Germany – it’s not all about bratwurst, beer and the Autobahn.
It also happens to be one of the best countries to work in. It has a thriving economy, with many employers looking for skilled professionals to join their companies, a relatively low unemployment rate and workers enjoy an excellent quality of life. But that’s not all: office drinking is typically allowed!
Have you heard enough and decided that relocating to Germany for work is the right thing to do, but not quite sure how to do it? Fret not!
You’ll find everything you need to know about working in Germany in this comprehensive guide, including where to find a job, whether you need a work visa, how much the cost of living is and how to gain some valuable work experience.
Working in Germany
What is it really like to work in Germany?
The job market in Germany is strong, and employment prospects are high for skilled workers coming into the country, especially those looking to enter the engineering, manufacturing and IT sectors. Other major industries include chemicals, coal, electronics, food and beverages, machinery, shipbuilding, textiles and vehicles.
If you want to find a job, it’s important to note that there’s a shortage of builders, doctors, electrical engineers, IT specialists, mechanical engineers, social care professionals and teachers.
Some of the best companies to work for in Germany include:
- Deutsche Bank
- Volkswagen Group
Working Hours and Conditions
On average, workers in Germany work around 40 hours a week. Federal regulations set the working time of an employee to 8 hours a day and limit the average workweek to a maximum of 48 hours a week. According to the European Labour Force Survey, the 2011 average workweek was 39.9 hours for women and 41.1 hours for men. Like in the UK, provision for overtime, holidays and weekend pay vary.
Workers in Germany are legally entitled to a minimum of 18 days’ annual leave. But, many employers offer up to 30 days, and that’s in addition to 9 public holidays.
The average monthly gross salary in Germany is €3,703 (£3,359). The gender pay gap in the country is a staggering 22.4%, according to official European Commission statistics. Men typically earn €3,898 (£3,535) per month, while women earn significantly less at €3,258 (£2,955).
Salaries vary depending on a variety of factors, including your chosen industry, employer, experience and qualifications.
The top 5 best-paying jobs in the country are:
- Laboratory managers (€123,000 or £111,651 per year)
- Sales managers (€134,000 or £121,636 per year)
- Investment bankers (€150,000 or £136,160 per year)
- Federal ministers (€168,000 or £152,485 per year)
- Managing directors (€170,000 or £154,300 per year)
Finding a Job
There’s more to finding a job in Germany than simply showing up and hoping for the best. Ideally, you should start looking for jobs about six months before you plan to move there. This will give you plenty of time to make all the necessary arrangements for a move abroad and to secure employment – after all, the average job search can take up to 12 weeks.
Where to Look
There are many job search strategies you can put in place to find a job. These include:
- Browsing job boards and websites like:
- Academics.com (for academic jobs in research and higher education)
- Bundesagentur für Arbeit (the federal employment agency)
- EURES (the European job mobility portal)
- Jobware (for management and specialist jobs)
- Registering with recruitment agencies
- Checking local newspapers, including:
- Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (daily newspaper with national reach)
- Frankfurter Rundschau (Frankfurt-based daily)
- Handelsblatt (Düsseldorf-based financial daily)
- Sueddeutsche Zeitung (Munich-based daily)
Other sources for job opportunities include social media, directly checking the websites of the companies you’d like to work at and some good old networking.
Applying for Jobs
The process of applying for jobs in Germany is similar to that in the UK.
You’ll normally need to submit your CV (lebenslauf) and a cover letter (anschreiben) for consideration, as well as a list of references and any academic or professional certificates. You can use a simple Europass CV format if preferred also.
Most applications should be filled out in German, though English is also acceptable, depending on the job and the employer. Still, you’ll need to have a good knowledge of the German language to boost your chances of gaining employment.
Qualifications acquired in the UK are usually recognised in Germany. But, if yours is one of the 60+ regulated professions in the country (for example, you’re a doctor, lawyer or teacher), you’ll need to get your qualifications recognised before you can begin work (applications cost between €200 and €600, or £181 and £543).
Gaining Work Experience
Having some work experience under your belt can add value to your application for a job (wherever you are in the world), while it also gives you a sense of your chosen industry. It’s also great to sample all of your career options when you’re not entirely sure what you want to do.
The following schemes provide UK students with the opportunity to gain some work experience in Germany:
- AIESEC (offers international internships from 6 weeks to 18 months)
- British Council – Language Assistants programme (offers opportunities to work in Germany as a language assistant, as long as you have an A-level in German or equivalent)
- Erasmus+ (covers student exchange, work experience and volunteer opportunities throughout the EU)
- European Training Services (ETS) (organises 3-month placements in Europe)
- European Voluntary Service (EVS) (offers international volunteering opportunities from 2 to 12 months)
You might also want to consider taking a gap year. There are many organisations in Germany offering gap year programmes, though make sure the company is registered with Air Travel Organisers' Licensing (ATOL) or another similar organisation.
Getting a Work Visa
Currently, UK citizens have the right to live and work in the European Economic Area (EEA) (which includes Germany and all other EU member states, plus Iceland, Lichtenstein and Norway) and Switzerland without a work visa. But, as Brexit looms, this may change as negotiations for the UK to leave the EU in March 2019 progress. Ultimately, Brits’ ability to live and work in EU nations will depend on new agreements the UK negotiates with those nations.
Note that once you’ve secured a job in Germany, you’ll need to obtain a certificate of residence from the local Ausländeramt (Foreign Nationals Authority) or Einwohnermeldeamt (Residence Registration Office) within three months of your arrival. You’ll typically need to provide proof of employment – this could be your contract or a letter of employment – and proof of accommodation. For more information, visit the Federal Foreign Office website.
If you’re not an EU citizen, contact the local German embassy in your country to learn more about visa regulations and permits.
Living in Germany
If you do decide to relocate to Germany for work, there are a few other things than finding a high-paying job that you need to take into consideration.
Here’s a snapshot of what life in Germany is like:
- Cost of living: According to TransferWise, the average cost of living for a four-person family living in Berlin is €29,964 (£27,155). A three-bedroom family home outside the city centre will set you back an average €1,050 (£951) per month. You’ll also need €257 (£232) for internet and utilities per month, €81 (£73) for a monthly bus pass and €62 (£56) for a family doctor check-up. Cities such as Hamburg and Munich are typically more expensive than Berlin. Income tax is on a progressive scale ranging from 18.9% to 45%.
- Health services: Germany has one of the highest quality healthcare services in the world. Working in Germany, you’ll have compulsory health insurance automatically arranged by your employer.
- Laws and customs: Germany is a highly progressive, tolerant and liberal country, by international standards. Sexual orientation, for example, is considered a matter of personal choice. Germans are generally friendly toward foreigners. Laws are similar to those in the UK.
Check the GOV.UK website for further information about living in Germany.
Have you made the move to Germany for work? Have any other tips for professionals considering following in your footsteps? Join the conversation down below and share your thoughts and experiences with us!
Meanwhile, if you’re not entirely persuaded that Germany is the best country to live and work in for you, and would prefer somewhere a little further afield, why don’t you check out our comprehensive relocation guides for Australia, Canada, Japan and the USA?
Also, don’t forget to check out our beginner’s guide to moving and working abroad.
Euro – Sterling pound currency conversions are based on rates supplied by XE.com on 11 August 2017.