Max Planck Schools

Logo of the Max Planck Schools

The Max Planck Schools bring together international PhD candidates with leading scientists throughout Germany in three seminal interdisciplinary research fields: cognition, matter to life and photonics. Based on a strong network of German universities and research organisations, the Max Planck Schools offer unique PhD programmes with fully financed PhD positions for bachelor and master graduates in an outstanding scientific environment.
PhD candidates benefit from excellent infrastructure, innovative teaching methods and interdisciplinary exchange.

Who can apply?

Requirements for applicants vary among the three schools, and include the following:

Max Planck School of Cognition (four-year programme):

  • bachelor’s or master’s degree in areas related to cognition such as artificial intelligence, biology, (cognitive) neuroscience, genetics, linguistics, mathematics, neurobiology, neuroimaging, neurology, neurophysics, philosophy, physics, psychiatry and psychology
  • proficiency in English as the school’s language is English
  • convincing interest in the overall field of cognition research and strong scientific promise


Max Planck School Matter to Life (five-year master's to PhD direct track programme):

  • bachelor’s or master’s degree in chemistry, biochemistry, materials science, molecular systems engineering, physics, molecular cell biology, bioengineering or a related subject
  • proficiency in English as the school’s language is English
  • indication of the partner university to carry out the master’s: University of Göttingen (focus on complex systems and biological physics) or Heidelberg University (focus on molecular systems chemistry and engineering)


Max Planck School of Photonics (three-year PhD programme or five-year master's/PhD programme):

  • bachelor’s or master’s degree with significant exposure to physics, engineering or a related subject (B.Sc., B.Eng. or B.Tech. and M.Sc., M.Eng. or M.Tech.)
  • proficiency in English as the school’s language is English
  • convincing interest in photonics and ideally first experiences with the science of light

What form does funding take?

Admission to a Max Planck School comes with full funding for up to five years. This funding allows students and doctoral candidates to focus entirely on their scientific work and ensures that the Max Planck Schools can attract the best candidates from around the world.

  • During the first programme phase (entry usually with a bachelor’s degree), students receive a scholarship in the amount of 1,365 euros plus, if applicable, a subsidy for health insurance and material costs (up to 300 euros).
  • During the second programme phase (PhD phase, a master’s degree is mandatory), all candidates get a contract according to the local Wage Agreement for Public Service (TVöD/TV-L, E 13, 100%; starting at around 4,000 euros).

When is the closing date for applications?

Applications can be submitted until mid-December. For the specific application deadline of each school, please visit their respective websites.

Terms and conditions of application

The terms and conditions of application can be found here:

Max Planck School of Cognition: > Application

Max Planck School Matter to Life: > Application

Max Planck School of Photonics: > Application


Your goal

Are you aiming for a PhD or postdoc position? Here you will find information on your research career in Germany.

Three researchers are talking in a lab.