Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Studying in Germany - After

You have your masters degree from a University in Germany, so what next ? There are obviously 2 options - doing a PhD or getting a job. There are a numbers of things that change depending on which one of these choices you make.

Before anything, this article says ''after'', so obviously there were earlier articles and they can be found here. All disclaimers stated in those articles are still good and valid

Obviously you would have thought about your career during the course of your studies. Here are a few steps that would help you get a kick start, besides taking an interest in what you study ofcourse :D !

German: By this time, you should have learnt german to an extent that you can maintain a reasonable conversation. Remember, noone really cares about the grammar mistakes and accent (ofcourse mastering them is an added bonus) as long as you attempt to learn and use the language. You can work in a team only if you are reasonably comfortable with the language even in a MNC. Nobody is going to conduct team meetings in english just for your sake !

Contacts: It is always easy for a company to process an application when it is referred to them through a professor or employee. So make contacts through your lecturers, professors, places where you work part-time as research student. Attend career fairs, conferences and related seminars offered/conducted at the University. These contacts can help you get an internship and/or master thesis and can also serve as references. The easiest way to get a job is to continue your tenure as an employee in the same company where you have been an intern. The team already knows you and your capabilities, so the hiring process is made very simple for them.

Time: Start applying atleast 6 months in advance. Remember there is a lot of paperwork, in getting your visa even after you get a job. So the sooner you start the better. Also many companies have a 2-3 stage interview process and all this takes time, precious time.

Application: You need a concise resume (max. of 2 pages) and a covering letter (this should be altered w.r.t the job position you are applying for) and both in GERMAN (this is Germany, remember ?). You can find tips on how to create a good resume online. Here are a few tips for applications.
  • In Germany, a resume should always have a photo, personal details , your studies/job experience in descending chronological order (most recent one should be first) and a couple of references. Remember, noone is interested in knowing that you were the cricket team captain in class X => Exercise discretion when listing your accomplishments.
  • References are really important and ONLY list people who know you well and will provide a good reference. All companies will contact your references before offering you a job.
  • Register in a job search engine like and have a detailed profile. All companies use such job search engines to find people.
  • Register in an business networking site like LinkedIn and have a detailed profile
  • Always follow up with a phone call a few days after sending in your application. The phone call (in German) can help them understand your interest, your language skills and will make them look up your application, if they haven't already done so.
Here is some information on the preliminary work one has to do before graduation.

Visa: The student visa is always bound to the degree you pursue, which means you cannot use the visa for long once you have graduated. In principle, you can stay in Germany for a year after you graduate with this visa, to look for a job. However you will have to show that you have funds or a student job to support your living costs.

Student Apartment: Obviously one can use it only when one is a student. The contract will most likely expire at the end of the semester you graduate. If you still have not found a place to move in to, you can apply for an extension. Depending on the availability, this may or may not be granted and so apply for an extension as early as possible.

Exmatrikulation: Just like registering at the University, this is more or less giving back your student id. Do not forget to do this because along with this process, you will also be included in the student alumni and you will probably also get free passes to career fairs. It would be smart to do this at the end of the semester even if you have graduated (If this option is available) since you can continue to enjoy student discounts everywhere until the end of the semester.

Now, let me go over the 2 career options one by one.

Doing a PhD
There are mainly 2 kinds of doctoral positions - part-time or full-time. In case of a part-time PhD, you are considered an employee of the University and hence you also have other duties besides you research, like tutoring master students, supervising master thesis and other administrative tasks. Usually this takes 5-6 years in Germany and the gross annual income will be around 40000 euro. After 45% taxes, your take-home pay will be between 1600-1800 euro. These figures obviously vary depending on your Univeristy, research topic and above all, sponsors.

In case of a full-time PhD, you do only research work and hence the duration is 3-4 years. You are considered a doctoral student and your take-home pay will be between 800-1200 euro.

Some universities also offer a third kind, where the pay scale and the time limit is between the 2 choices, given above. The information here is Germany-specific. But there a lot of students who do a PhD in countries like the Netherlands, Denmark, Sweden and Switzerland.

Before choosing one of these options, you need to consider the following:
  • Can you deal with the PhD being less lucrative than a job for a few years ? If you have immediate finanical responsibilities, this is probably not the way to go.
  • How long can you spend on a PhD ?
  • Do you have interest in tutoring master students ? The answer to this question and the previous one will help you decide which kind of PhD you want to pursue.
  • It is my belief that to do a PhD, one needs a vision because it is research that may lead to expected or unexpected results and one should be highly committed. Do you have a vision and can you stick to it ?
Job contracts are highly regulated in Germany. Job contracts (for engineers that is) are usually 40 hour per week (can be 35 hr/week in some cases) and come with a 30 day vacation package (add to this 8-10 public holidays, I am so glad Germans take their vacation seriously :D). For a fresher with a masters degree, an annual gross income of 50,000 euro is considered an extremely good salary. Needless to say, salaries and perks are both individual and company dependent.
  • When you have an interview, do your homework and thoroughly learn about the company.
  • Have this information handy: starting date, expected salary and any other requirements related to the job (for example, travel perks, training etc.)
Once you have chosen your career path, life suddenly changes, for the better and inspite of that you will probably miss your student life like I did...oh..well...there are memories, really fond memories ! As always, leave your questions as comments, will do what I can, Good luck !


  1. SG, Superb write up.

    Can I ask you for a favour. As you noticed last time, I am writing in detail about Higher studies in Germany and also in other possible options in Europe.

    I am not sure into which field you are in ? When you have some time, Will it be possible for you to write more details with University working in your area, research institutes, job opportunities, Ph.D. options, etc., More area specific. It can be in English. I try to translate it to Tamil. It will be of great help. Let me know will you be having some time.


  2. @SK

    I graduated from the University of Stuttgart (my major was micro and optoelectronics). I had an inclination towards signal and image processing too. So now I do both, work with radar systems and image processing in a remote sensing company, Intermap.

    However its not quite clear what you want me to write about - about my university or branch? The problem is I graduted in oct 2005 and a lot of things have changed since then. If you let me know your requirements clearly, I will do my best to help.

    1. Hi SG, I loved reading your post. My husband and I are moving to Munich, we both are IT professionals. Can you tell me where should I start looking for a apartment, we still have 3 months to look and move.

    2. Hi SG,
      I loved reading your post. Me and my husband are moving to Munich in around 3 months, we both are IT professionals. Can you tell me where to start looking for apartment.

    3. @Parul
      try If you don't plan to have a car, look for an apt close to the metro stop (U-bahn) or train (S-Bahn). Good luck and have fun in Munich, its a really nice city to live in.

  3. Sorry for the correction again.. its SK :-)


    What i need is in General about your Branch. Who in india can try this course like ECE, EEE, Physics guys, What are all the universities and research institutes offering course in the same area, How about the future opportunities etc., etc,. from the scratch for all the college outcomers.

    You and me have one common friend from Stuttgart. :-)

  4. yup SK, I realised my mistake and corrected it :)

    >> What are all the universities and research >>institutes offering course in the same area
    I think this information is best obtained by using google because course offerings change often (although electronics and signal processing have been around for so long that I would assume all universities with engineering branches offer this). I also feel giving such detailed information borders on ‘spoon feeding’ students, especially at the post graduation level when they should actually be doing all the groundwork themselves.

    >>How about the future opportunities etc., etc,. >>from the scratch for all the college outcomers.
    I usually have reservations talking about future opportunities. I totally believe what I say in my blog, “Take a course you like and not a course you believe will get you a job because the market, technology, economy and trends keep changing all the time and by the time you graduate, everything could be the stark opposite of what it was when you began studying. The key is to like what you do because it is pretty much something you are going to do for the next 20-30 years and the only way you are going to be good at it is when you are interested in what you are doing !”

    What do you think ?

  5. @SG,

    At one side its seems like spoon feeding. But my idea was to give set of links of various institutes which work in that area which will be very helpful for beginners to apply. Even the guys living here for long time dont know few institutes and opps. This is just an idea to put things in one place. Thats it.

    Here is another post which resembles your post in my another blog

  6. @Sk,

    Do you have a sample in your blog w.r.t a branch already ? If you do, send me the link, I will try and dig up info about my branch in a similar context.

  7. @ SG, Will pass it on once i have one. Hopefully I will write I think. Thank you.

  8. once again pretty neat..

    can u also write abt ppl coming there directly for work(H1B equivalent). One of my friend came there thro some consultant but couldn't manage a job and came back after 6 months. does the system work little different for those ppl??

  9. @Bharath

    hmm..people coming here I naturally do not have any experience with it...but can give it a shot. Do you happen to know why he came back - work culture, language, food/weather ??

  10. nothing to do with lang, culture etc..He simply didn't get a job.. That apart was just curious to know what are the avenues for these folks.

  11. @Bharath

    I think the major stumbling block is the language since such people do not have the advantage of time (unlike students) to learn it. Then there is the ofcourse the work permit..but you are right, I should write about it atleast as a warning for people to stay away from consultants (with whom I have no sympathy)

  12. Hello SG My name is Priya i am final year E&C student i am interseted in embbeded systems and communication field... will you please write me which all universities are good in germany for these fields and i want to know...How tuff is visa process interview on what basis they decide and give visa to us..
    Thanks for sharing your valuable information it will really help many students who have dream of pursuing abroad study...

  13. @Priya

    Please check - I have 6 articles on this subject, please read them and then ask me about specifics, good luck !

  14. Sg, If I can give more info,

    Priya, Please check DAAD chennai website,...
    They are organising one day seminar in Chennai to give complete information about studies in Germany on 10th October. If you are in chennai, i will suggest you to make an attempt.

  15. Here is the link for the same..

  16. HHI

  17. @unicorn

    I only know what is there in the erasmus mundus website. what do you want to know ? The scholarship is for joint programmes so there should be an institute in India participating in it, and then students in that institute can apply for it.

  18. Hello SG,

    Thanks for writing this blog, I got some useful info into German system.

    I have done MSEE at univ. in US and planning to come to Germany for PhD at selected univ. Can you tell me to get student visa, do I need to go to visa office in india? or can it be done by post like denmark,sweden?


  19. @Anonymous
    you should be able to apply at the German consulate in the US. Sometime this also depends on your current residency status in the US and you might have to attend an interview (not in India, still in the US), depends on your application and the German consulate.

  20. Wow it's not as easy am thinking. I couldn't find webpage for PhD program at Univ of stuttgart

  21. This really amazing. Very inspirational. Thank you very much ,SG.

  22. SG, I have some Qs
    1.As you have mentioned in your blog, 50K is a very good salary for a fresher. I wonder what could be a good salary range that i can expect ? I understand its tough to comprehend since it depends on how i study and what specific skill sets i bring onto the table. In general if there is a scale (1 year exp= X Euros) Then it would be very useful.
    2.Is it possible that if 1 graduate from Stuttgart to find job in other parts of Europe/Americas without major hindrances with the visas? I assume language might be a problem. However there are expats working in schengen and Nordic countries. is it more an exception or a real possibility?
    3.X factor of stuttgart Univ. How well you have been recieved when they see Stuttgart in your resume or on an interview. An offer from X Euros to X+5000 perhaps X+10000 :P Also in general, how the univ folks are recognized in and outside germany.

  23. 4. From whatever i have researched, Salary hike is very low in germany compared to over in India. So i used
    For 60K euros, take home - 32,227E (~2700 Euro). is that a fair calculation?
    5.Also how much would a family of 2 would end up paying in a city like Munich.
    6.I have been spending a lot of time on and
    If there is any other expat forums that i can use to know more before i start the journey that you think can help me, please advise!
    7.I am just beginning to learn German and i talked to one of my college mates in Germany. He asked me to get as fluent as possible as he said for some posts, even c2 is not enough as few companies require a very good fluency. Whats a good level that one should aspire to achieve to work in an MNC?
    I forgot to mention that I have a bachelors degree and 4 yrs work experience in India.

  24. @ Anonymous

    Here are the answers:
    1.Since Europe is still recovering from recession and believes in reducing the salary rather than firing employees (like in the US), salary scales suffered a 6% cut. Now most companies have brought this back to normal but some are still struggling. In addition to that, your work experience is in India is weighted less than work experience in Europe or US. So I would say 52-55k is a good range. 52k is good and 55k is really good ! You should say no to anything less than 50k.

    2.Getting a visa from Germany to Europe/Americas is easier that applying for one in India but there is still a lot of time/effort/money involved, if you want to leave Germany, immediately after graduation. If you want to leave after a few years, there is another option, you can read about it here -

    3. Truthfully, I don't know since I have never been to an 'actual' interview so far. I got my internship, thesis at Bosch because of my Prof's recommendation (I worked with him as a RA) and through my internship, I got my job at Bosch. I moved to a different job because my current employer saw my resume in Monster and offered me a job with a much interesting job profile and pay. But within Europe, Univ Stuttgart is very well recognised. Even outside, I would say it has credibility. The only difference it makes to the salary is that you will get paid lower if you degree is from Fachhochschule or Univ of applied sciences, instead of from a University.

    4. Yes, salary hike is usually a fixed rate of 2% in most companies with a performance based bonus of 4-12%, depending on the team/company performance.

    tax calculation is a complicated Q, depends on your marital status, health insurance (public or private), family support in India (tax exemption possible). Assuming you are single and that you have govt. insurance, your take home for 60K will be approx 2800 (so yes, your calculation is pretty close)

    5. approx expenses for a family of 2 would end up paying in a city like Munich.
    Rent for 50-80 sq.m apartment: 600-900
    Food: 200-300
    Electricity/Phone/Internet: 100-120
    Transport: 100-200
    So bare minimum costs (assuming health insurance is already deducted from your salary): 1000-1520
    To this you add expenses according to your style of living for clothes, travel and entertainment (in my case,its pretty high since my husband and I travel like crazy !). But in general, I would say at least 300 euro per month.

    6.uh...oh...rolling eyes...I always trust google to find what I want !

    7.From my point of view, learning German in India is not helpful since you never get to practise. I learnt German only here. Universities offer German classes and I attended them during all the semesters. It is much easier to learn German as a student in Germany since you can afford to make mistakes and make a fool of yourself in front of other students, they will just laugh it off. Talking to people, listening to the radio, reading paper, watching TV - when all of this is in German that you would automatically learn it. I love comics - reading mickey and donald in German helped a lot because you know already what Donald says (in English) and so you can figure out the german version that way. You need to be fluent in German not just for work life but also for social life in general. There is no level requirement as long as you can write and read good german. for example, I did my master thesis presentation in German at Bosch.

  25. hey....ur blog is just awesome....i want to ask that, is stipend is provided to foreign students in german universities......???

  26. @anonymous
    no, usually no stipend is offered. You can work as a research assistant (HiWi) at the university


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