Upon completion of your studies in Germany the path traversed hitherto branches off into different directions; …ah, decisions, decisions: What next? Proceed straight to a postgraduate course? Go back home…, or maybe look for a job here in Germany? What’s really great is: there are plenty of options for you.
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Going Back Home After Studies
Well, now that you’ve completed your studies in Germany and got the papers to prove it, a final analysis of sorts is in order: Was studying in Germany really all that it’s cracked up to be?
For a fair number of international graduates from German universities, the answer to that question is almost always a resounding yes!
The preponderate majority of them stated that: yes, it was worth all the effort and all the, at times, difficult transitions and adjustments, just to have been exposed to an academic environment combining learning/research/practical application within a single course of studies, at one and the same ‘Fachhoschule’ or university.
Every individual foreign student goes back to their home country, upon completion of their university studies in Germany, with a lot more than just first-class formal education and applicable knowledge that is as good as it gets – they go back having embraced the legendary work ethic that upholds responsibility, practicality and innovation, the very work ethic that lends such credibility to, and inspires such confidence in, everything that’s ‘Made in Germany.’
Continuing your Studies
Advantages of studying in Germany are covered in the beginning of this guide, nonetheless it’s important to point out the fact that the number of foreign students pursuing post-graduate studies has more than doubled since 1997. And each year, more and more international students are choosing to get a Masters or PhD degree in Germany.
Germany is one of the leading nations in the world when it comes to research, with a highly renowned and respected scientific research sector. German institutions and facilities have great infrastructure, are well-equipped and offer a wide range of research opportunities. Many institutions provide scholarships and grants for international graduates; studies are taught in English and not only universities and scientific institutes, but German companies too welcome international researchers as future employees. All these advantages combined with a high standard of living, have understandably made Germany an extremely attractive place for international graduates.
Masters degree in Germany
Obtaining a Masters in Germany usually takes one to two years, – with two years being more commonly the case – depending on the field of study graduates earn their, either Masters of Arts (M.A.) or a Masters of Science (M.Sc.), degree from. Many universities offer studies entirely in English, while others offer courses in English and German, so depending on your field of study and knowledge of English or German, you may be required to take a language test. Most common German language tests for foreigners are TestDaF and DSH while for English TOEFL or an alternative such as IELTS will suffice.
The information in this guide is for both graduate and postgraduate studies, so all admission and bachelor requirements apply for Masters as well. The following part of the guide focuses more on how to obtain a doctorate.
PhD in Germany
There are many ways of earning a doctorate in Germany. The two most common routes international students choose are: writing their dissertation under the supervision of a professor and research independently, or enroll in a doctoral program with a fixed study structure.
Individual doctoral studies
If you decide to pursue a doctoral research independently then your research idea has to be very compelling because professors are not under obligation to supervise every candidate, but it is mandatory for you to have a university professor as a supervisor. The time it takes to complete doctoral studies usually ranges from three to five years and you can research at three places:
Doctorate at a university: if you apply for a fixed-term doctoral position at a university, a well crafted proposal of your research is necessary for getting support and mentoring from a professor. Although part of the work is gaining scientific experience and you will be working as a part-time assistant, your primary duty will be to independently work on your dissertation.
Doctorate at a research organization: pursuing a doctorate at a research institute provides doctoral candidates an amazing opportunity to do their research in state of the art facilities, with all the necessary equipment, support and guidance during their studies and research.
Doctorate in the industrial sector: those who get a job after graduation can pursue a doctorate while working, often with financial support from their employer. Even in this case, it is mandatory for the doctorate candidate to find a university professor for supervision. But this is usually not a problem, since many companies collaborate with universities or research institutions, and can help in finding professors for their doctoral candidate workers.
Structured PhD programs
The other way to get your PhD is through a structured doctoral program that has been established during recent years and is becoming a popular choice for many graduate students from abroad. This program is similar to those in the English speaking countries, where a team of professors supervise a group of doctoral candidates, and where you can chose from almost 700 doctoral programs with new study areas steadily rising.
Unlike the individual doctoral model, here your research proposal has to fit in with an existing PhD program. This model has a very structured study program where you have to attend lectures and/or seminars. This is the way you get study credits and it’s a great chance to work on your soft skills as well, such as presentation methods and steadily work toward completing your research project in collaboration with your colleagues, as well as under the supervision and support of the academic staff, often called the “thesis committee.”
More information on research in Germany, getting a PhD, and funding options:
Working in Germany
It’s being one of the largest and wealthiest countries in the European Union, with a thriving economy and abundance of jobs, that makes Germany such an attractive place for prospective graduates to stay and work in, after their studies.
Students from abroad, specifically students from non-EU member states are allowed to stay in Germany after graduation, for 18 months for the purpose of searching for a job. You can also work during this time in any job you like to support yourself until you find a job in your field, since there are no longer limits on working during the job search phase as per the new right of Residence Regulation.
How to find a job
Make use of the services available to you – university, networking and the Internet. At your university career fairs are a great opportunity to get information on the different industries and companies, as well as making connections.
On your university notice boards ads are posted all the time, so make sure to check them out regularly, and don’t forget to make use of the Internet job sites. If in doubt, ask your German colleagues in person, those who already work, for tips and recommendations as well as read up and discuss with other students from abroad in many discussion boards on the Internet. Other places where ads are posted are local and national newspapers, as well as ads in your campus, cafes and other places where students hang out.
How much German should I know?
There are highly skilled people who work with little knowledge of German, but since the number of job opening is very limited if you don’t speak German, than it is advisable to learn German as much as you can – at least to a beginner-intermediate level. This way you will have it easier to communicate with your colleagues and outside your job while living in Germany as well as increase your chances of getting hired – since many German companies give preference to people who can speak German.
During your studies take a German language course, converse in German at any chance you get, with your peers and with locals where you study – many young Germans like the opportunity to practice their English. The best way is to take language courses while studying – no, you don’t need to major in German – but while you are studying, take courses in German and learn as much as you can. The ideal outcome would be for you to be proficient in German by the end of your studies.