Discover all you need to know about searching for jobs in Germany, including where to look, the local job market, job requirements, and more.
If you are a foreigner looking for jobs in Germany, it can be difficult to know where to start your job hunting, especially if you are restricted to English-speaking jobs. However, if you are well qualified with a degree or vocational qualification, have work experience, and can speak at least some German, you stand a good chance of finding a job in Germany, especially in certain sectors with German worker shortages.
This article explains everything you need to know about finding work in Germany, including the following:
- Work in Germany
- How to find jobs in Germany
- Self-employment and freelancing in Germany
- Traineeships, internships, and volunteering in Germany
- Applying for jobs in Germany
- Support while looking for jobs in Germany
- Requirements to work in Germany
- Starting a job in Germany
- Useful resources
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Work 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. It is also possible to find English-speaking jobs in Germany, although in most cases even a small amount of German will be required.
The job market in Germany
Germany has one of the lowest unemployment rates in the European Union, measuring at 3.9% in May 2020. This is well below the EU and Eurozone averages at 6.7% and 7.4% respectively. In some parts of southern Germany, such as Bavaria (where you’ll find Munich), the unemployment rate is even lower.
A study by the German Federal Institution for Population Research showed that a third of non-EU migrants in Germany in 2010–2011 found work within 12 months, although this situation has significantly changed following Germany’s refugee influx since 2015 and with the 2020 COVID-19 crisis. However, if you are well qualified and have a basic knowledge of German, there are much higher chances of finding a job in Germany, where such qualities are valued.
Germany is home to many large global companies and is particularly strong in the automotive sector. Some of the biggest companies in Germany include:
- Volkswagen (automotive)
- Daimler (automotive)
- Allianz (finance)
- BMW (automotive)
- Siemens (electronics)
- Bosch (electronics)
- Deutsche Telekom (telecommunications)
However, smaller firms and startups are also commonplace. Around 90% of businesses in Germany are SME’s and they account for around two-thirds of all jobs.
Job vacancies in Germany
With low levels of unemployment, Germany is not as affected by skills shortages as some other parts of Europe and there are no nationwide skills shortages. However, skilled workers in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) and health occupations are in short supply, particularly in southern and eastern Germany.
According to July 2020 statistics, there are currently just over 573,000 job vacancies in Germany. This has reduced from nearly 800,000 a year ago. Vacancies include skilled professions as well as casual work in areas such as English teaching and hospitality.
Job salaries in Germany
The minimum wage in Germany is set each year. As of January 2020, it stands at €9.35 an hour, which currently places it fifth among EU countries.
Average monthly earnings in Germany are €4,021; however, this varies across sectors, regions, and gender. The gender pay gap is 21% as of 2018.
Read more in our guide to average salaries in Germany.
Work culture in Germany
German business culture is traditionally hierarchical, with strong management. Germans work on carefully planned tasks and make decisions based on hard facts. Meetings are orderly and efficient and follow a strict agenda and schedule, where discussions have the aim of reaching compliance and a final decision.
Time is a well-defined concept when it comes to work in Germany. Because of this, people are very punctual, and you should be too in any professional environment.
Labor laws and labor rights in Germany
The average working week in Germany is around 40 hours per week, although the maximum working week is 48 hours. An employee can work up to 10 hours a day if the average hours per day doesn’t exceed eight over a 24-week period.
The minimum annual statutory holiday entitlement in Germany is 20 days per year. German workers also get other benefits such as sick pay and maternity pay. Most work, both full-time and part-time, will be regulated by an employment contract. However, you should carefully check the finer details of any contract before signing as some employers try to include clauses that are heavily in their favor.
Notice periods for the employer terminating a contract in Germany usually start at two weeks during the probation period, increasing to four weeks for most standard contracts. For long-term workers, notice periods can be much longer (for example, up to seven months in some cases for those who have given over 20 years of service).
Read more in our guide to German labor law.
How to find jobs in Germany
For expat-focused and English-speaking jobs in Germany, check out Expatica jobs. There is a constantly updated selection of jobs for both English speakers and speakers of other languages, in a range of different sectors.
If you’re from the EU, EEA, or Switzerland, you can look for a job in Germany through the EURES (European Employment Services) website. EURES is a job portal network that is part of the European Commission and aims to aid free movement within the EEA. As well as looking for work, you can upload your CV and get advice on the legal and administrative issues involved in working in Germany. EURES holds job fairs in spring and autumn.
Public German job sites
The Federal Employment Agency (Bundesagentur für Arbeit, BA), the largest provider of labor market services in Germany, has a network of over 700 agencies and offices around the country. Its International Placement Service (ZAV) has information about work opportunities, including casual work. You can also post your profile on their job portal – as well as your qualifications and career highlights, you can say what kind of post you’re looking for within which type of company.
Job websites in Germany
Jobs in Germany are often advertised on German job and recruitment websites (Jobbörsen), with some specializing in certain industries or focused on jobs in Germany for foreigners.
English-speaking jobs in Germany
- Craigslist – casual and out-of-the-ordinary jobs, including some English-speaking jobs in Germany
- English jobs
- The Local
- Toplanguage jobs– English-speaking jobs in Germany (and other languages)
- Academics – academic and research jobs
- Jobware – management and specialist
- Staufenbiel – internships and graduate jobs
- Stepstone – includes internships and graduate positions
Recruitment agencies in Germany
Look in the German Yellow Pages (Gelbe Seiten) under Arbeitsvermittlung for agencies. They’ll be reputable if they are members of the Federal Employer’s Association of Personnel Service Providers or Bundesarbeitgeberverband der Personaldienstleister (BAP).
Before you sign on, check whether a company that will look for a job on your behalf will charge you a fee for doing so; some may ask for a hefty fee of up to €2,000. You will find several international recruitment agencies operating in Germany, many that which list specialist jobs for foreigners.
Teaching English in Germany
There are lots of opportunities for native English speakers to teach English in Germany: school children, older students in language schools, private tutoring, as well as teaching professional English to staff of international companies. You’ll need to have a degree and experience as well as a TEFL qualification.
German jobs in newspapers
For highly qualified or academic jobs at national levels, buy copies of the Saturday editions of national newspapers or look online: Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, Suddeutsche Zeiting (Munich and the south), Die Welt, Handelsblatt (Düsseldorf), Frankfurter Rundshau, BerlinOnline, and Berliner Zeitung.
Some international companies will advertise on their company websites in both English and German. Vacancies usually appear under Stellenangebote, Karriere or Vakanzen.
You can find all companies in Germany via the German government’s company register.
Embassies and consulates
Look out for vacancies at your home country’s embassy or consulate in Germany. However, you will be sure to need a high standard of spoken and written German.
For many Germans, networking is something done between friends or close colleagues, so while you can try making contacts through professional organizations and conferences, don’t bank on it.
LinkedIn’s Germany Business and Professional Network has job adverts. Alternatively, link up with like-minded expats through Meetup groups or form your own; you never know who you might meet and where it might lead.
Speculative job applications
It’s totally acceptable to approach German companies with speculative applications, but make sure that you do your homework thoroughly and ensure your qualifications and experience are exactly what the company is looking for.
Self-employment and freelancing in Germany
If you have a viable business idea or are skilled in a trade that is in demand, you can work in Germany as a self-employed individual or a freelancer. The rules for setting up your own German business are broadly similar to finding employment: EU/EFTA citizens are free to start their own business, as are non-EU citizens with German residency or the necessary permit to do so.
There are around 4.7 million self-employed workers in Germany, with an additional 764,000 who do self-employed work as a second job. Altogether they make up around 16.4% of the German workforce.
You can set yourself up as a sole trader/unlimited company or fully register as a limited company and employ yourself as a director. This has its benefits but does mean that you have additional paperwork and corporate tax filing obligations in Germany.
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Traineeships, internships, and volunteering in Germany
Find traineeships in the EU for university graduates via the European Commission Traineeships Office (Bureau de Stages), or look for internships and summer placements at AIESEC (for students and recent graduates in the UK) or IAESTE (for students in science, engineering, and applied arts). Globalplacement and Go Abroad also advertise internships. Praktikum is a good German site to search for intern opportunities.
You can also work abroad as a volunteer typically in exchange for board, food, insurance, and a small allowance; for those aged between 17 and 30, find volunteer programs up to 12 months at European Voluntary Service (EVS). Concordia is another organization for volunteer opportunities. For holiday volunteering opportunities, check Workaway.
Applying for jobs in Germany
Once you’ve found a job in Germany to apply for, you will need to prepare your application according to German expectations. In Germany, this often means putting together an application file containing your CV, copies of your educational certificates and employer testimonials, and even samples of your work, if appropriate.
You’ll also need to write a cover letter to go with your application file. Plus, if you get through to the interview stage, you’ll need to know what to expect in a German job interview, and what to do – and not to do – during the interview.
We provide details in our guide on how to create a German-style CV and tips for job interviews in Germany. It’s also worth trying out online resume builders such as Resume.io to simplify the job application process.
Support while looking for jobs in Germany
Germany has a social security system that includes unemployment benefit that is paid to those out of work. It’s a contributions-based system so you will need to have paid into it while working in order to claim full benefits when out of work. However, funds are available at a lower level for those who haven’t been able to make contributions. You will need to enquire with your local employment office about your entitlements if you haven’t made sufficient contributions.
If you want to access training to improve your work skills and career prospects in Germany, you can find suitable courses through the Federal Employment Agency.
See more information about unemployment benefits and other forms of assistance in our guide to German social security.
Requirements to work in Germany
Work visas in Germany
If you are from the European Union (EU) or the European Free Trade Association (EFTA), you don’t need a permit to work in Germany as long as you have a valid passport or ID card, although registering your address is required.
Non-EU/EFTA nationals will need a relevant work visa in order to work in Germany. The process for this will depend on where you are coming from and what job you are coming to do.
Language requirements to work in Germany
While you may find English-speaking jobs in Germany, you’ll need to be able to speak at least some German to get most jobs (even those teaching English). If you speak no German, it’s likely that you’ll be restricted to casual and informal work which is typically lower-paid. Furthermore, it’s unlikely that you would get a professional level job without good language skills.
There are many language schools in Germany if you need to brush up on your German.
Qualifications to work in Germany
There are around 150 regulated professions in Germany, including teachers, doctors and opticians. If yours is one of them, you’ll need to get your qualification recognized by the relevant German authority or professional association before you can work in Germany. Check out your occupation on Recognition in Germany and find out how to get it recognized.
Contact the Central Office for Foreign Education (Zentrale Stelle für die Bewertung ausländischer Qualifikationen, ZAB) to get a foreign university degree verified. Countries signed up to the Bologna Process will have their qualifications recognized in Germany.
Tax and social security numbers in Germany
If you work in Germany or are enrolled in public health insurance, you will receive a social insurance number (RNVR). This is a 12-digit number (containing one letter) that is used for social security and state pension services. Anyone who contributes towards German social security should receive the number and it should be listed on your payslips and health insurance documents.
All German residents are also assigned a tax identification number (Steueridentifikationsnummer). This is a different number made up of 11 digits and is used for tax calculation purposes.
Starting a job in Germany
Employment probation periods in Germany are generally three months but can be as long as six months. During this time, the notice period for terminating the job contract will be shorter.
Your employer should enroll you for German health insurance and other German social security benefits as soon as you start work. This includes enrollment for the German state pension and for work-related accident insurance in Germany.
Depending on your employer, you may also be offered the chance to opt in on a company pension to top up your state pension benefit, as well as other in-work benefits.