Junior professor Germany
Becoming a junior professor – requirements, responsibilities and salary

A happy junior professor in his class

Junior professorships provide an opportunity to collect the experience necessary to ultimately advance to full professor status. © andresr / iStock.com

Junior professors are able to teach and conduct research independently. They no longer need a habilitation, the degree beyond a doctorate traditionally required for full professors in Germany. What are their duties, and what do they earn?

Published: 2024-01-08

By: Florian Heil; translation DACHA Media

The position of junior professor was established in 2002 through a reform to the German Framework Act for Higher Education (HRG). It was envisioned as an additional pathway to qualification as a tenured professor, initially as an alternative to the long-standing yet time-consuming acquisition of a “habilitation,” the degree beyond a doctorate that used to be virtually the only path to full professorships in Germany. While the junior professorship pathway means that a habilitation is no longer an absolute necessity, degree that goes with it is still advantageous as an additional qualification in certain areas such as the humanities, law and medicine.

It was hoped that junior professorships would provide young academics with an early form of self-reliance and research independence. And the idea has proven fruitful: By 2015, almost 1,500 academics were working as junior professors. According to the German Federal Statistical Office, that number had climbed to 1,800 by 2022.

The reform establishing the junior professorship model also aimed at boosting the number of women professors in Germany. And here, too, the model has proven successful: According to the Federal Statistical Office, the share of women junior professors rose from 29 percent in 2005 to 52 percent by 2023. That means that the share of junior professorships held by women now mirrors the share of doctorates earned by women.

Junior professorship positions at German universities must be publicly advertised. In some instances, non-university research institutions are also involved. Similar to the process for filling a normal professorship, an appointment panel assembled by the university chooses the best qualified candidates and invites them for an interview and an assessment lecture. For the best candidates, evaluations of personal and professional qualifications will be collected from professors at other universities.

Only a limited amount of time may pass between the moment a candidate earns a doctorate and that person’s application for a junior professorship. In Berlin, for example, that time limit is generally six years, and nine years in the field of medicine. There are no specified age limits for junior professorships in Germany.

To ensure that they are among the most promising candidates, applicants should fulfil the following requirements: 

  • outstanding doctorate degree
  • proven aptitude for scientific work
  • teaching experience with proven pedagogical ability
  • relevant publications
  • in the postdoc phase
  • experience in acquiring third-party funding
  • academic experience abroad

Don't miss a thing!

Create an account to benefit from all the advantages under “My academics”.

As a rule, junior professorship contracts initially run for three years, though they may also be for four years. Once that contract comes to an end, the faculty in question performs an evaluation and has the option of extending the junior professorship to a cumulative maximum of six years.

Even for junior professors who are granted an extension, however, there is no guarantee that a tenure-track, full professorship will be forthcoming, particularly given the limited number of such positions. Beyond that, junior professors must have used their six years to obtain the additional qualifications needed for a full professorship. Only a small share of junior professorships in Germany are tenure track positions, which lead to lifetime professorships after a certain probationary period. 

Still, according to a 2015 study performed by the Institute for Higher Education Research Halle-Wittenberg in cooperation with the Centre for Higher Education, the future of the junior professorship programme is bright. Accordingly, 85 percent of junior professors were granted full professorships, with two-thirds of them being promoted two or three years before the end of the official six-year term.

The study also found that the remaining 15 percent also ended up with promising positions. Six percent switched to another qualification route, such as earning their habilitation. And the rest ended up working in university or research management after finishing their junior professorships or ended up with jobs in the private sector or as teachers.


Junior professors essentially do the same jobs as full professors. They are allowed to act as doctoral advisers, they have teaching responsibilities and personnel duties, advise students, secure externally funded projects, participate in committees and take care of administrative tasks. Their courseload, however, is roughly half that of full professors, giving them the time necessary to conduct their own research and to consult with their mentors.

Junior professors are generally employed as civil servants. Remuneration is provided according to the W-scale for academics, and junior professor salaries are paid at the W1 level. The precise amount of W1 salaries is determined by the federal states, in situations where the junior professor has been appointed by a university or by the federal government if the professor works at a federal institution.

For example, junior professors earn a basic gross salary in 2024 of 5,034.43 euros a month in Hesse and 5,449.89 euros in Baden-Württemberg. Income tax and contributions for health and long-term care insurance must be deducted from these amounts. W1 salaries for each state in Germany are outlined in the article “Professor salaries – what does a professor earn in Germany?” In Baden-Württemberg, Berlin and Brandenburg, junior professors can boost their basic salaries with additional performance-related pay that is negotiated at the time of appointment.

Share this article