Experiencing my country through foreign eyes: Danish Education System

In the comment section for another one of my posts someone asked about the Danish education system and since it’s not something you can capture in a few sentences I decided to write a post about it. To make it less complicated I’ve tried to do both visuals and explaining text. If you have any further questions be sure to comment down below and I will try to answer them. I will have to note that there are some very specific details and twists of rules here and there that I will not be mentioning in the following or else I fear I might lose you completely.

The general structure looks like this:

uddannelser oversigt


Primary and Lower Secondary Education

The primary and lower secondary education is the only compulsory education in Denmark. We begin pre-school, 0 grade, in August of the year we turn 6. If you search on the Danish educational system it will say that we go to school from grade 0-10th. That is a simplification. Compulsorary education is from 0-9th grade, the 10th grade is optional and is mostly used to better your marks or if you don’t feel mature enough.

Getting the education is mandatory but actually attending a school is not. You can be homeschooled, or if you don’t want your child to attend public school you can send them to a privat school where you will have to pay for some of the education youself (but not all of it).


Upper Secondary Education

GYMNASIUM (STX) (2)Once you finish public school you go on and do one of the 5 types of upper secondary educations listed on the left. As you can see it is important from an early age to know roughly what you want to do with your life. Personally I wasn’t planning on taking the STX but because it was the only ticket to go on and become a physiotherapist I took those 3 years (as the first one in my immediate family). I never regretted it one bit. You see, when you finish public school you are on a D-level. Most of these 5 educations will elevate that D-level til C, B and A. On STX you can focus on different subjects. I graduated personally with Social Science (A), English (A), Danish (A) and History (A), the two latter being mandatory for all. I thrived getting to elevate my general knowledge and to focus on subjects of interest. I have always enjoyed going to school and this took it to a whole other level. I even ended up liking maths because our teacher was extremely gifted and phenomenal, and got a very decent mark at my exam. Sorry, I got sidetracked.

So far our system has been easy to grasp, right? Now it gets a lot more complicated and I will try my best to make it as easy for you as possible. Depending on which one of the 5 upper secondary educations you chose different doors will now be open for you. I will list the types of higher educations you can take (simplified) and end it all with a couple of examples for a (hopefully) better understanding.


Higher Education

Doctoral degree

I am not going to comment on every  single one otherwise this post will never end. It stands to reason that only the University Master’s degrees and the Master’s degrees (part time) get to go on and do a Ph.d and after that perhaps a Doctorial degree (hence the arrows).

Let’s just do some examples to make this less confusing. I wanted to become a Physiotherapist so for that to happen I had to have a/went through:

Primary and Lower Secondary Education (0-9th grade).

Higher General Examination (STX) with at least English (C) and a science subject (C). I graduated with English (A) and Biology (B).

Professional Bachelor’s degree (in physiotherapy) from a University College (3½ years).

I have the option to take a Master’s degree in Physiotherapy if I one day feel like it but so far I don’t. It’s all about research and I am all about patients and making a difference in the “real” world.

Let’s do a classic: becoming a Doctor:

Primary and Lower Secondary Education (0-9th grade).

Higher General Examination (STX) with at least Danish (A), English (B), Maths (A) and a science subject (B).

University Bachelor’s + Master’s degree (in medicine) from a University (3 + 3 years).

Clinical work at a hospital (6 months)

To become a specialist you have to study for 6 more years, a total of 12 years of education. 

Another one could be: House painter.

Primary and Lower Secondary Education (0-9th grade).

Vocational Education and Training (VET) (4½ years).

There are some schools for higher education I have not mentioned, e.g. Fine Arts for those who wish to become actors or musicians. Or Copenhagen Business School for those who want to get an education in business, international affairs and politics. People in the latter category most likely have a Higher Commercial Examination (HHX) as the foundation.


You cannot say A without saying B, and you defnitely can’t talk about the education system without talking economy and finance. Especially the US news likes to highlight our high taxes – and even though they tend to exaggerate or only present a part of the truth – I cannot deny that we pay a fair amount. Without going into too much detail a person with my level of job and paycheck have a tax rate at about 39-40%. What some of that money go towards is to secure a proper education for all no matter if your parents are rich or poor. In Denmark it is common knowledge that investing in our youth is key to a successfully run (and happy) country. After all, our kids ARE our future. That is why we receieve money while we study. If you are still living at home how much money – what we call SU – you get is decided by looking at your parents’ income. It’s been 10+ years since I was both studying and living at home but I remember getting around 2500 DKK (~ £295 or $372) per month. At that time I was still taking my STX which is why the rate is low. Once you get to a higher education you recieve more because most young people get their own place when they are about 18-21 years old. The rate also differs for a full time- and part time study (for obvious reasons). Once I studied to become a Physiotherapist, and had my own flat, I recieved about 5600-5800 DKK (~ £662-685 or $835-865) per month. It’s not fun to have a home budget this small but it’s doable, and it helps to secure that everyone gets the education – and job – they want and are passionate about.

I agree that the Danish educational system can be a jungle but if you know what you want it’s actually pretty straight forward. I hope you’re not too confused right now but if you are I’ll be happy to answer any question you might have. 


Let’s connect!


Experiencing my country through foreign eyes (2)

Be sure to leave your thoughts, comments – and perhaps questions – down below.


11 thoughts on “Experiencing my country through foreign eyes: Danish Education System

  1. maude93

    That sounds as complicated as the German system! It really is no wonder that Europeans are generally in school much longer than some other countries.


    1. I must admit that I don’t have any knowledge about their school system, however, I’m not surprised to learn that they are similar.
      I don’t think it’s the time spend in school that is the key. It is the quality of education and I know that a lot of European countries do their best to make that happen. Also, Europeans, in my opinion, tend to value knowledge (brainpower, if you will) over practical skill which is good for some things but bad for others. I suppose it’s a fine balance.
      Thanks for stopping by!


  2. Imane

    This was a good read! I have actually been researching danish education as I am a danish myself who happens to live abroad, so I’m not really familiar with the danish system. So thank you for making it simple 🙂


    1. Thank you! If you don’t mind me asking: where are you from?
      I try. At first it can seem complicated but when you’re “in the system” it’s not, so I’m glad the message got through.
      Thanks for stopping by!


  3. That was a very interesting read. It sounds like the country as a whole is very invested in the education of children and young adults, which is wonderful. Most folks in the United States get very jazzy about increased taxes, but education for all regardless of financial status is such a laudable goal. I also liked reading that kids start school at age six; in the US there always seem to be a push to send children into the school system earlier and earlier. Literally, you can send your two-year-old to “school” here {not daycare, actual preschool}.


    1. Wow, at 2!? That sounds insane to me, I’m not going to lie.
      I think most people here assume that Americans don’t care about other people because you don’t want to have that social safety net that we have. I used to think that as well but an American online friend changed my mind. In my opinion, though, having higher taxes and getting a ton of benefit trumps having to worry constantly about money issues.
      I’m glad you liked the post, and I want to thank you for stopping by.


  4. Your system makes more sense to me then the US system does. We force our kids to learn in the same way, the same things and expect them to figure out what they want to do in life without any knowlage of what is out there.

    I would love to see the US system offer more at a younger age I don’t see any use in our 11-12 grades unless you are going to college. If your wanting to do a trade job, you would be better off using those two years going to a trade school only or aprenticing under someone.

    This is a really great post and I hope some other americans will read this and see that there may be a better way of educating our kids.


    1. Thank you!
      No systems without flaws and ours is no exception (just ask my British fiancé). It does seem better, though, and what I like is that you go out into the world with a general knowledge about the world around you and, most importantly, roughly how to navigate in it.
      From what you say, and from what I’ve heard, read and seen, it does seem like the US school system could use a serious upgrade. I know that some of my American friends complained that they never really got a change to learn a foreign language properly, and with being a native English speaker in a world where a lot of communication happens to be in English it’s no wonder that people don’t feel motivated to learn a second language. I know my British fiancé had that problem as well (and now he’s forced to learn Danish – poor guy, haha).
      Anyway, thank you so much for stopping by!


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