Work opportunities after graduation

If you want to work in Germany after finishing your academic studies, it is generally possible to do so without any problems. As you have obtained a higher education qualification by completing your academic studies in Germany, you can usually go straight into the job market.

by the Editors (last updated: June 2019)

Students in front of a university © DAAD/Jan Zappner
Students after studying . © DAAD/Jan Zappner

What do you need to consider?

> Recognition of educational qualifications

If you graduated abroad and not in Germany (irrespective of whether you come from the EU or a non-EU country), you should check whether your qualification is recognised in Germany. For some professions, it is mandatory to have your qualification recognised. Many employers also explicitly require this recognition.

> Visa

If you come from an EU country, legislation states that you can work in Germany without a visa.

If you come from a non-EU country, you require a visa if you want to work in Germany.

A new law is expected to enter into force in spring 2020 (Skilled Immigration Act).This new law will make it easier for people from countries outside the European Union to work in Germany.

The type of visa you need depends on what sort of work you want to do in Germany. You can find an overview of all the different types of visa on the Make it in Germany website:

Information: EU Blue Card

The EU Blue Card is a work and residence permit for highly qualified specialists who do not come from EU countries. You can obtain an EU Blue Card if you hold a degree and can show that you already have an employment contract with a specified minimum salary. EU Blue Card holders are entitled to a permanent residence permit after 33 months of employment. This residence permit has no time limit.

What opportunities are there?

In Germany, there are lots of possible ways for you to enter the world of work. Below, we provide an overview of the most common areas and their specific features.

Setting up a business

Woman explaining something to a man © DAAD/Jan Zappner
Guidance for starting your own business . © DAAD/Jan Zappner

Do you have a unique innovative idea and want to work for yourself, e.g. by establishing your own company?

On the Competence Centre on Migrant Entrepreneurship website, you will find information relevant to setting up a business as a student or an academic.

The circumstances and conditions for setting up a business vary depending on which country you come from and what residence status you have in Germany.

For some professions, you need to prove you have a specific qualification if you wish to work for yourself. These professions are called regulated professions (e.g. medical professions). When it comes to starting a business, a distinction is made between carrying out a commercial activity on a self-employed basis and working as a freelancer in a “liberal profession” (e.g. doctor, lawyer, auditor, interpreter, artist). This distinction has an impact on tax payments and on whether you need to register a commercial business.

Higher education institution/research

Would you like to carry on working in research? If so, there are various opportunities available to you.

Research posts at higher education institutions are usually temporary as they are associated with a particular project. However, jobs in research are not only found at higher education institutions – you could also work at a research institute or in industry. Companies often have their own research department.

Further information can be found at .


In Germany, there are small and medium-sized businesses as well as large companies.

Medium-sized companies – often referred to as the “Mittelstand” – employ only a few hundred people. Around 95 per cent of German firms are in this category. They are often considered “hidden champions” as many of them are based in small towns yet are leaders in the global market. Many medium-sized companies are family companies, i.e. they are run by a family.

Small businesses are enterprises that do not make more than €17,500 a year. That means if you set up your own company, you will mostly likely be in this group.

In Germany, 99.6% of all companies are small or medium-sized businesses. Most of the well-known products that are “Made in Germany” belong to this sector.

In industry, salaries are often negotiable and usually increase annually depending on profits.

Public service/NGOs

In Germany, working in the public service means working for a public body, institution or foundation. Public employees are employed at federal government level, federal state level or local authority level, e.g. judges, town council workers or teachers, who work in schools in a civil servant capacity.

The collective wage agreements are usually referred to at federal level as TVöD (Tarifvertrag für den öffentlichen Dienst – Collective Agreement for the Public Service), at federal state level as TV-L (Tarifvertrag für den öffentlichen Dienst der Länder – Collective Agreement for the Public Service of the Federal States) and at local level as TvöD-VKA (Tarifvertrag für den öffentlichen Dienst der Kommunen - Vereinigung der kommunalen Arbeitgeberverbände – Collective Agreement for the Public Service of Local Authorities – Federation of Municipal Employers’ Associations). Doctors and officials have their own collective agreements.

To some extent NGOs, institutions and foundations are separate from the public service, but are based on it. This means the collective agreements apply to salaries in this sector in the same way. All the labour conditions that apply in the public service must also be adhered to in this sector.

Collective agreements set out salaries and salary increases. They also stipulate labour conditions, including the condition that an employee is made permanent after two years or receives a company pension. If you can prove you work in the public service, you are often granted a small price reduction on insurance policies or other contracts. The job also often provides greater security than a job in the private sector.

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