The education system and labour market in Switzerland will be different from your country of origin. Perhaps the subject you have previously studied does not exist or the training for a certain career is designed differently here.
You should therefore do some research in order to make an informed decision. Find out which training and career you would like to pursue in Switzerland. What are your options?
Seeking advice from experts is ideal: They know the Swiss education system and labour market well and will be able to give you in-depth explanations.
Every canton offers its individual careers service (often referred to as BIZ, Career guidance and information centers, see contacts below) where you can seek vocational, educational and career guidance. Advisers will be able to inform you about the different training pathways open to you. They also have a good idea if the training you are interested in gives you easy access to the job market. Make an appointment to get face-to-face advice and you will be in a better place to assess your situation and the options available to you. Young people are usually able to seek advice in their town or canton free of charge.
Careers advice for migrants
Some careers services have advisers who are specialised in giving advice to migrants. This can be hugely beneficial to you. Advisers are well aware that your training abroad might have been very different and know of the difficulties you might be facing here. Check with your local careers service if this is a service they can provide.
Taster or trial programmes, auditing courses, taking a look behind the scenes
Attending a lecture or seminar can be the best way to know if pursuing a degree course is the right option for you. It means that you will be able to appreciate what it is like to study in Switzerland. If you are struggling to decide between a university and a university of applied sciences, feel free to try both!
There are different ways to take a look behind the scenes:
1) Taster and trial programmes or registering as auditor
Participating in a taster/trial programme or registering as an auditor will allow you to attend modules at a higher education institution for the course of one or two terms. However, this does not mean that you are a regular student for the time being! You are not enrolled with the university and will not gain a qualification. The projects give you an idea of what university life looks like in Switzerland. They can help you assess if you have the required knowledge and skills for the course of your choice.
You will be linked with a student mentor to guide you throughout the project. This is an opportunity to meet and get chatting to a student. Some projects will also enable you to improve your language skills. Get in touch using the contact details in the respective project description.
These projects are time-consuming. They will be beneficial if you are looking for a regular activity or if you are preparing for university admission.
A range of higher education institutions in Switzerland offer opportunities of this kind. If the institution of your choice does not have a taster or trial programme on offer, you can contact the respective student union. Alternatively, get in touch with us: firstname.lastname@example.org
2) A student mentor
You don’t have the time to regularly attend lectures or seminars during the course of a term, but would like to get a taste of student life? If you are interested in getting a student to show you around or help you prepare throughout the admissions process, feel free to use the contact details for one of the taster or trial programmes and check with them if they could put you in touch with a student mentor. If there is no taster or trial programme in your area, get in touch with your local student union. Alternatively, we would be pleased to hear from you: email@example.com
- 3) Take the initiative and get in touch
- 1) Taster and trial programmes or registering as auditor
When should I become an auditor at a university or sign up for a taster programme?
- You are unsure if studying is for you
- You are in the process of preparing for a degree course, but have not yet been admitted
- You enjoy keeping up to date and engaging with research in your free time
- You would like to put your language skills into practice in an academic environment
- You would like to meet university students
Questions to consider during your time as an auditor or on a trial programme:
Do I enjoy this particular way of engaging with a topic?
- University or federal technical university (ETH/EPFL): Do I enjoy reading, analysing and writing academic texts? Am I interested in theories and ideas?
- University of applied sciences: Do I enjoy learning things which can be put into practice? Would I like to do a work experience?
Am I in a position to follow lectures or seminars in terms of content and language?
Do I have the time it takes for a university degree? How long does it take me to prepare or complete follow-up tasks?
University open days
Most higher education institutions put on open days. You will be able to go along and chat to people on the course of your interest. Go to berufsberatung.ch (available in German, French and Italian) and swissuniversities (top right) where you will find further information and key dates for open days.
Cantons, welfare organisations and municipalities often organise projects to support high-skilled refugees. There will be an initial meeting and you will be allocated a mentor. You subsequently work out an individualised plan to identify your training needs. Your mentor will guide you throughout the process.
It is often the case that you are unable to register for the scheme yourself. Check with social services and they can help you out. Show your advisor which project you are interested in and why it has caught your attention.
Many Swiss universities and universities of applied sciences have guest student projects that allow you to take a look at a study programme. At the same time, they might help you with the regular admission process in order to continue your academic career in Switzerland. Here you will find an overview and all the contact details.