Liberal professions

Approximately 400,000 people practice a liberal profession in Switzerland, accounting for nearly 10% of the active population, according to a report from the Federal Council. Often conducted as independent activities, liberal professions are characterized by the fundamental and high-quality services they contribute to the economy.

Medical practitioners, lawyers, architects, and even musicians—all fall under the diverse umbrella of liberal professions spanning health, social services, technology, law, and economics. However, the identification of these professions relies on four non-cumulative criteria:

  • Personal character: engaging in a liberal profession means working independently, personally, and taking full responsibility.
  • Service delivery: liberal professions are built on delivering high-quality services, often requiring advanced intellectual skills.
  • Qualifications: service providers possess a high level of professional training, with approximately 84% holding tertiary degrees.
  • Regulatory compliance: the practice of a liberal profession is, in principle, subject to state regulations, at least at the federal or cantonal level.

Those engaged in a liberal profession are commonly known as "independents without a formal business structure." Their activities need not be profit-driven and are typically exempt from the obligation to register with the commercial register (Unpublished ruling of the Federal Tribunal dated January 21, 2009, 4A_526/2008). Nevertheless, an activity that necessitates a distinct management structure should indeed be registered.


In order to ensure the recognition of qualifications and safeguard public interests such as safety or health, liberal professions are frequently subject to various official regulations.

During the 2010s, some regulations were replaced with federal laws. These changes aimed to alleviate barriers to competition in the Swiss domestic market, simultaneously creating conditions favorable to the free movement of people.

Free movement

Between 2002 and 2012, the opening of the labor market led to a significant influx of individuals from EU/EFTA member states. This facilitated access helped meet the growing demand in the Swiss economy for highly skilled specialists practicing liberal professions.

While Swiss nationals emigrate to EU countries less frequently than Europeans immigrate to Switzerland due to their high standard of living and income levels, Swiss qualifications are widely recognized within the EU.

Importance for the Swiss Economy

Liberal professions have experienced a significantly above-average increase in Switzerland in recent years.

The high levels of qualification underscore the importance of this category of professionals for the national economy. According to a report from the Federal Council, liberal professions command an average hourly rate of CHF 57.90, compared to CHF 39.00 in other occupations.


Last modification 25.01.2024

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