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How do nurses’ salaries in Switzerland compare to the rest of the world?

Switzerland is known for having some of the highest salaries in the world in a variety of industries, but how much do nurses earn - and how much does that compare with other countries?

How do nurses’ salaries in Switzerland compare to the rest of the world?
A nurses armband - which also looks a little like the Swiss flag. Photo by Julien Flutto on Unsplash

There are an estimated 215,000 nurses employed in Switzerland, which means roughly one nurse for every 11.4 residents. This is well above the EU average of one nurse per 8.4 residents. 

While the cost of living is a major factor, nurses in Switzerland do earn a comparatively high salary. 

Here’s what you need to know. 

How do you become a nurse in Switzerland – and how much do you earn?

To become a nurse in Switzerland you’ll need to complete an apprenticeship. 

This varies from other countries, particularly in the English-speaking world, where nursing tends to be a university course. 

Switzerland will generally recognise nursing credentials gained abroad, whether this is from university or an apprenticeship. 

READ MORE: Which jobs pay the most and least after a Swiss apprenticeship?

Nurses earn an average of between 4,920 and 6,060 francs per month – or CHF59,000 to CHF72,720 – depending on where they live and their experience. 

This puts them second-highest after IT workers among apprentice-based workers. 

This comes from various sources including official Swiss figures, along with those from Switzerland’s Lohn Computer comparison site and OECD figures. 

It also compares relatively favourably with white collar jobs such as architects (CHF6,250 per month) and teachers (CHF7,292). 

READ MORE: What do teachers earn in Switzerland – and where do they earn the most?

You can find out the average wage for your job at the following link. 

How does this stack up compared to other countries? 

It is perhaps no surprise to learn that Switzerland compares relatively favourably to other European countries when it comes to nursing salaries. 

According to OECD figures from 2017, Switzerland among the top nations for remuneration of hospital nurses among OECD countries. 

Luxembourg is in first place where nurses are paid CHF99,800 per year, followed by the United States (CHF69,000), Netherlands (CHF64,200), Iceland (CHF63,500), Australia (CHF63,000) and Ireland (CHF62,500). 

The OECD estimate for Switzerland of CHF59,000 is on the lower end of the scale, so while they had Switzerland in seventh, some more experienced nurses will be earning higher than the average in all of the above countries other than Luxembourg. 

Keep in mind that these figures do not take into account purchasing power or cost of living figures, which are of course notably high in Switzerland. 

READ MORE: Why is Switzerland so expensive?

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COST OF LIVING

Switzerland: How to get money back when cross-border shopping in Germany

Crossing into Germany to go shopping is usually cheaper - and that’s before you add the tax savings. Here’s how you can claim back tax when shopping in Germany.

Switzerland: How to get money back when cross-border shopping in Germany

There are a range of reasons why most things are cheaper in Germany than in Switzerland. 

While there are some exceptions to this – the most notable one being petrol – generally speaking you pay a premium on goods purchased in Switzerland. 

EXPLAINED: Why is Switzerland so expensive?

If you shop in Germany, you can also save on VAT, which is generally 19 percent and added to most goods. 

Here’s what you need to know. 

What are the tax rules for shopping in Germany? 

Residents of Switzerland, as a non-EU country, do not need to pay VAT in Germany on purchases over 50 euros. 

Your country of residence rather than nationality is important here. 

Therefore, a German living in Switzerland and shopping in Germany does not need to pay the tax. 

A Swiss living in Germany however would need to pay the amount. 

Importantly, you need to physically be in Germany when you make the purchase. 

In order to qualify for the tax exemption, you must bring the goods back to Switzerland with you. 

The specific rules for this are laid out by German Customs here, but they need to be either in your carry on or checked baggage, or in a car that you are travelling in personally. 

These rules are to ensure people are buying the goods for themselves rather than intending to sell them on. 

What kind of goods? 

Goods bought in Germany and taken back to Switzerland are exempt from VAT. 

You will generally however be required to pay tax on services rendered or completed in Germany. 

For instance, bus or train tickets in Germany, restaurant bills, hotel stays, massages etc. 

There are also a range of rules which apply to vehicles. 

If you are getting your car repaired, filling up with petrol, affixing bumpers, mirrors or other additions or even getting a car wash, you will need to pay VAT. 

How do I get the money back? 

Unfortunately, you do not get a discount at the place of purchase.

Instead, you need to claim the money back after you have purchased the product on which you paid the tax. 

In most large stores or shopping centres, you will be able to do this on site. 

You need to have a copy of the receipt and fill in the VAT refund form (Ausfuhrschein) with your name, address and Swiss residency permit number. 

You can get one of these forms at larger stores or you can download it and print it here. 

You will need to do one for each invoice. 

Once you have done that, you can take the completed form to the German customs office (Zoll), which you can find at most border crossings and get the paper stamped. 

Then, you need to return the paper to the place of purchase, where they will issue with a refund of the VAT. 

Some stores require you to return after three months, some six and some 12, so be sure to check the store policy. 

Note that some online stores will automatically deduct the VAT if you have a Swiss delivery address. 

Cost of living in Switzerland: How to save money if you live in Zurich

One thing to keep in mind however is that Switzerland charges its own VAT, which is either 2.5 percent or 8 percent. More on that below. 

What’s with all this paper? 

For anyone who’s spent even a few hours in Germany, the country’s reluctance to embrace digital methods of payment and record keeping is clear. 

While cash remains king in many stores and restaurants, claiming back money from shopping in Germany is also a paper-heavy endeavour. 

Fortunately for people not so keen on paperwork, a change is afoot – although exactly when it will take place remains unclear. 

In February 2022, the German government announced it had kicked off a project to make a digital export certificate possible. 

In addition to saving time and paper, the government indicated it expected to save around 6.2 million euros in personnel expenses as around 100 customs officers are currently assigned to the Swiss border alone. 

No deadline has been given for when the change will come into effect. 

Cost of living: How to save on groceries in Switzerland

Swiss customs rules

When bringing goods into Switzerland, you will need to pay VAT if the amount exceeds 300 francs. 

While border patrols are rare, those who make a habit of exceeding this amount – even if it is for goods for personal use – run the risk of falling foul of the authorities. 

There are several different rules in place for bringing in different items, including meats, cheeses and alcohol. 

The limits for each of these items can be found here. 

Keep in mind that while the CHF300 applies now, Switzerland is set to reduce this to CHF50 in the future – although final approval of this has not yet been secured. 

Tax change: Switzerland to introduce 50 franc limit on cross-border shopping

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