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Part-time job: Earning money during your studies

There are many ways of earning money while you study, for example as waiting staff, academic assistants or private tutors. A knowledge of German will improve your chances of finding a part-time job. But please be aware of the legal regulations.

by the Editors

Student drawing beer © Wenzel/DAAD
Student drawing beer . © Wenzel/DAAD

If you want to earn money while you study, you can look for a job at your university. Or you can look for a typical student job in your town, for example, as waiting staff in a café, a babysitter or temp work at trade fairs. The ideal job will be in some way associated with your degree programme: trainee teachers can sometimes provide tutoring, and art history students can work as temporary staff in museums. A good knowledge of German is always an advantage.

Student services at the universities and the local representative of the Bundesagentur für Arbeit (Federal Employment Agency) can provide information about jobs for students. Online job boards can be found on your university website and in the digital media provided by student services. When searching, also look at ads in local newspapers and notices on the ‘Schwarzen Brettern’ – the large information boards at various locations on campus. 

Student at a copier © DAAD
Student at a copier . © DAAD

Working as an academic assistant

People who work as academic/student assistants at a university are called Hiwis (Hilfswissenschaftler) in Germany. Academic assistants may, for example, supervise the library, lead tutorials or research literature for professors. The advantage: the work is often related to your studies, which means you learn something at the same time. If you're interested in an academic assistant job, you should enquire about vacancies at the administrative office of your institution and keep an eye on the notice boards at your university.

The Rules

There are legal regulations covering the amount of hours international students are allowed to work. The rules vary depending on your country of origin:

Do you come from the European Union, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway or Switzerland?

► If so, you are entitled to work as many hours as you want, without needing a special permit. However, if you want to work more than 20 hours per week, you will have to pay national insurance contributions (just like German students). This is to be avoided.

Student is refilling beverages © DAAD
Student is refilling beverages . © DAAD

Do you come from a different country?

► Then you are allowed to work 120 full days or 240 half days per year. You are not allowed to undertake self-employment. Anyone wanting to work more than this must seek permission from the Agentur für Arbeit (local employment agency) and the Ausländerbehörde (foreigners' registration office). It will depend on the level of unemployment in a federal state. 

Exceptions for student assistants: the 120-day rule does not apply to student assistants. There are no restrictions on these jobs at the university. Nevertheless, you must inform the Ausländerbehörde (foreigners’ registration office) if you want to work more hours. Not sure as to what kind of jobs these are? Then you should ideally obtain information from your local student services office or the Akademischen Auslandsamt (foreign student’s office) at your university.

The labour law regulations applicable for international students are very strict. It is important to be aware of them: you may be deported if you infringe them.

Rules for students on language and preparatory courses

If you are taking a language course or want to take a preparatory course, you may generally only work if you have permission from the Federal Employment Agency (Agentur für Arbeit) and the Immigration Office (Ausländerbehörde) – and only during the recess period.

Rules for work placements

If during your academic studies you wish to complete a work placement during the semester breaks, that counts as "regular" work. This also applies to unpaid work placements. Each day of the work placement will be deducted from your 120 day limit.
Exceptions for mandatory work placements: if your work placement is a so-called mandatory work placement as required by the study regulations, you can work for more hours.

Income

How much you earn in your part-time job will very much depend on your expertise, the region and the sector in which you want to work. In expensive cities like Munich, Hamburg or Cologne, you will receive more money but you will also have to pay more for rent or food. Germany established a minimum wage in 2015. You can check the current amount on the website of the Bundesministeriums für Arbeit und Soziales (Federal Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs). Student assistants, production assistants in industry or temporary staff at trade fairs are mostly paid slightly more than the minimum wage.
However, it is virtually impossible for students to fund their entire living costs from non-academic part-time jobs. There are very few suitable jobs of this type on the German labour market – and working too many hours can needlessly extend your degree programme. Instead of a poorly paid job, you could also apply for a grant.

Taxes and Insurance

You can have a student job and earn up to 450 EUR per month without having to pay taxes. But if you regularly earn more than 450 EUR, you will need a tax number. A certain amount will be deducted from your salary each month, which you will get back if you submit a tax return at the end of the year.

If you are permanently employed in Germany, you will normally pay social security contributions. These include payments for health insurance, nursing care insurance, pension and unemployment insurance. You do not have to pay these contributions if you work less than two months at a stretch or less than 50 days throughout the year.