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).
- 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.
- 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.
- DAAD Higher Education Compass: for all current degree programmes in Germany
- International Programmes: for international, usually English-language Bachelor's and Master's degree programmes
- Ranking of the Centre for Higher Education CHE: to compare how a higher education institution was ranked by the CHE for a specific subject
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.
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.
- 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.
- 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:
- International Programmes: for international doctoral programmes
- PhD Germany: lists doctoral programmes aimed specifically at foreign students
- Research in Germany: an offering for international junior researchers
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:
- SIT-Studium-Interessentest [only in German]: creates a profile of your interests and lists matching degree programmes
- Self-assessment and aptitude test [only in German] of the University of Bochum
- Orientation self-assessment at RWTH Aachen on specific study programmes, including the engineering sciences
- Test for foreign students (TestAS): general test on the requirements of academic study in Germany