Earning a PhD./ Doctorate in Germany
In Germany, the Ph.D. (Doctor of Philosophy), is a rather high academic title. It is pursued following the successful completion of a Master’s degree (or an equivalent academic degree) at an internationally recognised university, and it is often considered a prerequisite for an academic career. The main focus of doctoral studies is placed on research, culminating in the writing of a Ph.D. thesis. In Germany, there are different ways to obtain a doctoral degree:
- Earning a Ph.D. through individual research
- One possibility that is typical for the German university system is to pursue a Ph.D. by conducting individual research. For this purpose, the prospective doctoral candidate has to discover a professor (Doktorvater/ Doktormutter) who is willing and able to act as a supervisor. The doctoral candidates are not normally paid for their work and no precise time frame for completing the thesis is given. It can take about 3 to 5 years to obtain the Ph.D.
- As the Ph.D. program does not have an explicit curriculum, you are completely free to organize the schedule for your research. This can definitely be seen as a blessing, as each doctoral candidate must be able to work autonomously and tenaciously. In addition, he or she has to establish a good relationship with the supervisor. In order to finance your research, you may have the opportunity to work as a research assistant for a university professor.
- Earning a Ph.D. at a Graduate College or School
- Graduate Colleges are another way of obtaining a doctoral degree in Germany. These institutions have recently been established by the German Research Foundation (DFG) and offer organized study programs in which research groups of a given university deals with closely defined areas of interest. Due to their structure, these Graduate Colleges enables the candidates to obtain their doctorate within two or three years. In addition, the DFG offers financial support to the candidates. As a result, Graduate Colleges constitute an attractive alternative for those wishing to obtain a Ph.D.
- All courses are held in English. You will have the consistence support of the university staff, and the program has a distinctly interdisciplinary character. However, please note that these research groups deal with extremely specialized subject areas, and that candidates are selected according to strict admission requirements. At the moment, the University of Kaiserslautern has five Graduate Schools.
- Obtaining a Ph.D. through an International Ph.D. Program
- Like many other universities, the University of Kaiserslautern offers several international Ph.D. programs that are run by various faculties. Doctoral candidates support all social and administrative matters and take part in a well-structured program conducted in English. They can obtain their Ph.D. within 3 to 5 years.
- As an integral part of all of these Ph.D. programs, students participate in a German-language course as well as undertake interdisciplinary coursework and individual tutoring. Major emphasis is placed on the Ph.D. thesis which is based on in-depth research on the topic.
Admission requirements and application procedures
In order to enroll in a German Ph.D. program, you generally need a Master’s degree or equivalent with considerably above-average grades in a relevant subject area. Information concerning the procedure and application can be viewed here.
If you intend to obtain a Ph.D. through an international program, you have to write your thesis in English; if you choose to enroll in other programs, you will need to find out about their specific requirements.
If you are planning to apply to a Graduate School, you have to follow these instructions.
As there is no central application office, prospective Ph.D. students should check the individual offerings and requirements of their university of choice, as each program, college or faculty has its own policies concerning admission requirements, application procedures, course schedules and graduate support. However, remember that you can pursue a Ph.D. in Germany only if you are able to find a professor who will supervise you!
Tips for finding a supervisor and choosing a topic for individual research
When searching for a supervising professor and a suitable topic for your research project, please consider the following:
- Do I have correct and specific information about the different opportunities of pursuing my chosen subject area at the TU Kaiserslautern?
- In order to answer this question, you should contact the ISGS, consult the Website of the relevant department including the list of publications, and send a short, personal inquiry to the respective professor(s) (For your own benefit: Please do not send any mass e-mails! Some professors receive hundreds of anonymous e-mails per week!)
- Once you have decided with a subject and a potential supervisor, please submit your application to the professor. The application should contain a letter of motivation in which you should state:
- why did you choose to apply to this program, faculty or school and why would you like to have this particular professor as your supervisor
- In what way can you contribute to his or her research
- What are your career goals
- In addition, it should contain
- Precise information of your research project (working title, objectives, methods)
- Details of your education, your level of expertise in the interested topic, and your experience in research
- A list of all your additional qualifications (vocational training, languages, publications, social activities, etc.)
- How you plan to finance your studies at the University of Kaiserslautern
- Your statement should not exceed 20 pages and you are expected to attach the following documents:
- Curriculum Vitae
- Certified copy and translation (in German, English, French or Spanish) of your Bachelor’s/ Master’s diplomas and transcripts
- Two letters of recommendation from members of your university’s faculty
- Evidence of the required language proficiency
- Application form
- Send the duly filled application to the respective address
- The relevant professor will examine your application and after (hopefully) accepting it, the Admissions Office will formally check and assess your certificates and admission requirements.
DAAD Link | Nemački Akademski Servis Razmene