You are a Master student in Switzerland or abroad and you are looking for a job in research to accompany your PhD. Below is some basic information about the PhD degree in Switzerland.
Doctor of Philosophy – abbreviated to PhD/Ph.D. or DPhil/D.Phil. in English-speaking countries and Dr. Phil. or similar in other countries (for the Latin philosophiae doctor, meaning “teacher in philosophy”) – is an advanced academic degree awarded by universities. In Switzerland, a second PhD is the highest degree one can earn after the habilitation. The PhD or equivalent has become a requirement for a career as a university professor or researcher in most fields. The academic level of a PhD degree varies considerably between countries and fields of study.
Recognized PhD titles (EN: Doctor, FR: docteur, DE: Doktor) are only awarded by the 12 official Swiss universities. Universities of applied sciences and companies do not have the right to award PhD titles. However, you are usually free to carry out the research work where you choose: at one of the universities, in a private company, at home. The arrangement is that the results of your research work must be accepted by a professor at one of the 12 universities.
In Switzerland, a PhD is usually started immediately after the Masters thesis (at the age of about 25 to 28 years). The average age of PhD candidates at the end of the PhD is 31. Unlike in the USA, Swiss PhD candidates are expected to start their research project immediately after beginning their PhD, and do not attend classes. However, they might have a few advanced lectures, summer schools or PhD programs.
The requirement for starting a PhD is a recognized Masters degree (diploma, licence). Unlike in the USA, a Bachelors degree is not sufficient. Sometimes, a certain final mark is needed to be admitted to a PhD program. Each university has its own admissions requirements. Ask at the university about the exact conditions.
The duration of the PhD is not standard: usually, it is between 2 and 6 years, depending on the research field. A PhD in natural and exact sciences usually takes between 4 and 5 years. In economics, for example at the University of St. Gallen, the duration is only 2 years. In arts and humanities, a PhD is generally completed in 4 to 6 years.
PhD candidates are normally hired as Research Assistants/PhD Candidates at a university, though a research position in a company is also possible. The salary greatly varies from place to place: from CHF 2000 to more than CHF 6000 per month (see salary). The salary must be indicated in the employment contract. Funding can come from the university, from the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF) or from third-party funds and is often a mix of these sources.
The working conditions vary from institution to institution. It is quite common for PhD candidates to be employed only part-time (e.g., 50 or 60%). Sometimes, you can use the whole time of employment for your research, sometimes you have to give lectures or supervise students in addition to your research. This must be specified in the job description (Pflichtenheft, cahier de charge) you are given together with the employment contract. If you are employed less than 100%, you are free to do what you want in the remaining time, e.g., you could take on a second job. This is quite common in arts and humanities, where PhD candidates often have several jobs. In natural sciences, PhD candidates are often expected to work 100% even if they are only employed part-time. However, legally, they are free to have a second job. Some disciplines are now better organized in Switzerland and offer so called PhD programs.
How to proceed?
First decide which subject you are interested in studying, then find out which university or company is doing research in this field, then find the professor or research group whose work interests you the most, and contact him/her directly to ask for opportunities.