Offered by German Rectors' ConferenceOffered by German Rectors' Conference
Promotionsfeier an der Jacobs University Bremen (Foto: Jacobs University Bremen)

Earning a doctorate in Germany

Promotionsfeier an der Jacobs University Bremen (Foto: Jacobs University Bremen)

If you want to study for a doctorate and write your doctoral thesis at a German university, you need to have completed a first degree (normally in the subject in which you will write your doctoral dissertation) that entitles you to pursue doctoral studies at a German university or other higher education institution with the right to confer doctoral degrees. The academic qualifications usually required are a master’s degree, Staatsexamen, Diplom, or Magister. In exceptional cases, a bachelor’s degree may qualify you to write a dissertation and obtain a doctorate; in such cases, entry to doctoral studies depends on an assessment test to determine aptitude.

Two paths to the same goal: Doctoral studies at German universities

In Germany, there are two paths you can follow to study for a doctorate and earn a doctoral degree: the traditional doctoral route or structured doctoral programmes. Currently, around 90 per cent of aspiring academics are following the traditional route to gain their doctoral degree, while some 10 per cent of doctoral candidates are writing their dissertations as part of structured doctoral programmes.

If you follow the traditional route, you complete your research independently within an academic faculty and are supervised by one professor during the writing of your doctoral dissertation. Structured doctoral programmes differ from traditional doctoral studies mainly because you are supervised by several academics, the duration of your studies is generally limited to three years, and there is usually a fixed curriculum within which you work toward your doctorate and write your dissertation.

Doctoral opportunities in the Higher Education Compass

The Higher Education Compass allows you to search for doctoral opportunities that follow the traditional doctorate route. These are governed by the doctoral study regulations adopted by universities and evaluated by the German Rectors’ Conference.

If you don’t yet have a precise idea of the field you would like to do your doctorate in, please use our general search. Our advanced search gives you more detailed search options. It allows you to narrow your search, for example, by subject area, name of institution, location, or according to the rules on admission or on writing the dissertation.

A detailed description of each doctoral opportunity is provided, which also includes a direct link to the corresponding listing for the institution or faculty in the Research Explorer database, maintained by the German Research Foundation (Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft, DFG). This gives you various details including a brief overview of the current research topics and projects being pursued at the faculty or institution in question.

Aspiring academics from abroad who want to earn a doctorate in Germany can find information and advice on the Doctorate pages of the German Academic Exchange Service (Deutscher Akademischer Austauschdienst, DAAD) website.