Degree and certificate
You can normally find a good job in Germany if you have a degree or vocational training. You need to have completed your vocational training. And you need a certificate. Do you have certificates from your native country? Have them translated and authenticated.
Vocational training – the process
You need a minimum of a leaving certificate from the Hauptschule to qualify for vocational training. Without this certificate it is very difficult to secure a vocational training place. In Germany there is a dual system for most professions in which vocational training is offered. You learn the profession through practical experience in a company. And you go to a business school. Here you learn the theoretical principles for that profession. And you also have a few general subjects such as German, politics or sports.
You do the practical training in the company. You work for 3 or 4 days a week in the company and attend the business school for 8 to 12 hours a week. Or you spend a few weeks in the company and a few weeks at the business school. You can do vocational training in many companies, and almost all professional areas. Finding a place on a vocational training course is just like finding a job. You also have to write an application (see: „Finding work“). You are paid some money during your vocational training in a company.
Vocational training - duration
Vocational training usually lasts 2 or 3 years. But training is also available in professions you can learn more quickly, for instance childcare, caring for the elderly, catering or cosmetics. Find out from the employment agency in your town or city.
If you have the Abitur qualification you can study at a university. If you have the Fachabitur you can go to a technical college (Fachhochschule; FH). A degree at a technical college is usually more practically-orientated than at a normal university. Students in higher education in Germany (uni and FH) must have a very good command of German. If German is not your native language, you need evidence of your proficiency in German. You usually need the “Deutsche Sprachprüfung für den Hochschulzugang” (German Language Examination for University Admission; DSH) or TestDaF (Language Examination for German as a Foreign Language).
In some federal states you have to pay to do a degree course, in others not. Information on this is available from studieren.de. The tuition fees vary. You pay between 150 € and 700 € per semester (6 months). For a Bachelor’s degree you need 6 to 8 semesters. After a further 2 to 4 semesters you can do a Master’s degree.
Every town/city has a careers advice centre (BIZ). You can find the BIZ through the employment agency in your town. The staff here can advise you on the subjects of vocational training, degree courses and further/higher education.
During the initial three months in Germany, refugees who have submitted an asylum application are not allowed to work. Only after three months, will they be allowed to start vocational training. However, not all refugees who have submitted an asylum application are allowed to work. Refugees from so-called safe countries of origin are not allowed to work until their asylum procedure has been completed.
Starting a vocational training does not automatically mean that you are allowed to stay in Germany. The residence permit will only be extended by a specific time period.
Refugees with a temporary residence permit may work until their asylum process has been completed, if certain conditions are met. Individuals with a Duldung, a temporary stay of deportation, may also only work under certain conditions.
Important information regarding the different conditions is provided at the website of the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (BAMF):
University Degree Course
Do you want to study at a university in Germany? This is possible for refugees in many federal states. However, conditions vary between federal states and universities. Usually, you will need a good degree of proficiency of German (C1) to be able to register for university degree courses in Germany and you need to have a university entrance qualification. However, many universities have special offers for refugees. The Federal Office for Migration and Refugees provides some information in this regard.
Recognition of Qualifications and Documents
Specific qualifications are required to be able to start vocational training or university courses. Qualifications need to be confirmed by certificates or documents. With these documents from your country of origin, your qualifications can be recognised in Germany. However, not every qualification will be recognised in Germany. This needs to be reviewed in advance.
Do you hold a vocational qualification or a graduate degree? In this case your documents will first have to be reviewed to be recognised. If you don’t have any documents, you may take a qualification test. In this case, you will be watched at work, tested and interviewed. However, this option is not available in all federal states.
Do you need help with the recognition of qualifications? Please contact the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (BAMF). They have a hotline you can call.
Recognition of foreign qualifications in Germany
Frequently asked questions
Where can I do vocational training?
Many companies train apprentices. Think about what you want to do later. Then look for a vocational training place. If you are not sure, do a work experience placement before you start your vocational training.
Additional information for asylum seekersThe German labour market currently requires many workers in the handwork sector as well as in some specialised occupations such as nursing. You can find more information on these websites:
Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy, Federal Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs, Federal Employment Agency: Make it Germany – sought-after professions in Germany
When can I do vocational training?
Usually vocational training starts in August or September. So look for a vocational training place well in advance.
Do I have to go to business school?
Yes, that’s part of the training. If you do not attend classes at the business school on a regular basis, you will not receive your vocational training qualification.
Is financial support available for degree studies?
Many students can apply for BAföG. You borrow money as you would with a loan. After your degree you have to pay the money back but without interest. And there is also the Bildungskredit (education loan). You can find out further information about the BAföG and Bildungskredit student loans from the Federal Ministry of education and Research.
How can I have my qualifications recognised?
In Germany, many professions (e.g. doctors or teachers) can only be practised with specific qualifications. Have you completed vocational training or do you possess a degree? Then your documents must be checked for recognition. If your documents are recognised in Germany, you will find it much easier to get a work permit.
Do you need help with recognition of qualifications? Then please consult the information portal "Recognition in Germany". There you can find a hotline to call: +49 30-1815-1111
"Recognition in Germany"
How can I apply for an internship as an asylum seeker?
Your point of contact is the Federal Employment Agency. Asylum seekers and tolerated persons may, in principle, only take up employment if the Foreigners Registration Office has issued authorisation and noted it in the temporary residence permit or permit to stay until deported. For this reason, before starting employment, asylum seekers and tolerated persons are required to apply for permission at the Foreigners Registration Office. As a rule, the Foreigners Registration Office must first obtain an employment agreement from the Federal Employment Agency. Refugees are subject to an employment ban for their first three months in Germany.
You can find more information about internships here:
Network IQ in NRW: Praktikumsdatenbank Integrationsbetrieb, Handwerk (Integration enterprise internship database, handwork)
Federal Employment Agency: “Internships” and occupational activities for asylum seekers and tolerated persons