Switzerland is a small country in Europe. Despite its size, Switzerland is home to 8.6 million, who are attended to by no more than 38,000 doctors. Switzerland’s high living standards and decentralized healthcare system does only so much to encourage the youth to join the medical profession.

Previous research has shown that primary care physicians in Switzerland are dwindling down in numbers, and the currently active physicians will be challenged to find successors. Nonetheless, the shortage of doctors in the country is alleviated by welcoming foreign doctors to practice medicine in Switzerland.

German, Italian, and French doctors freely work in Switzerland, filling in the gaps left by Swiss medical doctors-in-training who chose to go abroad. Despite receiving foreign training, around three-fourths would return to practice medicine in Switzerland. Read on to know more about the competitive Swiss admissions system and the necessary steps to take to become a licensed doctor in Switzerland.

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Steps to Become a Doctor in Switzerland

1. Finish your high school education.

Medical education in Switzerland starts as an undergraduate degree, therefore it is best to start planning early about your university studies. As international students from outside the EU and the Nordic countries, you may encounter challenges in pursuing a medical degree in Switzerland. This is because the country and its educational system focus on admitting domestic students.

The bar is set higher for international students to qualify in Swiss medical schools, but don’t let this hold you back from pursuing a Swiss degree. Work hard to earn high grades and pick up the German or French languages to increase chances of admissions.

2. Apply for medical universities online.

Seats are limited for international students, especially in medical school. As one of the initial steps to become a doctor in Switzerland, it is best to apply early through online application portals or websites of the universities you are opting for. Attach all necessary documents, transcript of academic records, and most especially, your language proficiency proof.

Universities have their own methods to assess applicants. Most universities will hold entrance examinations, while some, like Geneva and Lausanne, have an undisclosed procedure for selection done internally.

Qualifying examinations in Swiss universities are often held in French and German. Take your language lessons seriously if you wish to qualify for your dream medical school in Switzerland.

3. Accomplish your undergraduate degree in medicine.

This is an essential step to become a doctor in Switzerland. Switzerland’s medical education observes a 6-year course curriculum. Three years of medical education is spent as an undergraduate degree in Human Medicine. Students familiarize themselves with core science subjects, morphology, and the concepts of disease. An undergraduate student has to complete a nursing internship by the end of their last year to graduate and proceed to Master’s education.

4. Make the best out of your Master’s degree.

A Master’s degree in Human Medicine trains and equips students with the appropriate knowledge and abilities to perform the clinical practice. To diversify the students’ learning experience, a range of elective coursework is available for students to choose from. On top of taking core courses for human medicine, students can also learn and practice some of the family medicine or palliative care.

Master’s students are required to complete an internship and turn in a thesis before they can graduate and become a doctor in Switzerland.

5. Graduate and apply for residency.

As soon as you graduate from medical school, you are ready to become a professional doctor in Switzerland. Apply for residency posts in medical institutions of your choice.

To become a doctor in Switzerland, residency can take as short as three years or as long as 7-8 years, depending on the specialization you choose. Residency programs allow you to be eligible for medical licensure.

6. Pass the Federal Medical Examination in Human Medicine.

Medical students nearing graduation can immediately take the federal examination to jumpstart their medical profession. However, there are some other options you can consider in planning to take the exam.

Some students prefer to take the examination while they are undergoing residency. On the other hand, doctors can also complete their residency within 3 years, that is if they passed the examination first. Finally, some residents prefer to extend the residency period by two more years, so they only need to qualify for the written portion of the medical exam.

Foreign-trained doctors aiming to set up a medical practice in Switzerland or in one of the countries’ medical institutions are also required to pass the examination. On the other hand, doctors coming from any of the participating countries of the EEA, or a spouse of a local from the EEA, can practice their medical profession with the license and degree they earned in their home countries.

By passing the Federal Examination, you qualify for earning a medical license. This license shall allow you to practice medicine within the jurisdiction of Switzerland.

7. Set up a work permit.

With a medical license, you are allowed to work as a doctor in Switzerland. However, as an international doctor, you will need to fulfill some more documents. You must apply for a residence permit to get employed. After employment, you also have to apply for a Swiss National Visa.

Finally, you will also register for a working permit from the KAZA, or the Cantonal Medical Office dedicated in the canton you are planning to move into.

Studying medicine and becoming a doctor in Switzerland are among the more competitive paths to take to become a medical professional. Nonetheless, the high living standards and beauty of Switzerland make it all worth it. Not to mention, the country also has access to state-of-the-art research facilities, equipment, and resources to enrich your medical and scientific knowledge.

Despite the long and difficult journey towards becoming a doctor, Swiss education is among the highly regarded across the globe. It only makes sense that Switzerland upholds the quality of education with selective admissions and low acceptance rates.

Switzerland also continues to prove it is a conducive environment for doctors, especially physicians, to grow their careers. A first-year residency opening for a physician pays twice the amount of salary for the same position in Germany. Switzerland’s highly organized structure for finances, bureaucracy, and workflow makes sure that despite the pressures of the job, doctors can remain composed and avoid overworking themselves.


I hope that you found this article on the steps to become a doctor in Switzerland informative and helpful. You can also find more information on different European universities and scholarship opportunities on the Europe Scholarships Page!