Working in Denmark
Find out more about the high quality of life you could enjoy in Denmark and pick up tips for your job hunt.
This article was last updated before the Covid-19 pandemic and the end of the Brexit transition period in December 2020. It therefore does not reflect the restrictions to travel and changes to guidance brought about by the pandemic or the UK leaving the European Union. If you'd like to find out more, the foreign travel advice on GOV.UK includes information specific to every country.
Denmark has a reputation for having some of the happiest people in the world. The country consistently performs well in international studies of quality of living, including the 2019 World Happiness Report.
Competing for a job in Denmark might not bring about happiness or hygge (the Danish concept of a feeling or moment of cosy contentedness linked to an appreciation of the simple things in life), yet it will probably be made simpler by recruiters who speak English. Areas where there is demand for skilled workers include engineering, IT, medicine and teaching.
Where could you work in Denmark?
Denmark's economy is centred largely on the service industries, manufacturing and trade. The maritime industry in Denmark is well-established and has a strong position in the global market. This includes the design, manufacture and supply of ships and maritime equipment.
The energy industry is also important. Since the discovery of oil and natural gas fields in the North Sea in the 1970s, the country has become less reliant on petroleum imported from overseas. Exports of electricity, oil and gas outweigh imports. There has also been a drive towards 'greener' energy sources, with substantial production of wind energy and wind turbines.
Major industries: agriculture and fishing, energy, food processing, maritime shipping, pharmaceuticals, transport equipment production.
A number of multinational organisations have their headquarters in Denmark, including:
- A.P. Møller - Mærsk (a logistics company that provides solutions in areas such as freight forwarding and shipping)
- The Carlsberg Group (a brewing company with beer brands including Somersby, Kronenbourg 1664 and Tuborg)
- Danske Bank (a bank with operations in 13 countries, but with core markets in Denmark, Norway, Sweden and Finland)
- Integrated Service Solutions (a service provider, offering packing, ripening and warehousing services, among others)
- The LEGO Group (a toy production company).
Skills in demand
Job areas in which skilled workers are in demand include:
- Engineering (including building, environmental, mechanical, energy and electrical)
- IT (including consultancy, programming and development)
- Medicine (including doctors, nurses and pharmacists)
You can check for the latest information about shortage occupations on the New to Denmark website, which provides information from the Danish Immigration Service and the Danish Agency for International Recruitment.
While the official language of the country is Danish, most people in Denmark also speak English. This makes things easier if you don't speak Danish; if there's demand for your skills and experience, it is likely that you will be able to secure a position. On the other hand, it also means your ability to speak English doesn't significantly improve your employability. If you are considering TEFL (teaching English as a foreign language) in Denmark, you'll be up against stiff competition for roles (see advice on TEFL below).
Learning Danish will make it easier for you to build relationships with the locals and get the most out of the culture of Denmark. If you decide to learn while you’re there, you could use the De Danske Sprogcentre website to find a state-approved language centre. Job applications will sometimes need to be in English and sometimes in Danish, so check with each employer.
Are UK qualifications recognised?
Denmark is part of the Bologna Process and is a member of the European higher education area, so there is a mechanism in place for recognising the value of UK qualifications. The system for recognising UK degrees in Denmark and other EU countries will be reviewed while the UK is in the transition period following its withdrawal from the EU. For updates, check the information and news on the transition period, which is due to end on 31 December 2020, on GOV.UK.
What’s it like to work in Denmark?
Denmark offers a high standard of living compared to many other countries, and came second in the 2019 World Happiness Report. The country’s economy is based on the ‘flexicurity’ model, which combines a strong welfare system supporting those out of work with the freedom of companies to hire and fire without many constraints. Retraining and counselling services are also offered by the government for those looking to get back into employment.
The working culture for many Danish employers is characterised by a flat hierarchy and support for a strong work-life balance – employees might be discouraged from working overtime or not taking annual leave, for example.
Like the other Nordic countries, Denmark doesn’t have a national minimum wage, but minimum wages are set through collective agreement at sector level.
Working hours: the official number of hours for a working week in Denmark is 37. As a member of the EU, working hours in Denmark (including overtime) should not exceed 48. These are generally completed sometime between 6.00 am and 6.00 pm; a working day of between 8.00 am and 4.00 pm is considered to be normal.
Holidays: employees are entitled to five weeks of paid annual leave every year.
Income tax: Denmark has one of the highest levels of taxation in the world. Nonetheless, there is a tax ceiling of 56.5% to municipal taxes and 42% to state taxes. Taxes in Denmark are graduated, so the more you earn, the more tax you pay. It’s a good idea to check your UK tax and national insurance position with HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC), to ensure you aren’t losing any UK pension rights.
Where to find jobs
Take a look at the TARGETjobs international vacancies page.
You can also search for jobs in Denmark on the following websites:
Work experience, internships and volunteering
Denmark is involved in Erasmus+, the EU programme for education, training, youth and sport for 2014 to 2020, which covers student exchange, work experience and volunteering opportunities and enables both undergraduate and postgraduate students to study abroad for 3 to 12 months.
The UK government agreed to continue funding Erasmus for at least the 2019 to 2020 academic year, but check regularly for updates on the Erasmus+ website
Big companies such as those mentioned in the leading employers section above may offer internships in the same way as in the UK, and these opportunities will be listed on their websites.
Other organisations offering internships in Denmark include the following:
- AIESEC, an international work experience programme, offers internships lasting 6 to 18 months, as well as volunteering opportunities.
- IAESTE, the International Association for the Exchange of Students for Technical Experience, offers science and engineering students paid work experience opportunities. The British Council has emphasised its continued commitment to the programme in principle following the end of the Brexit transition period on 31 December 2020. Check the IAESTE website for further information and updates on their placements for UK students.
- IVS, the International Voluntary Service, provides long-term and short-term volunteering projects.
Teaching English as a foreign language in Denmark
There are opportunities to teach English at a private language school or an international school in Denmark, yet you may face a high level of competition for these roles. Danish people generally have a strong level of English language ability, so they will also apply for English teaching jobs.
If you’re looking to work at a language school, the chances are you will need at least an undergraduate degree along with an internationally-recognised TEFL qualification. To teach in an international school, you will probably need a postgraduate degree in education, along with experience in teaching.
The education system in Denmark is highly regulated and you’ll need to satisfy a range of criteria to teach at a primary or secondary state school. As well as applying to the Danish Agency for Higher Education in order to gain formal recognition for non-Danish teaching qualifications, you could be required to carry out further training. You can find guidance for teachers qualified outside Denmark on the website of the Danish Ministry of Higher Education and Science.
Job hunting and CV tips
A high level of competition for many jobs, along with the fact that Danish employers often prioritise Danish workers over employees from overseas, may mean you find it difficult to secure a job at first. However, there are some things you can do to improve your prospects as an applicant in Denmark.
Firstly, make sure you thoroughly research the role and the company, and that your CV and cover letter clearly demonstrate that you possess the skills and experience required. As well as following our CV tips, it’s a good idea to add a personal statement at the top, as this is something Danish employers often pay attention to. Read our article on personal statements to find out what to include in this.
Networking could also support your job hunt. LinkedIn is popular in Denmark, so it’s important to ensure your profile is up to date and gives the right impression to employers if you have it. Take a look at our article on building a LinkedIn profile for advice on this, as well as to find out how you might use the platform to network.
Do you need a visa to work in Denmark?
Most EU nationals do not require a visa or work permit in order to work in Denmark. You won't need a visa to travel to Denmark for work or study before 31 December 2020, but you may need one after this date. Check the information provided by GOV.UK for updates. To find out how to go about applying for a visa, see the guidelines provided by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Denmark.
Living in Denmark
Cost of living: the cost of living in Denmark is relatively high when compared to other countries, particularly in the capital. However, salaries are also relatively high and Denmark is generally regarded as offering a good quality of life.
Currency: Danish Krone
Healthcare: The system of national health insurance offers free healthcare to all residents in Denmark. This includes consultations, and most examinations and treatments. If you're moving from the UK, an EHIC card will give you access to these benefits during the EU transition period. You may need to apply for residency afterwards: see this GOV.UK article for more guidance.
Laws and customs to be aware of: A long tradition of liberal thinking in Denmark has led to a culture that places high importance on tolerance and freedom, regardless of someone's nationality, race, political or sexual orientation.
Freedom of worship (regardless of the religion) is protected by the Danish constitution. However, certain practices associated with religion are not permitted. For example, Denmark passed a law in 2018 that makes it illegal to wear clothing that covers the face in a public place, including Islamic veils such as the niqab and the burqa.
Major religion: Around 75% of the population in Denmark are registered members of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. Islam is the most widely practised religion after Christianity.
Type of government: constitutional monarchy