Studying Philosophy

The professions of the approximately 3,000 people who have completed a philosophy degree in Switzerland since 1980 are extremely diverse.

Why Study Philosophy?

In addition to knowledge about philosophy , philosophers acquire, among others, the following qualities during their studies:

  • Analysis of texts, theoretical concepts, structures and ideas;
  • critical discussion of other opinions, even those that seem strange or unreasonable;
  • logical argumentation, pointing out reasons, connections, contradictions and overlooked details;
  • Producing constructive and well-reasoned proposals, thinking "out of the box", originality and resourcefulness;
  • Openness to unresolved questions, dealing with one's own ignorance, intellectual humility;
  • Writing down complex thoughts into an understandable form; checking and revising the written presentation.

The practice and elaboration of the listed skills developed through study enable students to apply them in other (non-philosophical) subject areas. Not only professional sectors whose work deals with texts or communication (journalism, publishing, communication or libraries) are suitable for philosophers. Philosophers can also apply their skills in the fields of culture, NGOs, public administration or foundations. In addition, the distinctive competence in language and argumentation is also considered an important competence for salespersons or consultants.

Whom Should I Ask?

Interested in studying philosophy? Then get first-hand information

And after university?

Studying Philosophy in Switzerland

In the academic year 2021/22, a total of 487 students were enrolled for a Bachelor's degree in philosophy and 242 for a Master's degree in philosophy in Switzerland (of which 204 and 96 respectively were women, i.e. less than half). 207 students (71 of them women) were enrolled for a doctorate. Together with the diploma and continuing education programmes, the total number of students is 993, of whom 399 are women (about 40%). These figures seem to be fairly constant, even though the total number of students has increased from 138,620 to 168,190 in the last 10 years: in philosophy there were 854 students in 2012/13 and 295 of them were women. According to the survey by the Federal Statistical Office, the distribution of students among the cantonal universities in the academic year 2020/21, by gender and nationality, is as follows:

  • UZH: 362 (thereof 153 women, 58 foreign)
  • UniBE: 187 (thereof 76 women, 37 foreign)
  • UniFR: 161 (thereof 61 women, 25 foreign)
  • USI: 80 (thereof 24 women, 63 foreign)
  • UniLU: 64 (thereof 29 women, 12 foreign)
  • UniGE: 63 (thereof 30 women, 35 foreign)
  • UniL: 26 (thereof 8 women, 8 foreign)
  • UniNE: 26 (thereof 11 women, 8 foreign)
  • UniBS: 24 (thereof 7 women, 11 foreign)

The overall share of students is 51% for women and 27% for foreign students, and 68.5% and 26% in the humanities and social sciences respectively. The distribution of student numbers over time is as follows:

  • In the academic year 1980/81, most students studied in Fribourg (154), followed by Zurich (141) and Geneva (113).
  • Ten years later (1990/1991) the numbers had decreased in Fribourg and Geneva (to 131 and 111) and more than doubled in Zurich (to 335).
  • Ten years later (2000/01), Basel (with 165) had overtaken Geneva (139), while Zurich (280) and Fribourg (202) remained the institutions with the most students.
  • In 2010/11, Bern (183) had overtaken Fribourg (163) as well as Geneva (79) and Basel (59), while Zurich (328) remained the largest institute.
  • In 2020/2021, 67 people obtained a BA in philosophy (of which 35 were women), 66 people an MA (of which 27 were women) and 24 people a PhD (of which 11 were women) (find the tables of the Federal Statistical Office here).


Students and staff of the Swiss philosophy institutes

A more detailed breakdown of student numbers can be found on a separate page: figures on enrolments and degrees, and a comparison of the two, using information from the Federal Statistical Office.

The figures on university staff are unfortunately not collected separately for philosophy and depend on discretionary decisions. We have nevertheless attempted to obtain a preliminary overview of the philosophers employed at the universities.