Vocational training in Germany – how does it work?

In Germany there is a special way of learning a trade: the Dual vocational training system. As part of the dual system, you will attend classes at a vocational school and receive on-the-job training at a company. Learn here how the Dual vocational training system works, what other forms of training are available and how good your chances are of finding a job on the German labour market.

Vocational training in Germany – how does it work?

Dual vocational training system

The dual vocational training system

One way of training for your future occupation in Germany is by pursuing a dual vocational training programme. Such programmes offer plenty of opportunity for on-the-job training and work experience. Programmes usually last between two and three and a half years and comprise theoretical as well as practical elements. You will spend one or two days a week, or several weeks at once, at a vocational school (called Berufsschule) where you will acquire the theoretical knowledge that you will need in your future occupation. The rest of the time will be spent at a company. There you get to apply your newly acquired knowledge in practice, for example by learning to operate machinery. You will get to know what your company does, learn how it operates and find out if you can see yourself working there after completing your training.

This combination of theory and practice gives you a real head start into your job: by the time you have completed your training, you will not only have the required technical knowledge, but you will also have hands-on experience in your job. There are around 350 officially recognised training programmes in Germany, so chances are good that one of them will suit your interests and talents. You can find out which on that might be by visiting one of the jobs and vocational training fairs which are organized in many German cities at different times in the year. Information on when and where the fairs take place are provided by the website Planet-Beruf.net

Employment prospects for students who have completed a dual vocational training programme are very good. This is one of the reasons why this kind of training is very popular with young Germans: around two thirds of all students leaving school go on to start a vocational training programme. Further information on the requirements for starting vocational training in Germany is available here.

Vocational training and pay

In Germany, students pursuing a vocational training programme receive a monthly salary from the company they work for. On average a trainee earns around 795 Euros gross. Depending on occupation and region, your salary may be higher or lower. For example, mechatronics engineering trainees earn 950 Euros gross per month on average. The salary you receive as a trainee increases with each year of training you complete. Part of your wages will be deducted for social security contributions. If you earn more than 8,354 Euros per year, your income will be subject to income tax.

The Federal Institute for Vocational Education and Training (BIBB) has published a list of occupations and the respective salaries you receive as a trainee (PDF 103 KB) (German). Our guide to “Vocational training in Germany” contains further information on additional financial support that is available to trainees. Take a look and find out whether you might be eligible.

Stages of dual vocational training

Dual training programmes usually start on 1 August or 1 September each year. They comprise on-the-job training at a company and classes at a vocational school (Berufsschule). Classes include German, English and social studies. Around two thirds of the classes specifically focus on subjects that are important for your future occupation. During your training programme, you are entitled to at least 24 working days or four weeks of annual leave. However, you may only take your leave during school holidays.

Your teachers, instructors and colleagues will give you all the support you need during your programme. After the first half of your training programme, you will sit an examination to assess what you have learned at school and how you have been able to apply this knowledge at your company. You will also sit final exams at the end of your training. As a rule, exams are held in German. If you pass your final exams, you stand a good chance of starting a successful career in a German business.

Further forms of vocational training

School-based vocational training

School-based training

School-based vocational training differs from dual training in that you will spend less time training at a company. You will learn theory and practice of your future occupation at a vocational school, called either Berufsfachschule or Berufskolleg. This will be complemented by extended periods of on-the-job training at a company or social institution where you can apply the knowledge you acquired at school. This form of vocational training is very common in nursing, in the design/creative industry, and in the fields of business and engineering.

School-based vocational training usually lasts between one and three years. It is offered by state and private schools. Private schools often charge fees. In contrast to dual training programmes, you will not receive a salary during school-based vocational training. The only exception is healthcare/nursing where trainees will work in hospitals or nursing homes for extended periods of on-the-job training. These trainees will receive a salary for the entire course of their training programme. For example: as a trainee nurse you will earn 956 Euros/month gross in your first year, 1017 Euros in your second, and 1118 Euros in your third year.

Further information on the requirements for starting school-based vocational training in Germany is available under „Do I qualify for vocational training in Germany?“.

Dual vocational degrees

A dual vocational degree (ausbildungsintegriertes duales Studium) is a special form of degree programme. It integrates studies at a higher education institution such as a university or Berufsakademie and on-the-job training at a company. This means that you will obtain both a degree and a recognised Professional qualification. This kind of integrated dual degree course is particularly common in the areas of business and engineering (e.g. business studies, mechanical engineering or IT).

In contrast to regular university degree programmes, dual vocational degrees do not primarily focus on academic studies. In addition to the theory that is taught at a higher education institution or Berufsakademie, students also undergo on-the-job training at a company. This provides them with the necessary work experience that opens up excellent career opportunities. Moreover, students receive a salary like any other trainee during the time they work for their company.

Dual vocational degree programmes usually last between three and five years. In most cases, the vocational part is limited to two years to make sure that there is enough time for the academic part. You can only participate in this kind of degree course if you have the required entrance qualification for German universities. The first step is to apply at a company that will be responsible for your practical training. Then you enrol for a degree course at the university your company cooperates with.

A list of dual vocational degree courses including companies that offer traineeships is available on the “Ausbildung Plus” portal. Simply enter “ausbildungsintegriertes duales Studium” in the search field. Please make sure to apply early, as these degree courses are very popular.

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Complete dossier "Vocational training in Germany"

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Information on this portal

In demand with employers – which type of training to go for

Tips for searching and applying for jobs

Financial support and funding programmes

Information on the World Wide Web

Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy

The dual vocational training system in Germany (PDF) (German, English)

The initiative “Berufliche Bildung – Praktisch unschlagbar!

Useful links on vocational training (German)

Handelskammer Hamburg

Information on dual vocational training (German)

The German Confederation of Skilled Crafts

Vocational training in crafts (English, German, French, Polish)

Federal Institute for Vocational Education and Training

Profiles of several occupations requiring vocational training (English, German)

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