Bulgaria (Picture from Wikimedia)In Bulgaria, vocational education and training (VET) attracts fewer young people than in the past. Between 2006-2007 and 2010-2011, the number of pupils choosing this pathway fell by 17%.

The effects of the reform of initial VET introduced in 2007 are not yet being felt.Some of the areas Bulgariahas tackled over the last few years including networking vocational schools, the development of a national qualifications framework based on the European Qualifications Framework and the development of the policy on education and vocational training in close collaboration with employment policies.

The VET Act has changed 22 times over the past 13 years. These constant changes have impeded consistency in VET development and testify to a lack of relevance between the model set out in1999 and reality of the VET system.

The Bulgarian education system – 2014


Bulgarian system (© Onisep / Elise Veteau)



The vocational pathway in Bulgaria


Schooling is compulsory for children from the age of 6 or 7 to 16. Basic education (primary and lower secondary school) ends at the age of 14 or 15 (8th year) with a school certificate allowing pupils to move on to upper secondary schooling.


Secondary education

Upper secondary schooling lasts for 4 or 5 years and takes place in comprehensive or vocational schools.

Vocational schools are organised in 2 cycles:

  • Cycle 1: from year 8 to year 10 (14 to 16 year-olds). The pupils in these classes can study the trade or craft they wish. They are awarded a certificate validating the 1st cycle of secondary studies and a level I professional qualification (equivalent to level II in the European Qualifications Framework). In addition to general and vocational subjects, the curriculum for this study cycle lays great emphasis on learning a foreign language (15 hours per week).
  • Cycle 2: from year 11 to year 12 (17 to 18 year-olds).

At 17, at the beginning of the 2nd cycle of secondary schooling, pupils can once more choose the course they want to follow. Pupils going on to a vocational high school can obtain the 2nd or 3rd level of professional qualification at the end of 2 years. About 20 to 22 class hours a week are given over to VET and 10 to 12 hours are devoted to preparing for A-levels.

At the end of the cycle, the Diploma za sredno obrazovanie (end of secondary education/specialised secondary education diploma) and the Svideltelstvo za professionalna kvalifikatshia (end of vocational secondary education diploma) are awarded.


Higher education

Higher education is provided in universities or specialised colleges. The « spezialist po » higher vocational education diploma validates a 3-year course at these colleges.



For young people over the age of 16, apprenticeships are governed by the Bulgarian Labour Laws and are organised by employers in their training centres or in partnership with secondary education school. Dual education is reserved for the trades.


Key figures

  • In 2012-2013, 142 000 students in bulgaria were enrolled in vocational education. 95 000 were in vocational high schools. (NSI – 2013)
  • In 2012-2013, VET was available in 494 establishments. (NSI – 2013)
  • The highest relative share in programmes for attainment of a third level professional qualification was for students who studied specialties in the field of ‘Engineering and engineering trades’ – 28.5%, followed by share of those in the ‘Personal services’ –17.8%. (REPUBLIC OF BULGARIA NATIONAL STATISTICAL INSTITUTE – 2015)

Last update : 18/06/2018