This guide is based on my personal experience of working as a Software Developer in Switzerland since 2017.
It was first published on swissdevjobs.ch, a dedicated IT job board that I am building as an indie project.
- How difficult is to find a job as a Software Developer in Switzerland?
- Step by step process for finding a job as an EU citizen
- Things to do after moving to Switzerland
This is a commonly asked question.
Switzerland is one of the best countries to work in as a Software Engineer.
In terms of salary, you can easily earn above 100,000 CHF (note: 1 CHF is around 1 USD), add to that the European work-life balance and beautiful nature - lakes and mountains.
Because of that, and the fact that Switzerland is a rather small country with a population of just below 8.5 million, finding a job here isn’t particularly easy. The IT market in Switzerland is much smaller compared to Germany or France.
There are a few factors that you need to consider and might work either in your favor or against you:
1. Work experience and technologies - while finding a job in Switzerland is not easy, good luck finding a job as a Junior Software Engineer, especially when you are a foreigner. Most of the companies are looking for Developers with 2+ years of experience (since they are going to pay them 100,000 per year, anyway).
Having said that, it is possible to find a job even as a Junior but you would be rather looking at internship/trainee offers.
The 2nd part is the technology that you specialize in. In the job data on
2. Being from Switzerland or EU - if you are a citizen of one of the EU countries it will be pretty easy for you to obtain a work permit in Switzerland - it is a matter of filling the papers after you get the job.
However, if you are from a different region, say the United States or India, the process becomes more difficult. In such a case, the employer needs to offer you a visa sponsorship and prove to the government that it was not possible to find a qualified person in Switzerland for that position.
Again, if you are a great developer, you might get this chance, but in most of the cases, companies will restrict their potential candidates to just the EU + Switzerland region.
3. Language skills - Switzerland has 4 official languages: German, French, Italian, and Romansh.
Speaking the main language of the part you would be in is definitely an advantage and many companies require it. However, you can still pretty easily find a job with English only.
Step 1. Apply to companies while staying in your country:
It has 2 big advantages: first, you don’t have to bear the high costs of living in Switzerland and second, you can focus on the important things - interviews.
In this step, you need to find the job offers. For that, you can use SwissDev Jobs or any other job board. Alternatively, you might want to get in touch with a headhunter to help you.
From our experiences, it’s worth to work with headhunters if you are on Junior level (0-2 years of experience) because Swiss companies tend to be quite reluctant to hire graduate developers from abroad.
A headhunter might get you a couple of interviews which is really nice. You have to be cautious though - headhunters often work with a subset of firms and sometimes will not present you the big picture (or clearly show the downsides of the company). If you are working with a proven one you will be fine.
Step 2. Job interviews:
Normally the interview process has 2 or 3 steps.
It starts with an introduction call or/and a coding task - pretty standard.
Then, if you are not located in Switzerland, there might be a video call with live coding.
The last round will be an onsite interview where you come to Switzerland and visit the company office.
The practice of reimbursing travel and accommodation costs is not widely spread, though some companies may offer it. Therefore, it’s best to try to schedule a couple of onsite interviews on subsequent days to not have to fly back and forth
After the last interview, you should get a yes or no answer in the following days, max. 2 weeks.
If you have multiple offers, you might want to negotiate your package, though be careful to not give the impression that money is your main motivation - in Switzerland it’s rather a taboo topic.
Step 3. Moving to Switzerland:
Congratulations - you have found a job in Switzerland. That was the hard part, now the formalities.
After signing the contract you need to prepare to move. If the company doesn’t offer any relocation package or help you need to have between 2 and 4k CHF for the relocation.
What we recommend is to find a hostel or Airbnb room (Couchsurfing might also be a good option). For this, you will need around 1.5k CHF for the first month.
When you arrive you might start looking for long term accommodation.
There are 2 options:
Rent a flat - this is your choice if you bring your family
Rent only a room - it might be a good option if you come without family (in Switzerland it’s called living in a Wohngemeinschaft).
Please be aware that the deposit you need to make when renting a flat is 3x the monthly rent which means 3x 2,000 CHF or even more. Therefore if you are tight on budget you might want to wait for your first salary.
With regards to the formalities, you need to take care of the following:
Get work permit - most important. For that, you need to go with your work contract to the local public office (Gemeinde). Check the details on the official government website.
Open a bank account - you will finally have an account in one of those famous Swiss Banks™. They charge for pretty much everything, therefore make sure to compare the offers and pick the best for you. Revolut seems to be the best multi-currency card out there.
Choose health insurance (Krankenkasse) - in Switzerland you have to pay your health insurance separately (it’s not deducted from your salary). You can use the Comparis website to compare the options. You have 3 months to choose both the company and your franchise. Franchise is the amount of money you maximally pay per year for medical services. After reaching this limit the insurance company comes in and takes 90% of your costs. The higher the franchise, the lower your monthly premium.
Other important things - if you plan to use public transport, we recommend you to buy the Half Fare card. It gives you a 50% discount on most public transport in Switzerland (it costs 185 CHF per year). For the phone, you can either use a prepaid option or a subscription.
Integrate and have fun - find local groups related to your hobbies and interests. There are also some general expat groups like Zurich Together
Switzerland is one of the most expensive countries in the world, the top most expensive cities in the world are all in Switzerland, therefore prepare for a price shock.
Although the first month or two might be tough, after getting your 1st and 2nd salary you will quickly realize that the things are not that expensive when living here.
To be more detailed below is a breakdown income and costs for someone earning 120k CHF and living in Zurich:
120,000 CHF annually according to this calculator gets you 7,746.20 CHF net per month. It assumes that you are single and have no children. (Switzerland offers some generous tax reduction when having children)
To simplify, let’s assume 7,700 CHF monthly to spend.
Now let’s move to the costs:
- Apartment: 2,000–3,000 CHF (with 3k you can get a pretty but not the biggest one in the center) or if you share a flat in a Wohngemeinschaft: 700-1,200 CHF
- Insurance: 280–500 CHF (280 for the 2500 CHF franchise)
- Food: 150 - 1,000 CHF (150 if you are always cooking for yourself, 1,000 if you are a foodie and eat out every 2nd day)
- Entertainment: 200–1,500 CHF (a drink in a club costs ~20 CHF, monthly gym subscription 100 CHF, again, all depends on you, traveling to other countries is pretty cheap)
- Other: 200–1,000 CHF (phone, clothes, public transport or a car, etc) To sum up, if you go the “live cool and don’t care about expenses” option you will spend monthly around 7,000 CHF and still save some money.
If you, on the other hand, want to go the student-like route (living in Wohngemeinschaft, not eating out too much) and try to save, you can easily live on 1,500-2,000 CHF per month and save the majority of your salary.
I hope you liked the guide and that it answered your potential questions about finding a job in Switzerland as a Software Developer.
I can personally recommend living here :)
If you still have questions or would like to check the jobs from Swiss companies, feel free to visit: swissdevjobs.ch