Study PhD in Germany as International Students

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    Bhavya Rawal

    Study Abroad Expert

    Ph.D. in Germany is a 2 to 6-year program offered with no tuition fees at most of the public universities. Around 2,40,000 students were pursuing higher education in German universities out of which 7.5% opted for Ph.D. and 10.8% are working on a research project. For pursuing a doctorate course from German universities you will be mostly required to submit administrative fees (50 Euro) and contribution fees (250 Euro). 

    Along with offering world-class facilities, Ph.D. at German Universities also offers humungous career opportunities to international students. These doctorate programs are structured so as to make them international student-oriented with English as the mode of instruction. Some of the important things to note as a Ph.D. aspirant are:

    • You will be spending around 800-900 Euros a year while studying in Germany.
    • There are plenty of Ph.D. scholarships in Germany for international students awarding complete cost waivers.
    •  Visa processing time for Germany is a minimum of 25 days.
    • An interview is an integral part of PhD admissions.

    Top Universities for Ph.D. in Germany

    According to Times Higher Education World University and QS World University Rankings of 2020, the following are the top universities offering Ph.D. in Germany: 

    University Popular Programs THE Ranking 2020
    LMU Munich Financial Maths 32
    Technical University Of Munich Management, Computer Science, Maths, Chemistry 43
    Heidelberg University English 44
    Humboldt University Of Berlin Finance 74
    Rwth Aachen University Physics 99
    Karlsruhe Institute Of Technology Economics 175
    University Of Gottingen Neuroscience, Economics, Computer Science, Law, Chemistry,Physics 123
    University Of Freiburg English, Computer Science, Mechanical Engineering 89
    Free University Of Berlin Physics, Economics, Political Science, History, Finance 117

    Find out details on PhD in Germany as per the Federal Ministry of Education and Research, hereChoosing between the wide variety of disciplines to opt from, finding competent staff, distinguished infrastructure, and well-equipped research facilities help in making science & research in Germany stand out from other countries like the US, Canada, Australia, etc.

    Ways to Ph.D. in Germany

    Ph.D. with German universities can be completed through two routes- Individual Doctoral Studies and Structure Ph.D. Programs. 

    • Individual Doctoral Studies- It is the most opted study model by doctoral aspirants. Herein, the students need to find a professor (guide) who supervises their dissertation. This dissertation/thesis can proceed solely or along with a group of researchers. You can complete the research at the university you are enrolled in, with a research facility, or in an industrial sector. 
    • Structured Ph.D. Programs- It is a systematic approach, where you are offered regular and intense supervision by a team of advisors. A structured interdisciplinary curriculum is to be followed which helps improving academic, scientific, and other soft skills.  

    Why Study a Ph.D. in Germany?

    The doctoral study in Germany is a quintessence of how proficient they are with higher education. Let us study in details the perks of pursuing Ph.D. programs in Germany: 

    Free Adult Education: Germany has made itself stand out in terms of higher education. It provides free of cost education to the national as well as international students. It only costs a student a minimal 310 EUR to cover the semester as well as traveling fees which is a small amount in comparison to other foreign universities. 

    Immensely well infrastructure and facilities: Germany has been stated as the 3rd best place for education in the world after the UK and the USA and that is quite evident from the amenities it is providing. A plethora of non-university research organizations contribute to proficient education in universities in Germany for Ph.D. Few which deserve special mention are:

    1. Helmholtz Association of German Research Centres: This is the most renowned as well the largest scientific institute in Germany. It holds 18 biological-medical and scientific-technical research centers. They were ranked #8 in 2015 and #7 in 2017 by the Nature Index who holds the topmost position as contributors to papers in 82 leading journals. 
    2. Leibniz Association: This organization holds 96 non-university research institutes and service institutes in the field of science. 
    3. Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft: Talking about applied science, this one has 72 research institutes spread across Germany with its headquarters in Munich.
    4. Max-Planck-Gesellschaft: One of the best associations, which is both non-governmental and non-profit, founded in the year 1911. Their goal is to research the natural, life, and social sciences as well as arts and humanities. 

    PhD in Germany with Scholarship: Germany respects the knowledge of all the students and therefore they never let anyone give a pause to researching only because of lack of money. There are organizations whose main aim is to provide enough funds so that the knowledgeable ones are forever cherished. Few institutions offering scholarships to international students in Germany are mentioned as follows:

    1. DLR-DAAD Research Fellowships in Space, Aeronautics, Energy, and Transportation Research: This is one of the most celebrated organizations aiming towards research on space, aeronautics, energy, and transportation. Funding methods for DAAD scholarship are described below: 
      • For fellowship PhD, students will receive around 1,760 euros per month.
      • Travel allowances extra
      • Health and family insurances added
      • Junior researchers will receive an amount of 2,400 euros 
      • Senior researchers will receive an amount of 2,760 euros
    2. Green Talents: This one is funded by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF). Whoever wins this competition is not only funded but also called by the Science Forum for admission to the leading Ph.D. positions in Germany. Furthermore, Green Talents give their students BMBF funded research where they get to dwell on a place of study of their choice and follow it up with the science forum. To be noted, only international students are eligible for funding.
    3. Helmholtz Research Schools and Graduate Schools: Only those students who are highly efficient and meritorious get through this place which is funded by the Helmholtz association itself. This place nurtures the doctorates by professionally training them. They offer roughly 3,700 euros every month for three years which can be extended to one more year.
    4. Individual doctoral projects at Fraunhofer Institutes: This is another noteworthy organization that is funded by Fraunhofer Gesellschaft. It offers students an interesting way to go ahead. One can learn as well as work in their world-class infrastructure. Their course structure is for three years and can be extended up to 6 years. Their funding method is the same as Helmholtz. 

    Admissions to PhD in Germany

    You can for either individual or structured Ph.D. in Germany. For applying for an individual Ph.D. you need to recognize a supervisor. You must request the supervisor to supervise your thesis and wait until approval from the supervisor. When applying for a structured Ph.D. you can directly enroll with the institution offering the doctoral degree. 

    • Curriculum vitae: CV states the qualifications, work experience, and more. A precise portrayal is needed to study the candidate effectively.
    • An outline of the doctoral thesis: This is the foremost step to be taken care of as this is the first proforma of the thesis that will be witnessed by the mentor. The following topics should be covered to apply in German universities
      • A concise account of the thesis as a whole
      • The candidate’s purpose in writing it
      • The outlook of the thesis
      • Research methodology
      • The motive behind opting for this topic
      • Analyzing the impression of the topic
      • Deadline
    • Master’s Degree: It is mandatory to possess a master’s degree equivalent to the German one.
    • You may be requested to submit SOP for Ph.D.
    • Language Proficiency: For most of the international Ph.D. programs in Germany you are required to have English language proficiency. However, some traditional Ph.D. programs may require you to German language proficiency. Some of the score requirements are as follows:
    Tests Score
    TOEFL 79+
    IELTS 6.5+
    DSH Level II
    TestDaf B2 or C1
    • Conditions pertaining to the language in which you will be required to have your thesis are regulated by Doctoral Regulations of the department you are enrolled with. Doctoral regulations contain academic and department rules governing the doctorate award. They cover the process from application to submission of the thesis and an oral exam.   
    • Interview: You will be required to attend a skype or in-person interview. A panel with 2-4 admission committee members questions you about your academics, career goals, and other aspects. 

    Note: Bachelors students are accepted in the research program in exceptional cases (eg. if the student is tremendously meritorious). An application must be sent to the Dean’s office for approval in such cases.

    Finding Suitable Supervisor for Ph.D. in Germany

    Some of the online platforms that can help you find a suitable supervisor are:

    • DAAD
    • Ph.D. Germany

    After finding a supervisor the responsible department/committee must confirm your eligibility as a prospective student.  

    Acceptance as a Doctoral Candidate: Once you have found a supervisor, the admission committee for the doctoral department needs a statement from your supervisor, along with certified copies of your documents. 

    Visa Process for International Students to Germany

    You will need a student visa to Germany to pursue your studies, there are two types of student visa: 

    • Schengen Visa: Permits you to avail of a course in Germany for 90 days in particular. 
      Visa Fee: 60 EUR 
    • National Visa: Permits you to remain in Germany for over 90 days, alongside this you need to have a residence permit too. 
      VISA Fee: 75 EUR

    The visa processing time takes about 25 days. Here is a checklist of documents you will need.

    • A duly-filled application form and a cover letter stating the purpose and duration of your stay
    • A valid passport
    • Two recent photographs
    • Acceptance letter from a German university
    • Transcript of academic record
    • Language proficiency certificate( German or English depending on your course of choice)
    • Proof of valid private or public health insurance
    • Declaration of the authenticity of documents submitted
    • Criminal record(if any) 
    • Proof of your economic status to study in Germany (EUR 8,700 per year)

    Cost of Studying Ph.D. in Germany

    Germany is not just a place with a sound research system but also a place that will not make one’s pockets heavy. Some of the expenses apart from the tuition fees that you will incur when planning to study in Germany are detailed below:

    Pre-arrival Expenses

    The amount of money you will invest before leaving for Germany will include application fees, travel fare, fees for the student visa, and exams required to study in Germany are a part of your pre-arrival expenses. Some of these are listed below:

    Expense Type Cost (in Euro)
    IELTS fees  229-233
    TOEFL fees 228
    German Student Visa Schengen 60
    German Student Visa 75
    Health Insurance 1236-1341

    Tuition Fees for Ph.D. in Germany

    Public institutions in Germany usually do not charge specific tuition fees. In case, you are unable to finish your Ph.D. in time, you will be then required to pay a semester fee. The charges vary from university to university in this case. Additionally, some of the private universities do charge a fee which can range between 300-3000 Euros a year.

    Cost of Living in Germany

    Some of the expenses that you will incur when studying in Germany are detailed below:

    Type of Expense Monthly Cost (Euro)
    Rent, Electricity, & Utilities 323
    Food 163
    Transportation 85
    Entertainment 61
    Books & Stationary  20

    PhD in Germany with Scholarship

    Scholarships and research grants are one of the major reasons why international students are attracted to Ph.D. positions in Germany. Apart from some of the scholarships mentioned-above the table given below provides some of the scholarships available while pursuing this program: 

    Scholarship Amount (in EUR)
    German Academic Exchange Service(DAAD) 1,200 
    Alexander Von Humboldt Foundation 3,170
    German Research Foundation 1,350 
    Green Talents Funding for research
    Helmholtz Research Scholarship 3,700 

    PhD in Germany: Career Prospects

    Ph.D. has been instrumental in making students reach the top by providing them with placements and job opportunities in Germany. This has been evident by the employment rate which has reached from 76.5% in the second quarter of 2019 to 77% in the third. Germany not only welcomes students with a doctoral degree but also offers decent academic and research opportunities to them. There is not only a wide-range of job opportunities that you can find in Germany but also in various other countries. 

    • Opting for a permanent teaching designation at a university. For becoming a junior professor or any other entry-level teaching designations, you will be required to have German language proficiency. 
    • Applying for the Research and Development (R&D) department of a company is an excellent option. You can continue to study within the sector as a postdoctoral research fellow.  
    • Being a part of international research and partnerships is a valuable career. In Germany, projects like these are common. Eureka Initiatives, for instance, focuses on cross-border and application-focused research that forms academia in the European Union - they have completed around 1,277 projects. 

    Salaries after Ph.D. in Germany

    For top universities in Germany, the salaries offered to graduates are given below:

    Universities Highest Package Offered (Euro/yr)
    Darmstadt Technical University 47,000
    Bonn University 96,000
    Goethe University 128,000
    Hamburg University 240,000
    Gottingen University 129,000
    Humboldt University of Berlin 89,000
    University of Mannheim 109,000

    One good thing about Germany is, they tend to attract researchers in the fields which are not readily available, for instance, engineers and IT. Thus, the scope after completion of Ph.D. in Germany is wide. Thus, making it a good choice for prospective students. 


    Ques. Is Germany a desirable place for pursuing a Ph.D.?

    Ans. Germany has always been found in the list of top-most places for pursuing a Ph.D. Here, the researchers will find an amalgamation of theory as well as practical knowledge implemented in their modules along with the freedom of study.

    Ques. Is pursuing a Ph.D. in Germany free?

    Ans. One of the most enquired questions, Germany from its foundation of doctorate degrees has provided world-class, free of cost tuition fees as well as excellent infrastructure to its students. 

    Ques. Is it possible for a student to earn while pursuing a Ph.D. program in Germany?

    Ans. Yes, Germany does provide this facility to the students. They have certain parameters of pay, for instance, a 100% Ph.D. student will get around 3,438.27 EUR – 4,962.10 EUR whereas 67% will receive around 2,303.65 EUR – 3,324.61 EUR.

    Ques What are the scopes after completing a PhD in Germany?

    Ans. One will be proficient in teaching and therefore professor is the best profession for a person pursuing a Ph.D. You can opt for the junior professor, member of the Research and Development Team, or even work in the corporates projects. 

    Ques Do you get paid for pursuing PhD in Germany?

    Ans. Yes, there are three different levels of payscale offered to PhD students as per the federal wage agreement. 

    Ques How long does a PhD in Germany take?

    Ans. A Ph.D. program in Germany usually takes anywhere between 2 to 6 years. For most science programs it takes around 4-5 years and for arts courses, it can take up to 4-6 years. 

    Ques Which country is best for Ph.D.?

    Ans. Some of the best nations for pursuing Ph.D. are Canada, Japan, Germany, and Russia. These nations offer a wide range of course variations and at an affordable rate. 

    Ques Which countries in Europe offer low cost PhD?

    Ans. The top 5 Europe countries offering low cost of PhD are Germany, Finland, Sweden, and Norway. 

    Ques How to apply for PhD in Germany?

    Ans. To get into PhD courses in Germany you need to first find offers for structured or individual doctorate courses. This should be followed by finding a supervisor, fulfilling admission requirements and submiting a thesis proposal to admissions committee. After sending in the applications you will recieve a positive or negative reply. if you have been accepted be prepared for an interview and a meeting with the supervisor. If you are accepted after interview you will have to apply for a student visa. 

    Ques Is Germany a preferred choice for PhD over USA?

    Ans. The advantages of pursuing a PhD from Germany over USA include ability to complete the degree within a shorter time span. This is because the German universities majorly focus on the research and have either no or less number of theoretical courseworks to be completed. Additionally, the cost of Germany is a lot lesser than USA. One big advantage of pursuing PhD in the states is there is no language barrier which you can occasionally experience while pursuing studies in Germany. Though both countries have their perks to offer, your decision should majorly depend on the scope of your sector and topic in the nation.     

    Ques What are the basic qualification for pursuing PhD in Germany?

    Ans. You must have a previous masters degree in relevant subject. You will also need a thesis proposal, Language proficiency scores, well written SOP and letters of recommendation to apply for PhD in Germany.