Applying for a PhD in Germany

Applying for a PhD in Germany

Written by Mark Bennett

Do I have the right qualifications for a PhD in Germany?

To study for a PhD in Germany you will generally need to have completed a minimum of eight semesters of academic study. The final qualification you obtained must be equivalent to a German Masters degree.

Your previous degree/s must also be recognised by the Dean's Office (Dekanat) or Board of Examiners (Promotionsausschuss) at your university.

Exceptionally well-qualified international students may be admitted onto a PhD with a Bachelor degree (fast-track programme). For this you will typically have to complete an entrance examination.

The language requirements for a PhD in Germany will depend on the programme you apply for.

Structured doctoral programmes are typically taught in English. If this isn’t your first language you may have to complete an English language proficiency test, such as the TOEFL or IELTS. Individual institutions will set their required scores for these tests.

Traditional PhDs may require you to write your thesis in German (though some institutions allow other languages). Therefore, you may need to prove your German language proficiency. Your knowledge of German will need to be certified through a TestDaF or DSH.

Application process for PhD programmes in Germany

If you apply for a traditional PhD, you must identify and contact a supervisor to request they supervise your thesis.

Applications for structured PhDs are made directly to your chosen institution or graduate school.

To apply for a PhD in Germany, you'll usually need to submit the following:

  • A statement from your doctoral supervisor – if you are applying to complete a traditional PhD project you must submit a statement from your chosen supervisor confirming that they intend to supervise your thesis
  • Academic documents – you will need to provide certified copies of certificates and academic transcripts from previous degrees
  • Proof of recognition – you must obtain recognition of your qualifications from the Dean’s Office or University Board of Examiners
  • Academic references – your referees should include at least two professors who have worked with you

Some structured PhD programmes interview applicants. This will typically be in front of the supervising board for that programme. Interviews for traditional programmes are usually conducted with your chosen supervisor (and may be more informal).

Interviews for international students are typically conducted over Skype.

Once you’ve secured your place on a German PhD programme and decided how you’ll fund it, you’ll need to apply for a student visa. Then you’ll be ready to embark on your PhD journey in Germany!

Think you’re ready to find the perfect project for you?

Search our database of PhD programmes in Germany.



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Last Updated: 27 November 2023