32 German universities are included in the latest QS World University Rankings by Subject for Medicine, meaning there are plenty of options, depending on what type of university experience you’re looking for.
The first thing to note about medical programs in Germany is that training programs are not divided between bachelors and masters – a medical training program takes six years to complete and is conducted entirely in German, so you’ll need a strong knowledge of the language. However, alternative programs in the medical field do exist as bachelors and masters, including some English-taught programs.
Structure of medical degrees in Germany
Human medicine training degrees take at least six years and three months to complete and conclude with the state examination (Ärztliche Prüfung). This examination (if you pass) leads to your official Licence to Practice Medicine (Approbation). You’ll complete your medical studies in the following stages:
1. Stage 1: pre-clinical phase
This stage is four semesters (two years) long and will introduce you to the key basics of natural sciences and medicine. It concludes with the first medical licensing examination.
2. Stage 2: clinical phase
This is the main phase of study (six semesters – three years) comprised of the core subjects, taught in lectures, practical courses, internships and seminars.
3. Stage 3: practical year
The main phase of study is followed by a practical year. This is one-year of clinical training, in which you’ll be introduced to the practical aspects of surgery, internal medicine and an elective subject. This phase provides on-the-job experience to prepare you for your future profession.
4. State Examination
The last step in completing your medical degree in Germany is to pass the State Examination, a nationally standardised examination. After taking and passing the examination, you can apply for your medical license (Approbation) and begin working as a certified doctor.
Later on, you might decide to continue your education to become a medical specialist, which, depending on what subject you specialize in, can take another five to six years. The advanced training program for this concludes with a specialist examination. You can read more about this here.
Requirements to study medicine in Germany
As mentioned, you need a very good knowledge of German, which you’ll need to prove with a strong score in a test such as the TestDaF or the DSH. If your language skills aren’t up to scratch yet, don’t worry: you can enrol in a pre-study German course to help get your language skills to the level required for medical study in Germany. You’ll also need:
- University entrance qualification / your secondary school leaving certificate. If you’re from the EU, your leaving certificate should be generally accepted as equivalent to the German certificate. However, non-EU students will need to check that their qualification is eligible. If it’s not, you may need to attend the a Studienkolleg (one-year preparatory course) and sit the Feststellungsprüfungexam.
- Strong knowledge of English, in order to understand specialist literature. It’s also helpful but not essential to have knowledge of Latin.
- Extensive high school knowledge of biology, chemistry and physics.
- Ability to cope well with stress as medical programs are often time-consuming and intensive, with up to 25-30 hours of compulsory classes a week.
- Non-EU students may require a student visa and residence permit. (Find out if you need a visa and how to apply for one here).
- Some universities may also require non-EU students to provide results for the TestAS exam, while the Test for Medical Studies (TMS) is voluntary but can help give you an edge over other candidates by demonstrating your academic potential.
How to apply to study medicine in Germany
It’s a good idea to contact your chosen university’s International Office well in advance (if possible, a year before you plan to begin your course) to allow you plenty of time to get specific information on admission requirements, procedures and deadlines.
There are more applicants than there are spaces available to study medicine in Germany, so the admissions process is organized into a restricted, highly selective admissions policy known as the numerus clausus (NC) There are two types of NC, and, in this case, it is known as a centrally restricted NC.
However, in December 2017 Germany’s top court ruled the selection process as ‘partly unconstitutional’, meaning the government will regulate the criteria used to offer places – it remains to be seen what exact changes will be implemented following this ruling.
The admissions process varies from university to university. If you received your university entrance qualification from Germany or a German school abroad or you come from an EU country (or from Liechtenstein, Iceland or Norway), you should apply via the foundation for admission to higher education – the Stiftung für Hochschulzulassung (Foundation for University Admissions – website is in German). The same applies for other in-demand subjects: pharmacy, veterinary medicine and dentistry.
To submit your application via the Foundation for University Admissions, you should register with them via their website. This will allow you to submit your application and monitor its status. You may also need to complete an online registration procedure on your university’s website.
All other students (non-EU) will need to enquire as to whether their chosen university is a member of uni-assist (full list here). If it is, you can apply through the uni-assist centralized admission process. If not, you should apply through your chosen university, and include copies of any relevant documents (for example, your high school diploma).
The deadline for applications is generally July 15 for applications made to study starting from the winter semester, and January 15 for applications to study from the summer semester.
Cost of studying medicine in Germany
If you study medicine in Germany at a public university in any state except Baden-Württemberg, you will only pay a semester fee to cover administration and enrolment costs – this is typically no more than €250 per semester (~US$290). However, tuition fees for non-EU students have now been reintroduced in the state of Baden-Württemberg, meaning non-EU students now need to pay fees of €3,000 (~US$3,500) per year at public universities in this state. Private universities will charge considerably higher fees.
You will also need around €10,200 (~US$11,800) a year to cover your living costs, although expenses will vary depending on where you study. You can read more about the costs of studying in Germany here.
Studying medicine in Germany in English
If you’d prefer to study a bachelor’s or master’s degree in the medical field, there are some English-taught programs available, which do not lead to a qualification as a doctor. However, these are almost exclusively available at master’s level, with only one bachelor’s degree in medical studies taught in English available, according to a search on the DAAD's international program search tool, which is a Bachelor of Science in Medical Natural Sciences taught in English and German at Jacobs University Bremen, a private university which charges tuition fees.
However, at master’s level, 59 English-taught degrees in the medical field are available, some of which are free (as long as your degree is consecutive – i.e. you’ve previously studied the same subject at bachelor’s level). For example, University Ulm offers an English-taught master’s degree in molecular medicine with no tuition fees for EU/EEA students. Be aware that one of the entry requirements stipulates that students must have a bachelor’s degree in molecular medicine “or another program with essentially the same content”.
It’s also worth noting that even if you do study in Germany in English, it’s advisable to nonetheless learn some basic German phrases to help you settle in and communicate with the locals.
Working as a doctor in Germany after your studies
Once you’ve passed the State Examination, you’ll be granted your medical license and can begin working as a doctor. The medical license is permanent and valid anywhere across Germany. If you’re from the EU, you can work in Germany without needing a work permit and will have the same access to the labor market. If you’re from outside the EU, you can apply to extend your residence permit for up to 18 months, in order to find work related to your studies. Read more here.
There is currently a large demand for doctors in the labor market in Germany, especially in rural areas. Average starting salaries are very good, averaging around €49,000 (~US$56,800) a year, which is generally more than starting salaries for graduates of any other discipline. You can read more about career opportunities for doctors at studienwahl.de.