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World Teachers’ Day Swiss teachers: well-paid but stressed

teacher with pupils

A teacher with 5th grade pupils at the Cantonal School Glarus

(© Keystone / Gaetan Bally)

October 5 is World Teachers’ Day. In honour of this, we have rounded up five top facts about teachers in Switzerland. 

The international dayexternal link provides “the occasion to celebrate the teaching profession worldwide”, according to the United Nations’ cultural body UNESCO. So how do Swiss teachers fare? 

Swiss teachers are well-paid  

Teachers in Switzerland on average earn more than in many other OECD countries, even when the data is adjusted for the cost of living. The starting salary for a primary school teacher was $58,017 in 2018, making Switzerland the third highestexternal link after Luxembourg and Germany (OECD average: $32,816). Lower secondary school teachers with ten years’ experience will earn $82,222; only in Luxembourg would you earn more ($105,400). 

+ More on teachers’ salaries here, in one of our most popular education stories  

However, there are big differences between the cantonexternal links (which are in charge of education matters in Switzerland) in terms of level of pay. So you are better off working as a kindergarten teacher in canton Geneva than in, say, canton Graubünden. 

But they still suffer stress 

Salaries aside, teaching is still stressful in Switzerland. The two main teachers’ associations have sounded the alarm over working too much unpaid overtime

A survey released in 2017 also found that around 40% of teachers asked were “in a burnout situation”. 

+ Read more about teachers and burnout here

There are continued calls for better conditions,. Teachers say increased preparation times and admin duties are adding to their working week. Working with tricky parents is also an issue. That said, there is still quite a bit of respect for teachers in Switzerland. Many pupils greet and bid farewell to their teacher with a handshake

Saying goodbye in class with a handshake

A teacher says goodbye to pupils after a geogprahy lesson

(© Keystone / Gaetan Bally)

And there are not enough teachers 

There is also a quite a big teacher shortage in the country.  

+ Wanted: 10,000 teachers a year for Swiss schools 

The reasons: the impending retirement of the babyboomer generation and the baby boom over the past few years, which means more children starting school. Around 5,000 new teachers graduate each year, which still leaves a shortfall. Of these, around 1,000 will drop out of the profession within five years or many will eventually work part-time, mainly for family reasons. Switzerland has a high rate of teachers working part-time compared with other countries (around 70%). 

Attracting men into the profession is not easy  

Another issue is that teaching – like in many other countries – is female-dominated. The percentage of men in the profession currently stands at about 30%,external link dropping to 14% at primary level (although there are more men (57%) teaching at upper secondary level, so in academic and apprenticeship schools from age 15 plus). 

There are initiativesexternal link to encourage men to get into primary teaching, such as taster days, targeting men thinking of making a career change. In our article on the issue, the enthusiastic male teacher we spoke to used to work in a ski and snowboarding shop. 

+ How do you get more men in primary teaching? 

Apart from losing some of its prestige, primary teaching in particular is simply not on many young men’s radar, experts say.  

It’s a long road if you are a teacher with a foreign qualification 

Generally, your foreign teaching qualification should be recognised by the Swiss Conference of Cantonal Ministers of Educationexternal link. And you will need extremely good language skills in German, French or Italian in most cases. There’s a detailed explanation of the process – which can stretch out over several months or more – below. In addition, you have to remember that cantons and local school authorities (who hire teachers) will have a say in the process. 

The statistics show it all: only 6% of teachers in local schools hold a foreign passport, and half of them are Germans. 

Your education questions, answered Can I teach in Swiss schools with a foreign qualification?

In response to our story on Switzerland’s teacher shortage, many readers wanted to know if foreigners could teach in Swiss local schools.  

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