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How much can you earn with a Swiss university degree?

Helena Bachmann
Helena Bachmann - [email protected]
How much can you earn with a Swiss university degree?
If you are a university graduate, you can expect high wages. Photo: Gül Işık on Pexels

Compulsory education ends in Switzerland at age 16, when students have a choice between going to a university or opting for a three-year vocational education and training (VET). Which of the two is most ‘profitable’ in terms of salaries?

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While for many people around the world universities are seen as the best paths toward rewarding careers, Switzerland is a bit different in this regard.

After compulsory education, about two-thirds of Swiss students opt for a VET pathway, a dual-track programme that includes two days in a vocational school and three days getting an on-the-job training in their chosen sector.

VET includes a variety of fields such as business and commercial, administration, retail, tourism, construction, information technology, arts, wellness services, as well as various trades — in all, 230 professions, according to Educationsuisse platform.

The other one-third of graduating students choose to attend a university.

Yet there are significant differences in wages between VET and university graduates.

Let’s look at VET first.

On average, five years after completing the vocational training, employees can expect to earn about 5,270 francs a month.

However, wages differ based on sectors.

In the IT, for instance, the salary is 1,100 francs above this average.

People who completed apprenticeships in electricity and mechanical construction can expect to earn 5,445 francs after five years, followed by architecture and construction (5,425 francs); accounting, marketing, and office work (5,367 francs), and the social sector (5,349 francs).

Lowest wages — below 5,000 a month — are in the retail and “personal services” sector.

READ ALSO: Why is vocational training so popular in Switzerland and how much can I earn?

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What about people with university degrees?

Based on figures from the Federal Statistical Office, there is a considerable difference between salaries of VET and university graduates. And within the latter group, wages vary depending on the kind of institutions the students attended. 

Switzerland has several kinds of higher education establishments: cantonal universities and two federal polytechnic institutes: one in Zurich (ETH) and the other in Lausanne (EPFL). They are considered the ‘highest’ educational institutions.

Graduates of these establishments can earn as much as 10,170 francs a month.

Next are universities of applied sciences (nearly 9,000 francs a month), teacher-training colleges (8,480), and other specialised schools (8,175).

What if you attended a foreign university?

If you didn’t study at a Swiss higher education institution or complete an apprenticeship here, you can have your foreign qualifications recognised in Switzerland — and earn an equivalent salary (wages are based on the job and your position; not on your nationality).

Whether you are coming from the European Union or not will play an important role in this process, as Switzerland has adopted the EU's system of mutual recognition of professional qualifications. 

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