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How to Finance your Studies in Germany

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Date01 Aug 2022

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With its hundreds of high-quality universities and universities of applied sciences, Germany is a prime destination for international students seeking to boost their academic careers. Moreover, Germany is a leading country in many industrial fields such as engineering, automobiles or the chemical industry. Hence, successful graduates will have the chance to find employment at one of Germany’s many leading companies, such as Bosch, Siemens, or BASF. As we had explained in our article on the German university system, there are many aspects to consider and many steps to take until you will find your favourite German university. In this article, we want to add to this by guiding you through the process of finding and obtaining a scholarship for your studies or your apprenticeship.

As you may know already, German public universities will not charge any tuition fees in most of the cases, whereas private ones have their own tariffs. Nonetheless, studying in Germany can be costly, especially for students from lower income-groups or for students from countries with significantly lower purchasing power. Therefore, many German students have to cover their living expenses by working part time or with the help of a scholarship. Many universities have their own job portals which list positions as student assistants in public universities or research institutions. Working in such a function does not only come with financial benefits. In addition, students can gain valuable practical experiences in their academic field or explore a different sector which might complement their study focus. Moreover, searching for a job after your graduation can become much easier if you already have work experience that aligns with your academic qualification. In Germany, many employers ask for reference letters from previous employment as part of the hiring process. Especially if your previous work experience is related to the position you are applying for, handing in one or more of these reference letters can give you an edge over other candidates. Part-time jobs with no connection to the professional field(s) you are planning to work in can also be an important source of income but will be less useful concerning your future applications. There are many online job portals for students that list current vacancies for academic jobs as well as other part-time employment for students, such as “Studentjob” or “Jobmensa”. 

No matter whether it is a job in the university library or whether you want to work as a waiter or at the cash counter of the supermarket, there are certain important regulations that you need to comply with. First of all, students enrolled for a full-time programme are only allowed to work up to 20 hours a week (half of the standard weekly working hours in Germany). During the semester break, you can also work full time and still retain your student status. The student status is important because student jobs are exempted from the obligation to contribute to the German social security system. This significantly lowers the costs for employees and employers and hence offering student jobs is usually an attractive option for employers. Moreover, you only have to pay the comparatively low student tariff for the public health insurance system and your contributions to the public pension fund are reduced. In fact, employees working in a so-called Mini-Job with a monthly salary of not more than 520 € can request to be exempted from paying their contribution to the pension fund. In this case, only the employer will pay its share for the employee’s pension. For further details concerning Mini-Jobs you can make use of the extensive information provided by Minijob-Zentrale (in German). International students should also keep in mind that they are not allowed to work as freelancers and they can only work up to 120 full days per calendar year. 

Apart from working next to your studies, you can also apply for one of Germany’s many scholarships for students, apprentices and researchers in order to finance your education. For foreign nationals who wish to move to Germany for their studies or for doing research, the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) has a wide variety of scholarship programmes on offer. In addition to the scholarship database, the DAAD also offers much more valuable information such as a database on university admission requirements or tips on how to find accommodation on their website. Additional information on part-time employment for international students is also provided. As part of the process of applying for a scholarship you will usually be required to write a letter of motivation stating your reasons for your plans to study or do research in Germany as well as why you consider yourself to be well suited for receiving the respective scholarship. Moreover, information concerning your educational background as well your language skills and other competencies need to be provided. While most of the application process will be administered through DAAD’s online application system, certain documents such as a signed reference letter from a university professor might have to be handed in as an original via post. Applicants residing in India will have to send their documents to the DAAD Regional Office in New Delhi

For students already studying in Germany a whole range of organisations and institutions offer scholarships, such as political foundations, the German government or the university you are studying at. Make sure to check out the following options in case you are already living in Germany and you are looking for new possibilities to finance your studies:

We hope this article will help you to find the best option for financing your studies in Germany. If there are any further questions, please comment below, connect with others in the New2 FORUM or write to us at [email protected]!

Written by: Ferdinand Schlechta 

Cover Photo: Unsplash - Windows, Unsplash - Camille Chen,  

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