How to Study a PhD in Germany (2024)

How to Study a PhD in Germany (1)

How to Study a PhD in Germany (2)

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Germany is one of the most popular destinations for studying abroad, with around 3,600 international graduates completing their doctorate there every year. Read on to discover how to apply for a PhD in Germany…

Why study a PhD in Germany?

It’s not difficult to see why Germany is popular as a study destination. It enjoys a global reputation as a world leader for technology innovation and research, has a robust economy and an attractive quality of life, and a particularly renowned tradition in fields such as engineering and manufacturing.

Many of its universities enjoy a strong international reputation, with 46 ranked within the top 1000 in the world in the QS World University Rankings® 2020. Among these, the prestigious research university Technische Universität München is ranked first in the country and 55thin the world, shortly followed byLudwig-Maximilians-Universität München in 63rdplace.

As well as offering a high standard of living, Germany welcomes international students with low costs of study and good funding opportunities. PhDs in Germany do not usually charge tuition fees (see below), and more than a quarter of doctoral candidates in Germany receive public funding.

What types of PhD are offered in Germany?

Individual doctorate

This is the traditional option and remains the most popular. In this type of PhD you will produce your thesis or dissertation under the supervision of a professor, but will mostly be working independently. The length of these PhDs varies, generally lasting three to five years. This option offers a great deal of flexibility, but also demands a high amount of personal initiative and responsibility. You are not limited to gaining your PhD by conducting research work at a university; you could also complete a project at a non-university research organization or at a German company in the industrial sector.

Structured PhD programs

You can also choose what is known as a structured PhD program. This involves a group of doctoral students being guided by a group of supervisors. There are around 600 programs of this nature available in Germany, often with an international make-up, with English as the language of instruction. These programs differ from individual doctorate programs as students’ research proposals have to fit in with existing PhD programs, whereas individual doctorates can be more freely structured to suit the individual research project. You will also need to attend lectures and seminars, and will normally have a mentor.

Which German universities offer PhDs?

Many universities in Germany offer PhDs. The German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) offers adatabasethat you can use to search for the right PhD program for you.

How much does it cost to study a PhD in Germany?

Good news! Although tuition fees were reintroduced for non-EU students in the state of Baden-Württemberg in 2017, doctoral students are excluded from this, meaning that PhDs remain free for all students at all public universities in Germany, regardless of nationality, for up to the standard length of a PhD (three years). Beyond this, you may be required to pay fees.

However, as with all levels of study in Germany, PhD students are also required to make a semester contribution of between €150 to €200 (~US$175-230) for administration and other costs.

This means that your main expenses will be the general costs of living in Germany. If you apply for a student visa you will be asked to prove that you have access to a minimum of €10,236 (~US$11,266) per year.

This money will be usedto cover living expenses, which include rent, food, clothing, transportation, working materials, recreation and other costs. Even more than this may be needed to live in a particularly expensive city such as Munich.

Is there any funding available?

Most doctoral students work on a paid research project or receive a scholarship. If you want to apply for a scholarship to help with your expenses, you may be able to find these through the official website of the university you wish to study at. You can also consult our list ofscholarships to study in Germany, including PhD funding opportunities. Other good sources for finding scholarships include and (website in German).

You may also consider taking on a part-time job to supplement your funding, either within the university or beyond – but be aware of any possible restrictions. If you are a full-time EU or EEA student (excluding students from Bulgaria and Romania), there are no restrictions on where or when you can work. If you are a full-time student from outside of the EU you will be limited to working up to 120 full days or 240 half days per year before you must apply for a work permit. Upon gaining paid work in Germany you should contact the German employment office to learn about the legal conditions.

What are the entry requirements?

Entry requirements will vary between universities and PhD programs, but generally you will need to have a good higher education degree which is equivalent to a German master’s degree. Alternatively, extremely well-qualified international applicants with a bachelor’s degree may be admitted as doctoral students via a fast-track program, which will involve taking an entrance exam and perhaps attending an interview.

If you are studying your PhD in English and this is not your first language, you will need to prove your English language proficiency with an English language test such as IELTS or TOEFL. If you are studying or submitting your PhD in German, you may need to prove your proficiency in the language with a test such as theDSHorTestDaF.

How do I apply for a PhD in Germany?

There is no central admissions process or selection office for doctoral students in Germany, and the application process differs depending on whether you have chosen a traditional (individual) or structured PhD – for the latter, you will simply need to apply directly to your chosen university.

If applying for an individual PhD, you will first need to find a suitable professor who is willing to be your supervisor. You may be able to find a supervisor through contacts from your previous university, or by searching for institutes and research centers or teams which relate to your area of interest. The following online search platforms might help you find a suitable supervisor:

Once you have found a supervisor, the responsible department or doctoral committee must confirm your eligibility as a doctoral candidate. This usually involves completing an application which includes a statement from your doctoral supervisor, certified copies of certificates, proof of recognition of your qualifications from the Dean’s office, academic references and the university degree that enables you to participate in doctoral study. Your application may also include an English or German language test result, if applicable. The Student Office of your chosen university will review these documents and grant permission for you to commence doctoral studies.

The next step is to enroll at the university. To be eligible for enrolment, the university must first accept your application for admission to doctoral studies. However, not all departments require doctoral applicants to formally enroll. You can find any requirements relating to enrolment on the university’s official website.

You must also make sure your postgraduate degree is recognized, obtain a residence permit and/or student visa, and ensure you have adequate finances for your stay.

Do I need a student visa?

This will depend on your country of origin. Many students will find that they do not need a student visa, but do need a residence permit. You can read more aboutobtaining a German student visa here, or find an overview of the countries for which a student visa is or isn’t required on the Foreign Federal Office’swebsite.

Do I need to speak German?

No – however, we’d recommend learning at least basic German to help you get by in your host country, especially if you’d like to work during or after your studies. If you are studying an individual doctorate writing the doctoral thesis can often be written in English, while structured PhD programs frequently allow students to complete their doctorate in English.

For further information on studying a PhD in Germany, read the DAAD’s ‘FAQs – Doing a doctorate in Germany’ PDF.

This article was originally published in October 2015. It was updated inMay 2020.

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How to Study a PhD in Germany (2024)


How to Study a PhD in Germany? ›

If you apply for a traditional PhD, you must identify and contact a supervisor to request they supervise your thesis. Applications for structured PhDs are made directly to your chosen institution or graduate school.

Is it free to study PhD in Germany? ›

As well as offering a high standard of living, Germany welcomes international students with low costs of study and good funding opportunities. PhDs in Germany do not usually charge tuition fees (see below), and more than a quarter of doctoral candidates in Germany receive public funding.

How long does it take to study PhD in Germany? ›

A doctorate is the highest academic degree that a university can award. In Germany, studying for a doctorate primarily means working intensely on a specific subject or research project for a long period of time. It typically takes five to six years to obtain a doctorate, though the length of time can vary.

What GPA do you need for PhD in Germany? ›

Applicants must have a good higher education degree which is equivalent to a German master's degree. Applicants must have a minimum GPA of 80% from a recognized university. Applicants must have a valid Curriculum Vitae (CV) that mentions prior work experience, academic pursuits, etc.

Do PhD students get paid Germany? ›

The top academic jobs in Germany after PhD are that of professors, lecturers, scientists and researchers. The average PhD stipend in Germany for these jobs is between 60,000 EUR to 75,000 EUR per year (INR 47,83,320 to INR 59,79,150 approximately) depending on the candidate's experience.

Is it worth it to get a PhD in Germany? ›

Germany is a good place to do a PhD: the country's universities and research institutions enjoy an outstanding reputation and offer a wide range of high quality programmes.

How easy is it to get a PhD in Germany? ›

Exceptionally well-qualified international students may be admitted onto a PhD with a Bachelor degree (fast-track programme). For this you will typically have to complete an entrance examination. The language requirements for a PhD in Germany will depend on the programme you apply for.

What is the age limit for PhD in Germany? ›

There is no actual age limit. However, there is a limit of the number of years on which you can be employed in academia in Germany before and after your PhD on positions with a limited-duration contract and that are not professorships - currently that is be six years before the PhD and six years after the PhD.

How expensive is a PhD in Germany? ›

There are no fees for PhD study at most German universities and funding is available from a range of government agencies, research societies and other organisations.

How much money is required to study PhD in Germany? ›

Cost of Studying PhD in Germany

While applying for the German student visa, you will be required to provide proof of sufficient funds of €10,236 [roughly 8,94,000 INR] as well.

What language is required for PhD in Germany? ›

PhD in Germany: Course Highlights
Eligibility CriteriaMaster from a recognized university
English Proficiency RequirementsTOEFL 88-100 | IELTS 6.5-7.0
Tuition Fee RangeSemester Ticket Fees of around 250 EUR (22,000 INR)
Average Salary50,000 EUR- 110,000 EUR (44-97 Lakh INR)
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Can I do PhD without Masters in Germany? ›

Do I need a Master's to get a PhD in Germany? In Germany, you also have the possibility of a fast-track programme to a PhD. This essentially means that you can enrol in a 1-year study programme that prepares you for your doctorate degree, right after graduating your Bachelor's degree.

Do you need to know German to do a PhD in Germany? ›

Typically, German language is not a must for entering doctoral studies in Germany. In particular, structured forms of studies give the opportunity for candidates to finish their doctorate and their dissertation in the English language. There are some universities, however, that require knowledge of the German language.

Is PhD free in Germany for international students? ›

1. German universities are tuition-free. Yes, you've read that right! Almost all public universities in Germany don't charge any tuition fees to international students, regardless of their nationality.

Which country pays PhD students the best? ›

Norway is one of the countries offering a high PhD stipend. The average PhD stipend in Norway is around US$50,268 per year. PhD students in Norway also benefit from a high quality of life, as the country is regularly ranked as one of the best places to live in the world.

Is PhD in Germany in English? ›

As per the Proof of Language, most PhD degree courses in Germany are taught in English. That said, you need to undertake an English proficiency test, commonly TOEFL or IELTS.

What is the cost of PhD in Germany? ›

Course Wise Cost of Study in Germany
Bachelors Courses€300 per year or INR 26,500 per year
Masters Course€300 per year or INR 26,500 per year
MS€300 to €28,000 per year or INR 26,500 to 25 lacs per year
PhD€300 to €3000 per year or INR 26,500 to 2,65,000 per year
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Jun 18, 2023

Is PhD fully funded in Germany? ›

PhD fees. Public universities in Germany don't charge any tuition fees for PhD study. This applies to everyone, including international students. Most German research institutes provide PhDs in partnership with universities (who award the degree itself) and don't charge additional fees to host students.

How much does PhD in Germany pay? ›

Calculated on the basis of a full-time position, doctoral students receive between 46,000 and 56,000 euros gross per year, depending on how much experience the doctoral student already has. It should be noted that an employment contract often only covers 50% of the positions.

Which country can I study PhD for free? ›

In Finland, pursuing a PhD is entirely free, even for those who are not citizens, similar to Norway and Sweden. According to QS, Finland is home to two of the top 150 institutions. This includes the 106th-ranked University of Helsinki and the 116th-ranked Aalto University.

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