Germany upholds a remarkable reputation in offering top-quality higher education, intensive research and a diversity of programs. Students from all over the world are flocking to the scenic country to pursue their courses at their dream Universities. Among them, one of the most popular routes is to pursue a PhD in Germany. A PhD in Germany for International students is consistently sought after; almost 10,000 students from various countries are currently enrolled in PhD courses in Germany. Therefore, if you want to know more about doing a PhD in Germany or have questions related to your doctorate in Germany, we have curated a guide that answers it all!
Table of Contents:
Types of PhD in Germany
Before we look at some of the admission criteria and top programs to study PhD in Germany, it is important to understand the two broad categories of PhD research in Germany.
They two types of PhD programs offered at German Universities are:
Structured PhD in Germany
This category follows a rather systematic and ‘structured’ approach to your doctorate in Germany. A structured curriculum is devised and your progress is consistently supervised and evaluated by a team of expert advisors. Structured PhD in Germany is mostly conducted with a small research group who are all working on the same project.
Mode of Instruction
Up to 3 years
Direct enrollment to the desired university/ institution offering the doctoral degree
University/ Research Institute's Respective Department
Individual PhD in Germany
A more popular and classic route, individual PhD in Germany allows more flexibility and an individualised curriculum. The students are entrusted with the task of finding a professor or guide who can overlook the progress of their dissertation and provide valuable input.
Mode of Instruction
English or German
Need to find a Supervisor for your Thesis
Licensed Companies in the industrial sector
To find a Phd in Germany, you will need to check which category interests you the most. You also need to find whether the topic of your choice as well as the University of your choice align with the former.
Requirements to Study PhD in Germany
A PhD in Germany for Indian students especially requires you to fulfill some criterias in order to be an eligible candidate. Some PhD requirements in Germany are:
- Valid Masters’ Degree (recognised by the University of your choice)
- Curriculum Vitae (a Resume of sorts that mentions prior work experience, academic pursuits, etc)
- Language Proficiency - IELTS (6.5 and above) or TOEFL (80 and above)
- Letter of Recommendation
- Statement of Purpose
- Outline of Doctoral Thesis - This must include an analysis of the topic, purpose of writing, research methodology, deadline, etc.
Once you are ready with these essential documents, keep in mind that there might be additional University-specific requirements too. Remember to keep updating yourself with any developments on the official website.
Steps for PhD Admission in Germany
``In order to apply for PhD in Germany, you need to be aware of the subject and university-specific procedures. However, there are a few common steps you must follow to apply for a PhD opportunities in Germany:
- Choose the Type of PhD
Select an Individual PhD or a Structured PhD course. There are of course benefits to both but one may be more applicable with regards to your particular area of interest.
- Find a Supervisor/ Research Program
For an individual PhD, approach a Professor to supervise your research in Germany. Approach an esteemed professor via email and send in your Thesis module, CV and a Statement of Purpose. For a structured program, choose the research program.
- Send Your Application
Send in your application to the university/ research institute. An expert committee will review the furnished documents, especially your proposal.
An interview with a panel of 3-4 experts may be conducted to gauge your interest in the topic, masters degree, career plans as well the scope of your research proposal.
- Acceptance From the University
Once accepted, you will receive a confirmation letter from the University.
- PhD Visa Germany
Immediately apply for a German Student Visa. The application fee for a PhD visa in Germany is 75 EUR.
RECOMMENDED: Know all About Germany Student Visa
Top Universities for PhD in Germany
Now that you are aware of PhD requirements in Germany, let’s have a look at some of the most reputable Universities in Germany for a PhD:
LMU Munich is the most prestigious University for a PhD in Germany. As one of the ‘Elite Universities’ in Germany, LMU Munich offers more than 100 programs for its doctoral students that are interdisciplinary, holistic and innovative. You can do both types of PhDs here - Individual and Structured.
Some of the most popular doctoral programs here are:
- Microeconomic Determinants of Labor Productivity, Economics
- Doctoral Program Environment and Society
- Doctoral Program Financial Mathematics
- PhD in Management
The Technical University of Munich is considered one of the best Universities in Germany for a doctoral program given its excellent reputation for research and development. The TUM Graduate School collaborates with the exceptional degree-awarding Institutions at the University itself to provide intensive supervision and guidance to all its doctoral students.
Some of the most popular programs here are:
- Doctoral Program Architecture
- Doctoral Program Electrical and Computer Engineering
- Doctoral Program Management
- Doctoral Program Mathematics
As the fifth oldest university in all of Germany and an incredibly reputable one, the University of Freiburg has a stronghold on research and development institutions in the country. The University offers doctoral programs under all eleven of its faculties wherein students can opt for either an individual or a structured program.
Some of the programs offered here are:
- Doctoral Programs in Humanities and Social Sciences
- Doctoral Programs in Engineering
- Doctoral Programs in Life Sciences
- Marie Curie Programs
RWTH Aachen University is a pioneering research-oriented public university that is renowned for its multidisciplinary approach to teaching and research. All faculties at the University offer doctoral programs. There are also excellent opportunities for structured research at the University.
Some of the doctoral programs offered here are:
- Doctoral Program Architecture
- Doctoral Programs in Mathematics, Computer Science and Natural Sciences
- Doctoral Programs at School for Data Science in Life, Earth and Energy (HDS-LEE)
- Doctoral Programs at German Research School for Simulation Sciences (GRS)
A pioneering institution for science and technology, the KIT offers doctoral programs for ‘Young Scientists’ in order to build their intellectual capabilities, maintain stronghold in academia as well as personal growth and development. More than 3000 students receive doctoral degrees through the Young Scientists program at KIT.
Some of the popular doctoral programs offered here are:
- Doctoral Program Nanotechnology
- Doctoral Program Economics
- Doctoral Program Optics and Photonics
- Doctoral Program Computer Science
Since its inception in 1948, the Free University of Berlin has been steadily rising in the ranks of the best universities in Germany, especially for research and development. With more than 4,000 students currently enrolled in doctoral programs - and 36% of those being international students - the University is clearly a force to reckon with when it comes to research.
Some of the doctoral programs offered here are:
- Doctoral Program Business Research (DPBR)
- Doctoral Programs in Leibniz Graduate School of Molecular Biophysics
- Doctoral Program Latin American Studies from a Comparative and Transregional Perspective
- Doctoral Programs in Natural & Life Sciences
Related Discussion: What are the job prospects after Ph.D. in Germany?
Top PhD Programs in Germany
Some of the most popular courses in which doctoral programs are offered at top German Universities in Germany:
- Natural & Life Sciences - Some of Germany’s most prominent and influential strides with respect to research have been in the field of Natural and Life Sciences. Technical University of Munich, Humboldt University Berlin offers the best for these programs.
- Engineering - Almost 20% of the International student population is enrolled in various engineering colleges in the country. Therefore, many of the students enrolled in these courses go on to pursue a PhD in the field as well. The best universities for PhD in Engineering - Technical University of Munich, RWTH Aachen University, Karlsruhe Institute of Technology.
- Humanities and Arts - Many German universities offer exceptional Faculties in the field of Humanities and Liberal Arts and many of these are even offering doctoral degrees to its students. Some of the best universities in this field are Freie Universität Berlin, Eberhard Karls University, Tübingen, Heidelberg University.
- Neuroscience - Universities in Germany are also known for their doctoral programs in the field of neuroscience. University of Freiburg and University of University of Göttingen are known for their doctoral programs in their field.
- Computer Science - It is not only a preferred field in masters and undergraduate programs, but also for doctoral programs. Technical University of Munich, Darmstadt University of Technology, Karlsruhe Institute of Technology are some of the best universities in this field.
Cost & Scholarships for Pursuing PhD in Germany
Let us now discuss PhD in Germany cost and scholarships-
Cost of Pursuing PhD in Germany
Many public universities in Germany offer their doctoral programs at an incredibly subsidized tuition or even at no tuition cost at all. You might have to pay a semester fee ranging from 100-350 EUR per semester.
If you are enrolled in a PhD program at a public university, the only cost you will have to pay is your living cost in Germany.
PhD Scholarships in Germany
In case of financial constraints, there are many avenues for students to avail of scholarships for their PhD studies. Some of the scholarships provided to students are:
- German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD): The scholarship - most popular one as of now - offers scholarships for students conducting research in the fields of engineering, sciences and humanities. It covers expenses of students from anywhere around 1,700 EUR to 3,000 EUR depending on the program opted for.
- Helmholtz Research Scholarship: Funded by the Helmholtz Foundation, it offers close to 4,000 EUR to exceptional students in the pursuit of their doctoral studies. It is extremely competitive; but also, it promises to cover all the essential expenses of the students’ research project.
- Alexander Von Humboldt Foundation Scholarships: The Alexander Von Humboldt Foundation located at Bonn offers sponsorships on a range of doctoral programs including fields of engineering and law. It covers expenses anywhere around 3,000 EUR to 5,000 EUR.
Frequently Asked Questions About PhD in Germany
- Is doing a PhD in Germany free?
Top universities in Germany for PhD are public universities and do not charge tuition fees. However, a nominal semester fee and administrative fee ( 100-350 EUR) has to be borne by the student. Therefore, PhD in Germany cost is minimal.
- How many years PhD in Germany?
It ranges around 3-5 years. However, this is largely dependent on the type of program opted for as well the nature of the research itself. The number of years pursuing a PhD is highly subjective.
- Do PhD students get paid in Germany?
Yes, students pursuing a PhD in Germany do get paid as per the federal wage agreement. However, the salary range of 3,000-5,000 EUR per month generally depends on the type of program opted for as well as the University/centre affiliation.
- Is German required to apply for PhD in Germany?
German is not a mandatory requirement for PhD admission in Germany. Therefore, finding a PhD in Germany in English will not be a problem.
Germany is a definite trendsetter when it comes to pursuing a PhD program and conducting intensive research in a subject. With its relative affordability, wide range of subjects to choose from, well-planned structured, individualized programs, and an excellent learning environment, the country is taking massive strides in innovation, new developments, and cultural advancement. Therefore, set sail to your PhD dream in Germany and start applying!