Working while studying in Germany

Young female student works in a coffee shop
© Getty Images/Su Arslanoglu

The reckons that the number of international exchange students has hit a record level. Its calculations suggest that in Winter semester 2022/23 some 370,000 international exchange students were registered at German higher education institutions. Some of them pursue gainful employment while in Germany – with a part-time job, a work placement, as a working student or as a research assistant. Read on to learn everything that has to be considered when doing so.

How many hours can be worked on top of studying?

All foreign students are in principle entitled to work in Germany. Albeit those who come from the EU, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland have the same access to the job market as do German students. They are permitted to work for 20 hours per week during the semester, and even more in spells when they don’t have lectures.

There are however specific rules that apply to international exchange students: they are only entitled to work 120 full or 240 half days a year and not become self-employed or work on a freelance basis, otherwise they require approval from the Employment Agency or the Aliens Department. One exception to this is employment as a research assistant. In this case, there is no time limit. Things are a bit different when it comes to those attending a language course. They are generally only permitted to work with the approval of the Employment Agency and Aliens Department, and only at times when they don’t have lectures.

It is essential that these employment rules for international exchange students be observed. Those who contravene them risk being expelled from Germany in extreme cases. Anyone uncertain as to what’s permitted and what isn’t is advised to ask: most higher education institutions have information centres or offices for international exchange students and they know the latest rules.

Is the income taxable?

The latest regulations stipulate that students working in a marginal part-time job can earn up to 538 euros per month. No taxes are payable on this amount. Those who earn more are liable to pay tax. Students require a tax number to do this. It’s also advisable to open a German bank account, since employers will usually only transfer wages to a German account.

Studying in Germany: What international students should know

Studying in Germany: What international students should know
Studying in Germany: What international students should know ©

Are social security contributions payable for a part-time job?

Students working in Germany require a social security card. The employer should obtain this. The social security number is on your card. Students need this to be able to pay their social security contributions. These are contributions towards illness, healthcare, pension and unemployment insurance. Social security contributions are usually only payable when students earn more than 538 euros per month – so there are no social security contributions relating to a marginal part-time job. Those who only work 20 hours a week per semester are also exempt.

Where’s the best place to find job opportunities for students?

The first port of call for students is mostly their higher education institution. There they can find job vacancies at the local student union or on its website. Enquiries regarding employment as a research assistant can also be made at the HEI administration office or directly to the respective institute. They oversee tutorials or collate and process documentation. It’s also worthwhile visiting the Employment Agency; it has drop-in centres in most towns and cities. Jobs for students are also arranged there. It can even be useful to take a look at regional advertising journals or job portals.

How much can be earned in a part-time job?

A minimum wage is applicable in Germany. It amounts to 12.41 euros per hour since 1 January 2024. Traditional jobs for students include bar staff, working at trade fairs and events or providing private tuition. Hourly wages can vary widely depending on skill set and prior knowledge as well as sector and programme location. Even if it can be great fun to earn money and gain vocational experience, it should nevertheless not be forgotten that a job should always be subordinate to your studies. Studying should of course always come first.


  • john kessy


    i stayed Germany for three months and thy wasn't enough time to learn the language. another reason i didn't stay-one place for long time i moved from one town to another

* mandatory field