Professorship at a university

man giving a lecture

As a professor at a German university you will be able to research and teach independently with a good team of staff and good equipment – either as a junior professor, W2 professor or as a university professor with your own professorial chair.

As a rule, professorships are advertised internationally.

If you are aiming for a professorship at a university in Germany, you will want answers to some important questions. Here you will find useful information:

Qualifications and application

Would you like to know whether you meet the requirements for a professorship and how you can apply? You will find the most important information here:

The formal requirements for appointment as a professor at a university are:

  • special qualification for academic work (as a rule, an excellent doctorate)

  • pedagogical suitability (eg teaching assignments, interim professorships)

    • further academic achievements, which can be demonstrated either by a (cumulative) habilitation degree or

    • similar academic qualifications, such as employment as a junior professor or a junior research group leader, or

    • without formal procedures within the framework of a job as a research associate or a job outside higher education

In addition to this, as a rule it is also necessary to demonstrate proven knowledge of the subject, relevant publications and experience of research and teaching.

 

As a rule, the appointment procedure involves a number of steps and can differ from institution to institution and state to state. Usually, the following steps are followed:

  • A university appointments committee (Berufungskommission) is specially established for the purpose. It selects the most promising applicants and invites them to an interview and a test lecture.

  • The best candidates (generally, three) are put on a recommended list (appointments list).

  • References about the academic and personal suitability of these applicants are requested from professors at other universities.

  • The final decision about the appointment is made by the department and – depending on the state concerned – the university administration and possibly the responsible state ministry or senator.

    A successful appointment is followed by crucial negotiations, in which the candidate explains his or her teaching and research concept and the resulting requirements for the chair with regard to space, funding and human resources. The professor’s own remuneration is also negotiated at this point and dual career issues discussed.

Responsibilities and salary

Not all professorships are equally funded. Basically, holders of professorial chairs manage their own budgets and several employees, while other professors tend to have fewer staff and a lower level of funding. There are also considerable differences in professors’ remuneration.

As a professor at a German university you will

  • enjoy independence in research and teaching and represent your department as a holder of a professorial chair,

  • support new academic talent, carry out examinations and perform teaching duties,

  • be involved in the self-government of the university,

  • be able to apply to funding organisations for research funding and initiate research projects or international partnerships and

  • have human resources responsibility for your team. Depending on the form of the professorship, you will have control over staff, rooms and equipment. These are usually the subject of the appointment negotiations.

In Germany, professors are remunerated in accordance with what is known as W-Besoldung, a salary scale for scholars (W stands for Wissenschaft”, which means scholarship or science).

Germany is a federation in which the individual states (Länder) have jurisdiction over their civil servants’ basic pay. As a result, salaries vary depending on the state in which the university is based and whether the researcher is employed by the Federal Government.

As a rule, professors are paid according to the W3 or W2 salary scales, junior professors according to the W1 scale. The remuneration of university professors (who normally have civil servant status with lifelong tenure) differs depending on their grouping and the state in which they are based.

The designation of a professorship as W3, W2 or a junior professorship is determined by the employing university. In concrete terms, you can expect the following:

  • W3 professorships are usually higher positions, for example, involving responsibility for a professorial chair or managing an institute. The monthly gross basic salary of a W3 professor is between roughly 5,900 euros and 7,000 euros. In addition to this, there are appointment and retention payments, special performance-related payments, functional performance payments and so-called teaching and research allowances and family allowances.
  • W2 professorships are regular positions for researchers who independently carry out research and teaching. Initially, the monthly gross basic salary is between approximately 4,900 euros and 6,200 euros. Here, too, salaries can be increased by family, appointment/retention and performance-related payments.

  • Junior professors are grouped as university teachers. As a rule, they are paid according to the W1 salary scale. Depending on the state in which the junior professorship is based (or whether it is remunerated on the basis of the pay agreement with the Federal Government), the monthly gross basic salary is between 4,200 euros and 4,900 euros.

  • The budget of the professorship and the level of additional payments depend to a large extent on the appointment negotiations and the specific situation of the university and the department.

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

Professors are usually civil servants (probationary, temporary or permanent) and do not need to pay social insurance contributions. However, professorships can also be awarded with employee status. This means the net salary is far lower than that of a professor with civil servant status.

The German Association of University Professors and Lecturers (DHV) presents information about the academic salary scales of the individual states and the Federal Government on a special W-Portal (in German).

Job search & funding

Professorships are advertised publicly. There are various ways of finding these advertisements. You can find more information here: