Vocational education and training

Key terms: Vocational and professional education in Switzerland / Bridge-year courses / Case management (vocational education and training) / Mobility and exchange / Transition from lower to upper secondary level / Governance of vocational and professional education and training / Professional qualification for adults / Occupational, educational and career guidance

In Switzerland the majority of adolescents commence vocational education and training (VET) after lower-secondary level. There are VET programmes for some 250 different professions. In Switzerland, many professional qualifications are obtained in upper secondary level, while in other countries the same qualifications are obtained in tertiary level education. The Swiss system therefore differs from most foreign systems of vocational and professional education and training. VET is predominantly based on a dual system: practical training (apprenticeship) on three to four days at a training company is supplemented by theoretical classes (vocational and general educational subjects) on one to two days at the VET school. In addition, the VET students attend inter-company courses, in which they enhance vocational practical skills. The vocational education and training (VET) can also be completed at a full-time vocational school. In the French-speaking and Italian-speaking parts of Switzerland, the proportion of full-time vocational schools is higher than in German-speaking Switzerland.

Organisation of vocational education and training (VET)

Pupils who have completed lower secondary level and have reached the age of 15 can apply for an apprenticeship at a training company or (in some cases passing an entrance examination is required) enrol at a full-time vocational school. The training company decides on the selection procedure. In general, criteria for selecting a VET student include the student's performance in lower secondary level, the application documents and an interview. Various training companies also require applicants to pass an aptitude test.

Vocational education and training (VET) offers the following programmes:

  • Two-year vocational education and training VET programme with Federal VET Certificate

    The two-year vocational education and training VET programme leading to a Federal VET Certificate offers adolescents with lower learning performance a federally recognised professional qualification. It prepares them for a less-demanding occupation.

  • Three- or four-year VET programme with Federal VET Diploma

    The three- or four-year VET programme leading to a Federal VET Diploma provides training for work in a particular profession.

Organisation of Federal Vocational Baccalaureate training

The Federal Vocational Baccalaureate supplements VET programmes leading to the Federal VET Diploma with an extended general education programme. The Federal Vocational Baccalaureate can be obtained in a number of ways:

The first option, BM1, is through vocational education and training (VET): in a company or in a full-time VET school, attending the relevant courses of study. Additional conditions usually apply to admission, such as specific grades in the student report, admission examinations, etc. This also requires the consent of the employer. The additional teaching for vocational education and training (VET) normally requires another half-day of lessons. This usually starts in the first year of apprenticeship.

The second option, BM2, is after completing vocational education and training (VET), by attending classes for skilled professionals. Full-time training lasts two semesters, while part-time variants take three to five semesters. Some institutes offer preliminary courses for admission to the Federal Vocational Baccalaureate courses.

Another option is to prepare for and sit the Federal Vocational Baccalaureate examinations directly. These examinations are held once a year (July/August). Admission requires a Federal VET Diploma.

The Federal Vocational Baccalaureate provides admission to a study course related to the profession at a university of applied sciences without any further examinations. As well as the formal admission requirement, additional admission conditions may apply, such as traineeships, aptitude tests etc.
If the VET does not correspond to the desired area of study, a one-year qualifying internship may be completed in order to gain admission.

Individuals who, in addition to the Federal Vocational Baccalaureate, have passed the supplementary university aptitude test can register at a Swiss university or university of teacher education. The supplementary aptitude test may be prepared through self-learning or by attending a specially-designed course.

Catch up on federally recognised VET qualifications

Adults can also earn a VET qualification without attending a formal VET programme. According to the Federal Vocational and Professional Education and Training Act, there are several possible qualification procedures for demonstrating professional skills. There are four ways to obtain a Federal VET Diploma or a Federal VET Certificate. Two of these are through formal education with an apprenticeship contract, either abridged VET or a standard VET programme. The other two are both through non-formal education without an apprenticeship contract, either by validation of previous educational achievements or through direct admission to the final examination.

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Last update of this page: 14.12.2018

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