Professional education

Professional education falls into the category of non-university tertiary level. The Swiss professional education sector imparts the competences that are required to hold managerial positions. Training options are very heterogeneous in many respects: curricula, requirements and responsible bodies. To gain access to the professional education, learners must hold a Federal VET Diploma and have gained the requisite work experience or have benefited from an equivalent education and training along with several years of work experience.

There are two main pathways to tertiary-level professional qualifications:

  • Preparation (self-study or preparatory course) for the Federal Professional Examination or the Advanced Federal Professional Examination
  • Completion of a federally recognised study programme at a professional education institution (PEI)

Professional organisations are responsible for both the Federal Professional Examination and Advanced Federal Professional Examination in their area of activity. They decide what technical competences match to the needs of the labour market. They also establish the competence profiles and resulting qualification procedures in examination rules, which are submitted to the State Secretariat for Education, Research and Innovation (SERI) for approval. These examinations are organised in a uniform manner across Switzerland. Candidates are not required to have attended a preparatory course in order to take them. SERI acts as a supervisory authority and awards the corresponding professional qualification at the request of the body in charge.

Federal Professional Examination
The Federal Professional Examination is conducted for the purpose of determining whether a candidate possesses solid practical skills and a firm grasp of theory. It is intended for individuals who have several years of experience and who wish to specialise in a particular field. Those who pass the Federal Professional Examination are awarded the corresponding tertiary-level professional qualification from SERI and may work as specialists in their field and/or hold managerial positions.

Advanced Federal Professional Examination
The Advanced Federal Professional Examination is conducted for the purpose of determining whether a candidate possesses the expert knowledge, skills and know-how needed to run a company or work as an expert in his or her profession.

Federal funding of preparatory courses for federal examinations
On 15 September 2017, the Federal Council approved the new subject-oriented funding of preparatory courses for federal examinations for tertiary-level professional qualifications. Provided certain criteria are met, those who complete a preparatory course for a federal examination for tertiary-level professional qualifications will receive a federal grant. This measure has been in place since January 2018.

Working on behalf of the SEFI, the SDBB coordinates funding of preparatory courses for federal examinations. The SDBB's office:

  • manages the list of preparatory courses,
  • handles grant requests and, if the conditions are met, pays the grant directly to applicants.

The SERI website serves as the platform where course providers can register their courses and grant applicants may submit their applications.

Professional education institutions (PEIs)
Study programmes at professional education institutions provide graduates with the skills they need to independently carry out technical and managerial tasks in their field. In addition to classroom instruction, work experience or internships integrated in training are very important for acquisition of more advanced professional competence. Study programmes are federally recognised by the State Secretariat for Education, Research and Innovation (SERI). The qualification procedures take place at the PEIs directly. Study programmes are based on a core syllabus developed by professional organisations in collaboration with learning institutions. This core syllabus is also submitted to SERI for approval.

Each Swiss professional qualification is issued with a diploma supplement, which indicates the level that the qualification holds in the Swiss National Qualifications Framework for Vocational and Professional Qualifications (NQF VPQ) and the corresponding level in the European Qualifications Framework for Lifelong Learning (EQF) (updated at regular intervals)

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