Animals, plants and nutrition

von Allwörden / DAAD

Last update: September 2017

What do veterinarians, foresters and nutritional scientists have in common? A solid understanding of the natural sciences. Physics, biology and chemistry play a major role in all of these degree courses.

Veterinary medicine is one of the most popular degree courses in Germany. As with medicine, finding a place on a course is therefore not easy. Applicants require a very good grade point average as there are admissions restrictions for the subject throughout Germany. Study places are awarded by the Stiftung für Hochschulzulassung [Foundation for University Admissions].

Those who decide to study veterinary medicine out of a love for animals should know that working in a veterinary clinic or large animal practice can be very physically demanding and exhausting. Working on weekends and at nights is standard. “Advance experience at a work placement can help form a realistic picture,” says Astrid Behr of the Bundesverband Praktizierender Tierärzte (bpt) [German Federal Association of Practising Veterinarians]. Veterinarians are particularly in demand in livestock husbandry, and a work placement at a slaughterhouse is a compulsory part of many degree courses.

Veterinary medicine: Every other vet is self-employed

A degree course in veterinary medicine takes just under six years in Germany and begins with a scientific-theoretical part that lasts eight semesters at the university. Even in this phase, students acquire practical experience. This experience is not limited to handling live animals; work placement weeks are compulsory in food quality and control, the slaughterhouse industry and the public veterinary sector. After a work placement year at a veterinary clinic or practice, students of veterinary medicine complete their degree with the state examination. Many graduates then open their own practice – every other vet in Germany is self-employed. Others work as employees in practices and clinics, in health monitoring, as expert consultants in the pharmaceutical industry or in managing and monitoring the cattle trade and meat production.

From agriculture to the nutritional sciences

The future of agriculture and issues of nutrition are vital for every person in the world. Guaranteeing responsible use of resources is one of the biggest challenges of the future. This is also reflected in the wide selection of courses offered at German universities – the spectrum ranges from crop production ecology to resources economy/management. Students with a particular interest in sustainable raw materials and bioenergy, for example, can learn about the entire process chain from farmer to consumer on the corresponding degree courses. They develop sustainable strategies for the creation and processing of raw materials and energy crops for each product.

More than 200 degree courses in agriculture and forestry at German universities address the design, use and development of rural spaces. There are also more than 60 degree courses in the nutritional sciences, which cover a wide range of subjects from nutrition in developing countries to nutritional physiological evaluation of food and nutritional guidance and consumer advice. There is a difference between nutritional sciences, trophology and ecotrophology, which also includes the subject of financial management. In addition to content on nutritional sciences, ecotrophology also teaches skills in the subjects of economics and social sciences.

A look at health issues

Because they are on the interface between biomedicine, food science and public health, the nutritional sciences are becoming increasingly important. They address the issue of how food influences and controls human metabolism. Nutritional scientists research diseases such as diabetes and cancer, and are in demand as experts whenever the challenges of our time need to be met with findings from nutritional research.

Nutritional scientists work for canteens and large-scale kitchens, but also in product development, in the chemical industry and market research. English-language courses prepare students for employment in the international food industry.