Research in Germany


Research in Germany

Germany offers PhD students and researchers excellent research opportunities. Universities, public and private non-university research institutes, and large research funding organisations support international researchers with jobs and fellowships. The R&D departments in German industry and small and medium-sized enterprises also offer promising career opportunities to young researchers. Many companies collaborate intensively with universities and research institutes on application-oriented research and development.

Info for PhD students

More academics earn their PhDs in Germany than in any other European country. Each year a growing number of international junior researchers come to Germany to write their dissertation or earn their doctoral degree in a research team. Depending on the discipline, research project and type of university, there are different ways to earn a PhD in Germany.

Two ways to earn your PhD

There’s more than one way to get your doctoral title in Germany. Depending on the subject, research proposal and type of university, there are several possible paths to a PhD, the most common of which are individual doctoral study and structured PhD programmes. The majority of doctoral candidates in Germany pursue PhDs through individual doctoral study, yet structured PhD programmes are becoming increasingly common.

Individual doctoral study

The majority of doctoral candidates in Germany choose to pursue their doctorates through individual doctoral study. In this model, candidates must find a university professor who will supervise their work on their dissertation. Depending on the subject, the dissertation can be written independently or in collaboration with other researchers. The duration of an individual doctorate depends on one’s personal schedule – or the length of one’s research contract. The duration of individual doctoral study usually ranges from three to five years.

Doctoral candidates are free to choose where they would like to conduct research. There are various options:

•           Earning a doctorate at a university

•           Earning a doctorate at a non-university research organisation

•           Earning a doctorate in the industrial sector

For more information about individual doctoral studies and how to find a supervisor, visit Research in Germany

Structured PhD programmes

In addition to individual doctoral study, candidates can also attain their doctorates in structured PhD programmes which strongly resemble those in Anglo-Saxon countries. In such a programme, a team of supervisors are responsible for advising the doctoral candidates. The programmes offer a curriculum of accompanying courses which are usually interdisciplinary in focus and promote the acquisition of “soft skills” and additional qualifications. The systematic and intensive supervision offered in these programmes allow candidates to complete their doctoral studies within three to four years.

For more information about structured PhD programmes and application procedures, visit Research in Germany

Finding a PhD position

Are you looking for a doctoral position? You’ll find a wide selection of openings for international junior researchers in the DAAD databases.

DAAD database: “PhDGermany”

Using the DAAD database PhDGermany, you can search for PhD positions which are specifically targeted at foreign applicants. You can also personalise the search criteria to find positions best suited to your background and interests.

DAAD database: “International Programmes in Germany”

With this English-language database operated by the DAAD you can find internationally oriented PhD programmes in Germany, most of which are conducted in English.

Other search possibilities

Prospective doctoral candidates can look for PhD positions via the “Research in Germany” website. “Research in Germany” also keeps Facebook users and Twitter followers up to date on the latest news and information regarding PhD opportunities and scholarships.

Funding opportunities

How much does it cost to get a doctorate in Germany?

No tuition fees are charged for doctoral study at public universities in Germany – at least not for the first six semesters. However, when you apply for a study visa in Germany, the authorities will ask to see whether you have sufficient funds to cover the cost of living – approximately 8,000 euros a year. According to statistics published by the German Studentenwerk, the average student in Germany needs about 820 euros per month to cover living expenses, which include rent, food, clothing, transportation, working materials, recreation, etc. Students enrolled at university are also required to pay a “semester contribution” every semester. This fee covers the cost of a student ID card which also serves as a semester ticket (for inexpensive or free use of public transportation) and entitles the holder to concession rates at the student cafeteria and numerous cultural venues, such as swimming pools, museums, cinemas, etc.

Scholarships and funding programmes

There are numerous funding opportunities for foreign doctoral candidates in Germany. The DAAD is Germany’s largest scholarship provider – especially to doctoral candidates from abroad. Just last year, the DAAD awarded scholarships to more than 2,900 international PhD students in Germany. There are numerous foundations and other funding and research organisations which also support and finance highly-qualified foreign doctoral candidates.

More information on funding opportunities for doctoral candidates:

•           DAAD scholarship database:

•           Other funding databases:

•           Selected funding programmes for PhD students:

Financing doctoral studies through scientific work and research

In addition to scholarships and funding programmes, there are several other ways to finance a PhD in Germany. To find out more about employment opportunities at universities, in industry and non-university research organisations, visit Research in Germany

Steps toward earning a PhD in Germany

Before you can begin your doctoral studies in Germany, there are some preliminary steps you must take, such as:

•           Getting your post-graduate degree recognised

•           Applying for a residence permit

•           Finding a doctoral position

•           Financing your research stay

The "Research in Germany" website provides an overview of the most important requirements and some practical advice to help you prepare for your doctoral visit:

Info for postdocs and researchers

Roughly 530,000 people are employed in the research and development sector. More than 300,000 scholars and researchers work as professors, lecturers, assistants, academic staff and teachers in German higher education. Some 200,000 of them have full-time positions. Senior researchers can find excellent working conditions in the fields of science, teaching and research.

In addition to universities and other higher education institutions, hundreds of non-university research institutes offer excellent research opportunities for international senior researchers. Approximately 10 billion euros a year are spent on research and development at non-university research institutes in Germany. Three-quarters of this budget is spent on natural and engineering sciences. Outside higher education, the non-university research centres of the Helmholtz Association, the Max Planck Society, the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft and the Leibniz Association are counted among the world’s best research establishments. Their research activities are international in scope and are conducted by teams whose members come from all over the world. As a result, the research language is usually English.

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