Medical Studies: Doctors are urgently needed

If you wish to become a doctor in Germany you will need good marks and a high level of discipline. A degree course in medicine takes a little over six years and finishes with the state examination. Bachelor's and Master's courses in health sciences are an interesting alternative.

by the Editors

Red graphic with medical symbols: Stethoscope, monitor and first-aid cross © DAAD
Human Medicine . © DAAD

Medical graduates have an exciting and varied career. There are more than thirty areas of specialisation available to choose from in Germany, from ophthalmology to forensic medicine. Which is why many freshers see a future as a doctor as a particularly attractive one. It can therefore be difficult to be accepted for one of the coveted places on a medicine degree course at German universities. Throughout Germany, a Numerus Clausus is applied. This is a course entrance restriction that is based on the mark received in the German Abitur, the school leaving certificate that gives right of entry to higher education at university or equivalent level. Some universities also require the “Medizinertest” (officially known as the Test für Medizinische Studiengänge (TMS) [Test for Degree Courses in Medicine]). The requirements are particularly high compared to other courses: the course is very learning intensive and includes many examinations.

Structure: many stages along the way to the medical profession

A degree course in medicine takes at least six years and three months. In contrast to similar degree courses, such as health sciences and care management, it is not divided into Bachelor’s and Master’s courses; instead it ends with the state examination. The structure of the degree course is uniformly regulated throughout Germany by the Ärztliche Approbationsordnung (ÄAppO) (German Regulations on Medical Registration). The training differs from medicine degree courses in other countries in a number of aspects.

Stage I studies (four semesters) and the first of three sections of the Ärztliche Prüfung (state examination in medicine) are followed by stage II studies (six semesters). This brings you closer to professional practice.  Finally, students complete a practical year (PJ) at a clinic or hospital. You work in surgery, internal medicine and on a ward of your choice. Your studies conclude with a second medicine examination, the state examination. After the oral part, graduates can request their licence to practise medicine (Approbation). If you decide to become a consultant, you must expect to work as an assistant doctor for another five to six years.

Requirements: doctors must be able to withstand stress

Good German language skills are absolutely essential to study medicine at a German university. Although specialist medical literature is often in English, lectures and examinations are usually in German. Very important: skills in natural science also play a major role, particularly in the first semesters. Colloquially referred to as the “Physikum”, the Erster Abschnitt der ärztlichen Prüfung (Part One of the German Medical Licensing Examination) comprises subjects such as physics, chemistry, biology, physiology or anatomy. It presents a tough test for prospective doctors. Tenacity, empathy and an ability to handle stress well are necessary for anyone wanting to successfully complete a degree in medicine. These are all qualities that are also important later in the profession. 

A wide range of career prospects: doctors are not only in demand to deal with illness

Every year, some 10,000 graduates leave German universities universities with a degree in medicine. Outside the big cities, it is not hard to find a position in a hospital or as a doctor. General practitioners are particularly sought after in rural regions. Medicine is developing ever more rapidly and the German population is ageing. Patients therefore need to be treated more frequently and for more complex issues. This means that the job prospects for future doctors will also be extremely good in the future.

Foreign doctors in Germany

The number of foreign doctors employed in Germany has increased significantly, especially in the last few years. In 2016, 11 percent of doctors employed in Germany had foreign citizenship.

Nevertheless, more and more doctors are deciding to follow a different path after completing their studies. There are many interesting jobs, even outside of medical practices and hospitals. Medical expertise has for a long time not only been in demand for dealing with sick people. Doctors are finding interesting opportunities in many sectors. Medical technology, the pharmaceutical industry or clinic administration are obvious areas of employment. But doctors are also often employed as professionals in management consultancy or the insurance sector.

Health sciences: How does a society remain healthy?

It is not only doctors who are required in the healthcare sector. Public health focuses on the health of an entire population. It investigates the interaction between people and their environment, develops strategies for dealing with health problems and addresses issues of health economics.

These programmes prepare you for various roles within the healthcare sector. Well-trained healthcare professionals are in demand for workplace health promotion, municipal health promotion, as well as in the pharmaceutical industry, international organisations or consumer protection. The field of health sciences includes Bachelor's and Master's courses in public health management, health economics and health education. Some of the degree programmes require completed vocational training, and are often course alongside career offers. They are aimed at people already working in a caring, nursing or social profession. The degree course course teaches aspects of medicine, health sciences and social sciences, as well as specialist aspects of psychology and economics.

Further interesting information

Useful overview: The Medizinische Fakultätentag (MFT) [Association of German Medical Education and Research Centres] and the Verband der Universitätsklinika Deutschlands (VUD) [Association of German University Clinics] maintain an up-to-date map of where teaching, research and healthcare are practised at university hospitals in Germany.

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