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University degrees and programmes : Choosing the right degree programme

Every degree programme provides students with a certain level of academic qualification. When you choose a degree programme, you don’t only choose a subject of study. You’re also deciding on the degree you’d like to earn. German universities offer degree programmes that fit every wish and level of education.

by the Editors

Students in front of a signpost © Hagenguth/DAAD
Students in front of a signpost . © Hagenguth/DAAD

Depending on where you are in your academic career, German universities offer you the following options:

  • begin a bachelor’s programme as a first-time student (undergraduate study).
  • complete several semesters of study abroad as part of your degree programme in your home country.
  • enrol in a graduate programme after receiving your undergraduate degree.
  • earn your doctorate.

Degrees

You can earn the following academic degrees at German universities:

Bachelor’s (B.A., B.Sc., Bachelor of Engineering, etc.)

The bachelor’s degree is a first-level university qualification which is recognised on the international labour market. In a bachelor’s degree programme, you learn the fundamentals of a specific subject in six to eight semesters. Once you’ve completed the programme, you can either start your professional career or continue studying for the next higher degree: the master’s degree.

Master’s (M.A., M.Sc., Master of Engineering, etc.)

The master’s degree is the second-level university qualification offered at German universities. A master’s programme, which takes another two to four semesters, enables you to expand or deepen the knowledge you’ve already gained. Once you’ve earned your master’s degree, you can enter professional life or continue studying to earn the next higher academic degree: the doctorate. The prerequisite for gaining admission to a master’s degree programme is that you have successfully completed a bachelor’s programme (or another programme at an equivalent level).

International students © Hagenguth/DAAD
International students . © Hagenguth/DAAD

State examination

If you want to work in Germany as a doctor, lawyer, teacher or pharmacist, you will have to pass a state examination. You are allowed to take your First State Examination after completing a study programme in Law, Medicine, Pharmacy or a subject for teacher certification. After that, you begin a professional, practical training period to prepare for the Second State Examination and/or pursue a doctorate. The state examination is not an academic degree – it’s a state-recognised degree. That means that the examination regulations are not determined by the university, but rather the federal states. Furthermore, the examinations are administered by state invigilators. Important – passing the state examination does not guarantee that you’ll get a job! You should inquire in advance whether the German state examination is recognised in your home country.

Doctorate

Doctoral study programmes conclude with the conferral of a doctoral title (PhD). During your studies, you are required to write a research paper (dissertation). The duration of your PhD programme depends on the topic of your research project, but usually takes between two and five years.

In recent years, German universities have worked hard to reform their degree programmes in accordance with the Bologna Process. The new bachelor’s and master’s degree programme have replaced practically all of the traditional “Diplom” and “Magister Artium” programmes. You may encounter these degrees in your search for suitable study opportunities. Both are comparable to a master’s degree.

The “Diplom” is conferred to students who have successfully completed their studies in the Natural Sciences, Engineering, Economics, Social Sciences or artistic disciplines. The “Magister Artium” (M.A.) is usually conferred following completion of study programmes in the humanities.

Know what fits

With so many degree programmes to choose from, it’s not so easy to maintain an overview. If you’re having a hard time deciding, there are tests available online which can help you:

TestAS – Test whether you are prepared for university-level study in Germany (free)
Self-assessment – Particularly suited to technical subjects; test your strengths and weaknesses (free)