Here’s what you should know about getting a PhD in Germany

By choosing Germany as a study abroad location, students enjoy an affordable, yet world-renowned education.

By Shekinah Kannan 

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It pays to be educated — literally. PhD holders typically earn more than those with only a bachelor’s or master’s degree. According to data from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment in doctoral and professional-level occupations is projected to grow by about 13%, faster than the 7% average projected for all occupations.

A PhD is the crowning achievement in academia; apart from demonstrating that a candidate has acquired specialised knowledge in an area of study, it also shows graduates strong communication and critical thinking skills, their ability to conduct research and present their findings, among others. 

If you’re considering getting your PhD, why not do so in a country like Germany, where their universities and research institutions enjoy outstanding reputations? 


Why study a PhD in Germany?

Located in the centre of Europe – Germany is known for its strength in science, research, and development. They offer a wide range of different doctoral opportunities through its distinguished research systems, world-ranking universities, and multitude of organisations that offer practical training opportunities.

According to Research in Germany, roughly 29,000 graduate students complete a doctorate in Germany every year – more than in any other member state of the European Union. Every year, over 5,500 international scholars are awarded a doctoral degree by a German university.

In fact, Germany reached an estimated  total of 350,000 international students last year

There a wide variety of research disciplines to suit every interest, be it automotive and traffic technology, biotechnology, energy technologies, the humanities, information and communication technologies, to maritime technologies, natural sciences, nanotechnologies, and the social sciences, to name a few. 

Will you need to learn the language?

Many PhD programmes in Germany often have a strong international orientation with English as the team language, which means you could get by without speaking much German. 

However, it’s still worth learning basic German to help you adapt to your surroundings, network and make new friends with ease.

How much will it cost?

Tuition for a doctorate at German universities is basically free – if offered by a public higher education institution. All doctoral students enjoy this perk, both international and domestic students. Students can still expect to make semester contributions for administrative and other miscellaneous processing fees, which can come up to 175 US dollars to US$230 a semester.

Apart from small semester fees, aspiring PhDs with their hearts set on Germany should focus more on saving up to accommodate living in the country. Anyone applying for a German visa is expected to prove they have access to roughly US$11,266 a year. This money will be needed to cover rent, utilities, food, transportation, study materials, and other necessities. 


What are the entry requirements like?

Entry requirements vary across institutions, but a common prerequisite is a master’s degree that’s recognised in Germany.  

According to reports, well-qualified international applicants with a bachelor’s degree could be admitted as doctoral students via a fast-track programme. This will involve taking an entrance exam and possibly an interview. 

Which institutions rank the highest in Germany for PhD studies? lists the following as 2021’s highest-ranking picks

  • LMU Munich
  • Technical University of Munich
  • Heidelberg University 
  • Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin
  • University of Tübingen
  • Humboldt University of Berlin
  • University of Freiburg
  • RWTH Aachen University
  • University of Bonn
  • Free University of Berlin