Career Prospects GFL and GSL More than teaching

Many opportunities at home and abroad
Many opportunities at home and abroad | Foto: © motorradcbr -

Finished your degree, and now? Most graduates who have studied German as a foreign or as a second language go into language teaching. But there many more opportunities at home and abroad that they fail to take advantage of.

Like graduates in most of the humanities, those who have studied German as a foreign or as a second language (GFL and GSL) have no clearly pre-defined choice of profession. Their degree qualifies them in various fields in the area of language and culture, both at home and abroad, but most graduates opt for teaching. Early teaching experience during internships helps them get started here.

Teaching integration courses

“In Germany, many GFL and GSL graduates first teach in integration courses”, says Dr. Matthias Jung, Chairman of the Professional Association for German as a Foreign Language (Fachverband für Deutsch als Fremdsprache / FaDaF). Since German courses became mandatory for many immigrants in 2005, integration courses have become a major field of work for GFL and GSLers. They take place at adult education centres and at private educational institutions; the latter especially regularly look for new teachers. These, however, usually work as freelancers; there are few permanent positions in this area, with the exception of a few educational management jobs. Jung thinks integration courses are problematic because the teachers “earn too little to be able to make a full-time living”. He therefore advises GFL and GSL graduates to teach integration courses only for a short time. “After two to three years you should see how you can develop further”, he says. For example, by specializing in business, medicine, technology or finance. “Companies that train managers pay well for such courses.” In Germany, there are permanent positions in GFL teaching at “international schools”. “Since the language of instruction there is English, German as a foreign language is one of the subjects that is taught”, says Jung. “Many GFL teachers don’t know this.”

GFL – more than teaching

In general Jung believes that students should not concentrate exclusively on teaching. “The subject is a great qualification in an international world”, he says. “Graduates are strong communicators, can handle international groups and are interculturally sensitized.” This is an advantage especially abroad – for example, for working in companies that have close business ties to Germany. In Germany itself, Jung sees new opportunities particularly in the area of German as a second language: in science, in social counselling for immigrants and in teacher training, which in some federal states now includes elements of GSL.

Opportunities with specialist publishers

Textbook publishers such as Cornelsen, Langenscheidt and Hueber also offer permanent positions on the editorial staffs for German as a foreign language. These design teaching materials, including, in addition to text books, digital material, films and sound recordings. Those who apply for such positions, however, should have teaching experience. “You can’t design teaching material unless you’ve had teaching experience”, says Marion Kerner, deputy chief editor for GFL at Hueber Publishers in Munich. But one year’s experience suffices. “It’s good if the applicant has gained experience both at home and abroad”, she says. In addition, publishers also hire so-called educational consultants. These consultants go to trade fairs, maintain contacts with school staff and organize nationwide events where new books are presented. Freelance consultants, who also teach, then make the new presentations. There is also other work for freelancers. Freelance editors work on projects of limited duration such as developing auxiliary materials and internet services to accompany textbooks. The content of these offerings is supplied above all by freelance authors, who likewise teach. They write texts and design additional exercises.

Teaching abroad

A popular entry into the profession is a stay abroad in a foreign language assistant programme such as is offered by the DAAD, the Educational Exchange Service and the Goethe-Institut. DAAD foreign language assistants, for example, teach German courses for one academic year at universities all over the world. Those graduates who already have more teaching experience can apply as DAAD lecturers and teach literature and regional and cultural studies, supply information on study opportunities in Germany and undertake work in cultural policy as well as give language instruction. In addition to these programmes, it is also possible to teach abroad at German schools, private schools and Goethe-Instituts.

Starting your own business

Another way out of a career as a freelancer is to start a language school or become self-employed, as did Michael Schmitz in 2013. Under the name of “Smarter German”, he offers German courses that will enable participants to pass the B1 Test after six weeks. He has also made short grammar videos that he shows on YouTube and sells at his website. Schmitz taught at various language schools at home and abroad for fifteen years. “At some point I didn’t want to teach groups any more”, he says. Now he gives only individual instruction. For his courses he charges up to € 6,000, all inclusive. “For this I guarantee that my client will pass the B1 Test after six weeks instruction.” His programme comprises daily one individual lesson, fifteen minutes language practice and two hours homework.

Schmitz has not regretted his move to self-employment; business is going well. He finds it important to offer different products. He is therefore currently developing an online course. In addition, he recommends presenting yourself on an attractive website and with a video on Youtube. “The videos are good for showing how you work and can convey a first impression”, he says. He is also active at question portals such as and “so as to present my expertise. This is my approach to marketing without spending money”, he says. At first, however, he was faced by bureaucratic challenges: he had to register for health and pension insurance, find a tax advisor and learn how to draw up correct invoices. He also had to consider exactly what expenditures were required and what fee he was to charge for his services. He no longer wants to work for a language school. “When my students now pass the B1, it makes me feel great”, he says. “I’m much more motivated, develop my ideas with consequence and make the process more and more fluid.”