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Graduation in Germany

Expatrio 2024-02-15
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 challenging educational system.

Once students have put in the years of hard work - and have sat and successfully passed their graduation exams - they can enjoy graduation ceremonies and unofficial (but very common) student and family parties. The different kinds of German high school each has their own diploma and examinations to write and pass.

This article looks into what constitutes a successful graduation from each kind of secondary education in Germany.


The Abitur examination is the culminating exam that students typically write at the end of their two exam-prep years at an academic "Gymnasium" school

It's essentially a higher education (university) qualifying exam, and it's also open to students who have transferred from a Realschule to a Gymnasium for their final two years.

The Abitur exams test the intellectual ability of secondary school students, but it's also open to individuals who are employed or who display a particular intellectual ability and wish to enter into German tertiary education.

Even though a lot of hue and cry is made about the Abitur, it's rigorous but not undoable. It simply tests a students’ knowledge in a range of subjects they have been studying and preparing for over the last two years (and throughout their previous schooling). These include mathematics, foreign languages, literacy, and science, to name a few.

Honors courses

To help prepare better, opt for "honors" courses that are more advanced in their instruction but leave a student good and ready to write the Abitur exams.



There is also the "Fachabitur" (subject-restricted higher education entrance qualification)

Like the Abitur or Abi, it allows students to gain entrance into tertiary education. However, this qualification is limited to specific subjects and is aimed at preparing students to study only certain subjects at university - usually at universities for applied science.

What age do you graduate high school in Germany?

The age of graduation depends on which school type or educational “stream” the student is placed in. Gymnasium students graduate at age 18. However, Realschule students can graduate at either 15 or 16.



The culminating exam for students enrolled at "Realschule" is the "Realschulabschluss"

This exam tests a students’ schooling from grades 5 to 10, offering entrance to a vocational level qualification or professional training course.

It's less rigorous than the Abi, and it doesn't allow students to enter into university-level courses. However, it does prepare them to enter the workforce.

These examinations and resulting diploma show that the student has achieved a particular level of study in German society. Since the Realschule stream prepares students for mid-level and business positions, earning the Realschule diploma can be vitally important for commencing a new, professional stage of life.

Are there any graduation ceremonies in Germany?

Graduation ceremonies in Germany for high school students are mostly informal. The nature of the ceremony or celebration that’s organized will depend on the school. Students and their families will celebrate, of course, and the school will likely put on a dance or a ceremony of its own.

However, these are not very elaborate, and students mostly take it upon themselves to “celebrate” and party with each other.


Paid internships are a thing in Germany! And these can be excellent ways to earn money while ‘learning on the job’. offers comprehensive job-search filters that can help you find paid internships or jobs as a working student (Werkstudent).



The "Hauptschulabschluss" is the culminating exam after "Hauptschule".

Like exams in a Realschule, the Hauptschulabschluss tests students only on what has been taught within their schooling years. It’s considered less academic than the qualifications from the other school – but this is not to say it does not have great value.

Since Hauptschule is intended for students heading to trade school or entering into an industry position, the Hauptschulabschluss also happens to be the ticket into certain professional, entry-level roles or apprenticeships offering further training.

What are the possibilities after graduating?

There are many possibilities open to students after graduating from secondary education.

Tertiary education in Germany is geared toward students wishing to refine their learning skills and further their academic education in narrower subject fields. Practical or vocational training and apprenticeships (Ausbildungen and Praktika) are perfect for students who wish to dedicate themselves to learning the ropes of a particular industry field.

High school graduates are ready to make significant contributions to the German economy and fabric of society. For those looking to gain further training and opt for professional development, this is available through adult and continuing education opportunities.

Next steps after your graduation in Germany

Graduation is a significant occasion, especially in an international students’ life. And those who decide to stay in Germany are faced with new challenges!

To nail this essential next step in your life, check out our video. We explain all you need to know about life after graduation in Germany.

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