Guide to Choosing What to Study

To Study or Not To Study

Have you just completed your Swiss university entrance qualification (Matura) or another university entrance qualification? Are you already studying but looking to change your current program? Or are you looking for a new direction and want to commence university studies? The Guide to Choosing What to Study will lead you through the decision-making process step by step – no matter where you currently stand.

Formal Admission Requirements to Higher Education Institutions

As a first step, you should check whether you fulfill the formal admission requirements to study. Information on formal admission requirements to each academic level at the University of Zurich (UZH) is available at the following links:
Bachelor's Degree Program
Master's Degree Program
Restrictions on Admission to Medical Degree Programs (Human medicine, dentistry, veterinary medicine and chiropractic medicine)

Finding the Right Higher Education Institution

The Swiss institutions of higher learning differ in terms of their formal organization, structure of studies, type of education and degree programs on offer.  
The State Secretariat for Education, Research and Innovation distinguishes between two main types of institutions: universities and universities of applied sciences.

  • Universities form the tertiary level of academic education and focus on research and academic qualification. 
  • Universities of applied sciences form the tertiary level of vocational training and focus on practical application and vocational qualification.

Some study programs are offered only at universities, others are offered only at universities of applied sciences.

An overview of the various higher education institutions is available on the website of the State Secretariat for Education, Research and Innovation:

Institutions That Combine Academic Focus with Fundamental Research and University Teaching

Swiss Federal Institutes of Technology
Cantonal Universities and Higher Education Institutions (in German)

Institutions That Focus on Practice-Oriented Studies

Cantonal Universities of Applied Sciences and Universities of Teacher Education (in German)

In Switzerland, it is not strictly necessary to complete the Swiss university entrance qualification (Matura) at an upper secondary school (Gymnasium) in order to study at university. 
The Swiss education system is flexible and allows for various pathways to tertiary studies. It is thus possible to attend an institution of higher learning after completing a vocational school-leaving certificate (Berufsmatura).
Overview of Swiss Education System (Website of State Secretariat for Education, Research and Innovation)
Overview of Swiss Higher Education System (Website of swissuniversities)

Key considerations

  • Which type of higher education institution best suits you and your plans for your future?
  • What is important to you in education? 
  • Are you seeking a practice-based education?
  • Or are you interested in fundamental research and perhaps even an academic career?
  • Is your prospective subject offered at different types of higher education institutions? If yes, which type of institution suits you best?

Examining Your Preferences and Options

Choosing what to study is a process that takes time. Questions, doubts and ongoing revisions are a normal part of that process. Start considering your study options early so that you have ample time to gather information, attend open-day events, sit in on lectures and let your decision take shape. 

Key Considerations:

  • What are your strengths, weaknesses, interests and skills?
  • Take time to explore your professional dreams, personal aims and ideas for the future. And be sure to make the most of the resources around you by discussing these topics with your parents, teachers, colleagues and friends.
  • Would you like professional support to identify your strengths and weaknesses? Then contact the career information center (Berufsinformationszentrum BIZ) in your canton of residence.
    Study and Career Advisory Services in Switzerland(in German)

Explore the Range of Study Options

The range of study programs on offer at UZH is broad and diverse. The study programs are not only very different in terms of their topics and specializations – each discipline has its own academic and student culture. Moreover, the forms of teaching, examining and studying also differ between programs, as do the timetables and organizational requirements. Be sure to take the time to get to know the study programs that interest you.
Get a good overview of all the study opportunities at UZH. Attend our information events and take the opportunity to talk to our academic advisors and students.

Overview of all Study Programs at UZH
Bachelor's Orientation Event (in German)
Master's Information Event
UZH Stands at Student Information Events


Key Considerations

  • Each discipline has its own academic culture. Which ones suit you? What kind of subject-specific competencies and methods do you wish to learn (for example, qualitative or quantitative methods)?
  • What kind of program structure suits you, your personal circumstances and your study habits? (Independent study, part-time study, personal or impersonal course formats; assessments: memorizing information, developing arguments, etc.)
  • How would you like to work in the future (in an office, in industry, in a lab, with people, self-employed or in an organization)?
  • Have you considered what you could study at the Master’s level?

Get to Know the Combination Options

Single Major Study Program or Major-Minor Combination?

To attain a Bachelor’s degree, you must complete a Bachelor’s degree program and earn a total of 180 ECTS credits. UZH offers study programs at the Bachelor’s level comprising 180, 120, 150, 60 and 30 ECTS credits. As such, it is possible to combine different study programs to earn your total ECTS credits for a Bachelor’s degree. This means you can complete one study program of 180 credits (single major program) or a combination of two to three study programs (major and minor study programs) that together make up 180 ECTS credits.

 

Alle Kombinationsmöglichkeiten im Bachelorstudium
Zoom (JPG, 83 KB)

Examples of a Bachelor’s Degree Program

  • Option 1: Single Major Study Program. At the Bachelor’s level, this program comprises 180 ECTS credits. You devote your studies exclusively to one subject area; there is no space for a second study program. 
  • Option 2: Major-Minor Combination (150/30 ECTS Credits). Your major study program comprises 150 ECTS credits; you may additionally choose a minor study program totaling 30 ECTS credits.
  • Option 3: Major-Minor Combination (120/60 ECTS Credits) with a major totaling 120 ECTS credits. In this combination, the minor study program comprises 60 ECTS credits and thus takes a greater weight in the degree.
  • Option 4: Major-Minor-Minor Combination (120/30/30). In this combination, you choose two minor study programs in addition to your major study program. Please note: This combination is only possible if your major study program is offered by the Faculty of Science.

Please note: Your assignment to a faculty is always determined by your single major or major study program.

 

Bachelor’s Level Combinations Offered at the Faculties

  180 120/60 150/30 120/30/30
Faculty of Theology x x    
Faculty of Law x      
Faculty of Business, Economics and Informatics   x* x  
Faculty of Medicine x      
Vetsuisse Faculty x      
Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences   x    
Faculty of Science x x x x

*Informatics with natural sciences only

When choosing what to study, be sure to check whether your chosen combination is actually allowed at your faculty. In this regard, remember that your major study program determines which faculty you belong to.

You can find out which study program can be studied in which scope at the following links or on the websites of the institutes/departments offering the program.
All Degree programs (Bachelor's Level)
All Degree programs (Master's Level)

At the Master’s level, the system is principally the same except that different numbers of ECTS credits are required to attain a degree: 90 ECTS credits (law and several natural sciences), 180 ECTS credits (human and chiropractic medicine only), 120 ECTS credits (other).

Key Considerations

  • Which study programs interest you and in which combinations can they be studied?
  • Would you like to focus on one specific area or develop a broader perspective?

Choosing a Study Program

After gaining an overview of the degree programs and combination options on offer, you may already have a short list of study programs that interest you and which you wish to investigate more closely. There are various opportunities to do this: 

Sit in on a lecture, meet up with a UZHGYM-buddy or complete an online self-assessment (OSA).

Sitting In on Lectures
UZHGYM
OSA: Online Assistant For Choosing a Course of Study
 

Key Considerations:

  • Do your expectations of the study program match the reality?
  • Do you have an idea of which courses you would like to attend in the first semesters and how student life may be?
  • Do you have an idea of where your study program could lead you? Does this match your plans for your future?

Tips for Choosing a Minor Study Program

There are various possible approaches to choosing a minor study program. In the process, remember that it is your major study program that determines the academic degree you attain. Taking this into account, you can either take a strategic approach to choosing your minor study program or simply follow your interests. 

Key Considerations:

  • You can choose a minor study program that enables you to establish an area of focus for a later Master’s program.
  • You can choose a minor program with a specific, in-depth focus that helps you tailor your professional profile for your career.
  • You can enjoy the diversity of study programs at UZH and simply choose a minor program that reflects your interests.
  • Should you be interested in completing a Teaching Diploma at a later time, you can choose a major-minor combination that would enable you to teach two subjects.

Useful Information about Choosing a Master’s Study Program

UZH offers three types of Master’s study programs. Each type has its own admission requirements: 

  • Consecutive Master’s study programs are programs whose content builds upon a preceding Bachelor’s degree in the same branch of studies. There are no special admission requirements to a consecutive Master’s study program as long as the relevant Bachelor’s degree has been obtained.  The vast majority of Master’s study programs at UZH are consecutive. 
  • Specialized Master’s study programs are programs whose content does not build upon a specific Bachelor’s degree. Special conditions apply for admission. The specialized Master’s study programs at UZH are frequently interdisciplinary in approach, have a specific research focus, or are based on cooperation projects with Swiss or foreign partner universities. The additional requirements for admission are primarily content-related prerequisites that must be fulfilled in addition to a Bachelor’s degree program (for example, specific language skills or expertise in a certain area).  
    The Faculty of Science in particular offers specialized Master’s study programs that require a specific Bachelor’s degree for admission and that treat specialization as the definition of a specific (research) focus.  
  • Complementary Master’s study programs (minor only) are programs whose content is not linked to a specific Bachelor’s study program. They are structured as a subject-specific or cross-disciplinary complement to a major study program; the only formal admission requirement is a Bachelor’s degree.

Choosing a Master’s degree raises similar issues as choosing a Bachelor’s degree. Nonetheless, when choosing a Master’s degree, you should pay special attention to your future career plans. Contact the Career Services team at an early stage to discuss your professional plans and career entry.
Career Services

Key Considerations

  • Have you already gained initial experience (traineeships, student jobs) in vocations that interest you?
  • Which Master’s study program corresponds to those interests?
  • Does specialization in a topic (specialized Master’s) suit you or are you aiming to deepen your knowledge in your current branch of study (consecutive Master’s)?
  • When choosing a Master’s degree, take the opportunity to re-examine your interests and skills. Broaden your perspective and re-evaluate the various offerings and options.
  • Do you want to continue your studies at the same university, to change universities or even study abroad?
  • Do you want to keep studying without a break or do you want to gain work experience first?
  • The Master’s thesis offers you the opportunity to shape both your academic and career profile. 

Advisory Services for Choosing a Course of Study

Student Advisory Services

The team at Student Advisory Services help UZH students who are uncertain about their choice of studies. They provide prospective students with key information on choosing what to study as well as contact information for other advisory centers. Support is also offered for matriculated students who are thinking about changing their major or who have general (not subject or faculty-related) questions about studying at the University of Zurich.
You can get in touch during the general telephone consultation hours or make a personal appointment.
Advisory Services

Academic Advisory Services

The faculties, departments and institutes offer specific advisory services for the individual study programs. If you have specific questions about a study program, the advisory centers of the faculties may be the best point of contact for you.
Advisory Centers of the Faculties

Further Services for Choosing Studies

UZH offers a variety of further opportunities to get to know the study programs on offer. Find out more by following the links below:
Bachelor's Orientation Event (in German)
Master's Information Event
UZH Stands at Student Information Events
Sitting In on Lectures
Online Assistant For Choosing a Course of Study
UZHGYM

Applying to Study

When you have chosen what to study and would like to register as a student at UZH, follow the application instructions on the UZH website. 
Application and Admission to Study at UZH

Please be sure to note the relevant application deadlines:
Application Deadlines