Education System in Germany

Education System in Germany

The German education system covers the following levels:

  • Early Childhood Education
  • Primary Education
  • Secondary Education
  • Tertiary Education
  • Continuing Education

These five levels are primarily governed by The Federal Ministries of Education, Cultural Affairs, and Science and the education providers are closely monitored by the Ministry. The responsibilities are shared between the Länders (states) and the Federation, and the rules for the education system are collectively called the Grundgesetz (The Basic Law) which should be adhered to by all educational institutions.

The higher education is also governed by the Basic Law but the institutions enjoy autonomy in the way they teach, research, take in students, and award scholarships. The higher education system in Germany is quite intricate and this can be seen not in the number of universities but in the number of types of universities. All of the higher education institutions come under at least one of these categories

Here’s a snapshot of the types of institutions, what they are all about, and the types of programmes they specialise in:


Type of institutions What they are all about Types of programmes they specialise in
  • Offer the widest range of study courses for all levels of higher education (from bachelor’s to doctoral)
  • Focus on basic research and foster future/ more advanced research
  • Offer a smaller range of courses
  • Both these types of institutions can award Doktorgrad (PhD) and offer scientific research and study programmes
Courses in Engineering Sciences, Mathematics, Medicine, Natural Sciences, Languages, Humanities, Agronomy, Forestry, Nutritional Science, Sports, Law, Economics, Social Sciences, and Management
Technical University Universities that specialise in a particular area Wide range of courses in Engineering and Technology
Pedagogical College
  • Universities of teacher education
  • Also award Doctorates and Post Doctorates
Courses related to teaching methods and pedagogy
Universities of Applied Sciences
  • Practical-based & industry-oriented education to help students develop skills in demand
  • Includes Praxissemester – a paid practical training conducted within the premises to bring the students closer to the job market

Faculty have robust industry experience in addition to a strong academic background.

Most institutions are self-financed but a few are public-funded

A wide range of courses in the following areas:

Agricultural Economy, Design, Technology, Business

Social work

College of Public Administration
  • These are institutions that offer courses specially designed for civil servants of the Federal public administration
  • All 29 institutions are funded and governed by the Federation or the states
Specialised programs designed for training civil servants
College of Arts and Music
  • Study courses for aspiring artists and musicians
Offer specialised courses in:

Visual, Design and Performing Arts,

Film, Television and Media, Fine Arts

Art History and Art Pedagogy, History and Teaching of Music,

Media and Communication, Digital Media

Vocational Academy
  • Education is imparted in the form of training in specialised areas
  • Theoretical classes are conducted at the academy while the practical training is given at a company
  • Degrees are awarded as ‘State Degrees’
Offer a variety of courses in the fields of

Technology, Economics, Social Affairs, Agricultural Economy, Design



Qualification Bachelor’s Degree (First level of higher education in Germany) Magister Degree (Master’s Degree) – Second level of higher education in Germany
Type of institution
University 3 academic years (6 semesters) 1 to 2 years (2 to 4 semesters)
University of Applied Sciences 6 to 7 semesters including the practical work 3 to 4 semesters
German Colleges of Art and Music 4 academic years (8 semesters) 2 years (4 semesters)
Vocational Academies 3 academic years (6 semesters) NA


Doctoral Studies

German PhDs can be earned from German universities and equivalent institutions. The studies involve independent research and a Rigorosum (oral examination) or a Disputation (defence of the thesis).

The types of PhDs in Germany are:

  • Individual and Supervised Doctorate
  • Structural Doctorate
  • Cooperative Doctorate (combination between universities and universities of applied sciences)
  • International Doctorate
  • Special Doctorate


Other types of qualifications

  • Diplom Examination
  • Magister Examination
  • Staatsprüfung(State Examination)
  • Church and Academic Examination
  • Postgraduate Study Courses – Supplementary and Follow-Up Study Courses
  • Examination of Colleges of Art and Music


Continuing Education

This is quite a unique concept included in the German education system. It aims at helping students upskill to match the dynamically evolving industries and their potent job market. Academic institutions as well as non-academic organisations provide need-based trainings to this effect.


Basic qualifiers for the types of programmes in Germany

The entry requirements vary depending on the type of institution and the programmes that you are applying to. Generally, most German institutions of higher education require The Allgemeine Hochschulreife (Abitur) or the Fachgebundene Hochschulreife or a certificate equivalent to one of these two. To know the specific details about the entry requirements to the programme of your choice, please check with our study abroad consultants.


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