Last update: September 2017
A good degree from a German higher education institution opens up many opportunities for international graduates, including of course on the German labour market. The requirements and possibilities are summarised here.
It is relatively easy for graduates of German universities to gain a residence permit in order to work in Germany. More than 40 percent of international graduates remain in Germany for some time after completing their degree. They must however meet certain requirements.
Graduates from the European Union and the European Economic Area enjoy unrestricted access to the German labour market.
Citizens of other countries may extend their residence permit by up to 18 months after graduating in order to find a suitable job. The 18 months start as soon as you receive your last exam result. You must demonstrate that your living costs are covered for this period and that you are seeking work that corresponds to your qualifications. That means you cannot be looking for a job as a waiter or courier that anyone could do with no specific training. If you succeed in finding a job during this period, you can stay in Germany and receive a residence permit for the purpose of gainful employment. More information is available here.
Under certain circumstances, you may be eligible for a settlement permit, i.e. indefinite leave to remain, after just two years. If you meet all requirements (including a good command of German), you may apply for citizenship after eight years. Most federal states include your time spent studying in Germany in these eight years.
EU Blue Card
The EU Blue Card is intended for citizens of non-EU countries. It allows highly qualified persons to live and work in Germany. Anyone who holds a recognised degree and an employment contract with a sufficient annual salary can apply for a Blue Card.
The most important things to remember
1. Many graduates only search for jobs that precisely match what they studied for their degree. It is better to also consider related areas. If you read job advertisements carefully, you will find that employers frequently want staff with particular skills, not with a particular degree.
2. Small and medium-sized companies are very important to the German economy. There are around 2.5 million of them, and they provide more than 60 percent of all jobs in Germany. So not limiting your job search to large international companies will increase your chances.
3. There is a shortage of highly qualified workers in Germany. According to the Cologne Institute for Economic Research, specialist staff are sought especially in the STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) professions. So it's easier to find vacancies in these industries.
TIP: The career centre at your higher education institution can help you figure out how to start your career. It supports students and graduates in their transition from higher education to employment. Career centres usually also have good job exchanges.
The right job
Once you are sure of your interests and abilities, you can start searching for a job. Your ideas of various professions should already be fairly specific. Having completed work placements and formed professional contacts is therefore an advantage.
TIP: In addition to the career centres at your higher education institution, the Agentur für Arbeit (Federal Employment Agency) also offers helpful information: its website contains an overview of professions and Germany's largest online job portal. Of course you can also search the daily and weekly papers for job vacancies or register with social networks for professional contacts.
Finding the right job often takes time and effort. However, thanks to the economic situation in Germany graduates seeking work have good prospects. More information and current figures can be found in the portal for the Qualified Professionals Initiative.
Your chances of finding a job in Germany are significantly better if you speak German well. Potential exceptions may be research institutions and major international companies, which then however usually expect an excellent command of English. Portal
TIP: The welcome portal Make it in Germany offers information and advice for international professionals who want to live and work in Germany. It also has a job exchange.