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.
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 Germany.
Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy (BMWi)
The dual vocational training system in Germany (PDF) (German, English)
Federal Employment Agency (BA)
Career counselling, trainee placement services and financial support for trainees (English, German, Arabic)
Berufliche Bildung – Praktisch unschlagbar!
Useful links on vocational training (German)
Federal Institute for Vocational Education and Training (BIBB)
Profiles of several occupations requiring vocational training (English, German)
Chamber of commerce Hamburg
Information on dual vocational training (German, English)
German Confederation of Skilled Crafts (ZDH)
Vocational training in crafts (English, German, French)