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Course of study in Germany

Expatrio 2024-02-15
Course of study in Germany


As one of the world's top destinations for overseas students, Germany has a large number of universities that offer exciting courses, and several taught in German language and some in English. 

Students from all over the world are attracted to Germany's high standard of education, rich culture, and successful economy. Choosing a course of study can be difficult, but with our advice on choosing and applying for a course, you can make the process easier.

Students from all over the world are attracted to Germany's higher education system, rich culture, and successful economy. With thousands of courses in Germany available from hundreds of institutions, students can find their ideal route to academic success.

Take a look at our information on university courses, where you can find help with choosing and applying for a course, the general structure of degree courses and the grading system.


Structure of the course of studies

A typical course of studies in Germany often starts by laying out the basics of the subject. The course will then go into more detail and it is sometimes possible to choose to focus on aspects that you are most interested in. Every course has a dedicated study plan of modules for each semester, so that you fully cover each major course element separately.

Degree courses are generally separated into modules, with each one covering a foundational element of the programs. Each module will contribute a certain amount of academic credits to the final number you need to graduate from the degree course.

The academic year is split into two semesters, with the Winter semester running from October to March, and the Summer semester from April to September. The semester breaks are intended for internships and study.

Part-time courses have a set structure, while work-study programs will be tailored to fit in with your work commitments; for the latter, training, work and study will be integrated to maximize your experience while gaining your degree.

Some universities also offer distance learning courses, where there may be some attendance required but the course materials can be sent to you, and your work and assessments can be done online.

Keep in mind to check the prerequisitesensure that you qualify for admission to a course by checking the specific prerequisites needed, for example, language skills or work placements.

Academic Year in Germany

1. Two Semesters

Structure of an academic year in Germany.

2. Winter Semester

October - March
Application Deadline: July 15th

3. Summer

You'll need: passport, biometric photo, certificate of enrollment, proof of: finances, health insurance, and residence; plus the visa application filled out.

What courses of study are there?

There are several types of courses available, including full-time and part-time courses, work-study programs, and undergrad (Bachelor's) and post-grad (Master's and Doctorate) courses.

There are several private and public universities that are well known for their degrees in certain fields; for example the Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, the Technical University of Munich, and the Universität Frankfurt am Main are currently some of the top places to study finance and accounting.

Teaching degree programs are available in a wide range of subjects, including the arts, humanities and engineering. You can search from thousands of courses to find one that will suit your circumstances, career aspirations and previous education.

Be sure to visit our Best Universities in Germany page to get an overview of the most popular and successful institutions in the country. You will be able to learn about which school is most appropriate for the top courses in a variety of subjects.

Is there a typical course of study?

A typical Bachelor's program lasts for six to eight semesters (three to four years), while a Master's program can take between two and four semesters.


Open House Days

Enquire with the university about Open House days, where you can visit the campus and get a real feel for the environment and teaching styles. You can also chat with other students to learn about their studies and impressions of the university.


Advice and Contact Points

If you have any questions about a course that you are interested in or one that you have already applied to, there are several services that can help you with answers. You can also get more detailed examples of the work that will be covered in the course.

Where can I get help with my course of studies?

The Fachschaft (Student Council) or the Studienberatung (Student Advisory Service) can offer help and advice about your chosen course. Another helpful point of contact is the Studierendensekretariat (Registrar's Office) who deal with enrollment, fees, taking a semester off, etc. Many universities have an International Office specifically to assist their overseas students.

It is also important to understand that there can be different visa requirements for different types of courses.

Acquiring a student visa will likely need you to show proof that you have enough savings to stay in Germany for one year as well as proof of valid health insurance; see our Health Insurance and Blocked Account service pages to find out how Expatrio can help you with these topics.


Grading System at German Universities

You may already know that sehr gut means very good in German, but what does that mean in terms of your grades at a university in Germany?

We’ll take an in-depth look at the grading system at German universities, explain how grades can be converted into the German scoring system and see how the German grading system compares to others as well as explain the European Credit Transfer System (ECTS).

What is the grading system in Germany?

There are a few differences between the school system in Germany and other countries. Check out our page on the school system to familiarize yourself with schooling in Germany.

In University, German grades are described using words rather than just the letter grade you may be used to. See the table below for the grades available and the equivalent grades in the US. For example, a German B is known as befriedigend (satisfactory) and you would need to earn a US GPA equivalent of 2.51-3.00 to be awarded one.

  • 1.00 - 1.50: Sehr gut (excellent) - equivalent of an A
  • 1.51 - 2.50: Gut (good) - equivalent of a B
  • 2.51 - 3.50: Befriedigend (satisfactory) - equivalent of a C
  • 3.51 - 4.00: Ausreichend (sufficient) - equivalent of a D
  • 4.01 - 6.00: Nicht ausreichend (not sufficient) - equivalent of an F

What is a good grade in Germany?

In terms of grade conversion, a nicht ausreichend is a failing grade and everything above that is a passing grade. A grade percentage calculator can be used to convert grades from another country into the equivalent score in Germany. Likewise, you can use a GPA conversion tool to find how your grades from a German university will stack up in other countries.


Recognition of Degrees

Before you travel to Germany to study, search for your degree or university in your home country to see how it is recognized in Germany.


European Credit Transfer System (ECTS)

This credit system is used at German universities to convert the credits of international students

The ECTS was designed to streamline academic credits across Europe and translate credits from other countries to give an equivalent for use in Europe.

What is ECTS in Germany?

ECTS is the system used to establish how many credits you can claim from university in another country when planning to study in Germany. One ECTS credit represents approximately 25-30 working hours, and this can vary depending on which country you studied in. All course modules, dissertation preparation and work placements are taken into consideration when calculating ECTS credits.

How do ECTS credits work?

Credits are awarded for completed coursework and passed examinations. Credits can be transferred to the university in Germany and then back to your home university after your course, as long as all requirements have been met.

How many ECTS do you get per semester?

Students can usually earn 30 ECTS credits per semester and 60 in total for an academic year.

Get all the help you can. Expatrio can assist with registering for a suitable health insurance plan and opening a blocked bank account so you can prove you have the savings needed to study in Germany for one year. Visit our Health Insurance and Blocked account pages.

How many credits do you need for a Master's?

The amount of credits needed for a Master's can vary, depending on the university and subject, but is usually in the region of 180-240, which is given for a bachelor's degree.

What does 180 ECTS credits mean?

As one ECTS credit generally represents 25-30 hours, 180 ECTS credits equal around three years worth of study, which is usually the duration of a bachelor's degree. The ECTS system allows you to transfer those credits to a university in Germany.

The German school system can be a little confusing for those who are not used to it. However, with a little bit of research and understanding, it is not difficult to get around. The above guide should give you a good idea of what to expect when it comes to courses, universities, and grades in Germany. 

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