Last update: September 2017
There are many ways for international students in Germany to earn money while they study, for example as wait staff, academic assistants or private tutors. But there are some restrictions.
Rules for students
Students from the European Union, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland enjoy unrestricted access to the German labour market and have practically the same rights as German students. However, if they work more than 20 hours per week they must pay certain insurance contributions (just like German students). For students from other countries, special legal regulations apply:
- International students from other countries are allowed to work 120 full days or 240 half days per year. They are not allowed to be self-employed or work as freelancers.
- Students who want to work more need permission from the Agentur für Arbeit (Federal Employment Agency) and the Ausländerbehörde (foreigners' office). Whether they are given permission depends on the situation on the labour market: the chances are better in regions with low unemployment.
An exception is working as an academic assistant. There is no limit to how many days academic assistants may work. They still have to inform the foreigners' office however. If you are uncertain what category a job falls into, you should seek advice from student services or the International Office.
Rules for students on language and foundation courses
If you are taking a language course or studying at a preparatory college, you may generally only work if you have permission from the Federal Employment Agency and the foreigners' office – and only during the recess period.
TIP: It is important to know the labour laws pertaining to international students as you may be deported if you break them. If you have any questions on these laws, the International Office will be happy to help.
Searching for a job
The regional offices of the Federal Employment Agency often have a job exchange for students. At larger higher education institutions you can find job vacancy listings at student services. Online job exchanges can be found on the websites of higher education institutions and student services. Sometimes a look at the notice board at your higher education institution or the classified ads in the local and regional papers is sufficient .
Academic assistants: Some students work as academic assistants at their university. They may for example supervise the library, lead tutorials or research literature for professors. Academic assistant jobs are a good addition to a degree programme. If you are interested in one of these jobs, you should ask about vacancies at the administrative office of your institute and keep an eye on the notice boards at your higher education institution.
Outside your higher education institution: Typical off-campus student jobs include waiting tables, working at trade fairs, babysitting and courier services. Teacher training students often give tuition, students in publishing work for newspapers: the ideal job will be in some way associated with your degree programme.
TIP: It is virtually impossible for students to fund their entire cost of living through side jobs. There are not very many jobs of this type for students on the German labour market – and working too much can needlessly extend your degree programme. Instead, we recommend that you make use of the recess period and ensure that you are financially secure through scholarships or with the help of your family.
Germany introduced a minimum wage in 2015; it currently stands at 8.84 EUR an hour. How much you can earn however depends heavily on your skills, the industry in which you are working, and the regional labour market. In cities like Munich or Hamburg hourly wages are usually higher, but so is the cost of living. For academic assistants, production assistants in industry or service staff at trade fairs the average hourly wage is often somewhat higher than the minimum wage.
Students can hold a minijob and earn up to 450 EUR per month without having to pay taxes. If you regularly earn more than 450 EUR, you will need a tax number, and a certain amount will be taken from your wages every month. Students can get this money back at the end of the year by submitting a tax return.
If you are permanently employed in Germany, you will normally pay social security contributions. These include payments for health insurance, nursing care insurance, pension and unemployment insurance. You do not have to pay social security contributions if you work less than two months at a stretch or less than 50 days throughout the year. If you are employed over a longer period, you must have pension insurance. Students usually pay low contributions – and only if they earn more than 450 EUR per month.
TIP: If you work more than 20 hours per week, not only will your studies suffer, you will also have to pay health, unemployment and nursing care insurance contributions.