Many students ask me about using an English-taught master’s degree to launch their careers in Germany. They read articles online about how you can find work in Germany in English, and the master’s degree is seen as an easy route for transitioning into the labor market. While that can be true for some, there are some common pitfalls you should be aware of.
Importantly, just because a degree is taught in English in Germany does not necessarily mean there is an English-language labor market in Germany in that field. In general, do not get a master’s degree (or a second master’s degree!) on the premise that it will automatically make job searching easier. Unfortunately, in some cases it does the opposite. This can happen, for example, when you do not make sure you are studying something that corresponds to what you want to work afterward. Guidelines for the post-study work visa indicate that you have to find a job in your studied field within 18 months after you graduate to qualify for the post-study work visa. In my experience, you normally cannot use a previous degree from your home country to obtain the post-study work visa. You must find work that corresponds to what you studied in Germany.
Beyond informing yourself about these common misconceptions, I recommend looking at three career considerations of English-taught master’s programs in Germany: skills, language and experience.
Start by asking and answering (to the best of your ability) this question: Is the skillset, practical experience, and education the degree is providing filling a need (demand) on the German labor market? Check out the labor market statistics from the German federal employment agency and review the list of professions experiencing skilled labor shortages. Sites such as Indeed and LinkedIn also offer information about when and where jobs are being posted, when people are applying, and the top skillsets in demand. Beyond desk research, you need to get active to find out about the experience of graduates from the program you are interested in.
Look up the professional social media profiles of past cohorts: what are the international alumni doing? How long did it take them to find a job? Are they working in a position that appeals to you? Finally, follow job openings you are interested in and keep track of the applicant profile and skill requirements by conducting a gap analysis. These initial steps should begin to give you an idea of labor market demand and also inform what you will need to do in addition to your degree.
If you are disciplined, you can for sure make great strides in learning German while you study for your master's degree. The problem is often that even the most disciplined of students are overwhelmed by the demands of moving to a foreign country, finding a grounding here, and dealing with the demands of graduate school life to systematically approach their language learning. Many students do not become fluent in those two years, and then approach the German labor market without solid (or even basic!) German skills. Depending on your field, this might not be a big issue, but for many it could hinder achieving gainful employment. I recommend learning German for work/professional purposes from the very beginning. For resources I recommend, check out this post.
Niche down – specialize both in your academic studies and make sure to align your academic work with your practical experience to help you develop marketable expertise in a specific area. Finding internships here without knowing German is difficult, and internships are one of the key ways to move into full-time employment post-graduation. Do you have work experience in your field that you can use to market yourself to German employers? If you do not have any experience, gaining practical work experience needs to be one of your main priorities alongside your degree. Do an internship in your home country before you move, or, if you are already in Germany, start looking for opportunities. This can mean a variety of things (internships, working student positions, volunteering, thesis student positions, etc).
A degree in Germany is a career choice, and you will get out of it what you put into it – beginning with the research you do ahead of time to figure out if it is the right choice for you.
About the author
Jessica Schüller is a graduate student and Erasmus Mundus fellow in the Research and Innovation in Higher Education (MaRIHE) program at Tampere University in Finland and Danube University Krems in Austria. She helpsinternational students, young professionals, and expats launch and grow their careers in Germany. Prior to launching Germany Career Coach, she worked as an international career advisor at a German university, managed an internship program in Germany and taught German cultural studies to international students. You can learn more about her work and connect with her here:
Read more texts by Jessica Schüller on the Alumniportal