The right degree programme

Last update: September 2017

Whether Bachelor, Master, state examination or doctorate: the range of courses and degrees available in Germany is wide. It's worth knowing how they differ.

Bachelor and Master

The Bachelor's degree is the first academic degree. It teaches the basics of a subject and is recognised as a fully featured course of academic study that allows you to immediately embark on your career after graduating. The most common Bachelor's degrees are Bachelor of Arts (BA), Bachelor of Science (BSc) and Bachelor of Engineering (BEng).

Special features:

  • Standard period of study: usually six semesters
  • One subject (standard) or two subjects (two major subjects or one major and one minor subject)
  • Advantages: short period of study, flexibility in specialising later on

If you want to continue studying after gaining your Bachelor's degree, you can enrol in a Master's degree programme as a second academic qualification.

Special features:

  • Requirement: completed Bachelor’s degree (or comparable degree)
  • Standard period of study: between two and four semesters
  • Serves for example to enhance knowledge from a prior Bachelor's degree or to specialise in a particular area
  • Prepares students for academic work at higher education institutions; a subsequent doctorate is possible
  • Is required in some professions

Finding Bachelor's and Master's courses

There are more than 19.000 Bachelor's and Master's degree programmes in Germany. You can search for specific courses in various databases.

TIP: The higher education institutions list all degree programmes they offer on their websites, along with information on course content and how to apply. Your first point of contact should always be the International Office at the respective higher education institution.

Dual study programmes

A dual study programme combines academic studies with experience in a company and vocational training. Dual study programmes are very popular in Germany due to their practical orientation. More information

State examination

Some degree programmes lead to a state examination. This means that the final examination is organised and given by a government board. If you want to work as a medical doctor, lawyer, teacher or pharmacist in Germany, you will need a state examination.

Special features:

  • Theoretical degree programme concludes with the first state examination
  • This is followed by a practical training phase that ends with the second state examination

TIP: International students should urgently clarify beforehand whether this degree is recognised in their home country. The DAAD degree programme search lets you explore subjects that lead to a state examination.


Doctoral studies require you to write a complex scientific research paper in a specific subject, known as your thesis. The duration of your doctorate depends on the research topic. In the end, you are awarded a PhD.

Special features:

  • Traditional model: free, self-determined work on your thesis, supervised by a professor at the faculty; duration: approximately two to five years
  • Structured doctorate: often limited to three years, fixed working periods, several supervising researchers, examples: graduate colleges, graduate schools, international doctoral programmes

Finding doctoral programmes

27,707 students gained their doctorate in Germany in 2015. You can search for specific doctoral programmes in the following databases:

TIP: If you want to complete an unstructured doctorate, you first have to find a PhD supervisor who considers your research promising and is willing to support you. Find out well in advance which higher education institution and which research focus would be a good fit for your work, for example here.

Which degree programme is right for me?

If you are not yet sure what you want to study, you should think carefully about your interests and abilities. There are some orientation tests online that can help you: