If you are seeking information on how to find work in Germany, you have come to the right place and at the right time. Germany is with a labour force of 45.5 million, including 3.5 million foreign employees, and with 1.9 million job vacancies the largest job market in Europe and one that is among the most open to foreign job seekers. To sustain the growth of the German economy the country needs foreign specialists of certain professions. In addition, due to ageing of the population and retirement of the “baby boomer” generation Germany is hiring thousands of healthcare specialists and other skilled personnel from foreign countries. For foreigners with specific in-demand qualifications finding a well-paid job in Germany is now more real than ever.
German Economy and Employment
Germany is the largest European economy and the fourth largest economy in the world, accounting for 4.4% of the global GDP. The growth of the Germany’s technology-driven economy largely depends on exports as Germany is the world’s third biggest exporter, having the largest nominal trade surplus in the world. The total German labour force is about 45.5 million while the unemployment rate is extremely low at 2.8%. There is virtually no unemployment in large German cities. The only regions affected by some unemployment are the rural areas, mainly in the north-east. Hence, it is not surprising that Germany is also one of the world’s largest importers of foreign workforce as 3.5 million foreigners already work in Germany.
There appears to be just one major weakness in the German economy and that is the German demographics. It is estimated that by 2030, one third of the German population will be over the age of 67, that is, in retirement age. To keep the German economy afloat, an estimated net inflow of 400,000 foreign workers a year will be needed. To achieve this goal, Germany plans to further simplify its immigration rules so that skilled foreign workers can help fill the gaps in the German labor market.
The German Job Market for Foreigners
The German job market currently has 1.9 million job vacancies (as of June 2022 according to the EUROSTAT). This alone presents tremendous work opportunities for foreigners. Yet, due to the large size, stable growth and undergoing structural changes in the German economy, hundreds of thousands of new jobs are created each year. The German labour market lacks skilled professionals in several important areas and German government and employers are welcoming foreigners to fill this gap. Moreover, Germany is known for its aging population. It is estimated that between 2022 and 2036, 12.9 million economically active persons will reach the retirement age, which is more than 28% of the current German workforce. This will create further opportunities for foreigners wishing to live and work in Germany.
Working Conditions in Germany
German Labour Code (which is actually a set of employment laws) provides a high level of protection to all employees. With a five-day working week, the maximum working hours are defined at 48 hours per week while most employees work 38.5 hours a week. All employees are entitled to a minimum of 20 days of holiday per year. However, most employers offer their employees 25-30 days of holiday. In addition, there are nine bank holidays in Germany that are celebrated in all federal states alongside regional holidays celebrated in certain federal states. Hence, the national average is 11 bank holidays a year. The minimum wage in Germany is 10.45 Euros per hour (as of July 1st, 2022), that is 1,818 Euros per month.
Personal Income Tax
Germany has a relatively complicated taxation system. The personal income tax rate starts at zero and rises progressively to a maximum of 45% for high-income individuals (earning more than 277,826 Euros a year). In addition, there is a 5.5% solidarity surcharge (individuals who earn between 74K and 110K Euros annually pay less while those earning below 74K Euros annually are excluded altogether) and an 8-9% church tax for registered church members that are levied as a percentage of income tax. Social security contributions (amounting to ca 20% of income until a certain ceiling is reached) are deducted from personal income before calculating income tax. Generous tax allowances are provided to families with children (read this article for more information on personal income tax calculation).
Job Vacancies in the German Economy
In the German labour market there is a continuously high demand for people with certain special skills. These include highly skilled individuals with university education such as physicians, engineers, teachers, natural scientists, mathematicians and IT specialists as well as qualified specialists with vocational education such as nurses, caregivers and skilled trades workers of different professions. Moreover, millions of Germans will retire over the coming years which will create demand also in areas where there are no shortages yet. Many experts believe that these gaps can only be plugged with foreign professionals enticed to work in Germany.
Which Professions Are Needed Most in Germany?
A lack of healthcare professionals, especially doctors and nurses, is a chronic problem of the German health sector. It is estimated that the German healthcare system currently needs about 5,000 physicians to fill the gap. The minimum starting salary of a medical graduate in Germany is over 57,000 Euros a year, the highest among all university graduates. A doctor who has completed a medical training in any country (also outside the European Economic Area) that is equivalent to the medical training in Germany is eligible for a medical licence in Germany.
Worse yet for Germany, it is estimated that additional 500,000 nursing personnel, who are already in short supply, will be needed over the next ten years in German hospitals and nursing homes. Although not all nurses and other healthcare personnel may have their qualifications immediately recognized in Germany, the Federal Employment Agency (Bundesagentur für Arbeit) encourages foreigners to complete vocational training courses in Germany to become eligible for jobs in the German healthcare industry.
To help German employers deal with the shortage of healthcare personnel and other skilled professionals, the German Government launched several recruitment initiatives targeted at foreign workers from third countries. Information on the current projects for recruiting foreign nursing staff can be found below under the heading “Existing Projects Aimed at Recruiting Foreign Skilled Labour”. For complete guide on the opportunities for foreign nursing personnel in the German healthcare sector (incl. salaries) read the article “Nursing jobs in Germany“.
Germany is one of the world leaders in technology and innovation. Its export intensive industry has a growing demand for highly skilled professionals in certain technical areas. These mainly include specialists in the fields of automotive, mechanical and electrical engineering as well telecommunications and information technology specialists (e.g., programmers). In addition to these professions sought after by the industry, many technology research institutes are looking for the so-called STEM graduates (STEM is an acronym for science, technology, engineering and mathematics also known as MINT professions in Germany). They include not only the aforementioned engineers and IT specialists but also mathematicians and specialists in different fields of science such as biotechnology or nanotechnology.
The starting salary of a graduate of mechanical or electrical engineering or a STEM graduate in general is in the range of 46,000 – 51,000 Euros a year and it is not uncommon for people with 15 years of experience in the field to earn over 75,000 Euros a year.
Who Can Get a Job in Germany?
Citizen of any country can apply for a job in Germany but some nationals will have it more difficult than others to get it. This has to do with German foreign labour regulations.
Who Needs a Work Permit in Germany?
In general, citizens of countries from outside of the European Economic Area (EU and EFTA) need a work permit (that is a residence permit for gainful employment) to be allowed to work in Germany. Thus, as you may assume, there are two categories of foreign job seekers in Germany, those from the EEA and those from outside the EEA:
Nationals of the European Economic Area (EEA), which includes the EU and EFTA countries, have an unrestricted access to the German labour market and will be treated the same way as any German national when applying for a job in Germany. They do not need a work or residence permit and their employers do not have to prove to the German labour authorities that the position could not have been filled by a German citizen.
Citizens of Third Countries
Foreigners coming from countries outside of the EEA need a residence permit for work purposes (also called residence permit for gainful employment) whereas in order to get this permit their employer must usually prove that there were no suitable candidates for the job amongst applicants from the EEA countries. This applies to all non-EEA nationals, irrespective of whether they need a visa to enter Germany or not (more information is available here).
However, exceptions do exist when it is not necessary to prove that there are no suitable candidates from within the EEA. Examples are listed below.
- Fresh graduates of German universities: Citizens of third countries who have earned their university degree in Germany can stay in the country for another 18 months and work part-time while looking for a job in their field of study. But, to be allowed to stay, they must apply for the post-study work visa before their student’s visa expires. Once they have found a job that corresponds to their qualifications, they can convert their residence permit for study purposes into a residence permit for gainful employment and start working full time. In addition, foreign graduates of German universities who left home after completing their studies can still return to Germany for job hunting (see the Jobseeker’s visa below).
- Fresh graduates of German vocational training programmes: Likewise, foreigners from third countries who have completed a vocational training in Germany can have their residence permit extended for another 12 months to find a job that suits their qualifications. During this 12 month period they can take up any job to help cover their living costs in Germany until they find a work they were originally trained for. Should they leave Germany for home having no job offer, they are eligible for the German jobseeker’s visa, just like the above mentioned university graduates.
- Academics eligible for the EU Blue Card: Another exception are university graduates having a binding offer for any specialist job that pays them at least 56,400 Euros a year (applies to 2022). Moreover, for certain specialist professions where there is a chronic lack of suitable candidates from within the EEA, there is a reduced minimum annual salary limit of 43,992 Euros. These jobs include doctors of medicine as well as the so-called MINT professions (mathematics, informatics, natural sciences and technology/engineering). All those mentioned in this paragraph are eligible for the EU Blue Card (temporary residence title) in Germany.
- Foreign professionals with vocational skills: In addition, in its new “Skilled Immigration Act” Germany made it easier for non-academics from outside the EEA to access the German labor market, including occupations where there is no shortage of skills within Germany. That is, the so-called qualified professionals from third countries have an opportunity to obtain a work visa for Germany if 1) they have a binding offer for a job in Germany for which they are qualified and 2) they have received higher education or vocational training in Germany or elsewhere that is equivalent to German professional standards. However, if the candidate is over 45 years old, they must be offered a minimum salary of 46,530 Euros per year (as of 2022), or must have an adequate pension provision.
Jobseeker’s Visa for Germany
University graduates and professionals with vocational skills from countries that do not have a visa-free regime with Germany may apply for a visa for jobseekers at the nearest German consulate or embassy. This visa is issued for six months. Besides a valid passport, other required documents for issuing a visa for jobseekers include a university degree or a vocational training certificate recognized in Germany, a German language certificate (minimum B1), CV, letter of motivation and a travel insurance policy. Applicants must also prove that they can support themselves financially for six months as they will not be allowed to take up any employment in Germany during their stay on a jobseeker’s visa other than trial employment of up to 10 hours a week. This type of visa cannot be extended. Therefore, the job seeker must leave Germany once the visa expired and wait for at least as long as they have stayed in Germany (usually six months) before they can apply for another jobseeker’s visa.
Existing Projects Aimed at Recruiting Foreign Skilled Labour
- Hand in Hand for International Talents – The aim of this project organized by DIHK Service GmbH, the Ministry of Economy and the Employment Agency is to help German companies in selected regions recruit skilled and experienced professionals from Brazil, India and Vietnam. The sought-after professions include electrical engineers, IT and telecommunications experts, software developers as well as cooks, hotel personnel and workers for catering services.
- Skilled Trades Offer a Future or Handwerk bietet Zukunft (HabiZu) in German – is a project funded by the Ministry of Economy and implemented by the German Confederation of Skilled Trades, the Employment Agency and sequa gGmbH. The objective is to help medium-sized companies in several German regions find electronics trades workers, construction metal workers and plant mechanics for sanitary, heating & air conditioning technology. Recruitment takes place in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
- Triple Win Project – organized jointly by the Employment Agency and the German Society for International Cooperation has the goal to recruit qualified foreign nursing and caregiving personnel for the German healthcare industry. At the moment, recruitment takes place in India, Philippines, Vietnam, Indonesia, Tunisia, and Bosnia and Herzegovina.
- Fair Recruitment of Nurses Germany or Faire Anwerbung Pflege Deutschland in German – is a project sponsored by the Ministry of Health and implemented by the German Agency for International Healthcare Professions to support fair recruitment of foreign nursing personnel from Brazil, India, Indonesia, Mexico and the Philippines for German hospitals and homes for the elderly.
- Nursing Professionals for Germany – is a program carried out by the Employment Agency in cooperation with German clinics to ensure fair and professional recruitment of nursing staff from Latin America, especially from Brazil and Mexico. This project is an expansion of the existing “Triple Win Project” mentioned above.
- Project THAMM (Trainees and qualified professionals from North Africa) – the focus of this project is to help German companies find skilled workers and trainees in North Africa. It is a joint project of the German Society for International Cooperation and the Employment Agency. The goal is sustainable recruitment and successful integration of immigrant workers in Germany.
- UBAconnect – the motto of this project is “finding qualified professionals through adaptation programmes”. Hence, the task is to identify German companies ready to employ skilled trades workers from abroad whose qualifications are not fully recognized in Germany while supporting these individuals towards achieving required qualifications through adaptation programmes. Hiring of foreign personnel for this project has not yet begun (as of 09/2022).
- Westbalkan-Regelung – Nationals of Albania, Kosovo, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia enjoy a preferential access to the German job market and vocational training courses. The project called “Arbeiten und Leben in Deutschland” started at the beginning of 2016 and should have ended in December 2020 but it was extended till the end of 2023. Under this programme, citizens of participating countries can also apply for non-specialist jobs that are normally not available to citizens of third countries. Additional information can be found in this PDF.
Recognition of Occupational Qualifications
It is very likely that foreign job applicants will at some point in time need to have their professional qualifications obtained outside of Germany compared with the German equivalents in order to be recognized in Germany. That is, they will be issued a “Statement of Comparability“. Some professions in Germany, such as medical specialists or lawyers, are regulated and recognition is necessary. For many others it is not required but generally helpful when applying for a job or needed for issuing a visa. Smooth recognition of school certificates and university degrees can be expected if these were issued in another EU/EEA country or a country that is a signatory of the Bologna Process. In any case, expect to pay several hundred Euros for this process. For more information check out the information portal of the German government for recognition of foreign professional qualifications and the Anabin database.
Self-Employment in Germany
Besides taking up employment, the nationals of third countries can set up their own business in Germany. The new initiative seeks to recruit business-minded foreigners from third countries who will create new innovative jobs in Germany. They will, however, need to prove that there is a demand for their products or services in the German market, that their business will benefit the German economy and that they have secured financing for their project either through their own capital or already pre-approved bank loan. Successful candidates are eligible for a residence permit for self-employment. Likewise, talented foreign freelancers can apply for a residence permit for freelance work. This website should help you answer some questions regarding setting-up your own business in Germany.
Searching for a Job in Germany
Whether you are in Germany or not, there are several steps you can take to start a job search. For executive or specialist positions you can hire a reputable international executive search firm or a local recruitment agency (Personalagentur). But, while waiting for the headhunters to call you with their job offers, you can explore the existing opportunities on your own, especially if you are not in the six digit bracket. The easiest option is to check the German job websites. Your first point of reference should be those that are operated by the government agencies but there are also many others, mostly privately owned job portals that are worth a try. Here is quite a comprehensive list to begin with:
Public Employment Agencies
- Jobbörse der Bundesagentur für Arbeit (Job Board of the Federal Employment Agency) – you will not only find there thousands of job offerings but also advice from the most competent people in the industry when it comes to helping foreigners find work in Germany. Registered users can set up their individual profile so that they can be contacted by potential employers.
- EURES (European Employment Services) is a project of the European Commission, also called the European Job Mobility Portal. It enables you to search for vacancies in all of its member states. To narrow your search, select Germany at the top of the left-hand sidebar.
- Job Listings of the Portal – Make It in Germany. This is a joint project of the Federal Ministry of Economy, the Federal Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs, and the Federal Employment Agency designed to help foreigners seeking careers in Germany answer all their questions. This web portal is a key component of the campaign aimed at attracting skilled professionals from abroad to fill the gaps in the German labour market.
- EURAXESS (Researchers in Motion) is a project supported by the European Commission and the Federal Ministry of Education and Research to promote the exchange of European scientists among its 30 member states. Universities and research institutes are encouraged to post their vacancies to the network to make them available to researchers from other countries. Researchers can also post their CVs to the Euraxess network.
Independent Job Portals
The most obvious choices for any foreign job seeker looking for work in Germany include JobStairs, Monster, JobWare, Staufenbiel, The Local, LinkedIn, StepStone Germany and Indeed Germany but there are also job portals that specialize in a certain geographic area or type of professions that you should check out such as:
- EnglishJobs – English-speaking jobs in Germany
- JOBSinMUNICH – local job search for Munich for English-speaking foreign professionals where you can find links to other similar local job portals like JobsinBerlin or JobsinHamburg, etc.
- Medi Jobs – medical professions (doctors, nurses, medical assistants)
- Mein Pflegejob – job portal for nursing and caregiving occupations
- GermanTechJobs – an IT job board created with the focus on transparency
- Absolventa – jobs for university students and fresh graduates
- Academics – jobs in research and higher education
- Praktikum – student internships
(For more resources, type “Jobbörse” or “jobs in Germany” into Google.)
Newspaper Job Portals
- Stellenmarkt – Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ)
- Karriere und Jobs – Handelsblatt
- Stellenmarkt – Süddeutsche Zeitung
- Der Zeit Stellenmarkt
- Karriere – Das Job Portal von Handelsblatt und Wirtschaftswoche
(See this article for a more comprehensive list of major German newspapers and magazines.)
The more straightforward way of searching for a job is to check the websites of German companies in your field. Most of them have a page called “Jobs & Karriere” or “Offene Stellen” where you can find open positions that often cannot be seen on the job search aggregators. But, do not focus exclusively on the largest employers. There are thousands of small and medium sized firms in Germany looking to hire people from abroad. You can also try to send them speculative applications (Initiativbewerbung), which is perfectly acceptable in Germany. However, this can be quite time consuming.
How to Apply for a Job in Germany
When applying for a job in Germany you will most likely need to provide more than just your CV and reference letters from previous employers. It is still common in Germany to send job applications by post as a folder (Bewerbungsmappe) containing:
- Cover letter
- Curriculum Vitae
- Reference letters
- Copy of the school leaving certificate
- Copy of the university diploma
- Samples of work
- Passport size photo
Later on, some employers may also ask you to provide a copy of the criminal record but it is typically not part of the application folder. Although traditionally all this correspondence was done by post, many employers now require these documents only in electronic printable format such as PDF. It goes without saying that you should have your documents composed (and translated when applicable) in German or English (if you are applying for an English-speaking job). If your reference letters are in English, it is usually not necessary to have them translated into German.
A quick Internet search will provide you with plenty of examples and guidance on how to compose a catchy and professional cover letter and CV. Just type “Bewerbung” or “Bewerbungsschreiben” or “Lebenslauf Muster” or “Bewerbung Vorlagen kostenlos” into Google. Here are a few good examples:
- Europass enables you to create a professional cover letter and CV online in German, English or any other European language. Documents are not stored on the server, so you need to download them before leaving the editor.
- KarriereBibel allows you to download free samples of cover letters and CVs in word format that are easy to use at home.
- Bewerbung offers a free generator that enables you to compose your motivation letter and CV online. They will be sent to your email. You will also find there lots of helpful tips on writing a perfect resume and to prepare you for a job interview.
How to Behave at a Job Interview in Germany
All your hard work has paid off and you have been invited to a job interview. There is no universal advice on how to behave at a job interview in Germany that will guarantee you success as every case is different and a lot depends on the company and a person who will be interviewing you. But in general, when in Germany follow these tips for a successful interview:
- Be punctual and polite but don’t be boring
- Dress suitably (better keep your Rolex watch under the sleeve)
- Keep an eye contact with your interviewer
- Listen to your interviewer carefully
- Don’t behave emotionally but don’t be unresponsive
- Refrain from criticising anyone (especially your former boss or colleagues)
- Emphasize (and depending on the situation exaggerate) your past achievements
- Learn something about the company and show it
- Bring a list of questions to ask
- Bring multiple copies of your CV and cover letter
- Take notes (or at least pretend to be taking them)
- For God’s sake put your mobile device in silent mode
As for Skype or phone interview, do not let anyone to disturb you and make sure you sound as natural as if you were sitting in the company’s meeting room.
We hope you have found this guide helpful and will soon find work in Germany. For further work related information about Germany do not forget to check out the pages “Immigration to Germany”, “Nursing Jobs for Foreigners” and “Salaries and Cost of Living in Germany”.
Germany has the largest economy in Europe and the fifth-largest in the world, so there are plenty of jobs in Germany for foreigners with specialist skills, although casual work is also fairly easy to come by.
- Check your chances. The Quick Check on the Make it in Germany website should indicate your chances of working in Germany. ...
- Get your qualifications recognised. ...
- Look for a job. ...
- Write an application. ...
- Apply for a visa. ...
- Obtain health insurance.
To be allowed to live and work there legally, you must have a German work and residence permit. You don't have to apply for a German work permit separately from a residence permit; you get them both through a single application at the German Immigration Authority Office (Ausländerbehörde).
- Electronics Engineer. ...
- Computer Science, IT professionals and Software Developers. ...
- Mechanical Engineering. ...
- Account Managers / Business analysts. ...
- Civil Engineer / Architecht. ...
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