8 – Finishing the Doctorate

The procedure of finishing a thesis is not only dependent on the department, but also, to an even greater extent, on individual professors. When you have reached this point (normally after at least three years), you should discuss the matter with your professor and check the doctoral administration website.

The final steps

Paper-Based & Normal Dissertations

A rather new development is the adoption of a system known as a paper-based dissertation. Instead of writing a complete thesis, all the papers that have been published by the doctoral students during their time at ETH Zurich are taken as the body of the thesis text. The student only needs to add an introduction and a conclusion. While this may seem like a very comfortable option, keep in mind that this way of writing the dissertation requires a thorough check of the copyright laws (may a figure that has been published in a journal be published again in a thesis?) and co-authorships (you rarely have a paper of your own; usually there are contributors). Leave plenty of time for this before handing over the thesis to your examiners.

The Defense

Once again, this is highly dependent on the department. In most cases, it consists of a public presentation of about half an hour to an hour followed by an either public or sometimes private question sessions. Keep in mind that there are no grades for finishing a doctorate at ETH Zurich, so be relaxed and simply prepare well. Plus, by the time of your defence you will most likely have gathered a lot of knowledge about your subject anyway.

Contract ended, thesis not yet finished?

You will be notified four months prior to the termination of your contract. Often, doctoral students are employed on annual contracts which are routinely renewed. Unfortunately, professors are sometimes rather forgetful about renewals. Try to avoid this by reminding your supervisor in good time about your contract. If, especially at the end of your dissertation, when the grant period is drawing to a close, a problem arises with the renewal, talk with your supervisor about the issue. Do not rely on vague promises but obtain a clear statement on how to proceed in the remaining time until your contract ends. Make suggestions for solutions. There are scholarships for doctoral students available; your supervisor should write you a letter of reference (for Swiss and foreigners with a Swiss residency permit). Contact Stipendiendienst des Rektorats, HG FO 21.1, Tel.: 044 632 20 40, for further information.

Allocation of Workplace

For the case that you stay at ETH for some more time after you contract has ended you can ask for allocation of a workplace (Zuteilung eines Arbeitsplatzes). This form entitles you to use the infrastructure of ETH, i.e. the office and laboratory, in order to finish your dissertation beyond the time of the ended contract with ETH. The form has to be signed by your supervisor.

Certificate of Employment

Each employee in Switzerland has the right to receive a certificate of employment at the end of this engagement. Do not forget to ask your supervisor about it.

Career Services

Make sure to figure out further career plans early in advance. To support you with this, there is a comprehensive set of career services (CV check and mentoring), job fairs, etc. organized by ETH Zurich and affiliated groups.

Career Center

The ETH career centre offers a variety of services for doctoral students in search of a position outside academia. This ranges from individual personal advice to organizing career events. They also have a useful application guide on their website.

Alumni Network

ETH Zurich has a strong and committed network of alumni who are still connected to their university. They are organized via the ETH Alumni Association in different faculty groups. They offer events, a web-based platform, meetings, career services and many connections to other alumni. You automatically become an ETH Alumni member free of charge for one year after you finish. After that, you can decide if you want to remain a member or leave. More info on their webpage.


Polymesse is a large company fair taking place in April on an annual basis. Typically, around 150 companies set up their booths on three days. The fair is accompanied with presentations given by company representatives (Polyvortrag). In addition, the career centre organizes some events for preparation. Some weeks before the actual fair, a booklet with all the necessary information is distributed. Watch out for them at the Mensa or main building entrance. Polymesse is a very good opportunity to get into contact with companies, but it is also a good occasion to think about future career plans. Use it!

Long night of the career

The Long night of the career is a rather young event presented jointly by the Career Services of Swiss universities. It takes place once a year in November and “allows the bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral students attending ETH Zurich to spend a whole evening focusing on their professional futures, gathering ideas, meeting employers in an informal setting, forging contacts and honing their candidature skills – in a relaxed and enjoyable setting”.

Campus interview

Campus interview is an annual event taking place in autumn each year and is organized by ETH juniors. As a job seeker, you have the possibility to conduct one or several interviews with participating companies on one day. In addition, the event is accompanied by additional career counselling services (like CV check, etc.).


Telejob is a subunit of AVETH and aims at assisting graduates in finding a job. Telejob operates the job platform eth-gethired.ch together with the Career Center at ETH Zurich. The objective of ETH get hired is to support the students and doctoral students in finding a job tailored to their skills and ambitions in industry or academia.


Leaving ETH