Working in Austria
The job market
What are your chances of getting a job?
Despite the global recession at the end of the Noughties, Austria is faring reasonably well compared to other European countries. According to the European Commission's Eurostat website, the Austrian unemployment rate was 4.9% in early 2014 – not bad when compared to rates of more than 25% in fellow EU member countries Greece and Spain. As a result, there are still areas of growth and job opportunities in Austria.
While working in the alps is popular during the ski season, Austrian employers usually look for graduates with relevant degrees for longer-term jobs. Arts and social science graduates may find it more difficult than others to find graduate employment, although a relevant specialist qualification or work experience will help.
Although English is widely used in business, a sound knowledge of German is virtually essential for any type of employment, except maybe for teaching English or au pair roles. If you’ve only spoken High German before, it may take a while to adjust to the Austrian dialect. The Österreichisches Sprachdiplom Deutsch (ÖSD), or Austrian German Language Diploma, is a state-approved exam and assessment system for German as a foreign or second language. Attaining this will prove your language competence.
Eastern European languages may also be an asset as Slovenian, Croatian and Hungarian are official languages in some provinces.
Where can you work?
- Major industries: manufacturing, wholesale and retail trade, repair of motor vehicles, real estate, commerce and service industries, construction, healthcare, tourism (especially winter sports), communications.
- Recent growth areas: electronics and electrical engineering, fields dealing with operating systems and IT, manufacturing, the wholesale and retail trade, healthcare, social work and construction.
- Shortage occupations: people skilled in the interface between business and technology are in demand and there is also a shortage of skilled manual workers in all fields.
- Major companies: Spar Österreich, Rewe International AG, Trenkwalder International AG, Österreichische Bundesbahnen (ÖBB), Voestalpine AG, Wienerberger, OMV, Red Bull GmbH, Swarovski, Telekom Austria.
What’s it like working in Austria?
- Average working hours: usually eight hours a day with a legal maximum of 40 hours a week.
- Holidays: employees are entitled to five weeks' leave per calendar year.
- Tax rates: non-residents are subject to tax liability, if the income is from an Austrian source, for details see Austrian Federal Ministry of Finance - Bundesministerium für Finanzen (BMF). Don’t forget to check your UK tax and National Insurance position with HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) to ensure that you are not losing any UK pension rights.
Applying for jobs
A concise CV written in German, together with a covering letter, is the usual way of applying for work. Electronic applications are increasingly popular in Austria and typically the first contact will be by sending a covering letter and CV by email.
You should factor in the same things you would when applying for a job in the UK. It’s good practice to write covering letters to a specific person, so try and find the name of the appropriate individual and ask for a personal interview. Get more applications and CV advice.
Including a photograph is common practice. See Eurograduate - The European Graduate Career Guide for more information on applications in Austria and an example CV.
Interviews tend to be formal occasions and interviewees should be aware of the business titles of interviewers. You may be asked to attend more than one interview at the same company. Dress code is formal and a strong emphasis is placed on punctuality.
Will your UK qualifications be recognised?
Following the Bologna Process and the creation of the European Higher Education Area (EHEA), UK qualifications are usually recognised by an employer.
- EURES - European Job Mobility Portal - information about job vacancies; living and working conditions; labour markets in Austria; and a CV-posting service for jobseekers
- Jobnet Austria (German) - network providing jobs and careers news for students
- Karriere (German)
- Stepstone Austria (German)
- Xpat Jobs (English)
Some UK-based employment agencies deal with international vacancies or have branches in Austria. The Recruitment and Employment Confederation (REC) has contact details of approved UK agencies. Eurociett is the European organisation of the International Confederation of Private Employment Agencies (CIETT), where you can search their list of members (mitglieder). Recruitment agencies are also listed in Herold.at under ‘arbeitsvermittlung’.
The press is a very important source of vacancies, and you’ll find job listings in the ‘Karriere’ or ‘Job’ sections in both national and regional papers, including:
WirtschaftsBlatt also has a vacancy section, and is an invaluable source of business news if you want to sound well informed at a job interview.
Recruitment fairs organised by AIESEC (Association Internationale des Etudiants en Sciences Economiques et Commerciales) take place throughout Austria.
There are public employment offices throughout the country. Vacancies can be accessed directly through the Austrian Employment Service - Arbeitsmarktservice (AMS). They have a department for graduates (Akademiker) in offices in university towns. The English pages on the website give general employment information.
Networking is very important in Austria. Austrian students often develop their business contacts by linking their dissertations or project work to specific employers or industries. You may need to think creatively to develop your own network of contacts. Find out if your university has an Austrian alumni group, or create a profile on LinkedIn and network online.
Getting work experience
Work placements and internships
No distinction is made between placements and internships in Austria. They are common and flexible, ranging from just a few weeks to a year, and are available throughout the year. Opportunities are advertised through job websites or the AMS. Also take a look at Intern Abroad.
There are work placement opportunities for those studying vocational subjects. IAESTE (The International Association for the Exchange of Students for Technical Experience) offers paid course-related work placements abroad for undergraduate students in science, engineering, technology and applied arts in their second year of study or above. The placements usually take place in the summer for between six and twelve weeks. Students pay for their own travel, but employers pay a salary to cover living costs.
AIESEC also offers students and graduates the opportunity to work abroad.
Erasmus+ is the EU programme for education, training, youth and sport for 2014-2020 and covers student exchange, work experience and volunteering opportunities. Both under and postgraduate students can study abroad for 3 to 12 months. Erasmus+ also provides opportunities for work experience for students to learn new skills or languages, as well as volunteering in different countries for between 2 weeks and 12 months.
The market for teaching English is mainly for business purposes, but there are summer opportunities for teaching English to children and young people. You'll find teaching information and jobs on Teach Abroad Austria and other similar websites. Longer-term teaching posts in other subjects may be available in English-language schools in Austria.
Graduates are most likely to find seasonal or holiday employment in ski resorts and hotels. You can also work picking grapes in the autumn. Information on seasonal and casual vacancies in tourism can be found in Austrian jobcentres and the AMS website, or look for advertisements at Anywork Anywhere, Season Workers and similar sites.
Apart from casual work, opportunities exist for au pairs. You will probably need some childcare experience but you may not necessarily need to know German. Try agencies or au pair websites for openings.
Gap year and volunteering opportunities
Volunteering and taking a gap year is a good way to gain experience. WWOOF Austria combines work on organic farms with getting to know the people and countryside. Voluntary opportunities in Austria can also be found on Volunteer Abroad, Service Civil International and similar websites.
Do you need a visa?
Holders of European Economic Area (EEA) or Swiss passports do not require a visa for Austria.
However, if you intend to stay for more than three months, then your permanent residence has to be registered with the relevant settlement authorities (Niederlassungsbehörde) within four months after arrival into the country. There are certain conditions, details of which you’ll find at migration.gv.at.
You should contact the Austrian Embassy in your home country for more information, or visit EURES - European Job Mobility Portal to find out which regulations apply (go to 'Living & Working' and select 'Austria'). More detailed information is available on the Austrian government's website, HELP.gv.at.
If you are not a UK national, contact the Austrian Embassy in the country where you are currently residing about how to obtain visas and work permits.
Any foreign national to whom labour restrictions apply, and who wishes to work in Austria, will need both a work permit and residence permit. Your work permit must be applied for by your future employer in Austria and must be obtained prior to your departure from your country of residence and be presented upon arrival.
How do you become a permanent resident?
If you intend to stay in Austria for a period exceeding six months you must apply for a residence permit.
EEA citizens who intend to reside in Austria should file their application after their arrival in Austria.
If you are of a different nationality, you must obtain your residence permit before you travel. Austria has a new flexible points-based immigration model called the Red-White-Red Card which offers qualified third country workers and their family members a single permit for working and settling permanently in Austria. See migration.gv.at for details.
Living in Austria
- Cost of living: broadly comparable to other countries in western Europe. You’ll find useful information about life in Austria at Vienna Expats, as well as EURES - European Job Mobility Portal in its ‘living and working conditions’ section.
- Internet domain: .at
- Currency: Euro (€)
- Health: Austria has an excellent health service and social security system. To access public healthcare, EU citizens should register for a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC). If you're resident in Austria for more than a brief period, you’ll have to pay contributions for medical care to a local social insurance organisation (Sozialversicherungsträger). Ask your employer for information.
- Type of government: federal parliamentary democratic republic, divided into nine federal states (Bundesland).
- Laws and customs: laws related to drugs are similar to those in the UK and strictly enforced. Same-sex partnerships have been legal since January 2010. Austria does have smoking bars and some restaurants have smoking sections, but generally smoking is banned in public areas. You're required to have your passport readily accessible - within an hour - at all times.
- Emergency numbers:
- 112 – general emergency
- 122 – fire service
- 133 – police
- 141 – Ärztefunkdienst – GPs on duty during the night and at weekends
- 144 – ambulance
- 140 – alpine rescue
- British Embassy Austria – can offer assistance to UK citizens.
- People: around 90% German-speaking Austrians, with small Austrian minorities who speak Slovene, Croatian or Hungarian. There are small immigrant communities of Turks, Germans, Roma and guest workers from Eastern Europe and refugees from the Serbian wars.
- Major religion: Roman Catholicism