With a population of nearly 84 million, Germany provides a European hub of culture, the chance to learn the continent's second most-spoken language and an impressive range of job opportunities for international workers
Thanks to the country's generous holiday allowance and flexible approach to working hours, you'll be able to take full advantage of all that Germany has to offer.
Even once you've exhausted the tourist landmarks and museums of Berlin, Munich and Frankfurt, there's still plenty to see and do while living in Germany. For example, you could visit the remarkable old towns of Nuremburg, Freiburg and Passau, or check out spectacular castles such as Hohenzollern Castle and Neuschwanstein Castle. To get away from it all, the lakes and mountain ranges of Bavaria, close to the Austrian border, provide the perfect opportunity to enjoy Germany's outstanding natural beauty.
From its prime Western European location, you're well placed to visit the rest of the continent, starting with any of Germany's nine neighbouring countries.
Jobs in Germany
Even before the coronavirus pandemic began to have an effect on the country in early 2020, there were signs that Europe's largest economy was on the decline. However, while Germany has endured its biggest slump on record, there have been recent signs of a solid recovery, with its renowned manufacturing industry at the forefront of this growth.
Despite going through this turbulent period, Germany's unemployment rate only increased from 3.8% in March to 4.2% in July, according to European Union (EU) data. This compares with the EU-wide figure of 7.2%.
As well as spending €130billion on a stimulus programme due to COVID-19, this relatively low unemployment rate can be attributed to the German government's 'Kurzarbeit' (short-time work) initiative. At this time companies have been able to reduce staff hours and wages, with these subsidised by the state, which has helped to protect jobs.
With a strong focus on exports and heavy investment in research and development (R&D), Germany is reliant on its four main manufacturing sectors: automotive, mechanical engineering, chemical and electrical.
The country provides a base for a range of multinational companies, including:
- BMW Group
- Deutsche Bank
- Deutsche Post
- Hugo Boss
However, it's not just the larger companies that contribute to Germany's success story - many small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and family-run businesses play a crucial role in the country's economy.
Popular graduate jobs
- Iron and steel production
- Vehicle manufacturing
You can search for jobs in Germany at:
- Federal Employment Agency - Job Board
- The Local - Germany
- Make it in Germany
- TotalJobs - Jobs in Germany
An article on the 'Securing of skilled labour' by the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy has highlighted four key factors that are contributing to a future skills shortage.
Firstly, Germany has an ageing workforce, and it's anticipated that there will be a third fewer people of working age (20-64) by 2060, accounting for a shortfall of up to 16 million workers if the country was to block immigration.
With 352 out of 801 occupations currently facing skills shortages in Germany, there's a need for vocational training in a range of sectors.
The country is currently in urgent need of STEM graduates, particularly scientists and engineers (automotive, electrical and mechanical). More IT specialists and mathematicians are needed in banks, insurance firms and other large companies to help with software and security.
The healthcare sector is also suffering a shortage of workers as many current medical and care professionals approach retirement age.
Both STEM and the health industries offer desirable starting salaries - for instance, STEM graduates can earn €40,000-€43,000 (£36,000-£39,000), rising to €69,000-€86,000 (£62,500-£78,000) after ten years.
How to get a job in Germany
For EU citizens and those from the European Economic Area (EEA), you have the same access to the German job market as German nationals.
The job application process is similar to that in the UK, as you'll typically need to submit a well presented CV and cover letter directly to the employer, and may be invited to one or two interviews if your application is successful.
Depending on the role you're applying for, you may be required to sit psychological and aptitude tests, and for business and management roles you may also be invited to an assessment centre.
You'll need to include copies of your education certificates with your application - this includes any vocational qualifications you've completed, as well as your school leaving transcripts and university degree. If you need to get your qualifications recognised, visit Recognition in Germany.
The federal government's Make it in Germany site has a quick-check facility you can use to indicate your chances of landing a job in the country.
You can also follow the step-by-step guide to working in Germany at deutschland.de.
Being a European holiday hotspot, Germany's tourism industry has vacancies in a range of jobs all year round. In the summer, you won't be hard pushed to find opportunities in bars, restaurants and theme parks as they usually look to hire short-term staff between April and November.
You can search for seasonal jobs in Germany at:
- One World 365 - Jobs in Germany
- TotalJobs - Seasonal jobs in Germany
- Work in Germany - Seasonal jobs
Alternatively, you could consider volunteering as a way to build your skillset, network with professionals, learn a new language and improve your employability.
The EC funds a scheme called the European Voluntary Service (EVS), which offers young people aged 17 to 30 the chance to volunteer for up to 12 months in a number of countries, including Germany.
Opportunities vary from placements concerned with sport and culture to those focused on social care and the environment. Accommodation, travel, food and insurance are all covered by a European grant, and you'll receive an additional personal allowance each month.
As Germany is a popular base for large international companies, the country has a strong demand for English teachers. The majority of English students in Germany are adults, although you'll also find opportunities in summer camps and schools along with the possibility of being self-employed as a private tutor.
To teach English in Germany, you'll need a Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) certificate, which you can achieve through The TEFL.org. You'll also need a Bachelors degree and a reasonable grasp of German.
If you're ready to start looking for teaching jobs, search the Yellow Pages for vacancies and contact organisations directly.
An internship in Germany is a great way to give your career a boost, by learning how Europe's largest economy operates. You'll be able to enjoy the German lifestyle while developing your skills.
Internships in Germany typically last from three to 12 months. Many are paid, and some companies offer scholarships for unpaid positions. These factors depend on the organisation you're working for - so get in touch before you apply to discover the specific terms and conditions.
You can find internship opportunities at:
- AIESEC - for students and recent graduates.
- GoAbroad.com - Internships abroad in Germany
- GoOverseas - Internships in Germany
- IAESTE - for science, engineering and arts students.
Your university may also be able to help you secure an internship, and German companies will appreciate the direct approach - send speculative applications, or use social media to start networking.
As an EU/EEA citizen you won't need a visa or permit to work and live in Germany. However, you'll need to register your residence at your local registration office within three months of your arrival - to do this you'll need a valid passport and proof of your residency (such as a rental contract).
Coming from all other countries, it's likely you'll need to obtain a visa or residence permit to make the move to Germany. Visit the Federal Foreign Office - Entry & Residence to find out more about your exact entry requirements.
Those from the UK will need to check with the German Embassy in London to discover the work visa situation following Brexit.
Read about getting a German EU Blue Card, the main residence permit for university graduates from abroad, at VisaGuide.World.
While the majority of the German workforce has a strong grasp of English, being able to speak a decent level of German is essential for securing a job and living comfortably in Germany.
This is not enforceable by law and there's no compulsory proficiency test to take. While you'll need fluency in German to hold some positions, such as within the healthcare sector, for others your employer will decide whether your proficiency is sufficient for the role.
It's best to start learning from home before you move. There are plenty of language courses available in the UK, and websites such as BBC Languages - German will help you improve.
A comprehensive beginner's guide to learning German that covers German grammar, idioms and daily expressions is available at Studying in Germany - Learn German.
Once you arrive in the country, there are plenty of other opportunities to get your standard of German up to speed. For more information, see German Visa - Integration courses.
How to explain your qualifications to employers
UK qualifications are almost always comparable to their German counterparts, and will therefore be recognised by employers. However, professionals of one of Germany's 60-plus regulated professions, such as doctors and lawyers, will need their qualifications recognised in Germany before they can begin work.
For the recognition of professional qualifications you can use the finder facility at Recognition in Germany. Applications for recognition can cost up to €600 (£545).
Applicants in a non-regulated profession should also consider having their professional qualifications recognised, so that companies will have a better idea of their skills.
What's it like to work in Germany?
According to the Federal Holiday Act, employees who work a five-day week in Germany are entitled to a minimum of 20 days' annual leave, or 24 days for a six-day week. However, in practice most companies provide their workers with around 27 to 30 days per year. Germany also enjoys more public holidays than any other European country, so you won't have trouble finding the time to explore the country during your stay.
The national minimum wage in Germany in 2020 is €9.35 (£8.48) per hour, although the German government has committed to raising this to €10.45 (£9.48) by the middle of 2022 - as a response to the coronavirus pandemic.
Your annual earnings will be subject to a basic tax allowance of €9,169 (£8,318). Once your salary exceeds this, you'll be taxed between 14% and 42%, relative to your salary. At the top end of the scale this would be up to €55,961 (£50,768). There is an even higher tax bracket, but you'd need to be earning over €265,327 (£240,706) to pay 45% of your income.
The workplace environment is formal and professional, with a strict hierarchy in place and a strong emphasis on rank and responsibility.
Following the UK's exit from the EU on 31 January 2020, this information is likely to change. Please check official sources for the most up-to-date information.
Find out more
- Discover what it's like to study in Germany.
- For a career, education and lifestyle guide, see deutschland.de.