Study in Germany for access to the most livable cities

Vienna, world's most livable cityHave you ever dreamed of living in cities like Vienna, Zurich and Munich? According to Mercer’s 2011 Quality of Living Survey, six out of the top ten most livable cities in the world are in Austria, (German-speaking part of) Switzerland and Germany. Fluent German language skills combined with a German degree will grant you better access to some of the most livable places in the world. What better way to learn German and earn a German degree than to study in Germany?

Fluent German grants you better access to the German-speaking world

The German-speaking “world” I’m referring to comprises primarily of Germany (duh!), Study German in GermanyAustria and Switzerland (really???). (Apologies to any other German-speaking communities that I may have unscrupulously left out.) If you are able to speak German fluently, you’ll have much better access to jobmarkets in these countries. (Better doesn’t mean that you don’t have to shower before than interview.) Besides, life in general would be a whole lot easier and more fun. Professionals and fresh graduates from other countries without equivalent German language skills would struggle to compete with you for those open positions (assuming all else is equal).

But what about international organizations in these countries? Wouldn’t English be enough there? English skills are without a doubt crucial for most international organizations. It is needed for colleagues of different backgrounds and nationalities to liaise with one another. It’s needed to watch Jim Carrey play… well, Jim Carrey! Nonetheless, from my experience, English alone is not enough. Fluent German is often mandatory for international organizations operating in these countries as well. One of the main reasons being that the local offices are often intended to serve the German-speaking market. International organizations often choose to set up offices in these countries to serve their clients in Germany, Austria and Switzerland (the region is often known by the abbreviation DACH). To work with these clients, you’ll need German (or a very, very good looking translator).

A German degree is well-recognized in Europe

Beer to Study in GermanyAs described in my previous post, Universities in Germany have high standards and are well-recognized globally. Besides the positive recognition, they teach relevant content. The recognition of these universities and the relevance of their content are accentuated in the German-speaking world. No, it’s not because they are the only ones who can read each others’ degrees! It’s about having a common culture focused on excellence (think BMW, Rolex and… Red Bull???). So, having studied and earned a degree in Germany improves your chances of securing a good job in the German-speaking world.

Having worked in Germany for over four years now and having had much discussion with recruitment agencies (a.k.a. head hunters), I believe there is an abundance of job opportunities in the German-speaking countries. However, candidates must have fluent German skills and good academic qualifications to secure them.

Study in Germany for more job opportunities

Study in Germany for more job opportunitiesLow unemployment in Germany

Germany is currently enjoying record low unemployment, while many other countries in the world and especially in the EU are struggling with high unemployment. The global economy, which has not fully recovered from the aftermath of the Lehman crisis in 2008, is facing yet another, possibly larger, threat: the Euro crisis. I feel bad bringing it up and even more so for adding a positive twist to the story, but amidst the chaos, the German economy and job market is rocking. Here are the facts to prove it:

  • According to Reuters, Germany posted record low unemployment of 6.7% in March 2012. This is the lowest rate since the reunification. Articles from The Economic Times and The Guardian carry the same message.
  • According to Reuters, the unemployment rate in July 2012 was still a measly 6.8%. Nonetheless, it should be noted that they highlighted the risk of a recession in Germany if the global economic slowdown persists.
  • According to Deutsche Welle, Germany has the lowest unemployment rate among young people in the EU. That alone may not say much but here are the stats: while countries like Greece and Spain have youth unemployment rates in excess of 50% and the EU average stands at 22.6%, the rate is Germany is a mere 7.9%.

Even better prospects for graduates

For a prospective student, it’s comforting to know that there are many job vacancies available even if that only applies at the moment. According to an article from University World News dated November 2011, unemployment among graduates in Germany one year after leaving their institution is as follows:

  • 4% for graduates with the traditional Diplom, Magister or Staatsexamen from a university or Fachhochschule (University of Applied Science)
  • 3% for graduates with a Bachelor’s degree from a Fachhochschule
  • 2% for graduates with a Bachelor’s degree from a university

These percentages are substantially lower than the already low national unemployment rate in Germany. This goes to show that the job prospects for graduates in Germany are pretty good. While past performance is no guarantee for future results and therefore, it’s impossible to predict how the job market in Germany will be in a few years from now (i.e. when graduating), I think that Germany is on a good foundation.

Having said all that, the recruitment process in Germany is tough and demanding on candidates. Due to Germany’s strict labor laws, employers tend to really take time and effort to find ideal candidates for their open positions. However, a graduate equipped with good German language skills and a degree from a German institution of higher education has good prospects.

Study in Germany for almost free

Study in Germany for freeTo set the record straight, I’m referring only to tuition fees. Students, local or foreign (homo sapiens only though), can study in Germany without paying tuition fees at many universities. Don’t take it to mean that you can live off the generosity of the state throughout your studies. Even if you are green, live on rain and sunshine, and able to perform Photosynthesis, there are various other expenses that you’ll have to fund on your own. Let’s look at the situation with regards to tuition fees at universities here in Germany.

Tuition fees for undergraduate studies in Germany

Since 2006, every public university in Germany has been allowed to charge a nominal tuition fee for their undergraduate programs. However, at the moment, only two states impose tuition fees for them. The states are Bavaria (Bayern) and Lower Saxony (Niedersachsen).

Public universities in the states of Bavaria and Lower Saxony impose tuition fees on students in their undergraduate programs. The fees are about 500 EUR per semester in both states.

What if you study too long or take on a second undergraduate degree?

A problem with having no tuition fees is that some students are in no rush to graduate. I’m all for enjoying your university days but there comes a point when a student should stop dragging his/her feet and take the next step, which is graduating. To overcome this lack of enthusiasm among such university students in Germany to graduate, some states have imposed long-term tuition fees (Langzeitstudiengebühren). These fees are typically imposed on students from the 10th to 13th semester onwards depending on the course of study.

Students that decide to take on another undergraduate degree at the same university they studied in for their first, risk falling into long-term study category. The time spent completing the first degree is considered when calculating the students total study duration. Let’s consider an example: Matthias has studied eight semesters for a Bachelor’s degree in Computer Science. Upon completion, he decides to take on another Bachelor’s degree – this time in finance.The course is expected to take six semesters. From the second semester of his Bachelor’s program in finance (tenth semester in total at the university) onwards, Matthias may have to start paying long-term tuition fees.

Tuition fees for graduate studies in Germany

In general, Master’s programs at universities in Germany have tuition fees. The actual amount and conditions vary from university to university. In any case, the fees are quite nominal. PhD and doctoral programs in Germany currently do not impose any tuition fee.

Other semester fees

Every university in Germany imposes a fee that is due every semester – the dreaded semester fees. Semester fees are imposed on all students alike – undergraduate and graduate. These fees are typically paid by every student before the start of each semester when registering for it. The amount can vary significantly between 50 and 250 EUR. Semester fees are intended to cover administration costs, student services, Student Council fees and in most cases include a ticket for public transportation.

Financial requirements for student visa

Although many university programs in Germany do not impose tuition fees, they are certain financial requirements that a student must fulfill to get a student visa. While the visa requirements vary from one country of origin to another, students in general need to prove that they have 8,000 EUR of financing per academic year. This equates to 667 EUR per month. Depending on the city where you’re studying, 667 EUR may be unnecessary or insufficient.

Some peers of mine used to transfer their funds between each others account to reach the required amount, print out their account statement and apply for a visa extension with it. I’m not suggesting anything here.

Study in Germany for high-quality education

Many countries and probably every educational institution in the world would claim to offer high-quality education. In case you haven’t noticed, modesty is not a trademark of higher education. Germany is no different in that regard. Visit any official site on higher education in Germany and you’re bound to find quality being bragged as a reason to study in Germany. Whether you choose to take such claims at face value or with a pinch of salt, I personally believe that universities in Germany offer high-quality education. While standards certainly do vary from one university to another, it’s fair to say that most are pretty good.

But what do I regard as high-quality education? I’m neither an academic nor an expert in higher education but I believe that a high-quality education must have the following attributes:

  1. High standards
  2. Relevant content
  3. Good recognition

Universities in Germany have high standards

You have to earn your grades. There is a high-level of transparency in the system. You feel proud of your achievement when you graduate.
Universities in Germany have high standards

Plagiarizing politicians have been making headlines in Germany recently. The highest profile culprit being former Defense Minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg. Time has a good article on him that you may want to check out. In spite of all the bad press, I’m still convinced that universities in Germany are very transparent. And no, I’m not talking in relative terms to countries where you have to pay penance to have your papers graded fairly. There will always be rotten apples but here in Germany they are by far the exception.

In Germany, you typically have to work hard to earn good grades. If your grades are unsatisfactory, you find out why and if you still you disagree with them, you can contest them. You often get access to your graded papers. At the end of the day, you feel contented and a sense of pride having graduated from a rigorous and fair education system.

Universities in Germany teach relevant content

You can apply the knowledge gained during your studies in your vocation. Things you learn bring you closer to your goals.

Universities in Germany teach relevant contentThere are fundamentally two types of universities in Germany: traditional universities (i.e. Universität) and Universities of Applied Sciences (i.e. Fachhochschule). These institutions differ in their approach towards higher education and their mix of theoretical and applied knowledge. Traditional universities emphasize more on theoretical knowledge and research whereas a Universities of Applied Sciences focus more on practical and applied knowledge. Depending on your goals (among other things), you can choose the type of institution that suits you best. For more information about a Fachhochschule, check out this entry on Wikipedia.

Universities in Germany (both types) tend to put quite a bit of weight on internships. Most university students do at least one internship and many do more than one during their studies. Students are encouraged to do internships and in many cases are facilitated by their universities in getting placements. These internships help prepare students for working life by:

  1. Enabling them to see and apply the classroom knowledge they have gained in the real world.
  2. Helping them establish a professional network as early as possible.
  3. Teaching them new skills relevant for their professional life.

Some students are successful at securing jobs with the companies they interned at, other aren’t. But in any case, an internship improves a student’s prospects of securing a job after graduating.

Universities in Germany are well-recognized

Employers regard your qualification highly. You are given preferential treatment during job applications.

Universities in Germany are well-recognizedIf you plan to apply for a job with your degree, it needs to be recognized. Even if you do decide not to apply for a job with your degree but simply pin in up on your wall as some kind of self-thrilling therapy, it should be recognized – otherwise, what thrill is there?

Germany is arguably the most advanced country in engineering and certainly a leader in technology. It’s the home to some of the best auto makers in the world, namely Mercedes-Benz, Volkswagen, Audi, BMW and Opel. Airbus does much of its manufacturing and R&D in Germany – for a detailed description of Airbus’ activities in Germany, click here. Even the beloved audio compression technology, MP3, was developed at the Frauenhofer Institute in Germany. A technical degree from Germany carries with it the credence that Germany as a nation has attained in the area of engineering and technology.

If you’re planning to study in a non-technology-related field, don’t be alarmed. Fundamentally, Germany is well-recognized for its development and progress in many other fields as well including medicine, business, economics, law and finance. Wikipedia cites 102 Nobel Laureates in various fields as originating from Germany.

For more information on other famous German inventions: