There are numerous benefits to working in Switzerland including high salaries, an excellent standard of living, a low unemployment rate and beautiful surroundings. Discover what opportunities are on offer and start your Swiss adventure
With a population of eight million, Switzerland is a relatively small country. Yet despite this and the recent challenges of the economic crisis, it boasts one of most stable economies in the world, with an impressive unemployment rate of just 3.3%.
The country is known for its excellent quality of life and this is reflected in the cost of living; Zurich and Geneva are regularly voted among the most expensive cities in the world. However, this is counterbalanced by the county's high levels of pay.
The Alps dominate more than two-thirds of Switzerland's territory and this beautiful scenery, coupled with the county's modern cities, provides plenty for you to explore in your free time. As a multilingual nation you'll also be well placed to pick up a second or third language, which is sure to impress on your CV.
Jobs in Switzerland
The Swiss economy is built on a strong foundation of highly skilled workers. Although the country is best known for its watches, cheese and chocolate, half of all Swiss export revenue is created by the mechanical, electrical engineering and chemistry sectors. Major industries include micro-technology, biotechnology and pharmaceuticals, banking and insurance, and tourism. The service sector employs the largest number of people.
It can be difficult for foreign graduates to secure a job in a skilled profession as the labour market is small, and as such competition for posts is fierce. International workers may have more luck in major Swiss cities such as Basel, Bern, Geneva, Lausanne and Zurich rather than in smaller, rural areas.
Jobs are available for skilled workers in:
- banking and consulting;
- construction and property;
Switzerland houses a number of multinational companies including:
- Credit Suisse;
- Zurich Insurance.
Switzerland is also home to a variety of international organisations including the United Nations, World Trade Organisation, the Red Cross, the World Economic Forum and the International Olympic Committee.
Search for jobs in Switzerland at:
- Jobs.ch - available in English, German and French.
- Xpat Jobs Switzerland
How to get a job in Switzerland
To apply for a job in Switzerland you'll need a CV, cover letter and educational certificates. You should write your application in the language of the job advert/company, be that German, French or Italian, unless specifically asked to submit your application in English.
CVs should be no longer than two sides of A4 and cover letters no more than one. It isn't unusual to include a photograph alongside your CV.
Speculative applications are also welcome, but you don't need to include educational transcripts or references at this stage.
Make sure that you tailor your application to the specific organisation that you're applying to, and be sure to follow up your application in a couple of weeks if you haven't heard back.
If your application is successful, you will be invited to attend an interview. In larger companies the selection process may involve psychometric testing and assessment centres.
As Switzerland is home to so many multinational companies it may be possible to secure a job at an organisation in the UK, before asking to be seconded to its Swiss offices.
Tourism is big business and the sector provides numerous employment opportunities for Swiss nationals and foreign workers alike. The majority of seasonal and summer jobs revolve around the tourism industry. For example, ski resorts in the Alps frequently welcome seasonal workers. English-speaking ski and snowboard instructors are also in demand. For more information on temporary jobs, see Seasonworkers.com - Ski Jobs in Switzerland.
Volunteering is worth considering if you can afford to work unpaid. Any experience of this nature looks great on your CV. Not only will it put your language skills to the test and help you to understand the Swiss culture, but also provides you with an opportunity to make valuable contacts.
Voluntary opportunities available in the country include community projects, teaching schemes and working alongside international organisations. In rural areas you could get involved in conservation projects, working in mountain and forest settings.
The demand for English teachers is usually quite low, as most nationals develop a string understanding of the language from an early age. What's more English is widely used in the workplace.
Competition for teaching positions in state schools is fierce. Other opportunities may exist in private or boarding schools.
If you do manage to secure a teaching post, the pay is usually very good. For more information, visit i-to-i - Teach English in Switzerland.
The British Council Language Assistants programme enables undergraduates and graduates of any discipline, with an AS level in French or German, to work in Switzerland as an English language assistant. You'll earn around £2,100 per month and preference is usually given to those with teaching experience.
SWISS, the national airline for Switzerland, provides six-month internships for Bachelors graduates in a range of corporate areas including communication, event management, finance, HR, IT, operations, sales and marketing, and procurement. Opportunities are available in Zurich, Geneva and Basel. For more information, see SWISS internships.
Each year IAESTE (the International Association for the Exchange of Students for Technical Experience) provides a range of traineeships to undergraduate students working towards a science, engineering, technology or applied arts degree. Placements usually last from six to 12 weeks over the summer.
EU citizens have the right to live and work in Switzerland without a visa.
EU nationals working in Switzerland for under three months do not need a work permit but must register with the local authorities. For employment longer than three months, you will require a residents permit. To obtain this you will need:
- a valid passport;
- passport photographs;
- a copy of your rental agreement;
- a copy of your employment contract (if employed) or accounting records (if self-employed);
- EU students are allowed to work for a maximum of 15 hours a week without a work permit (for as long as their student permit lasts).
Within three months of arrival in Switzerland you must take out valid health insurance.
If you're from outside the EU, see ch.ch - Working in Switzerland as a foreign national.
Switzerland is renowned for being a multilingual country. German, French, Italian and Romansh are all spoken in different regions.
It is important to know which language is spoken in the area where you intend to work. German is spoken in central regions and to the east; French in the west; and Italian in the south.
While English is frequently spoken in the workplace, you will still be expected to have a good grasp of German, French or Italian depending on where you work.
There are lots of language courses here in the UK to prepare you if your language skills aren’t up to scratch. Many good websites and downloadable podcasts also exist.
How to explain your qualifications to employers
Thanks to the Bologna Process, UK higher education qualifications are directly comparable to their Swiss counterparts so if you're heading to the country to work with a UK Bachelors, Masters or PhD, these will usually be recognised and accepted by Swiss employers. However, check with employers before applying.
To find out more about the recognition of qualifications, see ENIC-NARIC.
What it's like to work in Switzerland
Most people work a 40-hour week, Monday to Friday. However, weekend work is likely to be required in retail, hospitality or healthcare roles.
All Swiss employees are entitled to at least four weeks paid holiday per year, and young people up to the age of 20 are entitled to five. Public holidays include New Year's Day, Ascension Day, Swiss National Day (1 August) and Christmas Day. You may be entitled to other public holidays, but this will depend on what part of the country you work in.
Find out more
- Discover what it's like to study in Switzerland.