Higher education in Germany

German higher education is very similar to Dutch higher education. It is also divided into 2 types of education:

  • research-oriented higher education
  • higher professional education

Also, there are separate educational institutions for research-oriented higher education and higher professional education, just like in the Netherlands.

An important difference with Dutch higher education: instead of bachelor’s and master’s degrees, students can obtain diplomas that originate from a time when bachelor’s and master’s degrees did not yet exist. The Magister and Diplom are examples of these ‘traditional’ diplomas. Below, we describe bachelor’s degrees, master’s degrees and the traditional diplomas per type of education.

Research-oriented education

Students follow research-oriented higher education at an Universität (university) or another research-oriented institution (see also Higher education | educational institutions). At these institutions, they can obtain the following diplomas:

Higher professional education

In Germany, higher professional education is offered by Fachhochschulen. Students can obtain the following diplomas:

Bachelor’s degree from a research-oriented institution

  • : 3 years.
  • Study load: 180 ECTS.
  • Content: research-oriented subjects, often including a thesis.
  • Admission requirements: students need to have 1 of the following diplomas:
  • Function of the diploma: access to master’s programmes.
  • Diploma: a bachelor’s degree, such as Bachelor of Arts, Bachelor of Science, Bachelor of Engineering, Bachelor of Laws. Sometimes you see the Latin diploma name, such as Baccalaureus Artium instead of Bachelor of Arts.

We compare a bachelor’s degree from a research-oriented institution to a bachelor’s degree.

Bachelor's degree from a Fachhochschule

We compare a bachelor’s degree from a Fachhochschule to an bachelor’s degree.

Master’s degree from a research-oriented institution

We compare a master’s degree from a research-oriented institution to a WO master’s degree.

Master’s degree from a Fachhochschule

  • Duration: 1, 1½ or 2 years.
  • Study load: 60, 90 or 120 ECTS.
  • Content: profession-oriented subjects and often a thesis or a project as well.
  • Admission requirements: a bachelor’s degree.
  • Function of the diploma: work.
  • Diploma: a master’s degree, such as Master of Arts, Master of Science, Master of Architecture, Master of Business Administration or Master of Engineering.

We compare a master’s degree from a Fachhochschule to an HBO master’s degree.

Magister/Diplom from a research-oriented institution

Instead of bachelor’s and master’s degrees, students can also obtain a Magister or a Diplom. These diplomas originate from a time when bachelor’s and master’s degrees did not yet exist. Most study programmes now have a bachelor's or master's structure. However, some educational institutions still offer study programmes for these old (traditional) diplomas.

  • Duration: usually 4 ½ years.
  • Inhoud: usually 2 years of general studies (Grundstudium), 2 years of in-depth studies (Hauptstudium) and a half-year internship and/or preparation for the final exam.
    • Usually, a Magister programme is in the field of humanities (such as history or a language) or social sciences (sociology or psychology, for example). There is usually 1 major and 2 minors or 2 majors.
    • A Diplom programme is often taken in the field of natural sciences (such as chemistry of physics) or technology (computer technology or civil engineering). Students take subjects for 1 major.
  • Admission requirements: students need to have 1 of the following diplomas:
  • Function of the diploma: access to a PhD programme or work.
  • Diploma: Magister or Diplom.

We compare a Magister to a WO master's degree.

We compare a Diplom from a research-oriented institution to a WO master's degree.

Zwischenprüfungszeugnis

When students have completed the first 2 years of the Magister or Diplom programme, they receive an intermediate diploma: the Zwischenprüfungszeugnis.

We compare a Zwischenprüfungszeugnis to 2 years of WO.

Diplom from a Fachhochschule

We compare a Diplom from a Fachhochschule to an HBO bachelor's degree.

Diplom-Vorprüfungszeugnis

When students have completed the first 1½ to 2 years of a Diplom programme from a Fachhochschule, they receive an intermediate diploma: the Diplom-Vorprüfungszeugnis.

We compare a Diplom-Vorprüfungszeugnis from a Fachhochschule to 1½ to 2 years of HBO. This depends on the duration of the study programme.

Staatsprüfung

Just like the Magister and Diplom, the Staatsprüfung is a diploma from the time when bachelor’s and master’s degrees did not yet exist. It is also a diploma that students can still obtain at research-oriented institutions. It is called Staatsprüfung because students take exams (Prüfungen) from the federal state (Staat), not from the Universität or Hochschule itself.

  • Duration: varies per study programme.
  • Content: Staatsprüfung programmes exist for dentistry, food technology, law, medicine, pharmacy, veterinary medicine and teacher training programmes. Often, the study programme has 2 or 3 components:
    • 1 or 2 theoretical components with subjects in the chosen field of study; and
    • 1 practical component.
  • Admission requirements: students need to have 1 of the following diplomas:
  • Function of the diploma: work or access to a PhD programme. For access to the profession of the field of study, students need to have completed all components of the study programme.
  • Diploma: Staatsprüfung. It is often awarded in 3 grades: 'Erste', 'Zweite' or 'Dritte'.

The level of a Staatsprüfung varies per study programme. Please contact us for a credential evaluation.

Doktor (PhD)

Studenten get the diploma Doktor when they complete a PhD programme. In Germany, this is called: Promotion.