The different study degrees
Depending on your field of study, you can obtain different types of degrees.
The first step to an university degree
The Bachelor's degree is the so-called “undergraduate studies” and thus the first degree you can obtain after school with the A-Levels (Abitur), Vocational Technical Diploma (Fachabitur), or the Advanced Technical College Entrance Qualification (Allgemeine Fachhochschulreife) at a German or international university or University of Applied Sciences. At many universities there is a restriction, the so-called “Numerus Clausus (NC)”, for certain study programmes, as only a limited number of places are available. You can read here what exactly a degree course is and how it works. The duration of a Bachelor's degree course is approximately three to four years, i.e. six to eight semesters, and ends with the writing of a scientific paper – the so-called Bachelor thesis. If you wish, you can take up a Master's degree with your Bachelor's degree or start your professional life directly.
There are eight different Bachelor's degrees, all of which are internationally recognised and of equal value. They differ only in the fields of study in which they are awarded:
– Bachelor of Arts (B.A.): linguistics and cultural sciences, social and societal sciences, partly in economics, arts, and sports sciences
– Bachelor of Science (B.Sc.): natural sciences, mathematics, computer science, technology, economics
– Bachelor of Engineering (B.Eng.): technology and engineering sciences, alternative to B.Sc.
– Bachelor of Laws (LL.B.): law, are offered parallel to the “classical” law studies leading to the state examination
– Bachelor of Education (B.Ed.): first step to studying to become a teacher – to become a teacher in Germany you need a Master or state examination
– Bachelor of Fine Arts (B.F.A): fine arts
– Bachelor of Music (B.Mus): Academies of Music
– Bachelor of Musical Arts (B.M.A.): alternative to the B.Mus. – combination of musical-artistic study programmes and additional skills such as management, journalism, or marketing
– and many more
Extend your knowledge
The Master's degree is the second highest degree you can obtain at the university. You can only do a Master's degree if you have previously obtained your Bachelor's degree. In the Master's programme, which usually lasts one to two years, i.e. two to four semesters, the knowledge you acquired in your Bachelor's degree is deepened even further – this prepares you as well as possible for the professional world, which of course means that your salary is usually higher than with a Bachelor's degree. A Master's degree is a prerequisite for a doctorate. For a Master's degree you have to apply in the same way as for a Bachelor's degree – there are also restrictions and admission requirements such as the NC, internships, or a letter of motivation. Here it is the Master thesis, which is about twice as long as the Bachelor thesis.
In the Master's degree there are so-called consecutive and continuing education courses. Consecutive courses of study build on the content of the preceding Bachelor's programme. You also have the possibility to study a different subject area than previously in the Bachelor's programme through a “non-consecutive Master's programme”, which is now also called a “consecutive Master's programme”. For example, if you have obtained your Bachelor's degree in Electrical Engineering, you can do your Master's degree in Business Administration (economies).
Depending on the field of study, the consecutive Master programmes lead to the following degrees:
– Master (M.A.): linguistics and cultural sciences, social and societal sciences, partly in economics, arts, and sports sciences
– Master of Science (M.Sc.): natural sciences, mathematics, computer science, technology, economics
– Master of Engineering (M.Eng.): technology and engineering sciences, alternative to B.Sc.
– Master of Laws (LL.M.): law, are offered parallel to the “classical” law studies leading to the state examination
– Master of Education (M.Ed.): first step to studying to become a teacher – to become a teacher in Germany you need a Master or state examination
– Master of Fine Arts (M.F.A): fine arts
– Master of Music (M.Mus): Academies of Music
– Master of Musical Arts (M.M.A.): alternative to the B.Mus. – combination of musical-artistic study programmes and additional skills such as management, journalism, or marketing
– and many more
In contrast to consecutive Master's programmes, Master's programmes for further education can be completed alongside the job and are usually subject to a fee. These programmes are designed to enable working people to adapt to the labour market alongside their profession. Therefore, you need at least one year of work experience in addition to your Bachelor's or Master's degree.
The alternative for certain study programmes
For the state examination, graduates in medicine, teaching, law, or pharmacy must take a comprehensive examination – the state examination – to complete their studies. This examination is not accepted by the university itself, but by a state authority. There is a first and a second state examination. The First State Examination takes place after a certain number of semesters, depending on the field of study (between six for teaching and 12 for medicine). If you do not pass this examination the first time, you are legally entitled to a second attempt, a third attempt is only allowed in special cases. After the First State Examination, a practice-oriented preparatory service takes place, e.g. in the teaching profession in the form of an almost two-year internship. Since the First State Examination is a university degree, but the career prospects are rather poor, it would be advantageous to add a Second State Examination to the preparatory period.
Diploma and Magister
Actively contribute to the state of the art in research
With the conferral of a doctorate you will receive your doctorate – one of the highest academic degrees. You have to, among other things, write a dissertation (doctoral thesis) over a period of up to three years, attend seminars, and pass examinations. After the doctoral thesis, which is written and successfully accepted together with a supervising professor, you must take an oral examination (disputation/doctoral viva). At the end you will receive the doctorate. You can do your doctorate almost exclusively at universities, but there are also Universities of Applied Sciences in Hessen that have the right to award doctorates. To do a doctorate you need a university degree, usually a Master's degree. At some universities, however, you are also allowed to do a doctorate with a degree from an University of Applied Sciences, sometimes even “only” with a Bachelor's degree. However, you have to pass a certain qualification procedure.
There are various possibilities for doctoral studies: for example, in the case of a cumulative doctorate, instead of submitting a complete thesis, you can have partial results and individual chapters of your work published. There are also the possibilities of an external and internal doctorate. In the case of an external doctorate, you write your doctoral thesis in addition to your professional activity; in the case of an internal doctorate, you teach students in addition to writing your thesis. It is important to know that you cannot receive BAföG for a doctorate, which is why many people work full-time, take a job at the university, or apply for a doctoral scholarship.