Postdocs in Switzerland
Undertaking postdoctoral studies in Switzerland
Switzerland has some of the most sought-after universities in the world. This makes the country a highly attractive place to come for postdoctoral studies. It is also comparatively well paid, in line with the high standard of living the country enjoys. This article explores the area of postdoc in Switzerland.
Postdoc fellowship Switzerland
A brief introduction to post-doctorate fellowships in Switzerland
There are twelve state-run universities in Switzerland at which postdoc studies can be done. However, in Switzerland there are more opportunities to further one’s academic career, as large companies and research centres also offer postdoctoral positions – with particular emphasis on biotechnology and pharmacology.
Working conditions do vary, however postdocs are generally employed full-time. Activities will include extensive time for research but, depending on the funding, teaching may also play a part in the role. Giving lectures, which is sometimes expected in institutions in other countries, is usually reserved for the professors or lecturers (Assistent/in, maître d'enseignement et recherche) at Swiss institutions.
Getting a position
In order to start as a postdoc scientist, it is normally required that you have a PhD from a recognised university. In most cases, a doctoral title from a developed nation is recognised – please do check with each institution. The university or professor at the institution can tell you if the conditions are satisfied and if you match the desired profile.
Postdoctoral researchers are normally hired by universities or by a company. There is no set amount of time for the length of a postdoc, but it is usually between one and six years, which is entirely dependent on the field of research and the institution. However, most universities do have time limits – a postdoc is restricted to six years.
There are frequently some very specific entry requirements – this does vary from one institution to another, however the following, taken from the Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich (Eidgenössische Technische Hochschule Zürich, ETH Zürich), can be expected:
Applicants should have completed their doctoral degree within two years of submission
At least one scientific publication in a peer-reviewed journal, or a prize for their doctoral thesis
To start the fellowship at the latest six months after the submission of the application
Applicants from outside Switzerland will often need to meet specific English-language requirements in order to study
Academic positions within science, research and engineering can be found here.
In general terms, Switzerland has the fourth highest amount of average incomes. Academic jobs are also highly sought after, which to some extent will guarantee a long and healthy career should you choose to stay in Switzerland.
However, it is important to bear in mind that in general, job seeking opportunities are prioritised for those within the European Union (EU) and the European Free Trade Association (EFTA). Only when employers can demonstrate that they were unable to find a qualified Swiss or EU candidate they can consider citizens from other countries. This makes it difficult for those outside of member states to find employment. In 2015, 30 per cent of the workforce was foreign. Of that 30 per cent, 78 per cent were from an EU or EFTA country.
Programmes are designed to help foster high-potential young researchers and scientists who can demonstrate excellence within an internationally competitive academic arena. Attaining achievements in the early stages of a professional career is typically already expected.
The usual amount of working time for a postdoc in Switzerland is 42 hours a week – in line with most workers in the country. Holidays are met with the legal remit of four weeks a year; however more generous institutions can allow up to five.
With regards to funding support, there are a number of areas an institution can help with. It is important to remember the highly competitive nature of positions in Switzerland and therefore grants are often geared towards the most outstanding students.
Funding eligibility often focuses on the following areas:
Postdoctoral researchers can find a great variance in their salary range. It can be as little as CHF 3,000 or as much as CHF 8,000. This can vary with any number of factors – this depends on the age and experience of the candidate, the institution and the area. The source of the money is also an important factor.
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In terms of salary, there are some important factors to note with regards to Switzerland.
There is a significant gender pay gap – female colleagues earn an estimated 19.3 per cent less than males. There is also less job security in Switzerland. Employment law allows for employers to fire staff as they see fit, as long as it cannot be proved discriminatory. Paternity leave is not considered generous by other European standards – women are entitled to 14 weeks paid at 80 per cent of their salary. Fathers are offered no statutory paternity leave. Childcare is also considered expensive. A full-time nursery place in Geneva and Zurich costs between 13 and 20 per cent of a family’s income.
Having said this, there are many positives to earning in Switzerland. As mentioned previously, salaries are high and holiday allowance is generous by modern standards. Switzerland is considered to have an excellent work/life balance. Whilst working hours are considered long, Swiss cities are considered to have the best quality of life – and are regularly featured in lists of that nature. High value is placed on lunch breaks.
There are generous unemployment benefits if you have worked at least one year in the country. Most people, including foreign workers with a valid work permit, are entitled to 80 per cent of their last salary for 18 months.
Finally, despite lack of paternity leave, there are other employee benefits to be reaped such as paid-for accident insurance – which also includes sick leave. Most larger companies also pay health insurance premiums (Krankenversicherungsgesetz, KVG).