PhD in Germany – Your Complete Guide
The German higher education system is world-class and has produced some of the great historic formidable thinkers, including theoretical physicist Albert Einstein. The PhD in its modern form as a thesis-based research degree was first introduced in the nineteenth century in Germany only. Germany’s research institutions, universities, and companies welcome international researchers and offer excellent opportunities for doctoral students.
Every year around 29,000 graduate students complete a doctorate in Germany – far more than in any other member state of the European Union. Out of these, over 5,500 international scholars are awarded a doctoral degree by a German university every year.
Pathways to do PhD in Germany
There are two different routes to choose depending on your discipline, research area, and qualifications – Individual Doctoral Studies and Structured Ph.D. Programs.
Individual Doctoral Studies
It is the most chosen study route by doctoral students. It is based on research carried out under the supervision of a professor and involves a thesis or dissertation that has to be produced at the end of the doctoral studies. You can complete this type of research at a university, a non-university research facility, or a German company. In any case, a professor will supervise you and a thesis advisory committee may or may not be essential depending on the university norms.
Structured Ph.D. Programs
In this route, a doctoral student will be supervised by a professor and will attend courses, lectures, and seminars together with other doctoral students. In such PhD programs, a team of advisors in form of a thesis advisory committee offers regular and intense supervision to students. A structured interdisciplinary curriculum is to be followed which helps improving academic, scientific, and other soft skills. Some examples of Graduate schools and research training groups that provide structured Ph.D. programs are International Max Planck Research Schools, Leibniz Graduate Schools, Helmholtz Research Schools, Colleges and Graduate Schools, etc.
Length of PhD in Germany
In Germany, the academic year is comprised of two semesters. The start and end dates will usually be as follows:
The Wintersemester (WiSe) – runs from 1 October to 31 March with a two-week break at Christmas and Easter
The Sommersemester (SoSe) – runs from 1 April to 30 September with a break from July to September
The length of your PhD depends on the subject of your research. For example, in Biology it can take 4-5 years, whereas in Chemistry or Management, PhD can be completed in 3 years.
Cost of PhD in Germany
The tuition fee for a doctorate at a German university is €0 – €200 per semester which is almost free – at least in all public higher education institutions. This applies to the individual PhD and to structured PhD programmes.
Though students won’t normally pay any tuition fees, they’ll probably still need some form of PhD funding in Germany to help cover their living costs. There are lots of options available for this, including graduate assistantships and fellowships from the university as well as public funding for international students provided by the German government. Business, industry and independent research hubs such as the Max Planck Schools also fund large amounts of doctoral research and training.
Work in Germany after PhD
The regulations for working in Germany after PhD depend upon student’s nationality. Students from EU and EEA countries will not need a work permit. They will have the same access to the employment market as German nationals.
Students from outside the EU and EEA may extend their residence permit for up to 18-months to seek work related to their studies.
Family visa norms
Germany’s regulations are quite family-oriented: Candidate’s spouse or partner and children can come with them from the beginning and will receive a residence permit. Candidate’s spouse or partner can work full-time in Germany.
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