Analysis for innovation

von Allwörden / DAAD

Last update: September 2017

Scientists and mathematicians are sought after in all sectors. They develop solar cells and microchips, assess hazardous substances in environmental protection and are prized as analytical thinkers in management consultancy. Their findings provide an important basis for the development of new technologies and innovations.

Physics, chemistry, biology, mathematics, astronomy, geography, geology and nanosciences are all STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) subjects. Logical thinking and mathematical understanding are important in all these subject areas and, as an “auxiliary science”, mathematics is playing an increasingly important role. Ultimately, the aim of the degree course is not only to recognise relationships and laws in nature; it is also necessary to make them comprehensible using models and theories and to express them in formulas.

The range of courses: Generalise, then specialise

The courses offered at universities of applied sciences are more application-orientated, while courses at traditional universities focus on basic research. In the natural sciences, a single-subject Bachelor is usually offered: students concentrate on one subject only. However, those who wish to teach biology or maths at a German school at a later stage must study at least two teaching subjects in parallel. This is also possible in combination with a subject from the humanities or social sciences.

The transition to engineering is fluid: many universities combine courses in the natural sciences with technical content or computer science. There is also an increasing number of degree courses such as biochemistry, business physics, environmental chemistry and geoinformatics, which combine several disciplines. This doesn’t make choosing a course any easier. There are more than 2,800 degree courses in the subject groups of natural sciences and mathematics at German universities, including 320 English-language Master's courses . Experts advise starting with a general Bachelor's course and then choosing one of the many areas of specialisation in a Master's course.

The requirements: Lateral thinkers are in demand!

Although a degree course in the natural sciences offers graduates good prospects, it is demanding. The number of students who drop out of subjects in the natural sciences is very high because many students underestimate the workload. Those who choose a path in the natural sciences should have a high level of discipline and be able to work under pressure. An ability for abstract thinking and analytical skills are just as important as prerequisites like curiosity and a solid knowledge of mathematics. However, soft skills should not be underestimated either: the idea that scientists only work in laboratories is far removed from reality. Scientists work in interdisciplinary teams, often in positions on the interface between two disciplines. It is therefore important that they can think in complex, interdisciplinary structures.

Career prospects: Demand is constantly increasing

Career prospects for mathematicians and scientists are fantastic all over the world. In recent years, demand has increased constantly: the global digitalisation drive has given this development an additional boost. Germany expressly also appeals to foreign specialists via forums such as the Nationale MINT Forum for persons in STEM professions. Although scientists are at home in many professions, only a few are explicitly advertised for them. However, graduates shouldn’t be worried. In addition to the traditional path into teaching and research or other, inherently science-based jobs, many STEM graduates go into management, consulting, information and communication technology or technical development and production. Biologists find it harder than other scientists to get jobs because their profession is traditionally oriented towards research. However, the increasing advance of technology also functions as a job motor here and is opening up new job opportunities in fields such as the production of renewable energies, biomedicine or in industrial research.

Bachelor, Master or Doctorate?

Surveys of graduates reveal that most scientists study for a Master's degree after their Bachelor's degree. 86% of mathematics students and 100% of the physics students surveyed decided on a Master's course. One in six completed a doctorate (which is particularly highly valued in the natural sciences) after the Master's course.