Find your structured PhD programme

Structured PhD programmes in Germany are frequently very similar to the PhD programmes in English-speaking countries, in which a team of supervisors look after a group of doctoral students. As a rule, it is possible to complete a doctorate in three to five years.

Find your PhD programme

There is no central database of all international PhD programmes in Germany. The DAAD database is useful for finding the right PhD programme that matches your research goals:

Screenshot of International Programme database

Doctoral programme database

Are you interested in an international doctoral programme in Germany? This German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) database presents a selection of over 300 international doctoral programmes in Germany. The database can be searched according to different criteria. > International Programmes in Germany Doctoral programme database

Search for graduate schools and research training groups

DFG-funded graduate schools

DFG-funded graduate schools

The German Research Foundation (DFG) supports graduate schools at universities that offer ideal conditions for doctoral students within a broad scientific area. > Current Graduate Schools DFG-funded graduate schools

Helmholtz Research and Graduate Schools

Helmholtz Research and Graduate Schools

The Helmholtz Association is Germany’s largest scientific organisation. In collaboration with various institutions of higher education, Helmholtz Association research centres have established structured PhD programmes under the auspices of Helmholtz Graduate Schools and Helmholtz Research Schools. > Structured Doctoral Training Helmholtz Research and Graduate Schools

DFG-funded research training groups

DFG-funded research training groups

Research training groups are also funded by the German Research Foundation (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. > Research Training Groups DFG-funded research training groups

International Max Planck Research Schools

International Max Planck Research Schools

The Max Planck Society specialises in innovative basic research and 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). > International Max Planck Research Schools International Max Planck Research Schools

Leibniz Graduate Schools

Leibniz Graduate Schools

The Leibniz Association connects 91 research institutes that conduct problem-oriented research and provide scientific infrastructure of national and international importance. Together with universities they run structured PhD programmes in Leibniz Graduate Schools. > Leibniz Graduate Schools Leibniz Graduate Schools

How to apply to a PhD programme

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?

  • Where can I find out about requirements?

    Application procedures differ 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. You should therefore first choose a PhD programme and/or graduate school.

  • Advice: How to apply


    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 thesis 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 doctorate in Germany and the differences to your home country. You should know what you expect of the PhD programme and what is expected of you. Thorough preparation is therefore important.

Download our brochure

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

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