required us to verify our English level, so I had to directly contact the coordinator to bypass that step as well.

How much was tuition? What about cost of living?

Tuition was about €5,000 (about $6,000) in total. You can make payments in installments throughout the year.

Cost of living in Madrid, including cell phone, gym, food and rent is about €700/month.

In Madrid, an auxiliar salary is €1,000/month. So if you want to do a Master’s in Spain while working as an English teacher, I would recommend saving a little money first. It would be a good idea to save money and get all of your documents translated the year before doing the program.


 Would you recommend your program? What’s something you wished you knew before doing it?

A few things I wish I knew before doing a Master’s in Spain:

• I did like my program, However, there are some things that I didn’t like. It was much more disorganized than it would have been in the USA. Sometimes things aren’t very clear with the application or even the projects within the program.

• Working as as an auxiliar and doing a Master’s degree killed my social life. I worked in the morning and did classes at night, so I was busy all day and the weekends were spent doing homework.

• I did have to do a Master’s thesis, which was about 100 pages in Spanish. At the beginning of the program, I was told I would be able to do it in English. However, as I was assigned a specific professor to advise my thesis, she did not allow me to do it in English. I ended up having many people read over my assignments and thesis to correct the Spanish.

• Doing a complete Master’s degree in Spanish has improved my Spanish immensely. When I started, I was at a B2 level now I am at a C2 level.

Doing a Master’s in Spain is extremely frustrating at times due to the organization and the workload while working but I am very happy that I did it. It has been about 6 months since I completed it and I am still looking for a job in my field, so I would not say it has exactly helped me secure a job outside of teaching in Spain. I plan on legalizing my degree in the USA if I decide to move back.

What are you doing now? 

Right now, I am looking for a job in industrial/organizational psychology here in Spain. As a foreigner from outside the European Union, it is difficult for a company to hire you with a student visa, even if you have been here for over 3 years. If I don’t find a job this year, I will probably call it quits and move back home where the job market is much more stable.

Any final words of wisdom/caution?
I am extremely happy that I did the Master’s program. It helped me cure that “I am not doing anything with my life while teaching English” feeling. It was cheap, and I really enjoyed what I learned inside and outside of the classroom.


Thanks James! If you would like to know more about this degree program or his experiences, you can contact James directly on LinkedIn

If you have gone to graduate school in Spain (or know somebody who did) and would like to have your story included in the Case Studies series, let me know! Contributors have included a Master’s degree in multilingualism and education and in Spanish linguistics

(Photos: James)


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