Research in Germany – where & how?
Written by Mirjam Ax and Chiara Galante
Germany is one of the world’s most attractive nations for research and higher education. Scientists who want to work here can choose from a wide range of possibilities. In Germany, there are over 120 universities, 220 universities for applied sciences, a good deal of private research institutes, federal as well as state institutions and, of course, research and development departments of companies (R&D). In total, there are approx. 4000 institutions for higher education and almost 1000 of them are publicly financed.
Where can I work as a researcher in Germany?
The scientific work and teaching at German universities corresponds to very high international and national standards. Next to working at a university, several research institutions offer high-level research opportunities carried out in an environment similar to that of universities. Some of the most common employers in Germany are:
Fraunhofer-Society: Europe’s largest application-oriented research organization. 72 institutes and research facilities work together in six major research areas: health and environment, security and protection, communication and knowledge, mobility and transport, production and supply of services and energy and resources.
Helmholtz Association: Germany’s largest scientific organisation, consists of 18 independent research institutes dedicated to pursuing the long-term research goals of the state and society, as well as maintaining and improving the living conditions of the population.
Leibniz Association: In 95 independent research institutions, questions of social, economic and ecological relevance are investigated. These range from natural, engineering and environmental sciences to economics and social sciences and the humanities.
Max Planck Society: One of Europe’s leading basic research organisations, maintaining 84 research institutes in Europe and the US. Its research includes basic research in the natural sciences, life sciences, humanities, and social sciences, often taking an interdisciplinary approach.
Federal institutions: The government supports more than 40 research institutes that specifically investigate political and administrative issues, support the Ministry's activities, and create the necessary scientific basis for the implementation of government measures.
If you are looking for a research post in Germany, you can of course look for open positions on the webpages of the aforementioned institutions. Moreover, you can find advertised positions on web portals such as Nature jobs. It is also common practice to send unsolicited applications to the laboratory of your interest, attaching a cover letter and CV.
Why work as a researcher in Germany?
The demographics of German research institutes is highly international. There are in fact more than 15000 international researchers in German higher education institutions, with support from German- and EU-funding programmes.
The quality of life and the social security system in Germany are also features that attract many international researchers. Start thinking of how easy it is to travel by public transport in Germany. You can go almost anywhere thanks to the reliable local transportation, and many employers subsidize monthly tickets for their employees. Moreover, researchers in Germany are usually paid through either a salary or stipends and fellowships. which allows you to cover accommodation and living costs without seeking a bank loan or a second job.
Although it is very useful to speak German in everyday life, it is not usually necessary for your daily lab work. In most cases, it is also possible to write your doctoral thesis in English.
Altogether Germany remains one of the most attractive countries for research in Europe. Are you a highly talented young researcher thinking about your next career step? Do you want to join a high-level institute and to live in a country that provides several opportunities and support to research? Then start exploring the world of oppurtunities available in Germany!
Written by Mirjam Ax & Chiara Galante; Edited by Jana Schepers & Radhika Menon. Infographic from NGC/Design.