Higher education or apprenticeship?

In Germany, a differentiation is made between vocational training and higher education. Different occupational fields will be open to you, depending on the path you choose. Both vocational training and higher education are very well regarded in Germany.

Vocational training

It takes two to three years to complete vocational training. During an apprenticeship, trainees attend a vocational school, where theoretical knowledge is taught; they also work in a company where practical knowledge and skills are acquired. An apprenticeship is required for lots of occupations; many companies and institutions take on apprentices. An apprenticeship is required for most technical and skilled trades (joiner, mechanic, carpenter, …), for example. Vocational training is also offered in healthcare (doctor's assistant, nurse, carer, …), as well as in banks, administrations and offices.


It takes three to five years to obtain a degree, depending on the chosen study programme. All applicants need a qualification for admission to higher education in order to enter higher education. Some degree programmes have a very limited number of places available (e.g. Law and Medicine). Higher education initially involves learning theoretical knowledge. Students must usually acquire practical knowledge themselves. Some types of higher education institution, such as universities of applied sciences, are very practice-oriented and require that students do internships in companies.

Dual study

It is also possible to pursue dual study. Dual study - what does it mean? Dual study programmes involve twin-track training: a university course in addition to vocational training in a company. Students gain experience in a company by completing an apprenticeship or internship there, in addition to attending lectures and seminars at university. This dual variant is mainly directed at technical college students and A-level students. It combines a recognised apprenticeship with a university degree, i.e. students gain an academic Bachelor degree in addition to a recognised vocational qualification.

Types of higher education institution

In Germany, people can study at universities, universities of applied sciences and art/film/music academies. Your choice of HEI type depends on what you would like to study.


Universities offer very academically oriented degree programmes and a wide range of subject groups. Some universities specialise in certain subject areas. Examples include universities of technology, medical universities and teacher training colleges. Some subjects such as Medicine, Pharmacy and Law are offered at universities only. In addition, universities have the right to confer doctorates, enabling students to do a PhD there after completing their Bachelor and Master's degrees.

Universities of applied sciences

Study programmes at universities of applied sciences are very practice-oriented. They are tailored towards the precise demands of professional life. Degree programmes involve internships and practical semesters. Universities of applied sciences offer a wide range of subjects, particularly in Business Administration, Engineering, Design, Architecture and Social Work. Students graduate with a Bachelor or Master's degree. Universities of applied sciences wishing to give their graduates the option of doing a PhD must cooperate with national or international universities.


In Germany, study programmes prepare students for a particular degree. When deciding which degree programme to pursue, candidates choose not only the subject they wish to take, but also the degree they wish to obtain. German higher education institutions offer suitable study programmes for all requirements and levels of higher education.

The following degrees can be obtained:

  • Bachelor degree: A Bachelor degree is an undergraduate degree that is recognised on the international labour market. Students on a Bachelor programme learn the fundamentals of a subject over the course of six to eight semesters. Students who graduate with a Bachelor degree can start working or proceed to the next academic level: a Master's degree.

  • Master's degree: A Master's degree is a postgraduate degree that students can obtain at German higher education institutions. On a Master's programme, students consolidate or expand their knowledge over the course of two to four semesters. Students who graduate with a Master's degree can start working or proceed to the next academic level: a doctorate. The condition for embarking on a Master's programme is that you have completed a Bachelor degree (or have a comparable qualification).

  • State examination (at universities only): If you want to work as a physician, lawyer or pharmacist in Germany, you will need to have a State Examination. Degree programmes in Medicine, Law and Pharmacy are offered at universities only.
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