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Requirements for a Doctorate

by Dagmar Giersberg

Even more than a very good university degree, many professors expect their doctoral students, above all else, to be highly motivated and with a real interest in the chosen research field. Besides these factors, however, applicants must also meet some formal conditions before they can be accepted for a place on a doctoral programme in Germany.

Requirements for a doctorate
Whatever the case may be, your personal motivation is the key criterion. A dissertation is an extensive research thesis. The whole process takes around 4.5 years on average in Germany. Even though this may not be long, compared with other countries, you still need plenty of staying power and energy to succeed with your doctorate. But it's really worth it!

Which degrees count?

Generally, the following applies. You need a very good academic degree in the subject area in which you would like to do your doctorate. There are no standardised regulations in Germany on which academic degrees are recognised for taking up a doctorate. The final decision on whether you are admitted to the doctoral studies always lies with the research institution to which you applied. However, you can check whether your academic degree meets the formal requirements for doing a doctorate in Germany - see: www.anabin.de (under "Land wählen / Choose Your Country"). As a rule, you will be required to have spent at least eight semesters (four years) studying at a research university and must hold a degree that is equivalent in level to a Master's degree. Only exception: Applicants who graduated from their Bachelor's programme with particularly good qualifications may be able to follow this up directly with a doctorate by entering one of the so-called "Fast Track Programmes" offered by some universities.

What language skills are required?

Don't worry! You do not necessarily have to speak or write perfect German to be able to do a doctorate in Germany. You can also be accepted for a doctorate in Germany with a good knowledge of English. How good your German language skills have to be depends on which subject you want to do your doctorate in, and in which language you want to write your dissertation. The research institution of your choice will decide on exactly which language proficiency certificates you have to present. Many departments also accept dissertations written in English. Indeed, even the final oral examination, the Disputation (viva voce), can be held in English. In international doctoral programmes, English is generally the working language and the language of instruction. You can also manage a good part of your everyday life in Germany without having to be proficient in the German language. However, a good knowledge of German will help you settle in and get to know the town and people quickly.

When's the right time for a doctorate?

Everything's possible: German students generally begin a doctorate immediately after having graduated with a Master's degree. Many foreign doctoral candidates doing research in Germany only decide to do a doctorate in Germany after they have completed a longer period of employment in their home country. And when is the best time for you?

DAAD» :: June 2009

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