The health of people and society

von Allwörden / DAAD

Last update: September 2017

Those who wish to become a doctor in Germany require good marks and a high level of discipline. A degree course in medicine takes a little over six years and finishes with the state examination. Bachelor's and Master's courses in health sciences are an alternative.

Medicine graduates have a very good image in Germany. It is therefore no surprise that many first-year students find the profession of doctor attractive. It can therefore be difficult at German universities to be accepted for one of the coveted places on a medicine degree course. Throughout Germany, a Numerus Clausus is applied. This is a course entrance restriction that is based on the mark received in the German Abitur, the school leaving certificate that gives right of entry to higher education at university or equivalent level. Some universities also require the “Medizinertest” (officially known as the Test für Medizinische Studiengänge (TMS) [Test for Degree Courses in Medicine]). The requirements on applicants for medicine are particularly high as the degree course is very intensive in terms of learning and includes a large number of examinations.

Structure: Patients are a long way off

A degree course in medicine takes at least six years and three months. In contrast to similar degree courses, such as health sciences and care management, it is not divided into Bachelor’s and Master’s courses; instead it ends with the state examination. The structure of the degree course is uniformly regulated throughout Germany by the Ärztliche Approbationsordnung (ÄAppO) [German Regulations on Medical Registration]. It differs from medicine degree courses in other countries in several aspects. Stage I studies (four semesters) and the Erster Abschnitt der ärztlichen Prüfung [Part One of the German Medical Licensing Examination] are followed by stage II studies (six semesters), which brings students closer to professional practice. Finally, the students complete a practical year at a clinic. They work in surgery, internal medicine and on a ward of their choice. After passing the oral part of the Zweiter Abschnitt der ärztlichen Prüfung [Part Two of the German Medical Licensing Examination], the state examination, graduates can apply for their doctor’s licence, the Approbation. Those who decide to become a medical consultant must expect to work as an assistant doctor for another five to six years.

Requirements: Doctors need to be able to cope with suffering

Good German language skills are absolutely essential to study medicine at a German university. Although specialist medical literature is often in English, lectures and examinations are usually in German. Skills in natural science also play a major role, particularly in the first semesters. Colloquially referred to as the “Physikum”, the Erster Abschnitt der ärztlichen Prüfung [Part One of the German Medical Licensing Examination] takes place at the end of stage I studies. It comprises subjects such as physics, chemistry, biology, physiology and anatomy, and presents a tough test for prospective doctors. Tenacity , empathy and an ability to deal with stress are necessary to successfully complete a degree course in medicine. These characteristics will also be demanded on a regular basis in professional life.

Health sciences: What helps society?

It is not only doctors who are required in the healthcare sector. Public health focuses on the health of an entire population. It investigates the interaction between people and their environment, develops strategies to deal with health problems and addresses issues of health economics. Students are prepared for various roles within the healthcare sector. Well-trained healthcare professionals are in demand in workplace health promotion, municipal health promotion, the pharmaceutical industry, international organisations and quality assurance. The field of health sciences includes Bachelor's and Master's courses in public health management, health economics and health education. Some degree courses require students to have completed vocational training. The degree course teaches aspects of medicine, health sciences and social sciences, as well as specialist aspects of psychology and economics.

Career prospects: Practice, clinic or something else?

Every year, some 10,000 graduates leave German universities with a degree in medicine. Outside urban areas, it is not hard to find a position in a hospital or as a doctor. General practitioners are particularly sought after in rural regions. Medical progress and the increasing number of old people in Germany mean more regular and more complicated treatments. The need for medicine graduates will continue to rise in the future. However, more and more medicine graduates decide against a career with direct contact to patients. There are many alternatives, as specialist medical knowledge is sought after in every sector, from management consultancy and marketing to public healthcare, medical technology and the pharmaceutical industry. Doctors also find interesting jobs in the insurance sector and in clinic administration.

Foreign doctors in Germany

The proportion of foreign doctors working in German hospitals is increasing at a particularly high rate and is currently at 11.6%.