For a relatively small nation of just 8 million citizens, Switzerland has certainly made its presence in the global community felt. One of the wealthiest nations in the world and home to a wide variety of international organizations, the famously neutral country is a more-than-enticing destination for international educators from everywhere to find work. Making the leap to teach abroad in Switzerland will prove an immensely rewarding experience in one of the world’s most highly regarded education systems.
Sitting high in the Alps at the heart of Europe, Switzerland shares borders with a handful of Europe’s most prominent nations in France, Italy, Germany, Austria, and Liechtenstein. Switzerland first formed as a confederation all the way back in the 13th century, and since then has benefitted from being situated at the crossroads of a variety of cultural influences stemming from all across the continent.
Zurich, the largest city in the country and one of the wealthiest in the world, is a first choice of many where to live and teach abroad in Switzerland. Nearly a quarter of Switzerland’s population lives in Zurich’s metropolitan area, which is a hugely important financial capital and regarded as one of the most livable cities in the world.
Geneva, Switzerland’s second largest city, is not far behind in this regard. Another leading global city in important economic standing, Geneva is additionally home to a handful of influential international organizations such as the United Nations and Red Cross. Known as the “Peace Capital” of the world, Geneva can be a very fulfilling destination where to teach abroad in Switzerland.
Beyond these two major metropolitan areas, you can also look to teach abroad in Switzerland’s smaller cities such as Basel, Bern, or Lausanne. Because of its multilingual and multicultural constitution, each of Switzerland’s Cantons can provide for a much different experience teaching abroad, so do your research thoroughly while looking for the perfect landing spot!
Teaching Jobs in Switzerland
Switzerland is a bit of an anomaly within Europe, in that there are four major languages spoken in the country, depending on the region (German, French, Italian, or Romansh). This is an important factor to take into account while looking for a teaching job abroad in Switzerland, as each Swiss Canton is largely in control of administering its own education system, and so the language of instruction will vary accordingly.
If you are looking to teach English as a second language, as is generally the most popular subject among international educators that are native speakers, then you will not have to worry too much about this varying language barrier. ESL teaching positions in Switzerland often take the form of freelance tutoring work or part-time employment at a language academy, among pupils ranging from children first learning the language to businesspeople looking to perfect their accent.
If you want to teach abroad in Switzerland within a different subject such as science or math, then you will have better luck looking for employment at one of Switzerland’s many international or private academies. You will typically be expected to be fluent in the local language and also to possess substantial teaching experience if you are to be considered for full time employment at one of these Swiss schools, as the country has a very high educational standard.
Salaries & Costs
If you want to teach abroad in Switzerland, expect to pay the price. Switzerland is one of the most expensive countries in the whole world to live as an expatriate, so do not expect to save much money getting by here. Freelance work as a tutor can pay well, though is obviously also less stable. Gaining full employment as a teacher is the safest way to stay afloat; Swiss teachers are some of the best paid in the world, with annual salaries often approaching $80,000!
Accommodation & Visas
International educators in Switzerland typically go one of two routes: either seeking out housing prior to departure via web-based advertisements and agencies, or else planning to live in a hostel upon immediate arrival so that you can seek out housing in person. Rent can be steep living in many Swiss cities, so it will always be the more affordable option to find roommates to live with. Some teach abroad programs or local schools will help you locate and secure housing as well.
You will generally need the endorsement of your local employer in order to apply for a work and/or residential visa in Switzerland. Teachers from many countries will be allowed to enter the country for up to 90 days with a valid passport before obtaining their visa; for more information regarding your individual circumstances, check out our Swiss Embassy Directory.
Benefits & Challenges
The Scenery. It’s hard to complain when you are waking up every morning to the clean air and beautiful scenery of the Swiss Alps. For nature lovers, teaching abroad in Switzerland will be a dream come true.
Multilingual Opportunity. Do you speak German, French, Italian, Romansh, or English? Then odds are you can find a suitable teaching job in Switzerland, where most citizens speak any combination thereof.
Global Outlook. Switzerland has been a neutral country for over two centuries, and takes pride in its ability to facilitate international movements towards peaceful relations. Here you will learn all about what it means to be a global citizen.