Working in Germany
The job market
What are your chances of getting a job?
UK graduates who have good German language skills and the relevant degree or work skills stand every chance of gaining employment in Europe’s largest economy. Germany has one of the lowest unemployment rates in the EU.
Graduates who have recognised vocational qualifications or degrees in applied sciences and engineering generally can succeed of securing employment. German students usually do an internship (Praktika) before graduation, so securing one of these following your study would be helpful.
Where can you work?
- Major industries: chemicals, engineering, electronics, IT, machinery, coal, vehicles, machine tools, food and beverages, shipbuilding, textiles.
- Recent growth areas: telecoms, high-tech manufactured products, automotive industry, banking, tourism.
- Industries in decline: mining, forestry, steel, agriculture, the remnants of former state-run industries in the former East Germany.
- Shortage occupations: skilled trades such as builders, mechanical, automotive and electrical engineers, IT specialists, teachers, doctors and other health and social care professionals.
- Major companies: Adidas, Aldi, Allianz, BASF, Bayer, BMW, Bosch, Daimler, Deutsche Bank, E.ON, Lidl, Merck KGaA, SAP, Siemens, Volkswagen Group.
What’s it like working in Germany?
- Average working hours: around 38.5 hours a week.
- Holidays: legal minimum of 18 days a year, but many companies offer up to 30, plus nine public holidays. 3 October is the Day of German Unity, a national holiday. The major Christian festivals are holidays as in the UK.
- Tax rates: income tax is on a progressive scale ranging from 18.9% to 45%. Compulsory contributions are made by workers into a social insurance fund to cover medical treatment, pension contributions, etc. Don't forget to check your UK tax and National Insurance position with HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) to ensure that you are not losing any UK pension rights.
Applying for jobs
Jobs are often advertised on recruitment websites (Jobbörsen) as well as on company websites. Some international companies will have vacancies in both English and German.
It may be possible to find and apply for jobs from the UK, but there will usually be one or maybe two interviews before a job offer is made. They'll be with personnel (HR), which will focus on personality and motivation; and your potential line manager from your intended department, which will address technical knowledge and skills. They may be held together or separately. Psychological and aptitude tests are usual and assessment centres are often used for managerial positions.
A CV (lebenslauf) and covering letter (anschreiben) are usually required, rather than an application form. See application and CV advice for more details on how to construct a good CV, and Expatica for advice on applications and more.
Will your UK qualifications be recognised?
Following the Bologna Process and the creation of the European Higher Education Area (EHEA), UK qualifications are usually recognised by an employer.
Germany has 60+ regulated professions, including doctors, opticians and teachers, so if yours is one of them, contact the relevant professional association to get them recognised.
- Academics.com – academic jobs in research and higher education in Germany.
- Bundesagentur für Arbeit – federal employment agency. Has a wide range of job vacancies, including internships (Praktika).
- EURES – European Job Mobility Portal – provides job vacancies and a CV-posting service for jobseekers, as well as information on living and working conditions and labour markets in Germany.
- Jobware – management and specialist jobs, including internships.
- Staufenbiel – career portal for graduates and current students looking for internships, apprenticeships and other training opportunities.
- StepStone (Germany) – includes internships/work experience as well as a range of graduate jobs.
- Stellenanzeigen.de – lists job opportunities in a range of industries.
Recruitment agencies are listed in the Gelbe Seiten (German Yellow Pages) (use the search term: Arbeitsvermittlung). Reputable agencies should also be members of the Federal Employers' Association of Personnel Service Providers – Bundesarbeitgeberverband der Personaldienstleister (BAP).
National and corporate members are also listed at World Employment Confederation.
- Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung – daily with national reach.
- Frankfurter Rundschau – Frankfurt-based daily with vacancies.
- Handelsblatt – Düsseldorf-based financial daily.
- Sueddeutsche Zeitung – Munich-based daily, mainly vacancies in Southern Germany.
Find a full list of German newspapers at onlinenewspapers.com.
Speculative applications are accepted in Germany. You will need to do your research thoroughly and demonstrate that your qualifications are a match for German applicants. Applications should be typed in German and include a photo and a covering letter.
Getting work experience
Erasmus+ is the EU programme for education, training, youth and sport for 2014-2020 and covers student exchange, work experience and volunteering opportunities. Both under and postgraduate students can study abroad for three to 12 months. Erasmus+ also provides opportunities for work experience for students to learn new skills or languages, as well as volunteering in different countries for between two weeks and 12 months.
Work placements and internships
It is possible to apply for one of the internships (Praktika) which are completed by German students as part of their courses. As these are usually closely linked to the subject of study, UK applicants should do their research carefully in order to show that they have appropriate skills and knowledge, as well as sufficiently strong language skills, for each vacancy.
In addition to those listed in the ‘Job websites’ section above, useful resources include:
- Deutsche Bildungsserver – for links to the main internship vacancy websites.
- German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) – supports the international exchange of students. Includes information on internships.
- IAESTE (International Association for the Exchange of Students for Technical Experience) – arranges summer placements for science and engineering students;
- iAgora – internships in various European countries, including Germany.
AIESEC (Association Internationale des Etudiants en Sciences Economiques et Commerciales) provides an international exchange programme for students and recent graduates. They offer voluntary and paid work placements in professional organisations, schools and charities in a range of countries.
The British Council – Language Assistants programme provides the opportunity for undergraduates and graduates of any discipline (as long as they have A level German or equivalent) to work in Germany as a language assistant.
Opportunities for teaching business English exist if you have good business knowledge and experience and good German. A formal teaching qualification is not always necessary. All major language school chains have branches in Germany.
Temporary work is available in tourism, especially in the Alps, the Black Forest and on the North Sea coast. Opportunities for students also exist for seasonal work on farms, in hotels and in vineyards.
Within Germany, the Bundesagentur für Arbeit (German federal employment agency) can help you find casual work.
Gap year and volunteering opportunities
There are many organisations offering gap years in Germany. To choose a reputable organisation, you should seek advice from your university careers service or check whether the company is registered with Air Travel Organisers' Licensing (ATOL) or other similar organisations. Some companies will also offer services such as a 24-hour emergency helpline.
The European Voluntary Service (EVS) is part of the Erasmus+ programme and offers people aged 18–30 the opportunity to volunteer in a range of countries, including Germany, for a period of two to twelve months.
Do you need a visa?
Most EU nationals do not need a visa or work permit but citizens of non-EU countries may be required to have these documents. However, once you have taken up work in Germany, you must obtain a certificate of residence from the local Ausländeramt (Foreign Nationals Authority) or Einwohnermeldeamt (Residence Registration Office). This must be done within the first three months of your arrival and you will usually need proof of employment (contract, letter of employment, etc) and proof of accommodation. See the Federal Foreign Office for full details.
If you are not a citizen of an EU member state, contact the German embassy in the country where you are to find out about visa regulations. A list of German embassies is available from the Federal Foreign Office website, under German Missions Abroad.
Living in Germany
- Cost of living: relatively high. Rents vary from region to region and some cities, such as Hamburg and Munich, are markedly more expensive than average. Food and other basic purchases may be cheaper than in the UK, whereas entertainment including eating and drinking out are generally more expensive.
- Internet domain: .de
- Currency: euro (€)
- Health: Germany has one of the highest standards of healthcare in the world. If you work in Germany, compulsory health insurance is automatically arranged by employers and, similarly to UK National Insurance, contributions are made both by the employer and the employee. Practitioners and hospitals deal directly with insurers for billing, so you can access any insurer-approved healthcare provider when you need to without worrying about payment.
- Type of government: federal parliamentary republic with two houses of parliament, the Bundestag, elected by the population on the basis of proportional representation, and the Bundesrat, made up of representatives of the cabinets of the 16 federal states.
- Laws and customs: while business culture is relatively formal, punctual and efficient, Germany is a tolerant and liberal society by global standards, with sexual orientation, for example, regarded as a matter of private choice. Laws are broadly similar to those in the UK for personal conduct, e.g. in matters such as drug possession.
- Emergency numbers: 112 (ambulance and fire department); 110 (police). The British Embassy Germany in Berlin and the consulates in Munich and Düsseldorf (contact details on the Embassy website) can offer some assistance to UK citizens who have been the victims of crime or bereavement or in the event of a natural disaster or terrorist incident.
- People: Germans 91.5%. Turks make up the single largest ethnic minority group with significant numbers of Greeks, Italians, Poles, Russians and Syrians.
- Major religion: Christianity