Getting your Master’s degree in Germany is the perfect opportunity for you to build on the knowledge you have acquired during your Bachelor’s degree, to specialize more, and thereby to become an expert in your field of study. As a Master’s student in Germany, you can strengthen your profile as a researcher and further qualify for the job market. To qualify for a master’s program, all applicants – international or German – need to prove that they have already obtained a first academic degree.
What is considered an eligible first academic degree?
Your degree needs to be equivalent to what is considered a first academic degree in Germany. A first academic degree refers to an undergraduate degree obtained from a higher education institution. In Germany, the first academic degree is generally a Bachelor’s degree. It usually takes 6 semesters, which are 3 years.
As a rule of thumb, no matter in which country you studied before, German universities will recognize your degree as equivalent to a Bachelor’s degree if two conditions are met:
Firstly, your acquired degree should have lasted at least 3 years, equivalent to a workload of 180 credit points.
Second, you should have obtained your degree from a higher education institution officially recognized by your state. It can be public or private. If your state has officially accredited your institution, German universities will generally follow this assessment.
Geeky Stuff Box
Your first academic degree should be similar to a German Bachelor’s degree regarding its workload, which is usually equivalent to a three-year program. In Germany and 47 other countries (most of them European), students’ workload is measured in credit points following the European Credit Transfer and Accumulation System (ECTS).
This system was introduced as part of the so-called Bologna Process in the European Higher Education Area (EHEA). The new credit system makes different programs within the partaking countries more transparent and comparable. If you are coming to Germany from another EHEA country, you can simply take a look at the ECTS stated in your Bachelor’s program and use that number to check whether your degree qualifies you for a Master’s program in Germany.
- A German Bachelor’s degree typically contains 180 credits and a Master’s degree 120 credits.
- To get one ECTS credit point, a student has to complete an estimated 25 to 30 hours of work (The exact number is defined by each higher education institution. To be on the safe side, calculate with 30). This includes time spent in the classroom, doing homework, and taking finals.
Even if you are from a non-EHEA country, you can still use this information to equate your credits to ECTS.
Is my institution recognized by the German state?
The Central Office for Foreign Education (Zentralstelle für ausländisches Bildungswesen, ZAB) is the official German authority when it comes to information on foreign degrees and institutions. All German universities usually consult the ZAB’s assessments of international education institutions when deciding on whether or not to admit an international applicant.
Out of more than 50.000 institutions worldwide listed in the database of the ZAB:
- approx. 62% are fully recognized.
- approx. 21% have an unclear status. Here, it is up to the individual German university to decide whether they accept your degree.
- approx. 11% are not recognized.
- approx. 6% were not assigned a value.
How the ZAB rates more than 50.000 institutions worldwide.
Can I apply before graduating?
Many universities will admit you to a program, even if you have not officially finished your first academic degree yet. In that case, you will be asked to present a transcript of the courses you took so far and the GPA you currently have as part of your application documents.
Thereby the university knows that it is realistic for you to finish your studies in time before the Master program starts. In any case, you will need to have graduated by the time you enroll to your Master’s program.
Can I get a Master's degree if my first academic degree is in another field?
To further understand this, you will have to look more into the specific program and the university you want to apply to. For now, we want to give you a quick summary of the most important information regarding a change of subject.
This table illustrates the subject-relation of first academic and Master’s programs. After you got your first academic degree, you always have the possibility to keep your focus, narrow it down, or broaden it in an interdisciplinary program. For some programs, you may even be able to change subjects if you choose to start a program that accepts applicants from various backgrounds. To get more clarity on this, you should contact the International Office of the university you are interested in.
Field of study in first academic degree:
Economics (e.g. B.Sc.in Economics)+
Engineering (e.g. B.Eng. Civil Engineering)+
Humanities (e.g. B.A. in Literature)+
If you are planning to change your field of studies, we have two recommendations for you:
- Ask your university’s International Office (in Germany) if you can start the program of your choice with your first academic degree.
- Consider also applying to a private university. They are often more flexible when it comes to admitting applicants from a different field of study.
What is the difference between consecutive Master’s programs and those who provide further education?
Two terms you will frequently come across when you inform yourself about applying to a German university are "konsekutiver Master" and "weiterbildender Master". In English they translate to:
- "konsekutiver Master": consecutive (“follow-on”) Master,
- "weiterbildender Master": Master’s program providing further education (also: executive Master, continuing, non-consecutive Master).
The most common type of German Master’s programs – around 95% – is the consecutive Master’s program (konsekutiver Master). To apply to one of the consecutive Master’s programs, the subject of your first academic degree will have to be related to what you want to study in your Master’s degree. The goal is to build upon your knowledge about your subject (see table below).
For the second type of Master’s programs, the non-consecutive programs (weiterbildender Master), the rules about subject-relations are different. People with any recognized first academic degree, no matter which field, can apply. That is because students in programs providing further education specifically look to gain new qualifications to enhance their chances on the labor market. Therefore, in contrast to the consecutive Master’s programs, the programs providing further education are more practically oriented. As one of the entrance requirements, applicants for these programs need to have gained work experience already.
|Type of Master’s||Consecutive Master’s program
|Non-consecutive Master’s programs (weiterbildender Master)|
|Subject requirements||Subject of first academic degree needs to be related to Master’s subject||No subject requirements|
|Work experience||Usually no work experience required||Work experience required|
|Examples||M.A., M.Sc., M.Eng., LLM||Master of Business Administration (MBA), Master of Public Policy|
|Frequency||Around 95% of all Master’s programs||Around 5% of all Master’s programs|
Table: Consecutive vs. non-consecutive Master’s in Germany
To study a Master in Germany, international students need a first academic degree:
- The degree should be equivalent to a Bachelor’s degree in its duration (3 years or more) or workload (180 ECTS).
- Most degrees awarded by foreign higher education institutions are recognized by German universities. You can find out about your degree’s recognition using the anabin website.
- The field of study of the chosen Master’s program needs to be related to the field of the first degree. Exceptions apply, e.g. MBA.