Doctorate salaries
What does a doctoral candidate earn in Germany?

Envelope as a metaphor for the PhD salary in Germany

How important is experience for a doctoral candidate’s salary? © stevanovicigor /

A doctoral degree will certainly only help you to become rich in an idealistic sense. The first contract for a PhD position should have a term of at least one year – after which, graduates are rewarded with their first salary increase.

Published: 2024-07-08

By: Anke Wilde, Maike Schade

Most doctoral candidates are appointed at a university or non-university research institution through a third-party centre or funding centre. These are all civil service institutions, so the salary for employed doctoral candidates is either based on the collective agreement for civil service (TVoeD) or the collective agreement for the civil service in the individual federal states (TV-L). The federal state Hesse, which is not a member of the collective agreement community of the federal states, has its own TV-H collective agreement.

Other ways to finance your own PhD as a junior scientist include a PhD scholarship, an industrial PhD programme at a research institute in the private sector or an extra-occupational PhD. Even in the case of an industrial PhD programme, postgraduates are usually paid on the basis of a collective agreement. For example, if you are completing your PhD while working for a car manufacturer, the company collective agreement that IG Metall has concluded with the company will apply.

In the case of the TVoeD, TV-L and TV-H, employees are paid according to their professional qualifications and the demands of their job. There are 15 pay bands in this area. Postgraduates are paid in accordance with pay band E13. PhD positions with a classification in pay band 14 are the absolute exception. Advanced postdocs are usually only promoted to a higher pay band if the they take on additional research responsibility. PhD status is no guarantee of promotion to the next pay band.

The collective bargaining agreements between employers and unions are regularly renegotiated. These negotiations aim to improve working conditions and increasing the monthly gross salary of all civil servants. This means that even postgraduates can look forward to a slightly higher salary. As postgraduates rarely fill a full-time position, their actual gross salary needs to be adjusted on the basis of their working hours.

Salary doctorate students in all federal states except Hesse: TV-L (gross per month, 2024*)

Level 1 Level 2 Level 3 Level 4 Level 5 Level 6








*) valid until 31.10.2024

Source: © academics

Salary doctoral students in Hesse: TV-H ( gross per month, 2024 *)

Level 1 Level 2 Level 3 Level 4 Level 5 Level 6








*) no increase in 2024; inflation compensation through three tax-free one-off payments: €1,000 each in May, July and November 2024

Source: © academics

Salary of postgraduates at federal institutions: TVoeD (gross per month, 2024)

Level 1 Level 2 Level 3 Level 4 Level 5 Level 6








There are newcomers and old hands in every profession. For researchers with a PhD in science, this breadth of experience is taken into account in the experience levels, which each come with a significant salary increase, as is the case for all employees of the civil service.

All three collective agreements for civil servants provide for six levels of experience. The time spent at each stage, the stage duration, increases by one year at each stage. According to this scheme, graduates are entry-level applicants. Accordingly, postgraduates start at experience level 1 with the lowest salary.

Levels of experience in collective agreements

Level of experience doctorate graduates Professional experience as a doctoral candidate *)

Level 1

Career entry

Level 2

1 year

Level 3

3 years

Level 4

6 years

Level 5

10 years

Level 6

15 years

*) including periods as a research assistant during the PhD

Source: academics © academics

Important: In their first postgraduate position, it is essential that PhD graduates ensure that the contractual term is at least 12 months and that they will be employed for a full year with no interruptions. Employment contracts of less than one year do not qualify as relevant professional experience according to civil service regulations.

When starting in a new position, you are therefore allocated back at Experience level 1 – without taking the progress you have already made into account. This applies even if the change of contract is seamless and remains within the same facility. Experience level 1 must be fully completed in a single employment contract to qualify for Experience level 2.

However, once these twelve months have been served, shorter contractual terms then apply as relevant professional experience. Students who are awarded their doctorate within the allocated six years and are employed as a research associate at the same time can therefore also achieve Experience level 4 with a considerable salary when they graduate. It is not important whether you have a full-time position while completing your doctorate or, as is the case for most PhD positions, have a part-time job (50%–75% position).

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Many doctoral candidates are employed in third-party funded projects are required to move from job to job to secure their income. Graduates who have been employed for at least a year with one single employment contract and has therefore gained the required professional experience is in fact in a secure position in terms of their experience level. After this point, shorter contractual terms then apply as relevant professional experience.

Even switching between different employers, states and collective agreements is no longer a problem, and the duration of each stage remains the same for doctoral candidates and other researchers from now on. However, they must submit an application to their new employer. In the case of a difficult candidate situation, institutions can even accommodate their future employees to some extent, for example by classifying them into the next experience level earlier than usual.

However, in such cases, postgraduate must also have completed their first twelve months without interruption. Employees who change from one collective agreement to another as a postgraduate should inquire in advance whether this will have any detrimental effects on their salary. The collective agreements also stipulate a range of very different salaries within pay band 13.


Many doctoral students want to spend a period of time abroad, as this is required in many scientific professions. Others are awarded a scholarship and finance themselves or take a break from their doctorate if they are offered a good job in the private sector. Some things should be kept in mind with regard to the experience level:

  • Employment contracts at foreign universities and research institutions are generally recognised automatically.
  • More caution should be taken with scholarships, even if the scholarship is affiliated with an institute and the same work is performed as employed researchers. This time may be included in the duration spent at each stage, but this is not necessarily always the case. After all, this time is considered "beneficial" rather than a "detrimental interruption".
  • The latter is the case, for example, when a doctorate student enters the private sector for several years to continue their doctorate studies there. Only professional experience gained with a public employer is considered relevant. If such an interruption lasts more than three years, the employee may even be punished when returning to public service by downgrading them to a lower experience level.
  • On the other hand, this does not apply to postgraduates on maternity leave or paid leave.
  • This is also true of incapacity for work up to a maximum of 39 weeks. Time spent at the particular stage is still counted in such cases.
  • Parental leave, however, is considered to be an interruption and is not counted for transition to the next experience level.

Postgraduates who hold a PhD position at a research institution receive an annual special payment, like all other employees in the civil service. This varies depending on the collective agreement and tariff area, but ranges between 33 and 60% of the average gross salary.

Postgraduates who already have children and are paid on the basis of the TV-H, which is only valid in Hesse, will also benefit from a child supplement. The collective agreements also allow for additional compensation for services rendered, such as special services associated with the acquisition of third-party funds. However, there is no standard practice among the federal states and the various institutions.

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