In this article you will learn what is the difference between academic and professional qualification recognition in Austria and what are the Austrian institutions where you can start the process of the recognition of your qualifications.
The difference between academic and professional recognition
What is academic recognition?
Academic recognition takes place when studies completed or examinations passed in one country give credits for studies in another country. This recognition can take place in different stages of study. The field of academic recognition is therefore splitted into three main areas:
entry into studies: admission
progress of studies: recognition of examinations
completion of studies: recognition of diplomas (including nostrification)
Certain rights are linked to the recognition of diplomas, e.g. the right to use an academic degree, and to be admitted to further studies, or to certain professions and activities.
What is professional recognition?
Professional recognition means that employees who are entitled to exercise a given profession on the basis of the education in their country of origin may be admitted to the relevant profession in another country. The professional recognition of diplomas is of special importance within the European Economic Area (EEA) and is regulated by the EU directive on professional recognition.
A university degree can be an important qualification if you want to work in Austria. There are, however, some issues you need to consider if you want a recognition (nostrification) of the university degree you acquired abroad.
EU, EEA countries, and Switzerland
You do not need a nostrification in Austria for university degrees that were acquired at a university in the EU, an EEA country, or in Switzerland. Instead, there is a quicker way to get your degree recognised (see Berufsanerkennungsverfahren – recognition guide).
Persons with a university degree from third countries need a nostrification in Austria. They need to apply to a public university, University of Applied Sciences (Fachhochschule), or University of Teacher Education (Pädagogische Hochschule) for a nostrification of their university degree provided there is a comparable degree in Austria. The competent university checks within three months whether and until when any supplementary examinations are required.
First contact point
The National Academic Recognition Information Centre ENIC NARIC AUSTRIA at the Federal Ministry for Digital, Business and Enterprise (BMDW) is the first contact point for all questions regarding the recognition of international university diplomas in Austria. This validation is often sufficient to prove and use your qualification on the Austrian labour market. You can submit an application online at Recognition Information Application System (AAIS). The assessment of a foreign higher education qualification is charged with an amount up to 200 Euros.
Initial information in several languages is available from the Anlaufstellen für Personen mit im Ausland erworbenen Qualifikationen (AST), i.e. the contact points for persons with foreign diplomas, and from the Austrian Integration Fund
Bologna and academic recognition
The Bologna structure, the aim of which is a uniform higher education area, has been largely implemented in Austria. The three-tier education system (Bachelor, Master, PhD) has been established in almost all fields of study. In a few fields of study the old study structure, which concludes with a Magister degree, has been kept. This, however, has no effect on recognition.
The Bologna process guarantees students a system of comparable degrees, it improves the employability of Austrian university graduates and increases the international competitiveness of the whole European higher education.
Regulated and non-regulated professions
In Austria, there is a difference between regulated and non-regulated professions.
Regulated professions are, for example, architects, doctors, nurses, teachers, physiotherapists and some specific trades or businesses:
In addition to a recognition of your university degree, the competent interest groups, e.g. the Medical Association, check other relevant skills such as German language skills that are essential for the job. In this last step, it also matters whether you intend to be self-employed or employed.
For all non-regulated professions you can start your job search immediately provided you hold a validation of the ENIC NARIC AUSTRIA. Your prospective employer should recognise the validation of your university degree as “helpful expert report” and take a decision according to the specific job requirements.
Because of the fundamental free movement of professionals, specialised employees are principally allowed to work internationally, exercise their profession and offer their services. However, special qualifications or a title are required for so-called “regulated professions”. Requirements can differ from one country to the next. For this reason, mechanisms used in recognising qualifications acquired abroad are applied.
There are no uniform rules in Austria for formal recognition of qualifications from abroad. The respective procedures are regulated in numerous federal and provincial laws.
The procedure applied for recognising qualifications (degrees) from abroad depends on the area for which the qualification is needed. A distinction is made between recognition of professional qualifications, the recognition of school and skilled trade certificates as well as the recognition of academic degrees.
What are regulated professions?
In order to be able to exercise a regulated profession as a self-employed person specified qualifications or a title must be possessed. The list of professions which are regulated and the specific requirements involving in exercising these professions vary within the EU. Qualified specialised employees who want to apply for positions in other EU member states must first inform themselves about which prerequisites have to be fulfilled.
Directive 2005/36/EC provides the legal basis for the recognition of professional qualifications. These guidelines apply to regulated professions such as nurses, midwives, physicians, dentists, pharmacists, architects and veterinarians. This directive does not apply to professions in which the recognition of qualifications is regulated by separate legal provisions, such as lawyers, seafarers, insurance brokers and air traffic controllers and others.
Every EU member state put together a list of its particular regulated professions in order to provide an overview of the regulated professions in the EU and conditions for gaining access to this profession. Subsequently a mutual evaluation of the prerequisites for gaining access to these professions was carried out.
The underlying objective was to simplify and improve access to information about regulated professions and oblige the EU member states to review their own demands on people for exercising these designated regulated professions.
Moreover, a database with the updated list of regulated professions was compiled. It also provides information about the prerequisites for practising professions in the individual EU member states and EEA countries and Switzerland: Regulated professions database Furthermore, an interactive map shows the distribution of regulated professions in the individual countries according to specific sectors.
The European Professional Card (EPC)
For the time being, the European Professional Card (EPC) is valid for a total of five professions, namely for nurses, physiotherapists, pharmacists, real estate brokers and mountain guides. The EPC is an electronic certificate which is issued via an EU-wide online process for the recognition of qualifications. The EPC could be expanded in the future to encompass other professions as well.
Contact points for persons with foreign qualifications (AST)
It is important to inform the competent authorities in Austria to make sure that the qualifications or diplomas acquired elsewhere (EU, EEA or third countries) are recognised as the basis for working in that particular profession. In this way, measures can be taken in a timely manner to ensure the validation of qualifications, if necessary. There are four contact points in Austria which are responsible for the recognition and assessment of qualifications acquired in other countries. They are located in Vienna, Linz, Graz and Innsbruck. Moreover, weekly consultation days take place in all other Austrian state capitals.
AST Vienna, AST Lower Austria and Northern Burgenland and the coordination of contact points under the auspices of the Counselling Centre for Immigrants in Vienna
AST Upper Austria and Salzburg at migrare – Centre for Immigrants in Upper Austria, which is located in Linz
AST Styria, Carinthia and Southern Burgenland at ZEBRA – Intercultural Centre of Counselling and Therapy, located in Graz and
AST Tyrol and Vorarlberg at ZeMiT – Centre for Migrants in Tyrol, located in Innsbruck
In line with § 5 Recognition and Assessment Act (AuBG), multilingual information, counselling and support are offered for the entire recognition and assessment process free of charge.
These services are provided with the aim of facilitating the integration of skilled professionals into the labour market in accordance with their qualifications. The first step is to clarify whether the formal recognition of qualifications is necessary or possible. If needed, certified translations of diplomas and certificates will be obtained. Support is offered in applying for assessments and if required, also for the recognition process. Furthermore, information is supplied on follow-up counselling options and further education offerings. If the formal recognition of qualifications acquired abroad is not possible, the responsible AST counsellor will present alternatives and potentially establish contact with cooperation partners.
The cost-free services of the AST offices are available to people residing in Austria who have acquired qualifications abroad and who have done more than compulsory schooling. The counselling services target people who, in principle, have access to the Austrian labour market. However, these services are offered regardless of the person’s employment status (unemployed or employed), citizenship or national origin.
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Author: Sofia Ivanov is a blogger at AustrianCareer.at. She holds a MA in international business and also contributes photography to AustrianCareer.at.