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The various InterNations activities for expats in Copenhagen made me feel welcome immediately.
The Danish job market can be tough for foreigners. Most Danes speak English so well that simply being proficient in the language will not be an advantage for you. Likewise, if you struggle with English, this will work against you when looking for a job. In addition, if you want to build a solid career in Denmark, you will need to study Danish as well. Use this guide to show you how to find a job in Denmark or how to start working as a self-employed person.
Being a taxpayer in Denmark means you are protected by the country’s extensive social security system. You can receive benefits for maternity, sickness, unemployment, and more, whether you are an employee or a self-employed professional.
Working days are Monday through Friday, 37 hours a week for an average salary of 47,000 DKK (7,000 USD) a month gross. Do not get too eager just yet—that number can easily drop to half after taxes.
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How to Get a Job in Denmark as a Foreigner
If you are wondering how you can get a job in Denmark as a foreigner, we cover some potential opportunities in this country. We give you all the insights you need to apply, whether that is the style of CV you see going around in Denmark, or some interviews and networking tips to land you the right job.
Requirements and Eligibility to Work in Denmark
To work in Denmark as a foreigner, you may need a visa and a work permit. EU citizens do not need either—they are free to enter the country and take up work right away. However, they should be properly registered in the country (for a CPR number, a health card, etc.) if they are staying for longer than three months. Citizens of other Nordic countries only need to register after six months in Denmark.
Citizens of other countries will need a visa and work permit in Denmark. The first thing you will need to be eligible for a visa is a job contract. Read on for all the tools you need to apply for jobs in Denmark.
Job Opportunities in Denmark For Foreigners
The safest way to secure a job in Denmark is to have a look at the shortage occupation list, known as the Positive List. This is published biannually and states all professions that are in-demand in the country for those wishing to apply for a visa. Even if you do not need a visa to work in the country, it is a good idea to check the list to know if your expertise may be particularly valuable.
Currently, the list includes several managerial positions in the areas of sales, marketing, public relations, IT, administration, etc., but also many other specialized professions from pharmacists to dietitians, teachers, journalists, civil engineers, among many others.
You will find that speaking English is not enough to land you a job. Danes do too, and after all, they speak Danish. If you really wish to fit in and build a long-lasting career in the country, learning Danish is key. Tourism is one of Denmark’s biggest business sectors. If you speak other languages besides English, you should consider tourism as a serious career path in the country. As an expat, you may also find opportunities as an au pair—there is even a specific visa for it.
How to Apply for a Job in Denmark
Some universal tips on applying for jobs are just as suited to the Danish job market. This includes a tailored CV and cover letter that show how you match the job position perfectly. However, there are some tips and tricks specific to the Danish job market that you will benefit from knowing.
Given how quickly recruiters may skim through a CV, it is a good idea to stick to a format that Danish recruiters are more used to.
- Start with your personal details such as your name, age, and gender. If you include a photograph, make sure it is professional yet modern-looking. Forget the serious-looking passport photo and go with a friendly-looking picture of you with a building or window in the background.
- Include a personal summary at the top. This should be a paragraph of no more than five or six lines where you mention your professional skills as well as your personal and social qualities.
- CVs tend to follow a chronological order. List your most recent professional experience and qualifications first to last. Remember that not all professional experience is relevant. Since you only have a few minutes to impress your potential employer, you will want them to know the most important aspects of your career, and not be overwhelmed with too much information.
- List languages and hard skills. If you have studied abroad, make sure to include that as well.
- Keep hobbies and other activities to a minimum and only include them if they are relevant for the position.
Cover Letter Tips
Sending a cover letter with your job application is vital. As in most other job markets, you should make a case for how you fit the position as best you can. A winning cover letter will showcase some other aspects which are highly valued by the Danes. For example, teamwork is highly valued as well as the ability to solve problems. Make sure to showcase your skills by emphasizing situations where you have achieved good results as a team, or you have efficiently solved a problem.
Required References and Qualifications
References are not typically required, although they are becoming increasingly common for managerial roles. You can list the contact details of someone who can vouch for your character and skills. You can also simply mention at the bottom of the resume that you can provide references upon request—and get extra points if you write it in Danish: “anbefalinger kan fås ved nærmere henvendelse.”
As for qualifications, you should expect to provide an employer with a copy of your diploma or certificate.
One thing that should not surprise you is if you are asked for a straffeattest—a document provided by the Danish police proving you have not been convicted of a crime in the country. This is asked of both Danes and non-Danes and can be easily obtained online.
If you have reached the interview stage, you should come prepared with plenty of knowledge about the company. Know your CV by heart and have two or three workplace experiences in mind that you can share as examples of your strengths and ability to overcome obstacles.
When having an interview on-site, a strong handshake and eye contact are a must. Both are seen as a sign of confidence and trustworthiness. The dress code should be smart but casual. There is no need to use a business suit (unless applying for a bank or law firm). In fact, looking too formal might contribute to the image Danes have of foreign workers being too rigid in their ways.
Networking is especially important for expats. Since Danes tend to already have connections in the country, you can definitely benefit from building a good network of contacts that can be valuable for a future job. The best way to go about it is to find specific events in your city related to your field of work. Think conferences, meetups, workshops, and other events that may attract other professionals in your area.
You can also attend one of the many InterNations events that gather both expats and locals. There is an InterNations community in Aarhus and Copenhagen.
Minimum Wage and Average Salary
As of now, the average salary in Demark is around 47,000 DKK (7,000 USD). The highest average salary in the country is in Copenhagen, at 53,000 DKK (7,850 USD) a month, and the lowest is 45,800 DKK (6,800 USD), in the North Jutland region. That is for gross salary, of course. With taxes going up to 50% in some cases, that number can go down to half.
Minimum Salary in Denmark
Unlike most other EU countries, Denmark does not have a fixed minimum wage. Instead, minimum salary is often established by collective labor market agreements, which are negotiated between unions and employer associations.
Still, most minimum salaries in the country are around 110 DKK (16 USD) an hour. The lowest salary you should then expect in Denmark is 17,000 DKK (2,500 USD) before taxes.
What is a Good Salary in Denmark?
The average salary in Denmark should be enough to live comfortably in the country.
For reference, the table below lists the average annual salary for common professions, some of which are in-demand in Denmark.
Profession Salary DKK Salary USD Accountant 250,000 37,300 Architect 400,000 59,800 Marketing manager 427,000 63,800 Nurse 330,000 49,300 Product manager 720,000 107,500 Software engineer 476,000 71,100 Teacher 300,000 44,800 UX designer 378,000 56,500 Web developer 339,000 50,600 Sales manager 535,000 79,300 Environmental consultant 205,000 30,400 Journalist 264,000 39,100
See the full list of in-demand professions in the country, also known as the Positive List.
Self-employment in Denmark can take many forms but it will usually imply creating a company. Freelancers seem to be in somewhat of a gray area at the eyes of the law, not recognized as employees nor self-employed workers either.
Make sure you have the right visa type to take up self-employment in Denmark.
How to Be Self-Employed in Denmark
You are considered self-employed in Denmark if you own a company. That could be a one-person business or a company you own with at least one employee.
If you want to register your business as a sole proprietor, or enkelmandsvirksomhed, you can do so at Virk.dk under starting a business. You should log in using your NemID, select the sole proprietor option, and enter the information requested such as your name, address, industry code, type of tax you will pay, etc.
Freelancers may also work as external contracts for an employer. However, in these cases, they may legally be considered employees so make sure you know the exact conditions of your contract, tax rates, social security benefits, and so on.
Creating Your Own Company
If you wish to be self-employed by means of creating a company, you can start the following types of businesses:
- Entrepreneurial company, Iværksætterselskaber (IVS)
- Private limited company, Anpartsselskaber (APS)
- Public limited company, Aktieselskaber (A/S)
- Limited partnership company, Partnerselskaber (P/S)
Creating one of these companies will require a start-up capital of as little as 1 DKK (0.10 USD) and as much as 500,000 DKK (74,000 USD). Click on the link to learn more about creating a company in Denmark and their legal status.
Top Self-Employed Jobs in Denmark
Those working as “freelancers” in Denmark are mostly photographers, designers, translators, journalists, etc. Others may work as consultants or external hires in their field of expertise.
Musicians and other artists may also take up freelance work, although these may have a different legal status. Their relationship with their employer may be covered by collective agreements which established rates, royalties, and other aspects.
Self-Employed Benefits in Denmark
There are no significant differences between social security benefits for employees and self-employed workers in Denmark. Self-employed workers are also entitled to benefits just as employees, in case of unemployment, sickness, maternity, etc. However, the conditions to receive these benefits are stricter for the self-employed.
As a general rule, self-employed professionals will need to have been a member of an unemployment fund for at least one year and have had a professional activity of at least 52 weeks in the previous three years.
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You will find Danish business culture to be quite informal. That goes for the style of communication, dress code, and overall conduct. Read on to learn more about what you should expect from working in this Scandinavian country.
Things to Know About Working in Denmark
- Being too formal could be perceived as unfriendly in Danish working culture.
- Do not expect hierarchy in Denmark—even students are on first-name basis with teachers. You should treat everyone with equal respect regardless of position. Most bosses appreciate being treated just like other teammates.
- Make sure to speak up and express your opinion regardless of your position in the company. Some foreigners shy away from speaking up or contradicting their boss but this is appreciated and even expected in Denmark—so long as you do so politely.
- Danes can sometimes come across as candid or even tough. Their sense of humor can range from mild self-mockery to sarcastic comments about others. It is not uncommon for Danes to bond over making fun of their peers or friends which can make them appear cold or unfriendly.
- Danes are not known to spend time with colleagues very much after work. Their leisurely time is usually reserved for close family or friends. However, if a social gathering is happening, it is important to join.
Working Days and Hours
A typical work week in Denmark is from Monday through Friday.
Danes value both efficiency and work-life balance. For that reason, they will make the most of the official 37 hours of work per week, and leave the office at around 16:00 every day. By 17:00 you should see most desks empty.
Danish Workplace Dress Code
The dress code at work is informal. You will see most people wearing smart and casual clothes in the workplace. Ties are optional for most companies and job positions. However, some sectors, such as banking or law may adopt a more formal dress code. Here you might be expected to wear both a suit and tie. Most offices in the country are quite warm regardless of what the weather is like outside.
Social Security and Benefits
You might have already heard of Denmark’s social security number—the CPR number. You will need it for just about any formal process in the country. Find out here what you can benefit from the country’s welfare system and how to get a CPR as soon as you land.
Social Security Benefits in Denmark
With Denmark’s social security, you are guaranteed some protection by the state in cases of need. If you live in Denmark legally and pay contributions to social security, you are entitled to social security benefits and assistance for:
- family—includes maternity and child benefits, and childcare;
- health—such as free public healthcare, sickness benefit and leave, home care service, including care of close relatives who are disabled or ill;
- incapacity—includes benefits in case of sickness, injury, invalidity, and old age pension.
Unemployment Benefit (A-Kasse)
You are not automatically insured by social security if you find yourself unemployed. To receive unemployment benefits, or a-kasse (short for arbejdsløshedskasse), you must pay a voluntary unemployment insurance for at least one year. You must also have received at least 233,380 DKK in income in the last three years.
What is the Social Security Number in Denmark?
The social security number in Denmark is the CPR number. You will hear about the need to register for a CPR number countless times when planning your relocation to Denmark (i.e., for rental contracts, utilities, opening a bank account, doing your taxes, and enjoying your right to free public healthcare and other social security benefits).
Just like Danes, foreigners can and should get this social security number. This is mandatory for anyone who has residency in Denmark, or is staying in the country for more than three months (six months for Nordic citizens).
The CPR number is a ten-digit number made up of your date of birth, gender, and a unique identification number.
Applying for a CPR Number in Denmark
How to get a social security number in Denmark and the documents needed may vary by municipality. You may be able to apply online in some cases. If not, you will need to go to your municipality’s Citizen Service Center, or the International Citizen Service in Aalborg, Aarhus, or Odense, and apply in person.
You will need the following documents:
- passport or personal ID
- work and residence permit
- employment or assignment contract
- proof of your address in Denmark (e.g., rental contract)
- documents registering any change of name (marriage or divorce certificate, etc.)
- birth certificate of your children, if applicable
With this registration, you will receive the yellow card—your health and social security card in Denmark. This card contains your CPR, your name, address, and the name and address of your family doctor.
Maternity leave in Denmark is fairly generous. Mothers are entitled to longer maternity leave than fathers, but the biggest portion of work leave and benefits can be distributed fairly between both parents.
You are entitled to parental benefits if you have a connection to the labor market, be it a salaried position, self-employment, or unemployment. As an employee, you must have worked at least 160 hours within the last four months of the start of your maternity leave. If you work as self-employed, you are only entitled to maternity leave and benefits if you have worked in the six months before your maternity leave.
How Much is Maternity Leave?
How much you get of maternity benefits in Denmark depends on your work situation. Some work contracts entitle you to full or partial salary during maternity leave. If you receive a full salary, your maternity benefits would go to your employer as compensation.
If you receive partial pay during your maternity leave or no pay at all, you can receive maternity benefits. The maximum amount you can be entitled to is 4,355 DKK gross (650 USD). Have a look at your work contract or ask your trade union when in doubt.
If you are working as self-employed, the benefits you receive are based on the profit of your business. If you are unemployed, you are entitled to the same amount you receive as unemployment benefit.
How Long is Maternity Leave in Denmark?
Parents in Denmark are entitled to a combined 52 weeks of paternity benefit. Maternity and paternity leave and benefits are divided as follows:
Length of leave Who is entitled 4 weeks before the birth Mother 14 weeks after the birth Mother 2 weeks after the birth Father 32 shared weeks For both mothers and fathers
Keep in mind that even though mothers and fathers are entitled to 32 weeks each of leave (64 weeks in total), you only receive benefits for 32 weeks.
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- Jürgen Hofmeister
The various InterNations activities for expats in Copenhagen made me feel welcome immediately.
- Sarah Porter
InterNations expats let me see that there's much more to Copenhagen than clichés like The Little Mermaid and Tivoli...