Find your structured PhD programme

Over 700 PhD programmes in Germany

The library of the Department of Philology at FU Berlin
Several students and PhD students studying in the library of the Department of Philology at FU Berlin

There are over 700 doctoral programmes in Germany that are very similar to the PhD programmes in English-speaking countries, in which a team of supervisors look after a group of doctoral students. Generally, it is possible to gain a doctorate in three years.

Structured doctoral programmes often have a strong international orientation with English as the team language. Unlike the individual doctorate model that can be freely structured to suit the individual research project, here doctoral students and their research proposals have to fit in with an existing PhD programme.

The doctorate frequently entails a clearly structured doctoral study programme with compulsory attendance at lectures or seminars and interim assessment (credit points). The programme frequently also covers academic and scientific methods or soft skills, such as presentation techniques. 

PhD Students work steadily at realising their research project within the team and with intensive support from a group of academic staff (often referred to as the “thesis committee”).

  • Find your future PhD programme

    PhD Programme Database

    There is no central database for all international PhD programmes in Germany. We would like to provide you with useful databases that can help you to find the right PhD programme that matches your research goals:

    • DAAD Doctoral Programme Database
      The database by the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) introduces over 300 internaional doctoral programmes in Germany. The database can be searched by field of study, course language, keywords or town.


    Selection of Graduate Schools and Research Training Groups

    • > DFG Graduate Schools
      Graduate schools aer funded by the German Research Foundation (DFG) and offer ideal conditions for doctoral students within a broad scientific area.
    • > Doctoral Training Programmes
      In collaboration with various institutions of higher education, Helmholtz Association research centres have established structured PhDl programmes under the auspices of Helmholtz Graduate Schools and Helmholtz Research Schools.
    • > List of Research Training Groups
      Research Training Groups are also funded by the DFG for a period of up to nine years. Their key emphasis is on the qualification of doctoral researchers within the framework of a focused research programme and a structured training strategy.
    • > Max Planck Research Schools
      Because the Max Planck Society (MPG) specialises in innovative basic research, its institutes are able to offer up-and-coming researchers excellent infrastructure and support. The website lists the programmes available at International Max Planck Research Schools (IMPRS).
  • How to apply


    When making your selection, you should focus on the following questions: Do the programme, the institution and the environment suit my doctoral proposal? What are the requirements? What is expected of doctoral students? Once you have found a PhD programme, you should invest sufficient time and care in preparing your application. In some cases, there are application deadlines for admission to programmes. It is therefore advisable to begin looking for a suitable programme in good time before graduation.
    Multistage application procedure

    For your application to be successful, your planned doctoral thesis must fit in with the main emphases of the programme and you will need a good or very good degree that is recognised in Germany. Initial contacts are usually made over the Internet.

    The application procedure itself often involves a number of different stages, but differs from programme to programme. Generally, however, as a first step you will need to submit a curriculum vitae, a copy of your degree certificate, a brief description of your doctoral research proposal and a letter outlining the reasons for your application. The second step, usually on request, involves a detailed application with a comprehensive exposé of the research project. This includes details of your time schedule, references from previous professors, copies of all certificates and your dissertation or special project and, possibly, proof of language proficiency. If these documents win over the admissions committee, the applicant is usually invited to a personal interview, which can under certain circumstances also be held as a telephone conference.

    In addition to presenting your excellent degree and a good research proposal that fits in with the programme, you must make your personal motivations clear during the interview. You should ensure you are well informed about the demands of doing a PhD/doctorate in Germany and the differences to your home country. You should know what you expect of the PhD/doctoral programme and what is expected of you. Thorough preparation is therefore important.

    Where can I find out about requirements?

    The application procedure differs from programme to programme. The precise requirements and deadlines can be found on the website of the respective university, research training group or graduate school. Therefore you should first choose a PhD programme and/or graduate school. See: Find your PhD Position

The German doctorate − A guide for doctoral candidates (2015, 40 pages)

This booklet for (prospective) international doctoral students shows the different options for doing a doctorate in Germany. It explains the formal requirements, gives some practical advice on finding the right supervisor or doctoral programme. It also presents sponsoring and funding options. Download (PDF, 9.4 MB)