General upper-secondary, vocational and higher education

General upper-secondary education

Following the completion of primary education, a person can choose to study at an upper secondary school to receive a general secondary education or move on to a vocational secondary school and obtain a general secondary education as well as a vocational education. 

Obtaining an upper-secondary education is not mandatory in Estonia. The duration of studies is usually three years in an upper secondary school as well as a vocational school, but a few vocation education curricula are longer. Secondary education is mainly aimed at students who wish to continue their education at a university, while vocational school graduates are ready to enter the labour market.

A network of vocational schools as well as upper secondary schools covers all of Estonia. Every county has at least one state-funded upper secondary school and vocational school. A flexible study opportunity is also provided by adult secondary schools, which offer a non-stationary learning pathway. A non-stationary learning pathway allows students to finish their studies at a their own pace. The percentage of independent study is much higher compared to the stationary learning pathway. General education can be obtained in the non-stationary learning pathway at the Haapsalu Vocational Education and Training Centre, Rakvere Vocational School, Võru County Vocational Training Centre and Järva County Vocational Training Centre.

Secondary education is based on the national curriculum for upper secondary schools, while vocational education is based on national curricula covering various specialities. A vocational education graduate usually completes a specialised vocational examination at the end of their studies. In order to graduate from an upper secondary school, a person must pass five final examinations, three of which are state examinations and practical work or a research paper. Enrolment is flexible this spring, with both upper secondary schools and vocational schools concentrating on activities focused on the students’ needs as well as the introduction of the education process.

The school will help a person decide which curriculum and learning pathway is most appropriate for their future studies. Firstly, to continue your studies in the right speciality for you, we recommend contacting a career advisor at the Estonian Unemployment Insurance Fund (tel. 15 501; Skype: tootukassa; e-mail to gain insight regarding which vocational schools allow people to continue the studies they started in Ukraine. The first step can be the choice of profession curriculum, which focuses on helping you make future decisions regarding your education. Groups have already opened at the following educational institutions: Haapsalu Vocational Education and Training Centre, Ida-Virumaa Vocational Education Centre, Luua Forestry School, Pärnumaa Vocational Education Centre, Rakvere Vocational School, Räpina School of Horticulture, Tallinn School of Service, Tartu Art School, Tartu Vocational College, Valga County Vocational Training Centre, Viljandi Vocational Training Centre, Võru County Vocational Training Centre.


Vocational education


If a secondary education is obtained, and a person wishes to continue their studies in a vocational school, they can choose between various curricula which last between six months and 30 months. Obtaining a vocational education is available at both vocational schools and vocational universities (after obtaining a secondary education).

  • Foreign-language curricula in vocational schools are primarily in Russian. Valga County Vocational Training Centre also has one English language curriculum (logistics). Wherever appropriate, there are other opportunities to develop new curricula in English in other specialities, such as house painting, pottery and so on.

  • Schools can offer Estonian language studies to students on a project basis and as part of a vocational curriculum. Every Estonian county has vocational education schools and there are many specialities to choose from; the specialities are different in every school.

  • Vocational schools also provide a learning pathway for students with special education needs, including mobility, visual, hearing and intellectual disabilities.

  • Vocational training is also available to students who have obtained a primary education. For students who require special education, teaching is based on the student’s abilities and they will be helped with choosing their curriculum. If necessary, their studies will be adapted to the student’s individual needs and the student can receive counselling from specialists.

  • Schools offer accommodation as well as catering. Students are entitled to academic leave, and they can receive grants and student loans under the conditions and in accordance with the procedure set in the Study Allowances and Study Loans act. They can also apply for a subsidy covering the cost of school meals and reimbursement of travel expenses between the educational institution and their place of residence. Vocational schools also offer leisure and recreational activities, including sports.
  • If a student is uncertain about what speciality to study, then they can opt for the choice of profession curriculum in which key competencies are developed and various professions are introduced.
  • Work-based learning, organised in association with employers, can be a suitable way of completing a speciality, with a large amount of the studies taking place as practical training in a company. The theoretical part is carried out in vocational school. Adult students can continue further vocational training courses in vocational schools as a flexible learning option.

Higher education


The general requirement for admission to higher education in Estonia is a secondary education. Universities can establish additional admission conditions (for example – entrance examinations, state examination results or an interview).

If secondary education was obtained in a different country, then the Estonian ENIC/NARIC Centre (Academic Recognition Information Centre) will assess their ability to access higher education (also for foreigners who are unable to provide complete or partial proof of education).

Universities in Estonia provide education in Estonian, English or Russian.

Full-time study in Estonian is usually free of charge, except in private universities in which students must pay tuition. If a person wishes to start their studies in Estonian, then they can complete a free one-year in-depth programme for learning Estonian after their successful admission.

Study programmes in a foreign language usually require a fee. Ask the university for more information in regard to studying in Russian.

If a person began their higher education in Ukraine, then they can look for a similar curriculum in an Estonian university, so that they are able to transfer their previously learned knowledge and continue their studies.

Estonia has 18 higher education institutions: Six public universities, one private university, seven state funded vocational higher education institutions and four private higher education institutions.

Information regarding short and long-term opportunities for studies, including language studies for people arriving from Ukraine, will be provided by universities.

  • Further information about learning opportunities is available at the Education and Youth Board of Estonia,

Support measures for people arriving from Ukraine are in development.


Last updated: 9 September 2022