How to find work in Berlin, including information on Berlin’s current job market and vacancies, German work permits, and where to find jobs in Berlin for English speakers and foreigners.
If you’re looking to work in Germany’s capital, you’ll find jobs in Berlin for highly-skilled workers alongside jobs in startups, services, and creative industries. Berlin has a young, educated, and creative international workforce. In fact, Berlin is a mecca for young creatives and tech start-ups. Even though the city draws people from around the world, speaking German offers a distinct advantage.
Berlin is one of the hippest cities in Europe; its vibrant nightlife, vivid art scene, and affordable cost of living are contributing factors that attract expats to work in Berlin. However, you will also need perseverance, enough money to tide you over and the willingness to learn German.
Here’s what you need to get started on your job search in Berlin: Berlin-specific job market information, vacancies, and where to find them. You can also read our guide to finding a job in Germany, where we list nation-wide job sites.
This guide provides everything you need to find jobs in Berlin, including the following:
- An overview of employment in Berlin
- Berlin’s job market: vacancies, jobs in Berlin for foreigners, German work permits, language and qualifications
- Finding jobs in Berlin: online websites, English speaking jobs in Berlin, recruitment agencies, organizations
- Tips for applying for a job in Berlin
An overview of jobs in Berlin
Berlin’s unemployment rate in 2016 was 11%, over double the national average. Berlin’s economy is growing fast, though. While it’s harder to find jobs in Berlin elsewhere in Germany, perseverance is key.
After the reunification in 1989, many East German companies went bust and the city’s economy floundered. Today, with a new focus on research, biotech, and IT, there’s an economic resurgence in the city.
There may not be many large industrial companies in Berlin (8% of the workforce is in manufacturing) or many multinationals, but Berlin is a global competitor in modern service companies and innovative high-tech businesses (not to mention a tourism boom). With a strong SME sector, it’s the German startup capital.
With Berlin establishing itself as Germany’s thriving hub for start-ups and creatives, job opportunities for English-speaking expats in Berlin are widespread. Startups in Berlin typically offer modern working environments and also present exciting career prospects. As the cost of living in Berlin is lower than other European capitals, freelancers are flocking to Berlin.
For the purpose of job security, it is advisable to research start-up companies and do some background checks. Look for companies that have been in business for at least three years, can show signs of growth, and maybe even have some financial backing. You can also check this list of the top 200 employers in Berlin.
When looking for jobs in Berlin, be realistic. Don’t expect to land your dream job immediately, however. Before you come to Berlin in search of work, bring enough money to live on in the interim period.
If you do find work in Berlin, you should check your employment rights in Germany. You may also hire a lawyer to check your contract to ensure the terms meet German labor law.
Work in Berlin
The job market in Berlin
There is a great diversity of available jobs in Berlin. More than 350,000 companies, organizations, associations, universities, and higher education and institutes are in the city. There is a large number of small and medium-sized businesses in Berlin; there are some 280,000 companies employing less than 250 people – and many of them are global market leaders in their field.
The main sectors in Berlin are healthcare, ICT, media, mobility, logistics, energy, photonics, and services. The German manufacturing sector is growing but such companies are almost all small with 10 or fewer employees.
The main sources of employment in Berlin are real estate and professional, scientific and technical services, alongside wholesale and retail trade, mechanics, social work, hotel and catering and education. The 10 largest employers in Berlin are corporate giants Deutsche Bahn, Charité-Universitätsmedizin Berlin, Vivantes Netzwerk für Gesundheit, Berliner Verkehrsbetriebe (BVG), Siemens, Kaiser’s Tengelmann, Deutsche Telekom, EDEKA Minden-Hannover Stiftung, Deutsche Post DHL, and the WISAG group of service companies. See the Berliner Morgenpost’s survey of Berlin’s top 200 employers, and Berlin’s Great Place to Work in Berlin-Brandenburg in 2016.
Job vacancies in Berlin
According to the European Job Market Portal, unemployment in Berlin in August 2016 was around 9.7%, above the national rate of 6.1%. This provides a relatively poor outlook for Berlin, where there were around 7.1 unemployment applicants per job vacancy in Berlin, compared to the national average of 3.9 people.
However, with the right qualifications, you would have a good chance of finding work in public administration, mechatronics and automation, energy engineering, train driving, monitoring/maintenance of transport infrastructure, and plumbing, sanitation, heating, and air-conditioning activities. Semi-skilled positions are already largely oversupplied in certain sectors, and Berlin comprises a number of academically qualified workers, so competition can be strong.
There are lots of jobs in tech startups. The European Digital City Index (2016) ranked Berlin sixth in Europe for startups and seventh for scaleups, while the Deustche Start up Monitor survey found that around 40% of staff in Berlin startups in 2016 was foreign. You don’t necessarily have to be a techie either – there are opportunities in startups in commercial roles such as marketing. Startups are an area where speaking German is not so essential, especially if you are a highly skilled tech specialist; for the more commercial side, however, the ability to speak German is more important when companies’ markets are Germany-based.
There are also opportunities in education and research with 11 universities, 21 colleges and polytechnics, and 250 research institutes in Berlin (see our guide to German universities). Plus, there are jobs in the tourism and hospitality service industries, as well as teaching English.
Jobs in Berlin for foreigners
If you don’t speak German, it is possible to find English-speaking jobs in Berlin. However, without speaking the national language, you will have difficulty progressing your career path into the upper echelons of an organization.
In-demand jobs in Berlin for foreigners or English-speakers include content writing for digital marketing firms, business intelligence, product management, travel and tourism, English-speaking au pairs, hoteliers, and English teachers.
English teachers in Berlin generally need professional English teaching qualification, such as TEFL. Schools in Germany rarely hire expats to teach English, although you can also check international schools in Germany. Most English teachers in Berlin are freelancers, so you will also require a freelance visa.
Although most firms in Berlin will give preference to foreign nationals that are bilingual, there are several companies where the working language is English and native speakers are welcomed. Berlin-based companies using English include SoundCloud, Wooga, and Ableton.
Work visas and residence permits in Berlin
If you’re from the European Union (EU) or European Economic Area (EEA – EU plus Iceland, Liechtenstein, and Norway) or Switzerland and have a valid passport or ID card, you don’t need a work permit to work in Berlin.
Citizens from countries with agreements with Germany – Australia, Canada, Hong Kong, Israel, Japan, New Zealand, South Korea, Taiwan, and the US – can come to Germany without a visa and apply for a residence and work permit from their local Alien’s Authority in Berlin. Foreign university graduates may also be able to get a six-month permit to come and look for work.
Everyone else will typically need to get a visa and residence permit in order to work in Berlin (see the Berlin at the Labour Office – Arbeitsamt), starting their application before they come to Berlin. Unless you have a job, however, it will be difficult to get a work and residence application approved. To guarantee a work permit, you must have found a job in Berlin and present the contract to the Labour Office. In your application, you also need to state your purpose and motivation for finding work in Berlin and your intended length of stay.
For more information on immigration and German work permits, see Expatica’s guides to German visas and getting a German work permit. The application process for a work visa in Berlin can be complicated, although it is possible to seek professional help with your visa application.
You cannot start work in Berlin until you have the appropriate visa. Everyone also has to register at the nearest town hall (Bürgeramt) in Berlin.
Languages required for jobs in Berlin
There are jobs in Berlin that don’t require you to speak German – for example, Berlin start-ups looking for English speakers to conduct international business for them – but you’ll give yourself a better chance of getting a job in Berlin if you have a basic understanding of German.
Even jobs that are advertised for English speakers have some aspect to them that needs a basic grasp of German, for example, communication with colleagues, clients, or managers. It’s unlikely that you would get a professional level job without good language skills, however.
Qualifications and references
Certain professions are regulated in Germany, including teachers, doctors, and opticians. Check out your occupation on Recognition in Germany and find out how to get it recognized. Contact the Central Office for Foreign Education (ZAB) to get a foreign university degree verified. Countries signed up to the Bologna Process also have their qualifications recognized in Germany.
Finding a job in Berlin
Use Expatica’s job search to find job posts in English aimed at foreign internationals.
The Federal Employment Agency (Bundesagentur für Arbeit, BA), the largest provider of labor market services in Germany, has a network of more than 700 agencies and offices around the country and an online job search. You can find the contact details for the Berlin offices here. Talent-Berlin is the city’s job portal.
Job websites in Berlin
Look at the major online job websites such as Monster, StepStone, and Indeed – just type in the work you’re looking for and the place name ‘Berlin’ and hundreds of jobs from a range of different companies will pop up.
- Administrator jobs
- BerlinerJobMarkt (in German)
- Creative City – creative jobs and internships
- EuroScienceJobs – researchers and post-doc
- Indeed – a wide range of jobs, also for English-speakers
- Softwareentwickler jobs – software developers
- StudentWerk Berlin
- TBD – jobs in non-governmental organizations as well as other social work
- The Eureka
- Webentwickler jobs – web development and frontend engineers
- Woloho – sends alerts for jobs in Berlin
- Work in Berlin – eCommerce
Startups jobs in Berlin
- BerlinJob.Net – English-speaking startups, internet, design, and marketing jobs
- Berlin Startup Jobs
- Berlin Startup Map (find a job near you)
- Deutsche Startups (in German)
- Goaldies (in German and English)
- Gruenderszene (in German)
- Startup Sucht (in German)
- Startup map Berlin – app and list for locating startups
English-speaking jobs in Berlin
- Berlin Xpat Jobs
- Expat Job Seeker
- Jobs in Berlin – for English-speaking professionals
- Jobtoplus – includes skilled jobs in Berlin for English-speakers
- The Local’s job board – English-language jobs in Berlin
- Top Languages
Recruitment agencies in Berlin
Look in the German Yellow Pages (Gelbe Seiten) under Arbeitsvermittlung to find recruitment agencies in Berlin. They’ll be reputable if they are members of the Federal Employer’s Association of Personnel Service Providers (Bundesarbeitgeberverband der Personaldienstleister, BAP).
One useful avenue to finding jobs in Berlin is to register with a recruitment agency. There are many agencies that offer generalized jobs, but there are also opportunities in specialist job agencies:
- Staffing Division TTA – jobs in the technology industry
- Robert Half – recruitment specialists for technology, finance, and accounting
- Randstand Deutschland – well-established agency with several offices in Berlin providing temporary as well as flexible jobs
- Approach People Recruitment – a variety of jobs for multilingual candidates
- Interpool – international focus
- UCM Agency and InStaff – hostess and event staff
- Studierenden WERK Berlin – jobs in Berlin for students in higher education
- i-Potentials – focus on specialists and executives for startups and digital industries.
Teaching English in Berlin
There are opportunities to teach English in language schools in Berlin, as well as teach English to employees in large businesses and to private clients – but competition is fierce as there are a lot of expats in the city. You’ll stand a better chance of employment with a recognized TEFL qualification and, if you want to work as an in-house English trainer with a company, previous experience of working in a business environment. Read even more over at the English Language Teachers’ Association Berlin-Brandenburg.
Au pairs and nanny jobs in Berlin
Newspaper and classified jobs in Berlin
For highly qualified or academic jobs at national levels, buy copies of the Saturday editions of national newspapers or look online at Berliner Zeitung.
You can find jobs in the classified sections of newspapers as well as some magazines in Berlin. Entwickler.de is a German digital magazine with part-time and full-time job listings. Most jobs are for the tech industry or start-up companies, but you can filter your job search to see if there is anything in your field.
Woloho also covers job opportunities for English speakers and distributes a newsletter three times a week to keep readers updated with the latest vacancies. The advertised jobs in Woloho cover various industries and also have some prestigious clients including art galleries and PR firms.
Jobs in Berlin on company websites
Embassies and consulates
Look out for vacancies at your home country’s embassy or consulate in Berlin.
Networking in Berlin
Networking is really important in Berlin – the Germans have even got an expression for it: they say a dose of Vitamin B (for Beziehung or ‘relationship’) can help get your foot inside the door. Sign up to Xing, one of the most popular business networks in Germany, or check out LinkedIn jobs in Berlin.
Link up with like-minded expats through Meetups in Berlin groups or form your own. Other networking opportunities include Spätschicht, Art Connect and the Facebook groups Berlin Freelancers, Berlin start up jobs, and Berlin Startups.
Techies can check out BerlinWebWeek, an annual festival with around 30 events – conventions, trade shows, forums, as well as meet-ups – to do with the internet and digital technologies.
Creative workers can find a list of design, art, and architecture networks, initiatives, and associations in Berlin
As Berlin is a commercial hub and an attractive city for start-ups and creatives, there is a strong networking community. You will find hundreds of networking events, many of which are free to attend. Some of the more active companies include the following:
Preparing your job application in Berlin
Preparing a CV in Berlin is similar to elsewhere. The main difference is that including a headshot can boost your CV. The cover letter should be brief and tailored to the job itself. You should politely address the person you are writing to by name: Dear Frau or Herr plus their surname. For tips on putting together a German application portfolio and cover letter, see Expatica’s guide to preparing a German CV.
If you are invited to attend an interview, dress appropriately: suit, shirt, and tie for men; skirt and blouse for women. Greet the interviewer in German: Guten Morgen before noon or Guten Tag between noon and 5pm.
Some more tips for applying for jobs in Berlin include:
- If the job was advertised in English, apply in English. Otherwise, apply in German.
- Put together an application portfolio (die Mappe). Include a covering letter, CV, copies of educational certificates, testimonials/references, and passport-sized photos. Put these in a folder, or if the employer is happy to receive online applications, scanned documents in a PDF file.
- You may need to get educational certificates authenticated or translated into German.
- Provide information on the level of any language skills.
- Cover letters should be clear and concise and no more than one side of A4. There’s no need to include a lot of information about personal motivation in the cover letter.
- Prepare your CV in the German style, which is a two-columned table. See Expatica’s guide to job applications in Germany for more details.
- At the interview, unless you’re going for an interview at a techie startup, dress formally. Check the company websites to see how employees dress if in doubt.
Find a job in Germany using Expatica’s job search.