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Working in Germany
Your Guide on Jobs and Finding Work in Germany
Working in Germany is a great way to advance your career while enjoying the benefits of Germany’s high standard of living. The salaries are high and the booming IT and financial sectors offer opportunities for many skilled professionals. However, finding a job here without knowing at least conversational German might be tricky.
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As Europe’s largest economy, Germany is an ideal location for expats to start a new life. The German job market offers diverse opportunities. The minimum wage exceeds 9 EUR per hour (over 10 USD per hour) and the average salary across different professions is about 1,600 EUR (about 1,800 USD) per month. We go over some of the main job opportunities in the country and give you interview and resume tips to help you get one.
Perhaps one of the biggest drawbacks to working in Germany is the bureaucratic red tape. Expats will need to submit a plethora of documents to apply for a visa, and they must repeat the same steps for any dependents that accompany them.
Visas can be limited or unlimited and are often dictated by the type of job you have. The same goes for self-employed expats wanting to work in Germany: while the job opportunities within the country may be attractive, the process to legally be allowed to work can be tough.
Despite this, one of the benefits of bureaucracy here is the social security system, which covers all workers, and means you will be taken care of during periods of ill health. Working days in Germany tend to cover five days a week, and we will go into more detail about working life and how to find a job in Germany in this article.
How to get a Job in Germany
If you are wondering how to get a job in Germany as a foreigner, it isn’t an impossible dream and we will share all the information you need in this section of our guide. We tell you the industries where there are more opportunities for expats and give you German CV and cover letter tips in this sub-section.
How to Apply for a Job in Germany
When it comes to writing job applications, your job history is just one of many important aspects. Make sure to pay attention to details, such as layout, font type, and spacing. You can hire a consultant to design and write your job application for you if you are not totally confident.
If you are not sure how to design your CV, base your application on one of the available German CV templates online. You can also find some information on the differences between resumes in English and German in episode 64 of the podcast, English with Kirsty.
One of the best ways to get a job in Germany as a foreigner is to use some of the popular career websites. These are some of the best-known examples:
- Berlin Startup Jobs
Use websites like LinkedIn, Xing, and InterNations to find jobs and get to know people in your industry.
Moreover, take note of the following networking tips:
- Germans tend to keep business professional, even if there is a social element to networking events. Be warm and polite, but do not make people feel uncomfortable with overly personal questions or behavior.
- If you meet people who share your professional interests, you could arrange to meet again later over coffee. This is a good way to get to know someone gradually.
- Although some German people may be reserved, they can be straight to the point with their opinions and expressing feelings. Be patient and prepare for this.
- Discuss your work-related interests, education, and ambitions to find some common ground with people you meet at networking events.
As with virtually any job in any country, luck plays a part in deciding if you get the position or not. There are a few things that make the German job application process a little different to that of most other developed countries.
Translating Your CV
You might read in various places that you should have your CV translated into German. This might suggest to prospective employers you will be able to take your interview in German too, so unless you are actually fluent in German it is better to stick to English. Remember to take care over your spelling and punctuation as Germans can be quite particular about accuracy.
In Germany, it is expected that modern CVs will have sections covering:
- personal information, such as your name, address, email, and mobile number;
- work experience and related certificates;
- two written references;
- key skills and personal interests, especially those relevant to the job.
Keep it Simple
Follow an easy-to-read design with subdued colors. It is safe to stick to black text, while bold headings are acceptable. Finally, try to keep the length to two pages. You can save space by keeping your personal statement or objectives for your cover letter, which is another key aspect of most job applications in Germany.
Strike a Pose
It is not absolutely necessary, but it is normal to put a professional, head and shoulders image of yourself on your CV, large enough so your facial features are clearly visible. Only use an image if you can find something appropriate though—pictures of you on the beach will probably harm your chances rather than increase them!
It is best to include two written references with your CV if possible. This is what is expected in Germany, though it is not common practice for HR staff to get in touch with your previous colleagues for references.
Write about the qualifications and skills you have that are relevant for the position or have helped in your personal development, making you better at what you do. Most of your skills will be obvious from your educational and work background but it is good to highlight these in case the reader misses something.
Cover Letter Tips
Depending on where you come from, the cover letter might not seem like a crucial aspect of job applications. However, in Germany, it can be more important than the resume itself. If you fail to include a cover letter at all, you could be significantly reducing your chances of getting the job. Research has shown 50% of HR staff will reject an application outright if it does not include a cover letter, so please take it seriously.
What to do
- You can impress prospective employers by formatting your cover letter in DIN 5008 style. This is the national standard layout for word-processed documents:
- Top margin: 16.9mm
- Bottom margin: 16.9mm
- Right margin: 8.1mm minimum
- Left margin: 24.1mm
- Include your personal details, such as address, telephone number, and email.
- Write the address of the company you are applying to and the date you are applying.
- If you know the name of the hiring manager, address your cover letter to them using their full name.
- Keep your cover letter to one page and say what position you are applying for, why you are applying, explain your relevant skills and qualifications, say why you are a good fit for the role, and thank the recipient for their time.
There are some simple things to remember if you want to ace a job interview in Germany:
- Dress formally—unless you know the company’s dress code is casual.
- Try to be kind about your previous employers as doing the opposite could reflect badly on you.
- Do not be afraid to show off your accomplishments. There is nothing wrong with flaunting your experience and skills and this is perfectly acceptable in an interview for most German companies.
- Remember to be on time and well-organized.
- Do not forget the name and title of your interviewer(s) as doing so could suggest you are not taking the job seriously enough.
You do not have to answer questions you find inappropriate, such as inquiries about family planning, pregnancy, sexual orientation, religious faith, political affiliation, and membership in trade unions.
However, certain questions are not considered inappropriate to ask. For example, questions about a certificate of conduct (criminal record), past illnesses, or your former salary.
Requirements for Working in Germany as a Foreigner
If you are an EU citizen moving to Germany for a job and plan to stay for more than two months then the process will be relatively simple. You will only need to register your new address and get a registration certificate (Meldeschein or Meldebestätigung) proving your residence in Germany. To register your new address, you should go to the nearest Einwohnermeldeamt (residents’ registration office).
Every non-EU person who wants to live and work in Germany requires a residence permit and a work permit before arriving in Germany. You receive the residence permit and work permit together, as they are co-reliant.
Non-EU citizens who are going to earn approximately 45,000 EUR (50,000 USD) per year should qualify for a Blue Card for highly-skilled workers. This means they can stay in Germany for four years before applying to extend their stay.
If you get a job in a shortage occupation—including scientists, mathematicians, engineers, information and communication technology academics, and doctors—you can get an EU Blue Card if you earn 35,000 EUR (38,900 USD) per year.
Job Opportunities in Germany for Foreigners
There are currently talent shortages in several sectors of the German job market, offering potential opportunities for international workers. For example, there is a shortfall of around 60,000 nurses, which recently provided the chance for 16 Namibian nurses to start working at Universität Hospital Düsseldorf. The Namibia Nurses Union’s acting secretary general, Junias Shilunga, said there were a lot of unemployed nurses in Namibia but no job opportunities. So, this opportunity in Germany could be a dream move for them.
There is also a huge demand for technology talent in Germany. This is demonstrated by technology company Apple’s dominance over German businesses—Apple is worth more than Germany’s 30 largest companies put together. Germany’s leaders are said to be concerned that they could be left behind in the race for advancement.
You may have heard that the automotive industry is huge in Germany, and it is—820,000 jobs rely on it. Yet, car production in the country has fallen to its lowest level in 22 years. Audi, the German stalwart, will cut 9,500 jobs in Ingolstadt and Neckarsulm by 2025 to save 6 billion EUR (6.6 billion USD). Instead, Audi plans to create 2,000 new jobs in electromobility and digitalization, suggesting there will be some exciting opportunities for workers with automotive and technology qualifications.
Information Technology Jobs Boom
According to the LinkedIn 2020 Emerging Jobs Report, the top three industries with emerging job titles are information technology and IT services, computer software, and internet. The report found most new jobs are in IT and software. Sadly for gender equality, 69% of these “jobs of the future” are occupied by men, but more women are taking jobs in STEM (computer science, science and technology, and mathematics) industries.
In terms of where the jobs of the future are expected to be based, the report predicted Berlin would be number one, Munich second, and Frankfurt am Main third.
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Minimum Wage and Average Salary
Germany’s national minimum wage is 1,584 EUR (1,780 USD) per month and 19,008 EUR (20,640 USD) per year, while the average salary varies depending on the job. A good salary in Germany will also depend on your profession. Below you can find out more about average annual salaries for various occupations.
Average Annual Salary in Germany for Different Jobs
|Job||Average Gross Annual Salary (EUR)||Average Gross Annual Salary (USD)|
The Most In-demand Jobs in Germany and How Much They Pay
It is worth knowing the professions that are in-demand in Germany, so you get an idea of how hard or easy it could be to find a job. These professions could also be good job opportunities for foreigners in Germany.
According to research by private education company DEKRA, people in the following professions (and similar roles) are sought after.
|Job||Average Salary (EUR)||Average Salary (USD)|
If you are wondering how to be self-employed in Germany, you could just follow the lead of the 10% of workers who are already engaged in self-employment in the country. A report in the Journal of Business Venturing, which collects data on workers in the country, suggested that self-employment is good for your health. It said being your own boss improves your mental health, whether you move from unemployment or being employed full-time.
Self-Employment Taxes in Germany
When you start your self-employed business in Germany, you will need to be aware of (and pay) the range of taxes explained in the following section. Fortunately, if you run a small business and earn under the threshold, you will not have to pay income tax.
Taxes for self-employed people in Germany are quite straightforward. You must inform the German tax authorities and file a tax return once a year, between January 1 and July 31.
- First, register with your nearest tax office in Germany. You can search for your nearest office on the Federal Central Tax Office’s website.
- You need to fill in the Fragebogen zur Steuerlichen Erfassung registration form and submit it at the local tax office.
- A few weeks later, you can expect to receive your German tax number (Steuernummer) and VAT number.
- Then you must include your tax number on any invoice you send.
- You can file your tax return online via Elster, “your online tax office.”
Types of Self-Employment Tax
- Income Tax (Einkommensteuer)
- Church Tax (Kirchensteuer)
- Value Added Tax (Umsatzsteuer)
Income tax (Einkommensteuer)
Self-employed individuals will have to pay income tax, which is calculated as:
- profit minus business expenses (Betriebsausgaben);
- special expenses (Sonderausgaben); and
- extraordinary charges (außergewöhnlichen Belastungen).
You only have to pay income tax if you earn 9,408 EUR (10,465 USD) or more in a year. If you earn more than 9,408 EUR (10,465 USD) but less than 57,051 EUR (63,600 USD), you pay 14% income tax.
If you earn more than 57,051 EUR (63,600 USD) but less than 270,500 EUR (300,890 USD) per year, your earnings are subject to a tax rate of 42%. For incomes over 270,500 EUR, the highest tax rate of 45% applies.
The table below shows individuals’ eligibility to contribute PAYE tax in Germany.
|Up to 9,408 EUR (10,465 USD)||No tax|
|9,408 EUR and over||14% tax|
|57,051 and over||42% tax|
|270,500 and over||45% tax|
You also have to pay the so-called solidarity surcharge which is 5.5% of your basic income tax. Those who pay up to 972 EUR (1,100 USD) in income tax do not have to pay the solidarity surcharge.
Church Tax (Kirchensteuer)
You are eligible to pay church tax (Kirchensteuer) in Germany unless you opt out. Church Tax is 8 or 9% of your annual income tax liability, depending on where you live.
To opt out, you must technically “leave the church,” which involves going to your Standesamt (civil registration office) or Amtsgericht (official court) and paying up to 31 EUR (35 USD), as well as bringing your ID and Meldebescheinigung (certificate of registration of living at an address in Germany). If you are married, you must also bring your Heiratsurkunde (marriage certificate).
Value Added Tax (Umsatzsteuer)
For every product and service sold in Germany the seller must pay VAT, the cost of which is footed by the consumer. VAT is charged at a rate of 19%, while a reduced rate of 7% is added to some goods and services, such as food, newspapers, books, and magazines, public transportation for short distances, renting accommodation, and concert tickets.
Agricultural products carry a VAT rate of 10.7% while forestry products carry a rate of 5.5%. Sea and air transport is exempt from VAT, as are foreign deliveries, credit brokering, and insurances.
Self-Employed Benefits in Germany
Generally, freelancers do not have to contribute to or be part of the social security system in Germany. This is an advantage in that you do not have to set money aside towards it; but if you don’t, it will mean you miss out on some benefits that workers in regular full-time jobs receive, such as free immunizations, prescriptions, and dental checks.
As a self-employed citizen, you will need to pay for private insurance plans to cover the following:
- Healthcare (including nursing care for the elderly and infirm)
- Income protection for people with disabilities
- Life insurance
- Your retirement pension
If you are a journalist or artist, you must contribute to the government’s social insurance system for: pensions; health insurance; and care insurance for elderly nursing care.
Top Self-Employed Jobs in Germany
If you are wondering if there will be opportunities for you as a self-employed person in Germany, the following list of popular freelance professions could help:
- Medical professions
- Authorized experts, such as health and safety inspectors and auditors
- Tax advisors
- Lawyers and notaries
- Engineer, including IT professionals
- Fitness and sports coaches
- Translators and interpreters
- Authors, writers, bloggers, and journalists
- Graphic designers
German business culture has certain characteristics you should know about if you want to make a good impression. For example, it is important to be punctual if you want to keep your clients and contacts happy, and you should dress smartly to put across a good image.
Tips for Business Life
- Starting early is normal in Germany’s working culture. It is common for schools to open at 07:30 in Germany and this may influence work culture too. Many working parents drop off their children at school and arrive at work well before 09:00.
- Germany tends to have high productivity rates, with workers powering through their day so they can leave work and go home on time. Therefore, be prepared to work hard.
- Do not postpone booking your work holidays. Germans like to book them far in advance.
- It is expected that you will try your best to be on time for work and meetings. Arrive early and avoid offending your colleagues.
- Germany’s workplace culture dress codes depend on the type of work taking place. However, dress codes are generally conservative. Nevertheless, this is changing especially with the rise of start-ups and forward-thinking companies.
Arranging a Meeting
To start your working relationship with a company or another prospective business associate in Germany, you should get into the habit of arranging an appointment first. Germans prefer this organized approach to simply agreeing to meet up on the fly.
Give the person you are meeting plenty of time to prepare, contacting them at least a week in advance. Bear in mind that holiday seasons, such as Christmas, Easter, and August due to summer holidays, are particularly inconvenient periods to set a meeting.
Stick with the organized theme and try to make sure you are early for your meeting—even arriving just a few minutes late can seriously upset someone. In the case you cannot avoid being behind schedule, call to let them know you will be late and try to have a reasonable excuse.
Talk in a formal way. If you are going to address the person with “you”, the formal German “Sie” sets the right tone. For example, to say “It is a pleasure to meet you,” say “Es freut mich Sie kennen zu lernen.”
Social Security and Benefits
If you have a new job in Germany, your new employer will apply to the social security system for you and you will be given a social security number.
You must contribute to social security funds in order to receive subsidized healthcare, sick pay, unemployment benefit, pension insurance, and invalidity insurance. As soon as you are added to the social security system in Germany you can expect to receive your social security card, which shows your unique identification number.
How to Get a Social Security Number in Germany
When you start a new job, your employer should set you up with either private or public health insurance. Let them know which one you prefer, or they might presume to put you in the public system. Then, your new health insurance company will send you your social security number or Versicherungsnummer within a few weeks of your application.
Self-employed individuals will have to apply for private insurance plans for healthcare, income protection for people with disabilities, life insurance, and your retirement pension.
What is the Social Security Number in Germany?
As soon as you start making social security contributions you will receive your social security ID or Sozialversicherungsausweis. You will need this if you start a new job and to claim its associated benefits. You should also receive numbers for your health insurance and pension insurance.
Can a Foreigner Get a Social Security Number?
Yes. Getting a social security number is an important part of settling in Germany for most workers, and it gives you access to the following benefits:
|Benefit||Contribution rate (%)|
|Sick pay||1.5 to 3.6|
Social Security Benefits for Low-Income Employees
As well as the basic benefits mentioned in the table above, Germany’s social security system provides support for people with low incomes, such as:
Housing Benefit (Wohngeld)
Those on low incomes can claim help with rent (Mietzuschuss) and mortgage payments as well as household maintenance (Laztenzuschuss).
Maternity Benefit (Mutterschaftgeld)
You will receive maternity benefit six weeks before and eight weeks after your child is born if you are a part of the social security system. Otherwise, you can apply at the Federal Insurance Office.
Parental Allowance (Elterngeld)
Parental allowance is another benefit to help new parents during their child’s early life. It helps to make up for any loss of earnings experienced during time away from work.
Child Benefits (Kindergeld)
This benefit provides general child support for things like buying food and clothing, and paying for education.
You can benefit from tax deductions, such as tax-free education, childcare, work-related training, and commuting.
Public and Private Health Insurance
All salaried workers in Germany whose gross monthly income is less than 5,213 EUR (5,800 USD) and whose annual income is less than 62,550 EUR (69,577 USD) must have public health insurance, or gesetzliche krankenversicherung (GKV).
You can also pay for additional insurance coverage from a private company. If you become eligible for private insurance, i.e. you get a pay rise, you can change from public to private health insurance but you have to opt out of the statutory insurance first.
If you start to earn more than 62,550 EUR (69,577 USD), you will be eligible for private health insurance. In this case, you can still use the public healthcare system as a voluntary user if you want, but you will have to pay the maximum premiums.
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Maternity and Paternity Leave
Germany has many laws to protect pregnant women and new mothers, including maternity leave. Fathers also have the right to paternity leave. Their coverage is not usually as generous in terms of the length of paid leave.
How Long is Maternity Leave in Germany?
- Expecting mothers have the right to stay home from work for six weeks before childbirth.
- New mothers must take maternity leave in Germany. They are forbidden to work for eight weeks after childbirth.
- If you are having twins or if your baby was born prematurely, you may stay at home for three months after giving birth.
- An expecting mother should inform their employer of their pregnancy and show a doctor’s Certificate of Expected Date of Delivery. They should remember to keep the receipt as employers must reimburse their employees for the certificate. It might be sufficient to verbally inform the employer.
Maternity Benefits in Germany
- Pregnant women are protected from discrimination when applying for jobs.
- Women do not have to tell prospective employers if they are pregnant.
- Both parents can claim parental benefits during the first twelve months after birth, or the first 14 months if the parents apply together.
Paternity Leave and Benefits
In Germany, fathers can also apply to take parental leave, which can be a total of three years’ up until the child’s eighth birthday and can be split into three separate periods. There is no actual law requiring companies to give fathers any paternity leave, though they are often given about 1-2 days.
InterNations GO! offers settling-in services that could help pregnant couples. We help you arrange professional services in your new country, such as doctors, and help you with legal documentation. Contact us today.
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