Annually, around 27,000 PhD candidates graduate from around 25,000 research institutes in Germany. Almost 20% of the PhD graduates are international candidates. The research rigour, excellent research facilities, affinity to industrial application, generous fundings, a global network of cooperations, and a high standard of life are among the reasons why international candidates opt for pursuing their PhD degree in Germany. Furthermore, regardless of your nationality, after obtaining your Phd degree in Germany you have the right to enter job market or start your own business.

What types of PhD positions are offered in Germany?

1. Unstructured PhD program

Unstructured PhD positions are the most typical PhD positions in Germany where a doctoral student is selected by a supervisor/professor directly for a research project in her/his team. The process of finding such a PhD position is similar to the process of finding a job in a company after several interviews. After a professor selects you as a doctoral student, you usually begin your research under the supervision of your professor. In order for you to be recognised by the university as a doctoral student, the university must also accept your previous master degree. Admission to a university is usually only subject to a master’s degree and does not require a language certificate, GRE, letter of recommendation from previous professors, and so on. Basically once a professor selects you then you can request to be considered as a student by having your master’s recognised by that university and paying the semester tuition fees (usually 100€-300€ per semester). Please note that administrative details may vary from university to university. The major focus in the traditional doctoral program is to do research. After publishing certain number of internationally-recognised publications and a PhD thesis, the PhD candidate receives a doctorate title. The duration of a PhD research depends on the university and the professor in charge, which is usually at least 3 to 4 years.

2. Structured PhD program

This type of doctoral degree is similar to the American system, and only a handful of German institutions and universities offer this approach. In this case, the student is usually required to take 1 to 2 years of courseworks and pass a final exam. The student then is allowed to start with the research work. Unlike the traditional method, decisions about such admissions are made by committees made up of faculty and university professors, and usually a TOEFL or IELTS score and letter(s) of recommendation from previous professor(s) are required for admission. In addition, twice as many candidates are usually invited to participate in a multi-day interview so that professors can get to know them better and make more accurate decisions about who to accept. The length of the structured doctoral course is usually 4 to 5 years.

3. Industrial PhD program


For English speaking programs, you need to prove your English language skills through a test score. The two most common test types are IELTS and TOEFL. A certain point minimum needs to be reached in order to be eligible for admission. The minimum point range for IELTS is 5.0 – 7.0 and for TOEFL 80 100. 

PhD Programs in Industrial Project

Not always does a PhD track end up in a career in academia. With the high-speed advancement of technology, the need for employees with in-depth research skills is becoming more and more evident. Thus, many multinational companies and enterprises have started to cooperate with universities to train their future employees through relevant PhD programs offered at their industrial setting in combination with the research facilities at the universities. For example, you can opt for pursuing a PhD at the Merck group, BMW Group, Volkswagen, Airbus, etc. You should bear in mind that getting an admission is not easy and also you opt for an industrial position which deviates from a future academic track. But if you are sure that you would like to pursue your career in an industrial setting after obtaining your PhD degree, then it might be a smart move to opt for a PhD program in the industry of your choice.