Find your individual doctorate

Individual doctorate: the traditional path

Individual Doctorate

The "traditional" or "individual" path to a PhD/doctorate remains the most common in Germany. An individual doctorate involves the thesis or dissertation being produced under the supervision of a professor. This form of PhD study offers a great deal of flexibility, but demands a high degree of personal initiative and responsibility. Interested to know more about the key features of an individual doctorate? Read more here: How to obtain a PhD > Individual doctorate

Find a PhD position

Depending on the subject area of your thesis, your research can be conducted alone or together with other researchers. Doctoral candidates are also free to choose where they would like to conduct research:

  • PhD at a University

    Entrance of a university.
    Entrance of a university.

    A future doctoral student also needs a carefully thought-out outline of his or her thesis to apply for a (temporary) doctoral post. That is because the "typical" PhD/doctoral student in Germany works – usually part-time – as a research associate at his university. Although research is usually part of the job description, most of the associate’s own doctoral research usually has to be carried out outside working hours. How closely teaching, research and/or administrative duties are actually tied into the PhD/doctoral student’s own research depends very much on the individual situation.

    Finding a PhD position or supervisor

    You are looking for a university in Germany? The following websites can help you to find a German university that matches your research topic.

    • www.phdgermany.de
      PhDGermany publishes PhD position offers in Germany that specifically target international applicants. Therefore in most cases the working language is English. Fluent knowledge of German is only required for certain special positions. PhDGermany helps you find the right PhD position offer or supervisor for your doctoral thesis and assists you with the online application process.
    • www.hochschulkompass.de
      Database with information on German universities, International Offices and opportunities for doctoral study in Germany.
    • www.daad.de/research-explorer
      Search engine with over 19,000 institutes at German universities and non-university research organisations
    • Search in job portals
      Many research universities publish their open PhD positions and job vacancies in online job portals or on their websites. Here you find some tips and links where to search for research-related job offers in Germany: Search for a Job.
  • PhD at a non-university research institute

    A radio telescope

    Non-university research establishments – such as the Max Planck Society (MPG), Helmholtz Association, Leibniz Association (WGL) and Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft (FhG) offer an excellent research environment to conduct your research. The institutes that do not have the right to award doctorates themselves collaborate with universities for that purpose. They offer PhD students scholarships and/or (usually fixed-term) contracts of employment – or a combination of the two. However, support is also possible in the form of regular research posts, which are especially typical of Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft (FhG).

    Finding a PhD position

    • www.phdgermany.de
      PhDGermany publishes PhD position offers in Germany that specifically target international applicants. Therefore in most cases the working language is English. Fluent knowledge of German is only required for certain special positions. PhDGermany helps you find the right PhD position offer or supervisor for your doctoral thesis and assists you with the online application process.
    • www.daad.de/research-explorer
      Search engine with over 19,000 institutes at German universities and non-university research organisations
    • Search in job portals
      Many research institutes publish their open PhD positions and job vacancies in online job portals or on their websites. Here you find some tips and links where to search for research-related job offers in Germany: Search for a Job.
  • PhD in Industry

    Research in industry

    Graduates who decide to work in industry and study for a doctorate part-time – often with funding and support from their employer – also need a university professor to supervise their research. In some cases, the employer already collaborates with a university or research institute and will help the PhD/doctoral student find the right person. People who have PhD/doctoral research posts within a company usually have part-time temporary contracts and work in a research project where they conduct their doctoral research under the supervision of a professor. When a university and an industrial company collaborate in specially established institutes, PhD/doctoral researchers usually work on their projects with their professor and a supervisor from the company.

    Find a PhD position

    Many companies publish their open PhD positions and job vacancies in online job portals or on their websites. Here you find some tips and links where to search for research-related job offers in Germany: Search for a job

Find a supervisor

In Germany there is no central admissions or selection office for doctoral students. Therefore, your first step is to find a suitable professor who is willing to be your supervisor or to find a open PhD position.

  • Tips for your search

    Your contacts to your professors or university could help direct you to a suitable department or potential supervisor in Germany. Another way to find a supervisor is to look for an institute at a university which corresponds to your area of research. The following online search engines might help you find a suitable supervisor:

    • www.daad.de/research-explorer
      Search engine with over 19,000 institutes at German universities and non-university research organisations
    • www.phdgermany.de
      PhDGermany publishes PhD position offers in Germany that specifically target international applicants. Therefore in most cases the working language is English. Fluent knowledge of German is only required for certain special positions. PhDGermany helps you find the right PhD position offer or supervisor for your doctoral thesis and assists you with the online application process.
    • www.hochschulkompass.de
      Database with information on German universities, International Offices and opportunities for doctoral study in Germany.

    Once you’ve decided on a potential supervisor, you have to apply directly to the professor in question. In your application, you should provide information regarding your prior academic achievements, the topic of your master’s thesis and the subject area in which you wish to specialise. Your application should also include a well thought-out proposal for your dissertation.

    After you have found a professor willing to supervise you, the responsible department or doctoral committee must then confirm your eligibility as a doctoral candidate. At some universities, candidates have to apply for admission to the doctoral examination at this phase.

Links & databases

Here you find some useful links to useful database that can help you to find the right PhD position or university that matches your research goals:

PhD Germany - Database for Doctoral Positions

PhD Germany - Database for Doctoral Positions

"PhDGermany" is a database for doctoral positions and research opportunities in Germany. It can help you to find the right PhD position offer or supervisor for your doctoral thesis. www.phdgermany.de PhD Germany - Database for Doctoral Positions

Find Universities - Doctoral Studies

Find Universities - Doctoral Studies

Students interested in doing a doctoral study should contact the faculties or departments, or directly get in touch with academics and researchers at the institution who are qualified to supervise a doctoral thesis (dissertation). Search the "Higher Education Compass" database by various categories: universities, subjects, subject areas, admissions rules, and dissertation rules. www.hochschulkompass.de Find Universities - Doctoral Studies

Search for Research Institutes

Search for Research Institutes

This online database gives you access to over 22,000 German university and non universitary research institutes. www.research-explorer.de Search for Research Institutes