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Basics Earning a living: Working in Switzerland

Swiss and EU flag

Not only its natural beauty and quality of life draw foreigners to Switzerland, professionals from Europe and beyond are equally attracted by the comparatively high income levels and low single-digit unemployment rates. 

On World Data's ranking of average incomes, Switzerland places fourth behind Monaco, Liechtenstein and Bermuda with an average annual income of more than $80,000 (2015). 

According to Swiss government statistics, the gross median monthly salary in Switzerland is CHF6,502 (2018), with the highest salaries being paid in the pharmaceutical, financial services, IT and insurance industries (ranging from more than CHF8,700-9,800 per month). 

In academia, the salaries of PhD and postdoc students depend on the university and the field of research. PhD students can earn anywhere between CHF2,000-6,000 and postdocs between CHF3,000-8,000 per month. 

EU and "third-country" job seekers

Whether you are a cash-strapped student wishing to bolster your budget with part-time work or a graduate wanting to land that perfect job in Switzerland, there is one big issues to consider: job seekers from 28 countries of the European Union (EU) and the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) are first in the queue, right behind the Swiss. Only when employers can demonstrate that they were unable to find a qualified Swiss or EU candidate amongst the pool of applicants may they consider what is known as "third-country nationals". 

The share of foreign workers of the Swiss labour market stands at over 30% (30.4% in 2015). Of these, more than 78% are nationals of an EU or EFTA country. That means that about 20% of employees in Switzerland are from third-country states. 

Working while you study

Six months after starting their studies in Switzerland, third-country students may work up to 15 hours during the semester and 30 hours or more during the holidays. New employers have to submit a request before the students can apply for a work permit. 

The website of Swiss Universitiesexternal link lists online job boards of the major universities. You can also search the Euraxessexternal link website for jobs and fellowships in Switzerland and the rest of Europe. 

Working after your studies

Given the priority for Swiss and EU job applicants, job seekers from the rest of the world have the best chance at finding employment in fields where Switzerland is lacking qualified staff.

According to a 2018 Adecco/University of Zurich report, in German-speaking Switzerland the most acute shortage of skilled workers is in the technical professions (IT, engineering or medicine, for example), while in French- and Italian-speaking Switzerland, the trust and fiduciary services sector struggle the most to find qualified staff, followed by the technical and engineering sectors.

The average age of working Swiss is about 40. As Switzerland's baby boomers head for retirement, these and other sectors will find it even more difficult to find qualified nationals to fill the gaps. 

How to find work

The vast majority of job postings are listed on online portals like jobs.chexternal link (also in English) or Jobscout24external link (only German or French). Job opportunities for specific sectors, like the media, IT or international development, are listed on sites like medienjobs.chexternal link (German), IT Jobs Switzerlandexternal link, or cinfoexternal link. Job opportunities for English-speaking expats are listed on The Localexternal link or on Xpatjobsexternal link

LinkedIn is not as widely used by job recruiters in Switzerland compared to the US or UK. But recruiters for multinational corporations and HR staff in Switzerland are increasingly using LinkedIn and other social media platforms when seeking specific profiles. According to a Swiss public television news report, 70% of open positions are filled without posting a job advertisement. Qualified staff in specific industries or sectors, like IT, engineering or health care, are found through networks or social media. 

Useful advice and information

Information about legal aspects and employee rights can be found on ch.chexternal link, on InterNationsexternal link, Just Landedexternal link and on Migrawebexternal link.

For a personal experience and advice from a third-country graduate of a Swiss university who persevered and found work, read this swissinfo article. You can also ask fellow expats for advice in the English Forumexternal link.

​​​​​​​Planning to come to Switzerland to study? Visit our dedicated page Education Swiss Madeexternal link for info, tips and personal accounts from students.

University comparison series How easy is it for international students to land a Swiss job?

Like in the US or UK, Swiss immigration regulations restrict non-European graduates from embarking on a professional career in the country.

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