German academic degrees
Doing your research, you will not only encounter different kinds of universities but also different academic degrees.
Be aware that different degrees allow for different career paths.
A Bachelor’s degree programme is the start of your academic career, at the end of which you will have a first qualification to enter a profession. During a standard programme duration of six to eight semesters, you will be taught the basics of a discipline. Depending on the university, you can either choose a Bachelor’s programme with a single discipline or with a combination of disciplines. If you go for the combination, you can choose two disciplines. After a successful Bachelor’s programme, you can decide if you want to start working or continue with a Master’s programme.
Dual Bachelor’s programmes are based on co-operations between universities and companies. They combine an academic degree programme with professional experience in a company. Dual Bachelor’s programmes are offered by Universities of Applied Sciences and Universities of Cooperative Education. At the end of such a programme you will have both the state-approved vocational training as well as an academic degree.
If you want to start a Master’s degree programme, you first have to successfully complete a Bachelor’s programme. A Master’s degree programme takes two to four semesters (standard duration) and usually deepens the knowledge gained in the Bachelor’s programme. Nevertheless, you can as well choose a different focus and thus further complete your profile. A successful Master’s programme qualifies you for different professional occupations and an academic career (PhD).
But: Do not mistake a Master’s programme for a master craftsman’s certificate which is a further vocational training in Germany but not an academic degree.
State Exam (First State Examination)
The State Exam enables you to start a career in a field in which the community (the state) is particularly interested in, e.g. doctor, teacher or lawyer. The first State Exam is followed by training on the job or a preparation period which is completed with the Second State Examination. Furthermore, the first State Exam allows you to start a PhD.
Diplom and Magister
Although Diplom and Magister degree programmes have been abolished in Germany in favour of the Bachelor’s and Master’s programmes, they can still be found sporadically. They are usually divided into a basic study period and an advanced study period or into several study periods. Other than the Bachelor, the Vordiplom or passed intermediate examinations are no qualifications for a professional career. Just like a Master’s degree, a Diplom or Magister degree awarded by a university is the entrance ticket to start a PhD.
A PhD allows you to continue your academic career after your studies. In order to get a PhD you have to write a dissertation and pass one or several exams. In some disciplines, a PhD is almost expected. In others, that decision depends on your own (professional) objectives. A PhD thesis can either be written individually or within the context of an organised PhD programme.