Skip to content

German Degrees [Complete Guide]

Expatrio 2024-02-15
German Degrees complete guide


Germany is one of the finest places in the world to study. With its huge network of universities, laboratories, and research institutes, skill-based economy, and cultural respect for learning, the country is perfectly suited to students who want to develop their skills and careers.

This article looks at German degrees, giving a quick introduction to the options available, and where they could lead.

Degrees in Germany

Germans take university studies extremely seriously

Having the right higher education qualification is a necessary step to almost all high-level careers. At any one time, around 2.7 million students are enrolled at higher education institutions across the country, most of them at the 380 officially accredited universities. And the number is growing quite rapidly, with year-on-year increases of 3% in student numbers.

Universities in Germany offer a range of subjects, from law to agriculture. The country is probably most famous for teaching research-based degrees in the natural sciences and industry, and German science or engineering degrees are respected across the world.

What are the 4 types of degrees in Germany?

Students can apply for

  • Bachelor's degrees
  • Master's degrees
  • PhDs
  • Work-study qualifications which include a stronger vocational component

No Tuition Fees

Many courses are free of charge, thanks to laws passed in 2014 which removed tuition fees at most public universities.


Common German Degrees

Before German students enter the university system, they must obtain a certificate called the "Hochschulzugangsberechtigung" (HZB)

The HZB certifies that individuals have completed high school studies to a level required to graduate to higher education. It records both general graduation, along with a detailed breakdown of the student's achievements. So universities find it very useful when admitting applicants.

For most Germans, the HZB translates to an Abitur. This is the qualification that pupils receive when they graduate from the Gymnasium, which is Germany's equivalent of high school.

Not all students will take that route. Others may enter Realschule or Hauptschule, which provide vocation-based education. It's a relatively complex system, but if you want to learn more, our pages on the German school system explain how everything works.

How can I get admission in Germany as an undergraduate?

International students will need to obtain an HZB which is equivalent to the Abitur, and this may mean taking additional German courses before applying.

To find out what is required, contact a university you are interested in attending, and ask for their eligibility requirements. All courses will require you to fill out an application form, and most will require students to provide copies of their certificates, a letter of motivation, and recommendation letters.

Importantly, international students cannot study in Germany without a valid visa. They also need to obtain health insurance and will probably require a blocked account to prove they can support themselves financially.


Common German University Degrees

When the Abitur has been attained, most qualified Germans will move onto degrees

Germany offers a variety of options, including:

Bachelor's degrees: Provide a foundation in academic or practical subjects, which is an essential launchpad for successful careers. Examples include Bachelor of Arts (BA), Bachelor of Science (BSc) and Bachelor of Engineering (BEng) degrees. Courses can be studies at purely academic universities, technical universities, or vocational schools, and take 3 years in most cases.

Master's degrees: Build upon the foundation provided by Bachelor's degrees. Masters tend to be more closely linked to career progression, and follow the same division into Arts, Sciences, and Engineering. Like Bachelor's, they are mainly free at public universities, and they tend to take 2 years to complete.

Doctorates: Research based qualifications for advanced students, doctorates entail writing extended dissertations over 2-5 year periods.

Work-Study degrees: A popular German compromise, work-study courses offer placements at companies alongside academic modules, allowing students to earn money, gain experience, and hone their skills.

The DAAD offers an excellent overview of the available courses in Germany, with plenty of English language information for overseas students.


Careers with German degrees

Studying in Germany can open up numerous career opportunities, both in Germany and the wider world

Masters degrees from universities like Freiburg, Karlsruhe, Heidelberg, Berlin Technical University, Chemnitz, and Jacobs University are all internationally respected. And German engineering degrees will impress employers across the globe, no matter where you study for them.

German universities also work closely with German employers to ensure that the country has a steady stream of highly-skilled graduates. For international students, this means that there is a great chance of working for global corporations like BMW, Deutsche Bank, or Siemens.

Big German Companies

Most of those bis German companies will actively seek talented students from around the world to staff German and international operations. They may well offer scholarships in your country, so check company websites and don't be afraid to make contact.


What jobs can you get with a German degree?

The possibilities are vast, but a few options could include:

  • Automobile engineering for Volkswagen or Porsche Systems
  • Engineering for Bosch
  • Financial analytics for Allianz or Deutsche Bank
  • Coding for Germany's thriving Fintech sector

Germany's economy is advanced, and dependent upon skills. So if you work hard, get a relevant degree, and show enthusiasm, all kinds of career opportunities are on the horizon.

Expatrio Value Package

Simplify your move to Germany with Expatrio's Value Package! Get your mandatory health insurance and Blocked Account, plus other perks! 

Get Value Package

Dual Studies in Germany

Studying & Working - do both!

Most of us aren't fortunate enough to have the financial resources to fund a Bachelor's or Master's degree, and financial constraints can be a major factor in dissuading international students from studying in Germany.

However, that doesn't have to be the case. In fact, German universities tend to offer a range of "dual studies" options which let students mix work and education.

What is dual study in Germany?

By dual study, Germans mean courses that specifically include work and learning. Because of the way they are structured, students have plenty of time to carry out research, attend classes, and pass examinations.

But they will also have the chance to take work placements to earn money and - in theory - to gain valuable work experience. So a work study program in Germany delivers two things: experience and financial assistance.

They tend to deliver a Bachelor's qualification, with the option of upgrading to Master's via summer study.

For whom are dual study programs suitable?

Dual studies programs aren't designed to allow students to work mini-jobs for a couple of weeks before returning to college. Instead, these courses are suitable for students on courses that are funded by or connected to major companies.

For example, Computer Science courses could be included, with semesters in bank IT departments, followed by a semester on campus.


Financial Assistance

The funds earned from work placements also help out international students with fewer financial resources. So if you can't afford full-time study prior to entering work, a dual study course could be ideal.


Advantages and Challenges

Dual study programs have plenty of advantages, but they aren't for everyone

If you have a desire to work in a specific area of industry (such as car design, or network management), having the chance to work in relevant settings, and the opportunity to build contacts is absolutely invaluable.

Some people will thrive on the vocational nature of these courses. If individuals aren't academically minded, and struggle with research, they may do very well in work-based environments, and discover talents that wouldn't normally emerge in conventional universities.

On the other hand, admission is competitive, and international students will need to work on their German both before and during their studies. They also need to be sure about their career direction, which not all young people are. And even though students can earn money, the income received isn't always enough to live on. For some people saving for standard degrees, and working mini-jobs between semesters can be more convenient.

Dual study courses also lead to focused qualifications that aren't always applicable across the whole of society or abroad. General degrees may open more doors, or lead to further study. But there's no doubt that vocational dual study courses can deliver huge benefits. Just think carefully before applying.

If you are unsure about whether to opt for dual study or conventional degrees, feel free to ask academics or industry professionals. And think about asking wider communities on sites like Quora. The feedback from members can often be very helpful.


Dual Studies for International Students

Most dual studies courses weren't created for international students, but they have become a very popular option for a variety of reasons

Most of all, these courses provide both academic qualifications and routes into work. Those coming from outside Germany can build their resumes, get to know German culture, and forge relationships with major employers. It's a good stepping stone to success in later life.

What challenges do international students face?

International students will need to provide plenty of supporting documents to make their dual studies applications, and they may also need to work hard to persuade German companies to take them on.

It's a good idea to undertake work experience with a partner company before applying. Failing that, writing to companies to introduce yourself and describe your skills could work well.

Overseas students will need to brush up their German language skills as well (depending on which workplace they are placed in). And managing finances when students aren't working can be challenging.

Different types of Programs

There are various forms of dual study programs:

Training integrated

These courses include two main parts - an academic component and a vocational qualification. The vocational component will be tightly focused on a specific occupation, providing an excellent chance of finding employment.

Practice integrated

These courses are less academic, and feature more time within commercial or industrial environments. They will tend to lead to employment with particular employers, and are more likely to be funded by private scholarships.

During Work (Career Integrated)

Some courses can be undertaken after students have started work. In these cases, they will take time off to study, while remaining in position. When the course is finished, they can expect a promotion due to their expanded skill set.

Where can I find more information about dual study programs?

It's not always easy to know about every option, but students should always research all of the dual study courses in their fields. Thankfully, some excellent tools have emerged that put the information at your fingertips.

The Hochschulkompass English website is a great source of information about dual study in Germany. Use the search engine to zero in on institutions and courses, and to find out admissions information as well.

This might also be of interest to you

A group of students in a meeting

Studying in Germany vs. Canada: 15 Reasons Why

When it comes to deciding where to study, there are many factors that students need to consider. Two of the most popular destinations for...

German Degrees complete guide

German Degrees [Complete Guide]

Germany is one of the finest places in the world to study. With its huge network of universities, laboratories, and research institutes, skill-based...

Computer mit Daten

6 Best Data Science Courses in Germany [2022]

Germany has a long and storied history in data science. The country is home to some of the world's leading data science researchers and educators,...

Frau im Gebirge


ISIC is an internationally accepted student identity card that allows you to prove your student status worldwide and save a lot of money on various...

Graduation in Germany

Graduation in Germany

High school graduation in Germany is a pretty big deal. It signifies the student's achievements and persistence through Germany’s rigorous and...

Application Process to Study in Germany

Application Process to Study in Germany

Germany is one of the world's greatest academic centers. Famous for producing a stream of Nobel prize winners, the country hosts some of Europe's...

Frau am Laptop

German dual apprenticeship system

In Germany, school leavers have the option of taking up a vocational apprenticeship instead of choosing full-time academic education. Known as ‘dual...

Guide to TU9 Universities in Germany

Guide to TU9 Universities in Germany

Universities in Germany are administered by each state (Bundesland). Therefore, there are slight differences in how university education is...

How to Decide on a University Course

How to Decide on a University Course

Tips for International Students It's that time of year again – university application season! With so many universities and courses available, it can...