After earning your master’s degree or its equivalent, you may be wondering, “What next?” While many people follow a typical professional route, the attraction of going deeper, pushing limits, and having a significant effect may be enticing. If this appeals to you, consider pursuing a Ph.D. in Switzerland, a land with top-class research universities and beautiful scenic landscapes.

But hold on, securing a Ph.D. from a top-notch university in Switzerland isn’t a walk in the park. Admission requirements are stringent, and crafting a compelling application can be rigorous and demanding. However, with this article, you have nothing to worry about as we will articulate the admission process and empower you with the knowledge and requirements for a stand-out application!

Ph.D. Degree Admission Requirements

Applying for a doctoral degree involves meeting a set of general requirements that demonstrate your academic qualifications, research potential, and readiness for advanced study. These requirements form the foundation of your application and are crucial for evaluating your suitability for the rigorous demands of a Ph.D. program.

1. Proof of Master’s Degree

A master’s degree or equivalent is typically required for Ph.D. admission, showcasing your advanced knowledge in the field of study. This degree should be relevant to the doctoral program you’re applying for, indicating your academic preparation and potential for research at the doctoral level.

2. Curriculum Vitae (CV)

Your CV should detail your academic background, research experience, publications, and any professional experiences relevant to your field of study. It provides a comprehensive overview of your qualifications and achievements, highlighting your readiness for the Ph.D. program. The University of Bern is among the universities requiring a curriculum vitae.

3. Research Proposal

A research proposal outlines your proposed research project, including objectives, methodology, and how it contributes to the field. This document is crucial for assessing your ability to conduct independent research and whether your interests align with the faculty’s expertise.

4. Letters of Recommendation

Typically, Doctorate programs at Swiss universities demand two to three letters of recommendation from academic or professional references that can speak to your research ability and academic prospects. These letters contain information about your personality, work ethic, and strength for doctorate study.

5. Language Proficiency

Regardless of your chosen field or level of study, if you’re a non-native speaker, language proficiency is a crucial hurdle. Swiss universities typically conduct their Ph.D. programs in English, French, or German, and you’ll need to demonstrate your fluency through standardized tests like TOEFL, IELTS, or their equivalents. Mastering the language isn’t just an admission requirement; it can also be helpful in day-to-day interactions beyond university.

Language Proficiency Tests Needed for Doctoral Programs

As we mentioned earlier, Language proficiency tests are a core requirement, especially for non-native speakers, when applying for a doctoral degree in Switzerland. The required tests and minimum scores vary depending on the university and the program’s language of instruction. For English-taught postgraduate programs, common tests include the TOEFL, with a typical minimum score of around 100 on the internet-based test, or the IELTS, where a score of at least 7.0 is often required.

In addition to English, programs may be offered in Switzerland’s national languages: German, French, and Italian. Proficiency tests such as TestDaF for German, DELF or DALF for French, and a recognized Italian language test for Italian might be required, with specific score requirements set by each university. For convenience, all the tests are usually aligned with the Common European Framework of Reference. For programs at the master’s level and above, the majority of Swiss universities, such as Ecole Polytechnique de Lausanne and the University of Zurich, require a minimum C1 level proficiency.

Ph.D. Degree Application Process

Completed with the first part of this article on the admission requirements, this section now outlines the essential steps for aspiring candidates to successfully pass the application process. From initial research to the final submission of your application, each step is extremely important in paving the way for your academic and research aspirations in Switzerland!

Step 1. Research and Select a Program

Begin by researching potential universities and their available doctoral programs to find one that aligns with your academic interests and career goals. Consider factors like research facilities, faculty expertise, and program focus.

Step 2. Prepare your Application Documents

Gather and prepare all required application documents, including your CV, research proposal, academic transcripts, letters of recommendation, and language proficiency test scores. Make sure your research proposal matches the specific interests of the faculty or research group you wish to join.

Step 3. Submit your Application

Follow the university’s application process, which typically involves submitting your documents through an online portal before the specified deadline. Pay close attention to the requirements for each document and ensure that your application is complete and accurate. Deadlines and procedures vary, so check the specific details for your chosen program.

Step 4. Pay the Fees and Prepare for the Visa

After submitting your application, be sure to check if there’s an application fee and pay it within the specified timeframe. Non-EU/EEA students will also need to start preparing for their visa application. This typically involves securing acceptance documents from the university, gathering financial proof, and obtaining health insurance. Start this process early to ensure a smooth transition in case your application is successful.


FAQs about Studying for a Ph.D. Program in Switzerland

Is it Expensive to Study Ph.D. in Switzerland?

Studying for a Ph.D. in Switzerland can be relatively affordable compared to other countries, especially considering the high quality of education and living standards. Tuition fees for international students range from CHF 500 to CHF 1,000 per semester, depending on the university. For example, the University of Geneva, one of Switzerland’s leading universities, charges around CHF 560 per semester, while the University of Zurich’s fees are approximately CHF 850 per semester. These costs are modest, especially when considering the extensive research opportunities and resources available to doctoral students in Switzerland.

With such a straightforward process and minimal admission requirements, our advice to consider a Swiss university for your doctoral education is the best choice for you. With institutions topping the global rankings and applied sciences universities renowned for their research, coupled with the additional benefits of peace and beauty in Switzerland, pursuing a doctoral degree there, is an opportunity that shouldn’t be missed!


We hope this article on the admission process and requirements for studying Ph.D. in Switzerland was informative. You can find many more resources for studying in Switzerland on the Switzerland Page including various Open Courses in Europe to explore your options.

About the Author: Hyun Lee

Hi! I am Hyun, and I am the founder at Global Scholarships. I've received a full-tuition scholarship at Birmingham-Southern College and a $1,000 Burger King Scholarship for my undergraduate degree and was offered a fully funded scholarship consisting of tuition, living stipend, and health insurance for computer science Ph.D. program at North Carolina State University. You can read more about my scholarship journey here. If you are interested, you can follow me on Linkedin where I regularly write about scholarship opportunities.

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