Salzburg (photo Wikimedia)« No educational path in Austria ends in a blind alley, » summarises the Federal Minister for Education.

Vocational education and training (VET) is very popular among young people with nearly 75% of pupils going into this field when they leave compulsory schooling. Its particularity is to combine mainstream education, vocational training and practical training for 14 to 19 year-olds.

The educational pathways are varied and flexible, with horizontal mobility always an option towards tertiary education and even universities.

New perspective on qualifications: a new NQL legal framework was adopted in 2016. Austria has a relatively segmented education system and, as a result, a highly institution-focused perception of qualifications. The national qualifications framework (NQF) should lead to a new perspective on qualifications beyond their institutional positioning. The principle of ‘parity of esteem’ should underline that qualifications at the same level are ‘equivalent’ but not necessarily ‘equal’.

The Austrian education system – 2013


Austrian System (© Onisep / Elise Veteau)




The vocational pathway in Austria


Secondary education

One of the key characteristics of the Austrian system is to offer a choice between 2 different streams right at the outset of the 1st cycle of secondary education for pupils aged 10:

  • The Hauptschule (HS), the 1st cycle of secondary school which prepares pupils to discover occupational skills. The HS alone attracts 70% of pupils.
  • The Allgemein bildende höhere Schule (AHS), secondary schools providing mainstream education.
  • The Neue Mittelschule, a new school concept. Combines the teachings of the AHS and the Hauptschule.


At the end of compulsory schooling (at the age of 14), corresponding to the 1st year of the 2nd cycle, the school system becomes further differentiated. Four pathways are open to pupils, of which 3 offer VET, thereby underlining importance of this educational stream inAustria:

  • Mainstream secondary education leading to A-levels (Reifeprüfung, also called Matura), giving pupils access to tertiary education including university,
  • Long-term VET, (berufsbildend höheren Schulen or BHS), a 5-year course giving pupils access to university (for example technical and business institutes). This pathway awards 2 diplomas Reife und Diplomprüfung (A-levels and vocational diploma).
  • Medium-term VET (Berufsbildenden mittleren Schulen or BMS) providing full-time education over a 3- to 4-year course (for example, specialised technical and business schools). This pathway does not open the door to tertiary education, but does allow pupils to enter employment immediately after passing the final examination.
  • Vocational training and apprenticeship (Polytechnische Schule and Berufsschule) : consists of a polytechnic school year, followed by three years of learning (80% of the training time is spent in the workplace).


Higher education

The Fachhochschulen (FHS) offer university-level education combined with a compulsory vocational work placement in fields such as management and tourism. Entrance to the FHS is available to students holding A-levels (Reifeprüfung) and students who have professional qualifications in the same field as the further studies. The FHS award Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees.



Apprenticeships are widespread. Sandwich courses, spanning a period of approximately 3 years, offer work placements in an enterprise (80% of the time) and classes at a VET school Berufsschule (20% of the time) within a dual vocational training scheme. Apprenticeships cover 260 trades and crafts. The examination at the end of the apprenticeship allows pupils to go on to take the Master’s examination (Lehrabschlussprüfung) in the same field or the Berusreifeprüfung, which is taken by students who wish to go on to higher education.

The government plan « Jugend am Werk » allows any young student who does not find an apprenticeship to work in a dedicated learning center.


Key figures

  • Austria also has a relatively high percentage of innovative enterprises providing supportive training in the workplace (55.8% compared with 44.8% in the EU, based on data for 2014). (CEDEFOP – 2017)
  • The employment rate for IVET graduates (aged 20-34) at ISCED levels 3-4 (87.0%) is higher than the EU average 78.1 %. (CEDEFOP – 2017)

 Last update : 21/02/2018