Dual study programs are an excellent opportunity for students who are looking to integrate practical elements into their academic studies. Students of dual study programs are enrolled at a higher education institution where they pursue a bachelor’s degree, or less commonly a master’s degree. At the same time, they are employed by a company that has a cooperation contract with the university and thus, get the opportunity to integrate practical elements into their academic training. Their education is alternatingly conducted in their higher education institution and in their company. There are a number of variations of dual studies programs, but they always refer to a somewhat equal distribution of theory and practice.
The following paragraphs will be easier to understand if you already have a general overview of what a dual study program is and what types of dual study programs exist. If you need to catch up on this, we recommend you read this article first. Here we focus on how to apply to dual study programs and cover application requirements, how to find a study and work opportunity, and cover the topics of language requirements as well as visa regulations for dual students in Germany.
Who offers dual study programs?
Understanding who offers dual study programs and at what type of institutions you can pursue these programs is fundamental to understand. That is because this information is essential to find and identify all your dual study options.
Therefore, we decided to treat this issue at length and dedicated an article on dual study higher education institutions to this topic.
Broken down quickly and easily, most dual study programs are offered at:
Universities of applied sciences (UAS), which offer some dual study programs or have dual options for their regular programs, or
Universities of cooperative education (UCE), which offer exclusively dual programs (German: Duale Hochschule/Berufsakademie).
While UAS also offer regular non-dual study programs, UCEs are dedicated to dual learning exclusively. Whether a UCE exists in a certain region of Germany or not depends on the rules of the respective German state (German: Bundesland).
Furthermore, dual study programs are not carried by higher education institutions alone, but also by companies and other employing institutions. Typically, UAS and UCE that offer dual study programs have lists of cooperating companies readily available for interested applicants, so that they know where they can potentially apply. Some databases, for example, offered on the pages of Wegweiser Duales Studium or of the Federal Institute for Vocational Education and Training (German: Bundesinstitut für Berufsbildung) list companies who are hiring dual students as trainees.
How do I find the best dual study program for myself?
Knowing who offers dual study programs can influence your search strategy to find the best dual study program in Germany for yourself. One challenge in this search process results from the fact that, at first glance, it is not easy to grasp the details of a dual study program: It will take you some time to research for a specific program which time model is followed in order to structure the practical and theoretical portion. The salary might not be visible at first glance, and neither might be the type of program, i.e. whether it is training-integrated or practice-integrated.
In other words, even after conducting an initial desktop research, questions may remain. To overcome this challenge, we want to encourage you to contact the program coordinators or the international office of the higher education institutions for clarifications, and the person of contact for the company that you are looking at for the practical portion.
Another difficulty is that definitions of dual study programs vary. You may for example find different terminology in different states in Germany. Similarly, universities or informative websites (such as ours) will present different typologies of dual study programs. Thus, the search for dual study programs may sometimes feel a bit untransparent or confusing. One practical difficulty that results from this is that it is difficult to compile a complete database of dual study options, given that, depending on the definition one follows, certain programs may not qualify.
Furthermore, the fact that the higher education institutions offering dual study options and the companies hiring for the practical portions are diverse and manifold, some options are bound to fall under the radar. To answer this challenge, we recommend that you use a mix of various search strategies or search engines, to maximize the results and options that you find. If you come across some programs that you like early on, it is of course also okay to stop the search then.
In 2019, there were more than 1,660 dual study programs available. To systematically search through all these options, there are three search strategies we recommend:
Look for dual study institutions first
One way to identify your dual study options is by exploring which institutions offer dual study programs and then see which offers they have. This may be especially useful for you if you have a regional preference. On the institution's websites, you will find information on cooperating companies and program offers.
We have written an extensive article for you presenting to you different types of institutions that offer dual study options. This can be a good starting point for you if you want to search for programs using this strategy. In that article, we also included links to information portals on dual studies from the 16 federal states in Germany that can furthermore help you identify your options in a certain region in Germany.
Look for programs first
Some websites provide you with databases of dual study programs in Germany. If you have a special interest in a certain subject field, it may be smart for you to look for programs in this subject area first and then inform yourself about conditions and cooperating companies on the respective course websites.
Search engines you can use to identify dual study programs are the portal AusbildungPlus, run by the Federal Institute for Vocational Education and Training (German: Bundesinstitut für Berufsbildung) or the hochschulkompass, which is run by the German Rectors’ Conference and available in English. In the extended search function, you can decide to look for dual programs only.
Look for company offers first
Of these search engines, the Federal Institute for Vocational Education and Training (German: Bundesinstitut für Berufsbildung) list offers by companies who offer work placements for dual students.
One search strategy may be to identify dual study offers in companies first and then find out which higher education institution they cooperate with. This strategy might be especially attractive to students who have higher priorities regarding the type of company they work for than regarding the academic study portion. If you, for example, have your heart set on working in a small-business environment, then this strategy might be of interest to you.
In some exceptional cases, students also manage to pursue a dual studies program with a company and a higher education institution that had previously not had an established cooperation. While this is a possibility, you have to keep in mind that it may be connected to extra work for you and may take some convincing and for you to connect the company with a university that offers a dual study program. Please consult with a higher education institution or the potential employer if this is of interest to you.
How many applications do I have to send for dual studies in Germany?
Applying to a dual study program means you have to score two spots: On one hand, you have to get into a higher education institution. On the other hand, you have to be hired by an employer. This does not necessarily mean that you have to send two applications.
- For some programs, you only apply with an employer first, and if you are successful, you automatically secure a study spot. If a program requires you to apply to a company first, you can only secure your study spot as soon as you have a contract from your employer.
- In other cases, you apply to both the university and the company, but find hints regarding which company to apply to on the website of the dual study program.
This shows that the application process is often interlinked. How exactly it is organized for the programs you like may differ from case to case. Therefore, it is essential that you check on the course websites and clarify any questions you may have with the higher education institution and/or the potential employer. Asking their questions is especially relevant for international students since for them, the application procedure is made a little more complicated since they may have to pay additional attention to, for example, language requirements, certified copies and translations, recognition of their degrees in Germany and the like.
Our recommendation is to apply to more than one dual study program. Spots may be competitive and putting several irons in the fire may significantly increase your chances of getting admitted. There is no general limit to how many applications you can send, however, you should pay attention to whether a higher education institution only allows you to apply to one program offered by them. If that is the case, you could of course still apply to other institutions.
Also keep in mind that applying to companies will require you to send in personalized cover letters and the like, and may include unique admission procedures. If you apply to various companies, this will take good coordination and planning.
Furthermore, a visa application is a separate step and you are additionally required to inform yourself on the visa process and requirements. The same goes if you are considering applying for a scholarship for dual studies, as well. Scholarship applications in Germany are generally separate from the application to a university.
Typical requirements for dual studies institutions in Germany
As with any other higher education institution in Germany, the exact conditions of what you need to present and of how to hand in your application can differ from university to university and from program to program. Therefore, make sure to confirm this general overview with the specific programs that you like and the institution that you are going to apply to.
The majority of dual study programs in Germany are without admission restrictions, meaning that once you comply with the minimum requirements of a study program, you are very likely to get admitted. To prove that you comply with the minimum requirements of a dual study program, there is a list of criteria that you can expect to have to meet.
Secondary school leaving certificate
For studies on a bachelor’s level, a secondary school leaving certificate that is equivalent to the German Abitur and therefore allows you to enter the German higher education system is required. In some cases, this may include completing a preparatory year (German: Studienkolleg) too.
First academic degree
For studies on a master’s level, a first academic degree that allows you to enter a master’s level course in Germany is required.
Work or apprenticeship contract
At the time of application to the university, it is often required that you hold a work contract, i.e. proof that you can engage in the practical portion of the studies, already. Exceptions may apply, check for details with the respective program.
Some programs may require you to fulfill certain grade requirements.
You can expect to have to hand in proof that you speak the language of study (most likely German) with a language certificate.
Note that for dual study programs, companies and higher education institutions are cooperation partners. Therefore, being hired by a company may in some cases mean that you automatically score a spot at the cooperating higher education institution as well. In that case, you will not have to fill out a separate application to the dual studies institution.
Also search on the higher education institutions website on which support they offer to you when it comes to scoring a work position, as well. This can go from informative lists of potential employers, to checklists, or to practical application training and advice sessions. Make sure to use the resources you are offered!
Typical requirements for a dual studies work position in Germany - and when to start the process
When it comes to applying to a company or institution that is going to function as the learning environment for the practical portion of your dual studies program in Germany, there are some general hints that we can give to you.
Depending on the dual studies program that you pursue, especially for the training-integrated and the career-integrated programs, you often apply to the work position first, that means before applying to the university. In some cases, you only apply to the work position and not to the university since scoring a spot at a company sometimes assures you a spot at the cooperating dual studies institution, as well. Since exact details differ from program to program, please make sure to do your research for each dual studies program that you are interested in.
Furthermore, applications to companies may start VERY early. Some recommend starting the application process 18 months before the intended start of the program. Although you will still find a set of options if you are a bit later in the game - let’s say a year before the intended start of the program - we agree that starting early makes a huge difference, especially for international students. Starting early will give you time to do the research you need, to collect the documents you require, and to scope out and have a realistic shot at ALL your options.
Once you identify a company or institution that you want to apply to for the practical portion of your dual study program, you will have to inform yourself about the specific application process. Again, each company may decide on a different process, therefore it is important to do your research thoroughly and clarify potential questions. To give you a rough overview, here is a list of documents and requirements you may have to deliver for the application process:
Tell the employer about your motivation to apply for the job and why you are qualified.
CV with applicant's photo
Make sure that your CV complies with the German standards. In Germany, many employers expect applicants to hand in a friendly and professional applicant's picture on their CV, as well.
Secondary school leaving certificate
Often, this certificate has to be equivalent to the German A-levels and therefore qualifies you to enter the German higher education systems. In some cases, this may include completing a preparatory year (German: Studienkolleg) too. Employers will look out for your GPA as well.
This may include previous vocational training, volunteer work, and the like. If you are applying to a position that intends dual studies on a master’s level, you will need a completed bachelor’s certificate.
Job interviews, assessment centers, or entry exams
Expect some of these elements to be part of the application process. Clarify with a future employer if they have a solution for international students or if you are expected to show up in person.
You can expect to have to hand in proof that you speak the language of your workplace, most likely German, with a language certificate.
What are the language requirements?
For most dual study programs in Germany, advanced German skills are required. The reason for this is obvious: The language of study in the programs is most often German, and you need to be able to follow the courses. Even if you study in an English language dual study program, working at a German company likely still requires you to speak German, for example, you have contact with customers in German or because the language spoken in the office is German. In any case, it will be more attractive to hire you on the German job market if you have some German skills, even if your work could be absolved completely in English.
For these reasons, German language skills are often a must for dual study programs in Germany. While exact details may differ from company to company, you can expect to prove your language abilities on a B2 - C1 level. These are the language-level indications set by the European Framework of Reference for Language Skills. B2 corresponds to upper intermediate language skills and C1 to advanced language skills.
To prove that you speak German on this level, there is a series of language certificates that are accepted by all universities and most employers:
- TestDaF (TDN 3, 4 or 5) (Test Deutsch als Fremdsprache),
- DSH II or III (Deutsche Sprachprüfung für den Hochschulzugang),
- Goethe-Zertifikat C2,
- telc Deutsch C1 Hochschule (The European Language Certificate),
- DSD II (Deutsches Sprachdiplom Stufe II).
I don’t speak German (well) - Are there alternatives?
The good news is that yes, there are some, if only a few, alternatives in the form of English-language dual study programs; study programs that combine English and German, or study programs that mix English and German. The bad news is that to identify these options, you will have to invest a little more time doing your research.
We did start this research process for you already and will highlight some alternative options for you here.
The biggest higher education institution for dual studies, the Baden-Wuerttemberg Cooperative State University offers undergraduate dual programs completely in English. These international programs partially include practical stays abroad and exchange semesters abroad.
In our MyGermanUniversity StudyFinder, you can also find some dual study options completely in English:
Dual Bachelor of Science - Sport & Event Management: 4-year practice-integrated program in English at the private University of Europe for Applied Sciences in Berlin. The practical portion is fulfilled (also in English) at the basketball club ALBA Berlin. Tuition fees for this program amount to 9,420 € per year. This program does not offer a salary.
Dual Bachelor of Science - International Management: 3-year practice-integrated program in English at the private HSBA Hamburg School of Business Administration. The practical portion is fulfilled in a cooperating company (also in English). Tuition fees for this program amount to 665 € per month but are largely covered by the company. Students receive a salary.
Another example of a program combining an English language study program and a work environment in which you have to speak German is this one:
Dual Bachelor of Science - Air Traffic Management: 3-year training-integrated program in English at the public Hochschule Worms - University of Applied Sciences. Vocational training as an air traffic controller is completed (in German & English) at DFS Deutsche Flugsicherung GmbH. There are no tuition fees for this program and salary amounts to 900 € gross per month.
What are the visa requirements for international students?
International students from most countries outside the EU need a visa to enter Germany as (dual) students and a residence permit to stay there throughout the duration of their studies. You have to apply for a visa with the German embassy or consulate general that is nearest to your place of residence. This is also the place to which you should direct all sorts of detailed questions since they are the experts on the visa regulations that apply to you specifically. Another important point of contact is the International Office of the German University that you seek to apply to. It is essential that you verify the general information we can provide you with for your case.
Dual students apply for a so-called national visa, just like students of regular study courses do. Therefore, their visa application process is going to look quite similar. We have written articles with detailed descriptions of this process, and also about covid-19 related restrictions to the student visa process for Germany that you can read to get some general background information on student visas.
Advice: Get in contact with the German embassy responsible for your visa application. We cannot stress this enough!
After you start the application process, the German embassy in charge of your visa application defines whether the practical portion in your study program is bigger and more significant, or whether the study portion has the primary role in your dual program. This happens in coordination with the Foreigner’s Office (German: Ausländerbehörde) of your future town in Germany as well as with the Federal Employment Agency (German: Bundesagentur für Arbeit [BA]). The BA has a special role in this process since they also grant dual students permission to enter the German labor market. There is not much you can or have to do in this process, since this happens internally. Therefore, your visa application will feel quite similar to that of regular students.
The assessment of your application should ensure that you have all the permissions as a resident in Germany that you need to fulfill your dual study program. Here are some questions, doubts, and uncertainties that may still come to your mind:
In a dual study program, I work/ complete vocational training AND study. Doesn’t that mean that I need two visas: One for work and one for studies?
No, you do not. A foreign resident always only has one visa or one residence title in Germany. The student visa you will obtain allows you to enter Germany for the purpose of completing the dual education, including the work AND practical portions. After arriving in Germany, you convert that visa into a residence permit.
How does the restriction of only being allowed to work for 120 full days or 240 half days on a student visa in Germany affect my ability to complete dual studies in Germany?
The student visa/residence permit that students obtain to live in Germany limits the number of days that students can work in Germany to 120 full days (i.e. more than 4 h per day) or 240 half days (i.e. less than 4h per day). Exempt from this rule are internships or practical work phases that are essential to complete the study program. Since practical phases in your dual program are essential parts for the completion of your study program, you are likely to find them exempt from the work restriction.
On top of that, since the German embassy assesses your application, the amount of work you will have to do to complete your studies will be considered in the visa process and you will be granted a fitting permission. There, for example, also is the opportunity to obtain an extra allowance that extends the days of work you are allowed to complete as a student.
It makes sense to additionally clarify this question with the embassy that you direct your visa application to if you are still outside Germany and to the German Foreigner’s Office near your place of residence once you are in Germany since they will be able to provide you with the most up-to-date information.
Can the salary I obtain throughout my dual studies be counted towards my blocked bank account?
If you have a contractually agreed upon monthly salary, it will count towards your blocked bank account or as your proof of financial resources altogether. Please clarify this with the German embassy that is in charge of your visa application as well.
What are the next steps for me?
As a next step, we recommend you start browsing the databases of dual study program options we listed for you above. To learn more about living in Germany, it might also be useful to check out this article on living costs for students in Germany.
If you are not quite sure whether a dual program is right for you but you still enjoy the idea of incorporating practical elements into your studies, or if you simply want to come by more English-language study options in Germany, you can browse our StudyFinder for opportunities at Universities of Applied Sciences.