German university degrees and doctorates


There are essentially three types of university degrees in Germany: an MA, which is a purely academic qualification (usually in arts subjects); a Diplom, which is similar but in a science subject; and a Staatsexamen, which is taken for careers that are controlled by the government (such as teachers).

A big problem with the German university system is that titles are not easily comparable on an international level. To strengthen their international reputation, many universities have therefore also started to offer additional degrees that are internationally comparable, such as BAs and Master’s degrees. In some universities, you will either get a German degree, an international degree, or both.

Be aware, however, that the ‘international titles’ given out by German universities do not always correspond to the type of studies offered internationally. For example, many German universities now offer MBA degrees, but continue with an academic approach to studying business (instead of the more practical approach using case studies which is commonly employed elsewhere). When choosing a German university programme, make sure you not only understand the titles offered, but also the programme itself and the nature of the classes.

German doctorates

The highest qualification in Germany is a doctorate. It is highly prized and many Germans who have achieved a doctorate wish to be addressed as ‘Herr/Frau Doktor’ (this can be a little surprising for foreigners, especially in a business context).

People with doctorates from other EU countries have the right to use this title in Germany as well. If you have an American Ph.D. or a doctorate from another country, you can only call yourself Doktor in Germany if your qualification has been recognised and validated by a state’s Ministry of Education.

Further reading

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Other comments

  • Paul, 01 April 2008 Reply

    PhD in Germany

    At some German universities you can now also obtain a PhD. This might be more advisable if you want to work abroad afterwords as the German doctorate is not internationally recognized.