Postdoc at a non-university research institute

Picture of a female researcher

Non-university research organisations are often very well-equipped and offer postdoctoral researchers a good starting point for launching their careers. Postdocs can work in teams with researchers from all over the world here, and research projects are often integrated in international partnerships.

Hundreds of specialised research institutes

There are hundreds of specialised research institutes that focus on various fields of research as well as basic or applied research. The four largest government-funded research organisations are the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft, the Helmholtz Association, the Leibniz Association and the Max Planck Society. On our website you will find an overview of the research organisations in Germany: Research organisations.

Type of employment

Research organisations support postdocs with research jobs or grants.

Postdocs usually work in (junior) research groups on a specific, frequently also interdisciplinary research topic. As a rule, non-university research institutes are very well-equipped and offer an international environment.

Research groups often collaborate with university institutes or with companies. They constitute a very good springboard for a career in research, also outside higher education. Thus, for example, 80% of the employees who leave Fraunhofer research institutes move to a position in industry commensurate with their qualifications.

Like in universities, positions for research associates are frequently temporary (two- or three-year contracts are common).

If you receive a research grant from a funding organisation – for example, the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation – or a research institution, you can work on your research project independently and manage your own time.

Research grants are above all intended to support promising junior researchers, especially researchers from outside Germany. A grant enables you to work independently on your research topic at a research institution. Research fellows receive personal and financial support as well as the facilities from the host institution that they need to carry out their project.

Application and salary

How can you apply? What can you earn? Find out:

As a rule, applications are submitted directly to the relevant institute – frequently online. The exact procedure is outlined in the respective advertisement. Normally, a good to very good doctorate in the appropriate subject is required.

You will usually be expected to outline your research interests and experience, provide evidence of your methodical expertise and relevant research publications and also present references.

Prizes, honours, conference lectures and research stays at home and abroad are also relevant to your application for a research grant.

If the initial application is successful, in most cases you will be invited to attend a job interview or participate in a telephone interview.

Employed research associates at a non-university research institute are paid on the basis of the collective agreement for federal public employees. The initial gross monthly salary for a full-time position is roughly 3,700 euros.

You should bear in mind that monthly deductions are taken from this total to cover taxes and possibly also social contributions for medical, unemployment and retirement pension insurance. These contributions enable you acquire rights to the excellent benefits of the German social security system.

Job search & funding

Where are jobs advertised? And who provides funding for international researchers? Here you will find more information: