Earning money

Whether as a waiter in a café, a research assistant or an industrial production assistant: many international students need to work to finance their studies.

Students from the European Union (EU) or European Economic Area (EEA) have free access to the German job market and are practically equivalent to German students. International students from other countries can work a total of 120 full or 240 half days per year. If you want to work more, you need a permit from the "Agentur für Arbeit" (Federal Employment Agency) and the foreigners' authority. Whether you are issued a work permit largely depends on the condition of the local job market. You are less likely to receive a permit to work more than 120 days in regions with higher unemployment rates.

This does not include work as a research assistant. No time limits apply for this activity. However, you will still need to inform the foreigners' authority. In addition, international students from outside the EU or EEA are not permitted to work in a self-employed or freelance capacity. If you are unsure about what kind of job you have been offered, please consult the relevant authority.

Regulations are particularly strict for participants in language courses or in preparatory courses ("Studienkolleg"). You may only work in lecture-free periods and only with the consent of the Federal Employment Agency and the foreigners' authority.

Compliance with the statutory provisions

It is essential that you comply with labour laws for international students. You may be expelled from Germany if you break these laws. You can also find out more from the International Office or other contact partners.

How do I find a job?

Many university and student union websites have job exchanges. The Federal Employment Agency also helps find jobs for students, and offices often have student recruitment tools. You can look through job exchanges on the Internet, or the advertisements in the local and regional newspapers. Even a quick look at the university's blackboard may sometimes be enough. Some students work as university research assistants (also referred to as "Hiwis"). They work as supervisors in the library, give tutorials or research literature for the professor. If you're interested in this kind of job, you can contact your department's secretariat about vacancies and check the notices on the university premises.

How much will I earn?

How much you earn depends heavily on your experience, the sector and the regional employment situation. In cities like Munich and Hamburg, student wages are usually higher, but so is the cost of living. Five to ten euros an hour is usual. Hiwis (research assistants) earn between five and 15 euros an hour, with over 90 percent earning between seven and ten euros. Some jobs may even pay more than ten euros, such as industrial production assistants or service personnel at fairs. Jobs in the restaurant industry can also be quite lucrative, as tips are added to the basic wage.

Financing your course

It is impossible to completely finance your living expenses just by work alone! Whether parents, scholarships or student loans – it is important to find other financial resources.

What about taxes and social security contributions?

Students can generally earn 8354 euros per year tax free, i.e. they can hold a mini-job and earn 450 euros a month without paying taxes. Sometimes the employer still withholds income tax, despite the low income, but you generally get this back after submitting your income tax statement. Anyone who works for less than two consecutive months or 50 days over a period of one year, does not have to pay any social security contributions. Anyone who is employed, or holds a mini-job, for a longer period of time normally has to make pension insurance contributions. If you work more than 20 hours a week, you not only risk your course performance, you generally also have to pay health, unemployment and nursing care insurance.

Money-saving tips

It's not just important to earn your own money, but also to save it. You may find the following tips helpful:

  • Go to university sports: universities have a wide range of sports offers, from football to dancing and yoga. Most sports courses are free and you can join in without having to register.
  • Keep to a budget: always maintain an overview of your finances. Free Smartphone Apps can help, such as the My Student Budget Planner.
  • Cook for yourself or with friends: cooking at home saves money. It's even cheaper if you cook together with friends and split the costs.
  • Return books on time: many libraries charge huge late fees per book and day. Enter the date for returning a loaned book in your calendar as a reminder. Otherwise it can get expensive.