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The Ultimate Guide to Studying in Germany vs. the USA

Expatrio 2024-02-15
Bibliothek in einer Universität


Studying abroad is an experience of a lifetime. If you're thinking about studying in Germany or the USA, you should consider some pros and cons before making the right choice.

In this article, we'll dive into all the factors you should consider. These include tuition fees, living costs, university admission rate, option to work while studying, visa requirements, amount of international students, location, safety, employability after graduating, language barrier, weather, and culture.


Why should you study abroad?

But first, have you decided if studying abroad is the right path? Research shows that students who study abroad are more open-minded and adaptable to different cultures. Additionally, they gain a competitive advantage over other candidates when applying for jobs.

Studying abroad exposes you to different languages and cultures, which makes you more independent, flexible, and able to take on new challenges in the future. It's also great for your resume as it shows that you're willing to take on new adventures and experiences.

Now, let's explore the different factors you should consider when studying abroad in Germany and the USA.


Tuition fees

One of the significant factors to consider when studying abroad is tuition fees. The costs of higher education in Germany and the USA are quite different. In general, earning your Master's degree in public universities in Germany doesn't require any tuition fee. However, students still have to pay a semester fee that ranges from €65 to €230 on average. This fee covers administrative costs, the cost of student union membership, and even public transportation. In contrast, undergraduate studies in public universities in the United States can amount to tens of thousands of dollars per year.

Private universities in both countries charge significantly more than public universities. However, studying in Germany at a private university remains cheaper than studying in the USA in the same type of higher education institution.


Living costs

Living costs are another important consideration when choosing where to study abroad. Germany is generally cheaper than the USA. However, living in big cities, such as Munich and Hamburg, can be expensive. In general, you'll need around €934 per month to cover your expenses in Germany. This amount includes groceries, health insurance, rent, and other related costs.

In the USA, the cost of living varies greatly depending on the city you choose to study in. You'll need between $1000 and $1500 per month to cover your general expenses, not including necessary costs such as travel and medical expenses.

Tip: Open a German Blocked Account to prove sufficient funds for your German visa

A blocked account for international students in Germany (Sperrkonto) is a bank account that restricts the withdrawal of money to a specific limit each month. It is used to prove to the German authorities that you have enough funds to cover your living expenses for your stay in Germany.


University admission rate

The admission rate is another crucial factor to consider when choosing a country to study. In Germany, the undergraduate admission rate at public universities is relatively low (around 30%). While in the USA, it's significantly higher (approximately 95%). However, keep in mind that private universities in Germany have much higher admission rates, allowing international students with a lower grade to get admitted.

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Option to work while studying

In Germany, international students can work up to 120 full days or 240 half days per year. This possibility can help offset some of the cost of living in Germany. There's no limit to working on-campus in the USA, but things get a little complicated if you want to work off-campus. This option is only available to students with an F1 visa who have at least one full academic year and are going through a financial hardship meeting the Department of Homeland Security requirements.


Visa requirements

The visa requirements for studying in Germany and the USA are significantly different. To study in Germany, you need a student visa or residence permit, while an F1 or M1 Visa is required in the USA. Once you receive your visa, you'll be able to apply for a residence permit.

Tip: Visa application in Germany

When applying for a student visa, make sure you have all the required documents, including proof of admission to a German university, evidence that you can cover your living costs with a blocked account, and a health insurance policy that meets the requirements of the German embassy. See the checklist!

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Option to live and work after graduating

Another benefit of studying abroad is living and working in the same country after graduating. In Germany, you can apply for an 18-month residence permit after completing your degree, which allows you to work without any restrictions. In the USA, it's more challenging to stay in the country after graduating. You can apply for a 12-month OPT (Optional Practical Training), which allows you to work in any field for up to 12 months. However, it would be best to have a job offer lined up before applying for the OPT.


Number of international students

The number of international students at universities in Germany and the USA is another important consideration. Around 25% of the student population in Germany are international students, while this number is closer to 40% in the USA. You'll be able to meet many people from all over the world when studying in the USA but will have more opportunities to practice your German skills when studying in Germany. Germany is also home to eleven of the most international universities in the world's top 100.



When choosing a country to study in, it's essential to consider the location. Cities in Germany have a well-connected train system and are close to many popular European countries. There's an opportunity to fully immerse yourself in beautiful European cities within hours' reach. The USA is about 28 times the size of Germany, so traveling outside of the USA to nearby countries can be very costly (and not to mention, traveling long hours by plane).



The safety of students in Germany and the USA is generally reasonable. However, there have been some crimes against international students in both countries.


Health system

In Germany, international students must have health insurance as part of the visa requirements. It is required for international students and everyone living in Germany. It ensures that you are covered if you ever need medical assistance. The rising healthcare costs are a big concern for international students in the USA. If a health insurance company does not cover you, you will have to pay out-of-pocket for exorbitant medical expenses.


Employability after graduating

How easily you'll be able to find a job after graduating is an essential consideration for many students. In Germany, most employers prefer to hire graduates with a degree from a German university. Meanwhile, having a degree might no longer be considered necessary in the USA as big companies like Google and Apple offer well-paying jobs to those without a college degree.



Depending on your income, you might have to pay taxes if you're working while studying in Germany. The tax rate starts at 14%, rising in a series of income tax brackets to 45% for the highest earners. Like Germany, income taxes in the USA also increase the more you earn. These taxes range between 10% to 37%.


Language barrier

The language barrier can be a challenge when studying in Germany or the USA. Most universities offer degree programs taught in English in Germany, but you would still have to learn some German to live in certain cities. If your level of English is good, you will not have a problem studying and living in the USA.



When choosing a country to study in, it's also essential to consider the weather. In Germany, it's usually cold and rainy with snow in winter, while the climate varies depending on which state or city you choose to study in the USA. For example, New York City is typically hot and humid during summer, while Los Angeles can be hot all year round.



Lastly, it's important to consider the culture of each country. There are several differences between German and American culture. German people are known for their art and engineering. They are also famous worldwide for their love of beer and sausage. The culture in the USA is also famous all around the world. In the USA, you will find more of a mixture of many other cultures, such as Latin American, Asian, and different European cultures, such as Italian. However, in both counties, you can find people from all over the world living together and sharing their unique cultures.


Should you study in Germany or the USA?

So, what's the verdict?

Germany is an excellent option if you're looking for affordable and high-quality education. If you want to be in an English-speaking environment and have the opportunity to travel within America, the USA is a good choice. If you want to live in a safe country with a strong economy and high standard of living, Germany is the better option. 

However, if you're not sure which country to choose, consult with your study abroad advisor for more specific advice.

Need more help? Download our ebook and get all the info you need about studying for free in Germany. Download now

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