PhD studies are the uppermost level of education and the final stamp of your academic competence in a particular study field.
Valued among global leaders on research activities, for the quality of education and academic staff, modern facilities and associated infrastructure for scientific work, and most importantly for future prosperity that it produces, Germany is the ideal place for you to seek a PhD degree.
With this in mind, it’s understandable why so many ambitious international students dream to attend their PhD studies in Germany.
How to apply for a PhD degree in Germany?
Finding a suitable PhD course in Germany follows a different path to finding an undergraduate degree or other postgraduate degree courses where all you need to do is decide for the university and a course program. Here are several additional and complex procedures which can account to an overload of application paperwork.
In order for you to apply for your PhD degree in Germany, you need to walk through a long and often arduous process where an appropriate assistance is always welcomed. There are documents and bureaucratic procedures you cannot skip and minor errors account for a complete application fail.
Splitting the whole application process into steps and mapping them in natural order helps you to follow them easily. To apply for PhD studies in Germany, follow these steps
Find a PhD Program and a Supervisor
First, you need to find a suitable PhD program that matches exactly with your academic and career goals. Fortunately, you have a lot of options available at this point and if you have clear future goals, navigating and finding such a program won’t be hard by any means.
In Germany, there are many universities that offer doctoral courses for prospective international students.
There are two types of PhD courses offered in Germany depending on their structure and their provider:
Individual PhD programs
Individual PhD programs are the most common route international students choose to get a PhD degree in Germany. If you enroll such a course, you’ll be set under the provision of a highly regarded professional who will guide you through your research. Though he will always be surveying and counselling you, most of the time you will carry independent research initiatives. This type of PhD course can be carried in a university or in a non-university organization like research institutes. Moreover, you can choose to attend an individual PhD course in a company and a real research project.
Its standard length is 3 years, but it can extend up to 5 years. The completion of your course must be done by presenting a dissertation thesis which will comprise your work during the whole duration of the course and research activities you have carried on.
Structured PhD programs
Structured PhD programs are mainly offered from universities where a group of brilliant academics is charged for mentoring a group of doctoral candidates. In contrast to individual PhD programs, these courses are not that flexible because universities set individually the study modules and other matters related to PhD studies and students don’t have much of their word in the study modules.
Prior to applying for a PhD in Germany a knowledge of the German language is not a requirement because the majority of PhD courses in Germany are taught in English. Thus, you need to prove your proficiency in English by taking a standardized exam. Universities accept different English proficiency test but most common ones are TOEFL and IELTS.
Note that the level of language required in a PhD course is of high academic standards and you must prepare well for this part. Your score is not just a formal requirement, but it plays a significant role in your admission. Therefore, we suggest you start as early as possible to start a preparatory course.
Meet the requirements
Entry requirements vary largely according to the type of PhD study program and the University of your choice. Typically, your previous academic credits count for the largest part of your entrance in a PhD study program in Germany. Also, letters of motivations and experiences are highly required to study at this academic level.
The following documents are required to apply for a PhD course in Germany:
- Recognized Master’s degree
- Language proficiency
- Curriculum Vitae
- Motivation Letter
- Work Experience
Apply for doctoral studies
Once you find a suitable PhD study program and a professor to mentor you and your academic qualifications are recognized in Germany you can make an application for PhD studies in Germany.
The application can be carried online or by post depending on the individual university’s or research institute’s application policies. To know which way to choose, ask your PhD course provider in Germany and they will inform you about the details of carrying an application.
Note that admission committees for PhD studies are highly selective because they want to admit only the best candidates and in regard to this they may want to interview you before deciding to admit you or not.
The financial demands of attending a PhD course in Germany are higher than for other degrees. There are tuition fees and living costs a foreign student in Germany must cover during his PhD studies. The German government will permit you to come to study in Germany only if you possess the required financial means to subsidize yourself at least for the first year of your studies.
If you’re non-EU international student willing to study in Germany you must have at least €8,640 in your bank account. Based on estimations carried on from an official regulator for international student matters, this is how much a foreign student needs to live for a year in Germany. This amount is supposed to be sufficient to cover university fees and living costs.
Note that as the quality of life in Germany changes so does the minimum financial requirement.
Although tuition fees are re-introduced in the universities of Baden-Wurttemberg, PhD programs are not affected by these changes as PhD students are charged with no tuition fees. However, like every other student in Germany foreign PhD students will have to pay the so-called semester contribution which is set from individual universities and ranges something between €150 to €300.
As for the living costs, Germany, in spite of being a place of huge contrasts, is an affordable place to live in. Overall, the cost of living depends on the location where you reside and your daily customs. On average it is recommended you possess around €800 every month.
Get a student visa or resident permit
Again, if you’re a non-EU student then you must have a student visa or a permit residence to study for PhD in Germany. A residence permit is mainly offered when you’re taking an individual PhD program and are involved in a project in industry. A student visa, on the other hand, is mostly required when your PhD course will take place in a recognized university.
You must initiate the procedures of applying for a student visa or a residence permit once the university or the institution where you applied confirms you were given a place in the PhD course. Your first port to call must be the German embassy situated in your home country. Contact them in person or by mail and they will guide you to further procedure for a student visa or residence permit application.
To apply for a student visa as a foreign PhD candidate in Germany you need to present the following documents:
- Duly completed student visa application form,
- Valid passport (recommended with a validity up to the period of studies or more),
- Recent Photos,
- Proof of mentors acceptance to supervise your doctoral thesis work– as a proof for your right of entry doctoral studies in Germany,
- Proof of health insurance,
- Proof of sufficient financial coverage for the given period of doctoral studies – typically a blocked German bank account,
- Certificates of education (all formal and informal education),
- Proof of sufficient German and/or English language skills (depending on the language of the doctoral program).
Whereas, to apply for a residence permit you need to provide these documents
- Duly completed residence permit application form,
- Certificate of mentor’s acceptance to supervise your doctoral thesis work,
- Proof of possessing the adequate and sufficient health insurance – needed also for the enrollment in a university / research institution,
- Certificates of earlier education,
- Proof of language skills – not at all times,
- Proof of sufficient funding resources.
Enroll in your PhD course in Germany
The final step to becoming a PhD student in Germany is to enroll a course at which you’re given a place. This stage comes after you arrive in Germany.
Be aware that not all PhD study courses in Germany require you to enroll following your admission. To clarify this matter you must contact the University of the institution where you’ll attend the course. Typically, if your PhD course is provided by a research institute a formal enrollment is not required.