Education System and VET System

Apprenticeship training is one out of four options open to students at upper secondary level. Two additonal options are different types of VET full-time schools. Only one of the three VET tracks includes direct access to higher education with the university entrance exam “Matura”. Efforts to increase permeability like the Berufsmatura in the dual system can be noticed.

Fig. 3: VET in Austria’s education and training system

Österreich education system2

Source: Cedefop (2014). Spotlight on VET Austria, p. 4; online available: (retrieved on 3.8.2016)

Structure of the education system and VET in general

The nine-year compulsory schooling period in Austria starts with attendance of the four-year primary school. At the lower secondary level, pupils have the choice between two four-year school forms: the lower level of academic secondary school (Gymnasium) and new secondary school (Neue Mittelschule).

Dual VET is one of four options open to students at upper secondary level. Whereas dual VET can only be started upon completion of the nine-year compulsory schooling period, the other pathways can be started immediately after the lower level of academic secondary school or new secondary school, i.e. after 8 years. One of these options is the upper level of academic secondary school. This level is completed after four years with the upper secondary school-leaving exam and the matriculation certificate (Matura), which gives access to all tertiary qualifications. The other two options are the VET tracks school for intermediate vocational education and college for higher vocational education (the latter of which is completed with the matriculation and diploma exam). This means that, together with dual VET (apprenticeship training), learners have the choice between three VET pathways at the upper secondary level.

National Qualifications Framework, allocation of VET qualifications

The implementation of a National Qualifications Framework (NQF) has been a key objective of educational policy for some years. In 2014/15 an NQF Act has been drafted. In March 2016 this Act entered into force, in June 2016 the steering committee had its constitutional meeting. To date qualifications have not yet been allocated officially. In discussions, however, most experts advocate allocation of apprenticeship diplomas (independent of their length) to Level 4.

Overview pathways within the VET system

Learners at the upper secondary level have the choice between two pre-vocational types of school and three VET programmes:

  • Pre-vocational school (Polytechnische Schule, PTS): one-year pre-professional school with 15,816 students in 2014/15
  • Schools for intermediate vocational education (berufsbildende mittlere Schule, BMS): one- and two-year pre-professional schools and (most of them) three- and four-year VET schools with various area specialisations (business, technology, agriculture, social affairs, tourism, etc.); 45,523 students in 2014/15
  • Colleges for higher vocational education (berufsbildende höhere Schule, BHS), five-year VET colleges which lead to the upper secondary school-leaving certificate with various area specialisations (business, technology, fashion, design, agriculture, tourism, kindergarten teacher training, etc.); 134,802 students
  • Dual VET (apprenticeship/apprenticeship training), from the tenth grade, around 200 two- to four-year apprenticeship occupations in various area specialisations (construction, electrical, information technology, wholesale and retail trade, etc.); 123,232 students in vocational part-time schools in 2014/15 (numbers from:, retrieved on 29.6.2016)

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