Germany is one of the leading countries for research and a hub for innovation. The country’s high quality of life combined with lower cost of living make it an attractive destination for international researchers. Are you contemplating a move to Germany? Here is a breakdown of the most common German academic jobs and their salaries. All salary statistics in this article are in Euros per month and are pre-tax.
In Germany applicants must apply for a preset doctoral project that is usually tied to a professor’s own research. Students do not do any coursework; they start working on their project immediately. They are also required to take on some teaching responsibilities. The time it takes to earn a doctorate depends on the field, but three to five years is typical.
The salaries of PhD students are based on the federal wage agreement (Tarifvertrag der Länder or TV-L). There are several pay scales (Entgeltgruppe) within the TV-L but PhD students are usually paid at the TV-L E13 level. Within this level, there are three factors that determine the student’s actual salary. The first is the pay grade (stufe) which is based on the number of years of experience you have. Most PhD students start at stufe 1 and progress through the grades as they gain years of seniority. The next factor is the working hours (50%, 67%, 75%, or 100%) and the final factor which federal state the university is in. You can find the salary calculators for each state here. For example, the salary range for a 100% PhD student is €3,438.27-€4,962.10 while the range for a 67% PhD student is €2,303.65-€3,324.61.
After earning their doctorate, researchers go on to a postdoc. A postdoc is a continuation of the researcher’s training that allows them to further specialize in a particular field and learn new skills and techniques. It may require them to take on teaching responsibilities. German postdocs typically last two to four years.
Like all non-tenured academic positions in Germany, postdoc salaries are fairly rigid. They are based on the same TV-L federal wage agreement as PhD salaries. The salaries are determined the same way too, taking into account pay scale, pay grade, working hours, and state. You can find the salary calculators for each state here. Postdocs are paid at the E13 or (less commonly) E14 level, with the exact starting pay grade depending on how their years of experience (bachelor's, Master’s, and PhD) are counted. The salary range for a 100% E13 postdoc is €3,438.27-€4,962.10 and the salary range for a 100% E14 postdoc is €3,891.16-€5,517.62.
Junior professors positions offer early career academics the opportunity to research, supervision, administration, and teaching experience on equal terms to other university instructors. Junior professorships are usually for three to four years and can be extended for a total of six years. It is often a temporary position, however, certain universities offer a tenure-track option. Germany has recently signed an agreement to create 1,000 tenure-track junior professorships by 2032.
Junior professors, like all German professors, are paid according to the W-Besoldung salary table. This scale dictates base salaries according to which state the university is in. Unlike the PhD and postdoc pay scale, there are no pay grades within this scale. A W1 professor will make minimum €4,219.84-€4,909.04 per month.
To become a professor, an academic needs to have completed the Habilitation, have a positive evaluation as a junior professor, or have led their own junior research group. W2 professors are considered independent researchers and generally have permanent positions. Internal promotion to these positions is not encouraged in Germany. With the exceptions of junior professors, academics cannot be appointed a professor at the university they did their Habilitation.
The base salary for a W2 professor is €4,853.91-€6,181.58 depending on which state the university is in. In Bund, Bayern, Hessen, and Sachsen there are multiple pay grades within the W2 band meaning the professor’s salary will increase in five or seven years in the position. Salaries can also be increased by family allowances, retention payments, and performance bonuses. As professors are civil servants with high job security, they do not typically pay the same social insurance contributions as other employees.
A W3 professor is the highest German academic position that usually involves responsibility of a chair or for an institute. The requirements to become a full professor are very demanding and as a consequence, there is often a minimum age requirement for this sort of professorship. Professors in Germany are public servants and as such have permanent positions at their universities.
The base salary for a W3 professor is €5,868.87-€7,017.26 depending on which state the university is in. In Bund, Bayern, Hessen, and Sachsen there are multiple pay grades within the W3 band meaning the professor’s salary will increase in five or seven years in the position. Salaries can also be increased by family allowances, retention payments, and performance bonuses. As professors are civil servants with high job security, they do not typically pay the same social insurance contributions as other employees.