Where Can You Do Research?

Picture of two researchers working at a computer

Some 29,000 foreigners work as academic staff at German higher education institutions. German funding organisations support over 26,000 international graduates, postdoctoral researchers and senior scientists doing research in Germany. A large number of career opportunities are open to people who come to Germany after completing their doctorates, especially if they already have some years of research experience. Furthermore, the industry is also on the lookout for top international researchers to conduct applied research.

1. Research at higher education institutions

Germany offers a broad spectrum of higher education institutions and universities with a large number of different research opportunities. They range from large universities with interdisciplinary collaborative research centres and universities of applied sciences with application-related projects to top research clusters bringing together companies, research institutes and universities.

There are diverse opportunities for postdoctoral scholars and junior researchers to work in German higher education – for example, as a Postdoc in a research group and – with greater experience and competence – as head of a junior research group or as a junior professor.

2. Research at non-university research institutions

In addition to higher education research there is a broad range of non-university research, which is conducted in both public and private institutions. These include academies, foundations, institutes of advanced study and federal and state institutions. A special role is played here by the four large research organisations Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft, Helmholtz Association, Leibniz Association and Max Planck Society, which each have different profiles and emphases. The institutes of the Max Planck Society concentrate especially on basic research in innovative areas. Fraunhofer, on the other hand, focuses more strongly on applied research. The Helmholtz Association is made up of 17 scientific-technological and medical-biological research centres that provide large-scale equipment and appropriate infrastructure for national and international research groups. The main emphasis at the 87 institutions of the Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz Scientific Community concentrates on market-oriented and interdisciplinary research. Numerous collaborations are organised with companies, public authorities and higher education institutions.

In particular, these four large organisations offer diverse opportunities for appropriately qualified junior researchers to work and research at their institutes through the award of fellowships, staff jobs or as leaders of junior research groups.

3. Research in industry

Germany spends roughly 67 billion euros a year on research and development. Over two-thirds of these funds are provided by industry and are also spent there. The automotive industry alone spent some 20 billion euros on research and development in 2010. The chemical-pharmaceutical industry invested more than 8 billion euros and the electrical industry more than 11 billion euros. Approximately 330,000 people work in the research and development sector within industry, including roughly 175,000 researchers. Application-related research projects are realised here – sometimes in collaboration with higher education institutions and research institutes. These projects enable junior researchers to improve their qualifications and develop their careers.

More information about research activities in industry: