Study Medicine in Switzerland: 7 Things You Should Know

Switzerland is known for its high regard for education and healthcare. Because of this, many flock to its world-renowned medical schools. Unlike other European countries, Switzerland is quite strict when it comes to admitting foreigners for medical education. But, if you meet the specifications, you get the chance to be educated in one of the best schools in the world.

If you think that you have what it takes to study in any of the country’s degree-granting faculties, then here are some things you should know about studying medicine in Switzerland.

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1. What are the requirements to study medicine in Switzerland?

Admission is through the Swiss Universities website.

The requirements for medical school are similar to that of other Swiss university courses. Generally speaking, international students need to possess a degree (at least 3 years in duration) from a state-recognized university.

Language proficiency is also required – with the vernacular depending on the university At the University of Bern, for example, knowledge of German is required.

Since slots at Swiss medical schools are very limited (numerus clausus) due to the admissions restrictions of 1998, competition is strict. To narrow the field of applicants, the Universities of Geneva, Lausanne, and Neuchâtel observe a strict internal selection process. Other universities hold a qualifying examination. To take this test, you need to apply through the Swiss Universities website and pay a fee of CHF 200.

The qualifying test for aspiring physicians is administered yearly starting July. It is rendered in the German language at the Universities of Basel, Bern, Chur, Lucerne, St. Gallen, Suhr, and Zurich. It is given in French at Fribourg and Italian at Lugano.

In some cases, schools may require pre-course aptitude tests as well.

2. Which language is the language of instruction in Switzerland?

German is commonly used to study medicine in Switzerland, as is the case at the University of Bern. At the University of Fribourg, students have the option to study in either French or German.

3. Can you study in Swiss medical schools as an international student?

Yes. But according to the Higher Education Council, only a select category of foreigners can be admitted. These include:

  • Liechtenstein citizens
  • Foreign nationals (or their spouses/partners) with Swiss or Liechtenstein residence permit
  • Foreign citizens of EU nations, Iceland, and Norway who hold a Swiss work permit
  • Foreign nationals of any citizenship, whose parents are citizens of EU nations, Iceland, and Norway, and with a Swiss residence permit
  • Foreign citizens who have:
    • A Swiss work permit that has been uninterrupted for 5 years
    • A Swiss or cantonal baccalaureate
    • A federal vocational baccalaureate, Liechtenstein baccalaureate, or nationally-recognized specialized baccalaureate
  • Spouse or partner of:
    • A Swiss citizen
    • A foreign national with a Swiss or Liechtenstein residence permit
  • Foreign nationals with parent/s who hold a Swiss residence permit or work permit that is uninterrupted for 5 years
  • Foreigners with diplomatic status
  • Foreign nationals categorized as refugees in Switzerland

4. What are the components of the medical curriculum in Switzerland?

Switzerland follows a 6-year medical curriculum. It is divided into 2 parts, namely a Bachelor’s degree (years 1 to 3) followed by a Master’s degree in Human Medicine (years 4 to 6).

The Bachelor’s degree in Human Medicine covers the core subjects. At the University of Fribourg, the first year delves into the subjects of Physics, Chemistry, Biology, and Organ Systems. The second year focuses on morphology and function, while the last year deals with understanding the mechanisms of disease. To obtain this degree, a student must complete a four-week nursing internship before the end of the course.

The Master’s degree in Human Medicine, on the other hand, teaches students the necessary scientific knowledge, skills, and abilities for clinical practice. The University of Zurich, for example, follows a core curriculum. Add to that, it includes elective modules in palliative care, pain treatment, ambulatory medicine, and family medicine, to name a few.

To complete the Master’s degree, students must undergo internship rotations and submit a thesis as well.

5. How many medical schools are in Switzerland?

Six Swiss faculties provide both the Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in Human Medicine. They are the Universities of Basel, Bern, Fribourg, Lausanne, Geneva, and Zurich. The Università Della Svizzera Italiana is also expected to offer a Master’s degree this soon.

The ETH Zurich and the University of Neuchatel only offer a Bachelor’s Degree in Human Medicine.

6. How difficult is it to study medicine in Switzerland?

The difficulty of studying medicine in Switzerland starts with entering a Swiss medical school since slots for both local and foreign students are limited. If the number of applicants exceeds 20% of the slots available, the students will need to undergo a suitability test.

Even if you complete your Bachelor’s degree in Human Medicine at a certain university, there is no guarantee that you can take your Master’s there. Some schools such as ETH Zurich only offers a Bachelor’s degree, so its students can only take the Master’s program in any of its partner schools (Universities of Basel, Lugano, and Zurich). As such, you need to compete with the students who took their Bachelor’s degrees at the said schools.

As for universities that offer both courses, some guarantee direct admission to the Master’s degree. There is one exception though: the Università Della Svizzera Italiana (USI). It offers a Bachelor’s program through the University of Basel so its students are not guaranteed admission to Basel’s Master’s program.

7. What do you need to become a doctor in Switzerland?

According to the Federal Law on Medical Professions Act MedPA, those who finish the 6-year course must need to take the Swiss Federal Licensing Examination. This is a requirement for any physician who wishes to undergo further training in hospitals and doctor’s practices.

This postgraduate education is overseen by the Swiss Institute for Postgraduate & Further Education in Medicine. It takes a minimum of 3 years, where the doctor takes on the role of an assistant physician.

After the assistant physician completes postgraduate training, he/she can then take a specialist exam. After passing this test, the doctor can take in patients independently.


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