The German Job Market: City by City?

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The German Job Market: City by City

Would you like to boost your career by moving to Germany? Its major cities offer employment opportunities for international graduates and highly qualified expats. Find out where to move for established fields like finance, or where to benefit from a lively start-up scene and future growth sectors.
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In recent years, Germany has become an increasingly attractive place to live and work. The German job market has gained in popularity among international graduates and professionals, who are especially drawn to major cities like Berlin, Munich, Hamburg, Frankfurt, and Cologne. While all these cities offer opportunities for international job-seekers, potential fields of work and career prospects for expats strongly depend on the respective key sectors and companies.

Berlin: Science Hub and Start-Up Capital

Berlin is one of the largest science hubs in Europe and home to internationally renowned universities and research institutions. State-of-the-art technology centers with a science-related infrastructure, as well as diverse opportunities for cooperation between science and business, offer ideal conditions for innovation and growth. As a result, future growth sectors like photonics, energy technology, ICT, and life sciences have become an important economic factor in the region.

In a study on innovative power by financial service provider ING-DiBa, the city-state of Berlin has repeatedly ranked first among the German federal states, a trend mirrored in the large number of start-ups in the city. Comparatively low costs of living, a high quality of life, and an international environment have made Berlin a hotspot for business founders and entrepreneurs.

In addition, the German capital is home to several traditional big players: Deutsche Bahn, Charité (Europe’s largest university clinic), the hospital and healthcare network Vivantes, the municipal transport services BVG, and Siemens are the largest companies in terms of employees. 

Frankfurt: The Financial Heart of Europe

Frankfurt is world-famous for its banking and financial sector. With the headquarters of the European Central Bank, the German Federal Bank, the German stock exchange, as well as the European Insurance and Occupational Pensions Authority (EIOPA) located there, Frankfurt is the heart of the European finance industry. It is also home to the head offices of several big banking groups like Commerzbank, DZ Bank, and Deutsche Bank.

The skyline of the financial district is the city’s best-known landmark. However, the finance industry is only part of Frankfurt’s job market, which also includes the automotive, chemical, electrical, and mechanical engineering sectors. Another important employer is Fraport AG, the transport company operating Frankfurt’s international airport. With nearly 81,000 employees, Frankfurt Airport City has the largest number of people working in one place in Germany. 

Hamburg: From Global Trade to Green Energy

Hamburg is the third-most important location for civil aviation worldwide. Both Airbus and Lufthansa rank among the largest companies in terms of employees. The city also focuses strongly on logistics. Major companies in this sector are Deutsche Bahn, the municipal transport company Hamburger Hochbahn, and the port logistics company Hamburger Hafen und Logistik AG.

Further important sectors include trade, the chemical industry, life sciences, and the manufacturing industry. Many large industrial corporations like ExxonMobil, Shell, BP, Siemens, and Philips have major business centers there. In addition, Hamburg is home to the headquarters of Beiersdorf, a DAX-listed company specializing in personal care products.

In recent years, numerous companies in the green energy sector (especially wind power) have set up business in Hamburg as well, making it an appealing hub for this future growth sector.

Cologne: Chemicals and Creativity  

Cologne is characterized by a mix of industries. It has a long tradition as a popular location for industry and trade, with a focus on the chemical and pharmaceutical sectors. Life science giant Bayer is the second-largest company in terms of employees, only surpassed by Ford. Moreover, Cologne is an important location for insurance companies. In recent years, the city has consolidated its logistics and service industries, too.

Last but not least, the cultural and creative industries have become important drivers of the economy. A broad range of media businesses in film, television, broadcasting, publishing, advertising, communications, and gaming have earned Cologne an international reputation as an innovative media city. 

Munich: Tradition and Innovation

Munich is Germany’s number one location for insurance companies and the second-most important banking location after Frankfurt. Moreover, it is home to seven out of nine Bavarian DAX-listed companies — more than any other major city: Allianz, BMW, Linde, Munich Re, Siemens, Infineon Technologies, and ProSiebenSat.1 Media SE.

The city’s economy is shaped by a mixture of high-tech corporations, innovative mid-tier businesses, start-ups, and traditional crafts. This blend has contributed to a comparatively high economic stability. Other major sectors include the cultural and creative industries, ICT, services, as well as research- and knowledge-intensive fields, in particular medical and environmental technology.

Munich also boasts a lively start-up scene and is considered a center of innovation with numerous patent applications. For example, 15,870 applications were submitted in 2016 alone.  

About the author 

Veronika Hönes has always been fascinated by intercultural encounters. During her bachelor’s degree in international and cultural business studies, she especially enjoyed dealing with cultural specificities in the business world. Veronika currently works for the Content Team of, a career network for high-performing students and young professionals.

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