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BerAb – Career paths of HfH graduates and the importance of task-area qualifications in fields of work in special education

Background and aims

As special education-therapy professionals are highly sought after, information on the career paths of our graduates is of great interest. The existing shortage of special education-therapy specialists is seen by the public, for instance, as caused by professionals moving into other areas of work or by professionals working only very part-time. Th aim of this study was to respond to these assumptions with empirical findings.

In addition to career paths, we were particularly interested in how important certain fields of work are for University of Applied Sciences in Special Needs Education (HfH) graduates in school-level special education, and how the graduates assess their own qualifications for these fields of work.


We developed a questionnaire based on a survey of former students of the Heilpädagogisches Seminar / HfH by Vogel and Strasser (2005) and assuring comparability of the data with that earlier survey. A total of 2,859 graduates of all degree courses at HfH who graduated in the years 2008 to 2018 were invited via e-mail addresses recorded in the student administration office to participate in the online survey. Of 2,676 valid addresses, 1,411 responses were received (53% response rate). The sample was representative of the breakdown of students to the different degree courses. The data analysis was conducted using descriptive and inferential statistics).


The results showed that most HfH graduates remained in their profession and worked a high workload (on average, 75% of a full-time position). Half of the respondents worked 80% and more of a full-time position. The assumption that the shortage of education-therapy professionals in practice is due to them moving into other professions and due to very part-time work was thus not confirmed. Former Master’s students (in school-level special education (SHP)/early years special education(HFE)) were on average very satisfied with their studies at the HfH, rating the opportunities for personal development and career chances (expectations met) as high, and their satisfaction with their studies regarding increasing their competencies in action and knowledge somewhat less highly (expectations mostly met). Graduates of bachelor’s degree programs (speech therapy/psychomotor therapy) rated their studies as satisfactory (expectations mostly met).

The comparison of fields of work from the perspective of the SHP graduates with the earlier study by Vogel and Strasser (2005) showed that assessments of the importance of some fields of work and the graduates’ qualifications in them had changed significantly. The SHP graduates who graduated from 2008 to 2018 (SHP-BerAb) not only felt better qualified in, for example, ‘elementary learning’, ‘general didactics’, ‘cooperation with other professionals’, ‘individual support, and ‘diagnostics’ than the graduates who graduated from 1992 to 2004 but also found the fields to be more important in their daily work. In contrast, in this SHP-BerAb study, graduates’ ratings of the importance of and their qualifications in the fields of ‘therapy’, ‘public relations work’, ‘care’, ‘conducting evaluations’, ‘school and organization development’, and ‘quality development and assurance’ decreased compared to the ratings in SHP-Vogel. Possible reasons for this might lie especially in the change in the Swiss school system in recent years: With the change in perspective toward a more systemic way of looking at school-level special education (WHO, 2001) and the anchoring of the inclusive school in Swiss law (Sonderpädagogik-Konkordat; EDK, 2007), the role of school-level special education in practice and also the curriculum in education and training have changed. Furthermore, the areas ‘quality assurance’ and ‘school and organization development’ have become more the responsibility of school principals, which could possibly explain the low ratings in these fields of work. The current revision of the SHP Master’s degree course at the HfH will again include a compulsory optional module on ‘school and organization development’ in the future education and training in school-level special education.



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