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Education System in Switzerland: Explained


Dreaming of studying in the heart of Europe? Switzerland isn't just a scenic destination but a dynamic educational hub. The Swiss education system shines through its decentralized structure, backed by the State Secretariat for Education, Research and Innovation (SERI). It is worth mentioning that the Swiss government invests 5.7% of GDP in the education sector of the country. Divided into 26 cantons, this system is known for its innovation, high standards, and student-centered approach.

Discover more about the Swiss education system, its global rankings, and overall structure, specially designed for international students aspiring to study in Switzerland.

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Table of Contents

Education System in Switzerland: An Overview

Switzerland stands out with one of the world's top-notch education systems, boasting a remarkable 6th position in the global ranking as per the World Population Review. Divided into three key categories – Primary, Secondary, and Tertiary – the Swiss education system offers a comprehensive learning journey.

Let's take a closer look at the distinct structure and facets of the Switzerland education system.

Level of Education

Division/ Types

Standard Age

Primary Education


4 to 11 years

Secondary Education

Lower Secondary

Upper Secondary

12 to 19 years

Tertiary Education

University of Applied Sciences

19 to 24 years

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What are the Major Levels in Switzerland Education System Structure?

Switzerland's education system is structured across three main levels: Primary, Secondary, and Tertiary education. Let's delve into each level:

Switzerland Education System Structure

1. Primary Education

2. Secondary Education

  • Lower Secondary Education 
  • Higher Secondary Education

3. Tertiary Education

  • Universities and Federal Institutes of Technology
  • Universities of Applied Sciences
  • Universities of Teacher Education

Primary Education in Switzerland

Commencing with kindergarten at age four, lasting for two years, or sometimes extending to eight, primary education lays the foundation for young minds. Besides focusing on the three Rs, children are introduced to multiple languages and various subjects such as drawing, music, and basic civics.

Secondary Education in Switzerland

Secondary education in Switzerland comprises lower secondary and higher secondary levels. Let us gather more information about each of them:

Lower Secondary Education

Based on their assessment of primary education, the students are promoted to the lower secondary level. This level of education expanding for a maximum period of three years, focuses on academic progression and personal development. The students learn the art of learning and growing together with their peers, and also the skills of adjustment, responsibility, and dealing with conflicts.

Higher Secondary Education

Higher secondary schooling in Switzerland prepares students for their higher studies by building the foundation of knowledge in the area of their interest. You may either opt for a baccalaureate school or upper secondary specialized schools for the higher secondary stage. Let us see what each of them has to offer:

  • Baccalaureate School: Baccalaureate school in Switzerland is a learning journey of three to four years. To enroll in a three-year degree program, you must complete one year of pre-baccalaureate studies. In some cantons, some baccalaureate schools offer courses of six years duration. It is for children attending a baccalaureate school straight after primary school. Overall, these schools offer baccalaureate certificates through which you may apply to study at any higher education institute.
  • Upper Secondary Specialized Schools: They offer specialized training for a career in different fields like healthcare, social work, education, pedagogy, art and design, etc. The program lasts for a maximum of three years, and the students must appear for six subjects to acquire their upper-secondary specialized school certificate and continue their education in PET colleges.
  • Vocational Schools: VET or Vocational Education and Training is an integral part of the Swiss education system. The main aim of these schools is to equip the students with the knowledge and expertise required in the job market. The dual system of vocational education and training (apprenticeship) is a combination of learning in the workplace and vocational school. More than two-thirds of the students in Switzerland opt for vocational schools after completing their compulsory education.

Tertiary Education in Switzerland

Higher education, especially universities, and higher vocational training, comes under the tertiary level. Further, higher education in Switzerland consists of three levels- Bachelor’s, Masters, and Ph.D. degree courses. In terms of higher studies, Switzerland's education system for international students has a respected place in the world.

Understanding Higher Education System in Switzerland

In the realm of higher education in Switzerland, three types of universities cater to the academic aspirations of students::

Universities and Federal Institutes of Technology

Switzerland houses top-tier universities, including 10 of them recognized in the QS World University Ranking List 2024. Among the 12 Swiss universities offering bachelor’s and master’s degrees, two are federal institutes of technology.

To embark on tertiary education in Switzerland, a relevant bachelor's degree or its equivalent is a prerequisite. The top five universities in Switzerland include:

University Name

QS WUR 2024

ETH Zurich - Swiss Federal Institute of Technology




University of Zurich


University of Geneva


University of Bern


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Universities of Applied Sciences

The universities of applied sciences were established in Switzerland during the mid-1990s and are pivotal in the nation's higher education system. These institutions focus on career-oriented training, offering science-based, practice-oriented education, and more. Admission to these universities usually requires a bachelor’s degree in a vocational discipline. Some of the noteworthy universities in this category include:

  • Bern University of Applied Sciences
  • University of Applied Sciences Western Switzerland
  • Zurich University of Applied Sciences

Universities of Teacher Education

Switzerland hosts 14 universities of teacher education that are instrumental in providing training and education for future teachers. Similar to universities of applied sciences in their structure, they function under a different administrative model. Admission is typically granted based on a bachelor’s degree. Some prominent universities in this category include:

  • Zurich University of Teacher Education
  • University of Fribourg, Institute of Teacher Education
  • University of Geneva, Institute of Teacher Education

The Swiss education system, from primary to tertiary levels, upholds high academic standards and promises exceptional opportunities for students. Studying in Switzerland can undoubtedly be a rewarding choice for international students, offering a rich cultural experience alongside quality education. For expert guidance and assistance throughout your study abroad journey, connect with our dedicated counselors at Yocket today!

From the Desk of Yocket

Selecting the right educational path is a crucial decision. Understanding the Swiss education system is imperative for international students aspiring to study in Switzerland. At Yocket, we comprehend the significance of informed decisions in choosing the ideal educational destination. With extensive research and expertise, we've outlined a comprehensive guide to navigating the Swiss education system, providing insights into the structural intricacies and potential opportunities available for students. Yocket is committed to assisting your educational aspirations, making the process of choosing the best educational path in Switzerland smooth and rewarding.

Dreaming of 2024 in Switzerland? It's not too late! Apply with Yocket now to embrace an academic journey in the Swiss education system. Grab your seats for 2024 and experience an exquisite blend of academic excellence and international exposure. Trust Yocket to guide you towards your educational aspirations in Switzerland. Your Swiss academic adventure awaits!

Frequently Asked Questions About Swiss Education System

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