Updated: 2020-09-05 | Duration: 5:00 min.

German master’s programs for international students

An introduction to University Master’s degree options in Germany for international students

Pursuing a master’s program in German is an excellent choice for international students for many reasons. Students have a vast array of topics to choose from. In addition to these topics, students have the liberty to choose the teaching style they prefer to learn in as Germany has diverse institutions with varying teaching styles. In addition to the choices students have in topics, they needn’t worry about the financial burden of their studies as public universities in Germany do not charge tuition fees. This applies to all students, even international students from outside of the EU.


Consequently, Germany has become a top study destination for students from around the globe. Studying for free doesn’t mean students should have to sacrifice quality in their education. Germany ranks third in the world for internationally top-ranked universities (behind the US and the UK). Therefore, students can choose to enroll at an internationally-top ranked institution. Because public universities dominate higher ed. in Germany, these top-ranked universities are also tuition-free.


This article will illustrate the different benefits of studying in Germany as well as the processes that students should be aware of. From the cost of studying in Germany to top universities, the most important topics are highlighted in the following piece. If you are searching for German master’s, specifically seeking out German studies programs, then the last section of this article will be most relevant for you.

What is a master’s in Germany like?

portrait of a woman thinking about something

Master’s degrees usually last between one and two years around the globe. There are special cases where they can be longer, but the average is from one to two years. In Germany, the average master’s program is four semesters long or about two years. The length varies and can depend on whether a student chooses to do an exchange semester abroad, do an internship, or work alongside their studies. Below we have created this simplified overview to provide a quick look at the average master’s in Germany:

Master’s degree in Germany



Tuition-free: The majority of master’s degree programs in Germany are tuition-free. While there are programs that charge tuition, this is not the norm (private universities, professional degree programs,etc).



4 Semesters: The average duration of a master’s degree in Germany is four semesters. This may be shorter or longer depending on the program but the majority of programs will be four semesters. This usually involves three semesters of courses and a last semester for an internship and/or thesis.


Degree Type

Consecutive: Master’s programs that follow directly from a closely-related undergraduate degree.


Non-Consecutive: Master’s programs that focus on a different or more highly specialized subject area. These programs may require practical or professional experience in addition to an undergraduate degree.



Research, Technical, Applied Science, and Arts are the four main categories of university that Germany offers. Each university has a different teaching focus and style. One university type is not better than another, different degree programs simply require different approaches (e.g. more practical or professional approach in an MBA). These types will be further discussed later in this article.



English or German: The two main languages that students can study in are English and German. However, certain universities offer courses in additional language. For example, if you are studying closer to the Polish border (in Erfurt), then there will be programs that offer courses also in Polish. The same applies to universities close to the Dutch or French border. It is common for courses to be taught in additional languages, but English and German are the standard.

German master’s study costs

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As you may have heard, education in Germany is free for all students. In Germany, public universities do not charge tuition. Even international, non-EU students, can attend public universities free of tuition fees. Consequently, many students seek to pursue a master’s degree in Germany. Though, students should be aware that they may encounter some marginal fees.

German Higher Education Costs

Tuition Fee vs. Semester Contribution
pays for the study program   pays for administrative costs, social services provided by the university, local public transportation ticket for unlimited use throughout the semester
averages 5,000 - 7,000 €  per semester averages 200 - 300 € per semester
charged by private universities and specialized professional degrees (e.g. LLM, MBA, etc.)* Charged by all universities

*In the southwest of Germany lies the state of Baden-Württemberg. Baden-Württemberg has a mandatory tuition fee of 1,500 € per semester to all non-EU students.

Keep in mind that while some programs are not tuition-free, you shouldn’t overlook them on your master’s program search. Remember to search for programs that are best suited to you and your study interests. Should you be interested in a program which charges tuition, keep your many funding options in mind. There are many scholarships available for international students.


Further Reading

How Much Does it Cost to Live in Germany?

Which German university to choose

man staring at his laptop thinking about something

As you embark on your search for your dream German master’s program, you may find yourself overwhelmed with which study program you should choose. First, you should know about the different types of universities there are in Germany. We have an extensive article about universities in Germany which you’re welcome to check out. However, the basics are illustrated below:

Keep in mind that one university type is not more advanced or “better” than another university. This simply depends on the specifics of your degree program and the style of learning you are seeking. Make sure you find the program perfect for you! To provide you with a head start, take a look at some of the nationally top-ranked universities below!

Or are you looking for German studies (Germanistik)?

photo of the german flag with a blue sky and some clouds in the background

Studying a new culture or language is a wonderful experience which many students choose to focus on in their academic careers. Such study programs can be easily enriched by being emerged in the culture and language. Pursuing a German master’s at a German university is a perfect way in which students can learn a language and culture up close. Germany’s elite higher education system makes it simple for international students to study at a top-ranked university of their choice. Additionally, Germany’s public universities are free of tuition to all - even non EU students. If you want to pursue a Masters in German studies you need to know the following basics:

Language of study: mostly German

a sign with the word "welcome" written in German

According to the Hochschulkompass, there are more than 150 masters available in German studies. More than 95% of them are taught in German! So you need to provide a language certificate of proficiency in German to get admission (cf. our article about German language requirements). However, among the more than 250 master programs in Humanities that are taught in English you might also find programs that are closely related to German studies, e.g.


Universities: Mainly Universitäten

University of Heidelberg.

© 4028mdk09. Type of license: CC BY-SA 3.0.

The majority of the masters programs in German studies are offered at universities in accordance with the German higher education system. Germany has three different types of institution: research university, a university of applied science, and an academy or college of the arts. German students programs will be found generally at research universities, however some more interdisciplinary programs may be found at others as well.


Most of the German studies - or Germanistik as it is called in German - programs are from public universities. This is always a key factor as public universities in Germany generally do not charge tuition. Additionally, you have the option to study at internationally top-ranked universities that are renowned for their Germany studies programs. Take a look at a few of them below:

Mono- vs. Kombi-Master

guy wearing shoes of a different color each one

German studies programs allow students to have one major focus in their studies or to have dual focuses. This is comparable to the higher education system in the US of having a single major or having a double major. This simply means that the total number of credit points for the degree program are allocated differently. If a student has a Mono-Master (also called 1 Fach) then all credit points are allocated accordingly toward courses in that field.


A student who has a Kombi-Master (or 2 Fach) has an additional subject which is either also a main focus or can be a smaller focus (like a minor in the US system). In this case, a certain number of credit points are to be allocated to the second topic that the student has chosen. The number of credit points varies within study programs and universities. An example may be a student pursuing a master’s in German studies: German language and literature; language and literature would each be a different focus.

Different specializations available

guy with his right thumb up

Of course, every German studies master allows you to focus on different topics. Germanistik is a very general subject group and has many different topics pertaining to it. Additionally, there are many interdisciplinary subjects which may be associated with German studies such as media studies or European studies. In research papers and the master’s thesis, students have the flexibility to focus on a very specific aspect of the general subject.


 If you are more interested in a more general outlook on German studies, take a look at classic German studies programs. The Hochschulkompass lists many different study programs which have an interdisciplinary outlook, for those interested in a more diverse application of their study program.


Summary Box

Pursuing a master’s in Germany is an option open to any student, even non-EU students! Whether you are searching for a master’s program in English, German, or a mix of both languages, there are plenty of options for you in our StudyFinder. Some important tips to remember are:


  • Master’s programs in Germany last an average of four semesters. However, this depends on the program specifics and can be longer if you are taking a semester abroad or pursuing an internship.
  • Public universities in Germany are tuition-free. Even non-EU students can study at these universities for free. While there are some exceptions (programs that charge tuition) this is not the norm and more than 70% of the programs offered are from public universities.
  • Germany has 4 different types of universities: Research, technical, applied sciences, and colleges of art/film/music. Each has a different teaching style but one isn’t better than the other. Make sure to choose the program more suited to you and your interests.