Working in Germany

For many foreigners, Germany has amazing working conditions. German employees enjoy some of the highest salaries in the world, generous benefits and state-mandated job protection. In some industries, working hours have been reduced to 35 hours/week and holiday of up 30 days/year is not uncommon.

Along with this, it enjoys some of the longest holidays in the EU, with a combined total of 40 days coming from agreed annual leave and public holidays. The country has also held up a lot better throughout the ongoing global recession than many of its European and Western counterparts. As of July 2013 it has an unemployment rate of 6.8%, which is just over half the European average of 12.1%.

There’s a shortage of skilled workers in many professions in Germany. These include qualified engineers (mechanical, automotive, electrical and building), scientists, mathematicians, IT specialists and both hospital doctors and GPs. Professionals with vocational qualifications are also in demand in certain fields (see herefor a list). With an increasingly older population, workers in the geriatric, health and nursing professions are also in short supply. English teaching, casual work and hospitality jobs are also available.

Working as a foreigner

If you're a native English-speaker, don't expect it to be a big advantage in the job market (of course, apart from teaching). Most Germans study English in school so jobs requiring this skill will have ample candidates (although don't expect all Germans to speak fluent English as this is not the case). Languages other than English can often be an advantage, as Germany is one of the largest exporters in the world. There is demand for "exotic" language skills, especially some Asian languages.
As in any foreign country, speaking the local language is a must. Obviously the environment at a multinational, compared to a small family-owned company, will probably be more suited to foreigner. Keep this in mind when looking for a job. For professionals, German operations of large foreign corporate or the international areas of very large companies may be promising targets.
A remarkable range of occupations are regulated in Germany, with many jobs requiring formal qualification. The country has an apprenticeship system that requires most young workers to pass a 2/3 year training program before entering the real labour market, which ensures they have first-hand experience in the job. For foreigners this can mean you might be prevented from working in a job in which you have experience at home, e.g. electrician, computer technician, etc. If you do have a formal qualification (such as for doctors, teacher and nurses, etc.), it will need to be certified by a competent German authority (usually a guild, trade or professional association).

Qualifications and references

There are around 60 regulated professions in Germany, including teachers, doctors and opticians. If yours is one of them, you’ll need to get your qualification recognised by the relevant German authority or professional association before you can work. Check out your occupation on Recognition in Germany and find out how to get it recognised. Contact the Central Office for Foreign Education (ZAB) to get a foreign University degree verified. Countries signed up to the Bologna Process will have their qualifications recognised in Germany.

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