Secondary schooling

Upper-secondary level schools serve to prepare students for the next level of education, the tertiary level: baccalaureate schools prepare students for university or other institutions of higher education, while upper-secondary specialised schools pave the way for higher vocational and professional education and training (PET). Both schools provide a general education, but the upper-secondary specialised schools have a vocational slant.

A young woman writing with chalk on a blackboard.
On their way to university: young people at the baccalaureate school prepare for their next level of education. © fauxels

Young people who do not learn a trade after compulsory schooling usually prepare for entry into tertiary education by attending a general secondary school. These upper-secondary level schools start from the age of 15.

Baccalaureate school

Students are usually admitted to baccalaureate school after completion of the lower-secondary level, i.e. compulsory schooling, subject to their academic performance to date. Overall assessments, grades and entrance examinations or a combination of these can be used to determine performance.

Baccalaureate school usually lasts four years. For the three-year baccalaureate stream, one year of pre-baccalaureate studies must be completed in the last year of lower-secondary school. In some cantons there are extended baccalaureate schools spanning six years, which children attend straight after primary school. The organisational form of the baccalaureate schools is a cantonal matter.

After passing their final exams, students receive the baccalaureate certificate, which gains them admission to a university or a university of teacher education and is recognised throughout Switzerland. The baccalaureate certificate also entitles the holder to enter a university of applied sciences or a PET college, although in some cases a certain amount of professional experience must be proven.

Adults wishing to retake their baccalaureate can attend a recognised baccalaureate school. However, a baccalaureate certificate can also be obtained without having previously attended a baccalaureate school. The examination is free of charge, and examinees can prepare through a private baccalaureate school or can be self-taught.

Upper-secondary specialised schools

Upper-secondary specialised schools are general secondary schools that prepare students for higher vocational education (PET) in a specific vocational field. They offer an alternative to the federal vocational baccalaureate and baccalaureate certificate. Upper-secondary specialised schools specialise in the following occupational fields:

  • health
  • social work
  • pedagogy
  • communication/information
  • art and design

Upper-secondary specialised school lasts three years and follows on immediately after compulsory schooling. Successful completion earns students a certificate which is recognised throughout Switzerland, gaining the holder admission to a PET college in their specialised field. The specialised baccalaureate entails one additional year of study, following on directly from upper-secondary specialised school. After successful completion, students receive the specialised baccalaureate certificate, which gains them admission to a university of applied sciences in their specialised field.