Apprenticeship instead of studying?

An apprenticeship is just like a degree one of the ways to start your professional life. With an apprenticeship, you can pursue a career and gain practical experience in it. It gives you a basic qualification with which you can directly practice the learned profession after the apprenticeship period.

The goal of the apprenticeship is to prepare you for working in your profession and to obtain a vocational school diploma. The necessary skills are trained directly in the apprenticeship and thus provide a basis for action in the future.

Here you can learn about the following topics:

How does an apprenticeship work?

There are two different types of apprenticeships in Germany – dual and school-based. With both, you learn a profession directly, but the procedure and structure are different. Find out about the differences between the two types of apprenticeship in our short explanatory film.

Dual apprenticeship or in-company apprenticeship offers a combination of theory and practice. The apprenticeship takes place both in a vocational school and in a company of your choice. In this way, dual apprenticeship offers a quick introduction to practical work, which is also remunerated. The theoretical part takes place either parallel to the practical work once or twice a week at the vocational school or in blocks, where you spend several days in a row (e.g. one week) at the vocational school and then back at the company for a longer period of time. In theory classes, you will be taught content related to your chosen profession, but also general subjects (such as German, math, sports…).

  • Duration:
    The duration of an apprenticeship can vary between two and three and a half years. Under certain circumstances, the apprenticeship can be shortened on an individual basis. For example, if you have a relevant school degree or have already gained work experience.
  • Payment:
    The practical working time is remunerated in the case of dual apprenticeship. There is a monthly starting salary that increases with each year of apprenticeship. The amount of the salary depends on the chosen profession and the apprenticeship institution (the company).

In contrast to dual apprenticeship, school-based apprenticeship takes place through full-time instruction in school classes. As a result, there is plenty of room for theory work as well as specializations in other subject areas. Practical experience can be gained in parallel through internships. This full-school apprenticeship takes place either at public or private vocational schools.

  • Duration:
    School-based apprenticeship usually lasts one to three years.
  • Payment:
    There is no fixed remuneration for school-based apprenticeship. In some vocational schools, you may also have to pay money for the apprenticeship. However, financial assistance can be requested on an individual basis. It is also possible to work up to ten additional hours per week in a part-time job. The job doesn’t have to be related to the field of work in which you are doing your apprenticeship.
  • Contents:
    In university studies, learning is science and theory oriented. This is different from an apprenticeship, where the emphasis is on practical knowledge and its direct application.
  • Structure:
    The structure of studies requires a lot of self-organization. The semesters and schedules have to be arranged independently, there is no compulsory attendance and learning as well as organizing the exams is also based on self-initiative. An apprenticeship is clearly structured in terms of time and content and is also accompanied by teaching staff.
  • Career choice:
    When you choose an apprenticeship, you decide on a specific career direction for which you prepare specifically during your apprenticeship at your apprenticing company and at vocational school. In studies, it is often not yet clear where the journey will take you. You will learn about different subject areas within your course of studies, in which you can specialize. In studies this is mostly done through self-selected modules, supplementary areas or internships.
  • Duration:
    An apprenticeship usually takes three years, as does a bachelor’s degree if you’re pursuing a course of studies. If you add a Master’s degree after
    your undergraduate degree, the studies may take at least two more years to complete. As a result, career entry is usually quicker with an apprenticeship. But even after the apprenticeship, you can continue your education through in-depth courses or achieve a higher degree, such as the title of master craftsman (in the skilled trades) or qualified professional (German „Fachwirt“).
  • Payment:
    In the apprenticeship, it depends on the type you choose.
    While dual apprenticeship is remunerated, school-based apprenticeship must be self-financed just like university studies. However, just like for the studies there are options to apply for financial support.

What are the prerequisites for an apprenticeship?

In order to start an apprenticeship in Germany, certain prerequisites must be met. Here you will find an overview of what they are.

Note: The options you have when you want to start an apprenticeship may also be very individual. For example, you can get advice from the Fachinformationszentrum Zuwanderung if you need help.

Requirements for right of residence:

To obtain a residence permit for the purpose of an apprenticeship, proof of a dual or school-based apprenticeship is required. This means that you first need a confirmed apprenticeship position in order to be able to obtain a residence permit. It is important that it is a qualified apprenticeship. This is the case if the apprenticeship lasts at least 2 years.

The training is in German. Your German language skills should be at least level B1. This is important so that you can communicate well in the vocational school and your apprenticing company and also understand everything that is explained to you. In exceptional cases, your apprenticing company can also confirm that your current language level is sufficient for the apprenticeship, even if it is lower than B1. You can also take a language course before starting or during your apprenticeship to improve your language skills.

You must prove that you can maintain your livelihood. For this, it is necessary that you earn at least 832€ per month (2022). With dual apprenticeship, you receive a salary every month. If your salary is equal to the minimum amount of 832€, it proves that you can maintain your livelihood.

Attention: In the case of school-based apprenticeship, you will not be paid a salary. This means that you must otherwise prove that your livelihood is secure. In this case, or also if your apprenticeship salary is too low in the case of dual apprenticeship, a blocked account can be opened.

A blocked account is a bank account whose balance you can use to prove that your livelihood in Germany is secured. Only a certain amount can be withdrawn from a blocked account each month. This ensures that sufficient financial resources are available.

If your apprenticeship salary is not enough to cover your living expenses:

  • Apprenticeship allowance can be obtained by all apprentices who have German citizenship. If you are from the EU, you can also apply for apprenticeship allowance. However, people who are not from the EU can also receive this aid under certain conditions. More information is available from the Federal Employment Agency.
  • In addition, you have the opportunity to work up to 10 hours per week alongside your apprenticeship. The job does not need to have anything to do with your apprenticeship and can also be in a different line of business.

Other prerequisites:

In addition to the requirements for right of residence, there are other requirements that are needed for an apprenticeship.

A school-leaving qualification is one of the basic requirements for an apprenticeship in Germany. School-leaving qualifications can be very diverse worldwide, which is why it is often necessary to have certificates authenticated and recognized. If you have already studied in Germany, you can assume that your school-leaving qualification also qualifies you for an apprenticeship. The minimum requirement for an apprenticeship in Germany is a secondary school leaving qualification. The apprenticing company has the right to decide which qualification is suitable for the corresponding apprenticeship. Each school-leaving qualification offers its own qualities. For example, a company may place a high value on hands-on work. In this case, a secondary school leaving qualification may be preferred.

How do I get into an apprenticeship?

  • Advice on how to transfer from your studies to an apprenticeship is available from the Fachkräfteinformationszentrum Zuwanderung.
  • Get in touch with a counseling center early on, preferably when you start having difficulties in your studies.
  • It is difficult to make a quick transition from studies to an apprenticeship. It can take up to 18 months to start the apprenticeship, e.g. if you still have to attend language courses.
  • You can find apprenticeship positions and advice on them at the Federal Employment Agency, the Chamber of Industry and Commerce or the Chamber of Crafts, for example. You can also get information at apprenticeship and job fairs or look for apprenticeship positions online (e.g. directly at companies that interest you or at online job portals).
  • The application to change to an apprenticeship must be submitted to the relevant Foreigners Registration Office.
  • In order to be able to apply for a residence permit for the purpose of an apprenticeship, you must first sign an apprenticeship contract or have an assurance from the company where you want to start the apprenticeship.
  • Since the residence title is tied to your studies, if you are transferring to an apprenticeship or a job, you should not de-register until you receive a positive decision from the Foreigners Registration Office. The decision as to whether a change is possible is up to your local Foreigners Registration Office.
  • You can find the right contact person through our network. To do so, select the region where you are studying here.

What do I get out of an apprenticeship?

So that you can plan your professional future well, it is helpful to know,
what advantages and perspectives there are for you in an apprenticeship:

  • Get to know the German language and culture better

    During your apprenticeship, you will be directly involved in a department of your apprenticing company. Not only will you be professionally prepared for your future working life, but you will also have daily contact with your colleagues in the company or classmates at the vocational school. This will help you improve the language and get to know the culture and life in Germany better.

  • Much practical experience

    In many cases, you will have the opportunity to sign a long-term contract with the apprenticing company after completing your apprenticeship. But even if you don’t want to or can’t work in your apprenticing company in the long term, it’s not just your graduation, but also the knowledge and skills you’ve acquired during your apprenticeship that will qualify you for a permanent job in other companies.

  • Growing self-confidence and independence

    With all the challenges you master, you also get to know yourself and your skills better and better, which will help you later in your professional life. During your apprenticeship, you can take on more responsibility bit by bit and become more self-confident and independent.

  • Good starting conditions & long-term job opportunities

    Good future prospects open up for vocational jobs. According to current social diagnoses, there is a shortage of trained specialists in some professions in Germany. Thus it is a good time to start an apprenticeship.

    In many cases, you will have the opportunity to sign a long-term contract with the apprenticing company after completing your apprenticeship. But even if you don’t want to or can’t work in your apprenticing company in the long term, it’s not just your graduation, but also the knowledge and skills you’ve acquired during your apprenticeship that will qualify you for a permanent job in other companies.

  • Opportunities for advancement and further training

    If a management position or a position with more room for responsibility is your goal, there are also opportunities for further training after you have completed your apprenticeship. Depending on the specialization of your apprenticeship, you can complete advanced training as a master craftsman, technician, business administrator or designer. In addition, there are various further qualification opportunities after the apprenticeship. These are, for example, seminars, training courses, adaptation training, further scientific training or retraining. If you want, you can also study again after the apprenticeship.

  • Learning and earning money

    The amount of your apprenticeship salary in a dual apprenticeship depends primarily on the profession. There are some differences here. As a basic principle, the minimum remuneration of €585 per month in the first year of training has applied since 2022, which will be adjusted to €620 in 2023. As of 2022, this will rise to at least €690 per month in the second year of training and €790 per month in the third. This compensation brings the great advantage of a more financially independent life, especially in direct comparison to studying.

  • Rising remuneration

    After an apprenticeship, the starting salary averages between €25,000 and €30,000. Graduates who stay in the same company but change occupations – or who take a job at a new company – earn the most. In the end, however, your starting salary depends primarily on the profession you have learned. For example, while you can expect a starting salary of 1200€ per month in hairdressing, your salary in mechanical and industrial engineering will increase to an average of 2840€ per month.

And after the apprenticeship?

After you have completed your apprenticeship, there are various paths you can take:

  • Continue to work in your training company
    Here you already have a head start, as you have been able to get to know the company’s daily routine, work processes and colleagues during your apprenticeship and are already part of the team. Sometimes, however, there is no possibility to stay in the company after finishing the apprenticeship.
  • Work in another company
    You are not bound to your apprenticing company. If you can’t or don’t want to continue working there, you can also use your degree to apply for a job of your learned profession at other companies. If you are not from the EU and have successfully completed your apprenticeship in Germany, you can apply for a residence permit to find a job.Such a residence permit is valid for up to 12 months.
  • Complete advanced training
    There are also opportunities for advanced training after the apprenticeship. This will enable you to qualify for certain professions, advance professionally or become self-employed. Which advanced training is suitable depends on the profession and industry. In technical professions, for example, you can train to become a „state-certified technician“. In skilled trades, you can earn a master craftsman’s diploma. And in commercial professions, there is advanced training to become a specialist in business administration.
  • Back to studies
    You can also study again after your apprenticeship. Then you have the advantage that you already gained a lot of practical experience and thus have a different view on your studies.