How to Finance Your PhD
What does it cost to study for a doctorate in Germany? The good news is that it costs nothing – in principle. No fees are charged for doctoral programmes at state universities and colleges – at least, for the first six semesters. Naturally you will need to meet your living costs. Currently, anyone applying for a visa to study in Germany must be able to prove they have access to a minimum of roughly 8,000 euros a year. As a rule, this sum is not sufficient to cover all the costs. On average, according to a survey by Deutsches Studentenwerk, a student in Germany spends 812 euros a month on rent, food, clothing, travelling, work materials, leisure activities, etc. Once you have enrolled at university, your expenditure list will also include the semester fees that have to be paid when you re-register every six months. The student card you then receive allows you to pay lower fares on the bus, eat cheaply at the refectory and often pay reduced admission fees.
Candidates who are accepted on structured doctoral programmes do not usually need to worry about funding: doctoral students at research training groups and graduate schools or non-university research schools normally either work on a research project as a research associate or receive a scholarship.
There are different opportunities to finance your PhD:
1. Working at the university
When you are doing a individual doctorate, employment at a university is common. Often, PhD/doctoral students are employed as research associates on part-time fixed-term contracts at the institute of their supervisor, where they are usually deployed in teaching and/or in (usually third party funded) research projects.
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2. PhD position at a by non-universitary research institutes
However, numerous support programmes and sponsorship organisations also support up-and-coming researchers outside higher education. Non-university research establishments – such as the Max Planck Society (MPG), Helmholtz Association, Leibniz Association (WGL) and Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft (FhG) – that do not have the right to award doctorates themselves collaborate with universities for that purpose. They offer PhD/doctoral students scholarships and/or (usually fixed-term) contracts of employment – or a combination of the two. However, support is also possible in the form of regular research posts, which are especially typical of Fraunhofer- Gesellschaft.
3. Doctoral posts in industry
Doctoral posts in industry usually offer PhD/doctoral students fixed-term contracts of employment on a parttime basis, industry-related and application-oriented research opportunities and favourable prospects for the period after graduation. Research-based companies – for example, in the automotive industry – are especially interested in recruiting doctoral students. Additionally, cooperative partnerships between universities and companies also exist in the field of applied research. Here, the PhD/doctoral student is normally employed at the university and works on a research project in a mixed team of company and university employees.
4. Part time Job
PhD/Doctoral students also have the option of meeting living costs with a part-time job. It is important here to observe possible restrictions. It is certainly advisable to seek the approval of the Aliens’ Authority and/or the Job Centre, because many exceptions apply, not only to citizens of new EU member countries. The same also applies to spouses if they wish to work in Germany. The Student Services employment agency can provide help in finding a part-time job.
5. Scholarships and funding opportunities
Many German funding organizations support highly talented international PhD students. As a rule, the prerequisite is an above-average first degree. Different institutions sometimes have additional expectations, e.g. a specific commitment to a social, sociopolitical or religious cause.