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Updated: 2020-09-09 | Duration: 6:00 min.

How to study medicine in Germany: 10 things international students need to know (2020/21)

Get an overview about medical universities, application requirements, fees, scholarships and career options to become an MD in Germany

Studying medicine in Germany is one of the most popular courses - among German and international students. Especially for international students the questions:

How can I study medicine in Germany? and How can I become a medical doctor in Germany?

appear more complicated than starting another course of study in Germany. The reason for this is that studying medicine differs in many ways from other study programs in Germany:

It has:

  • a unique application procedure (for EU students via Hochschulstart) that is due to nation-wide admission restriction, 
  • stricter application requirements (simply put, A-levels with excellent grades, high German language skills), 
  • a uniform course structure
  • and is not integrated into the bachelor/master system but leads to a state examination (German: Staatsexamen).

Sounds confusing? The following article unpacks the peculiarities of studying medicine in Germany and presents the most important facts that you need to know - from A as in ‘approbation’ to z as in ‘Zweite Ärztliche Prüfung’ (Second Examination for med students) - we got you covered!


Therefore, the focus of this article will be on studying medicine with the intent of becoming an MD (by doing the state examination track). If you are instead interested in professional masters programs, please skip to the last section of this article.

Basic information

1

Degree

A regularly structured degree course in medicine takes six years and three months and is completed by a state exam (Staatsexamen), with which one obtains a license to practice as a physician (approbation).

2

Language

Medical education is provided in the German language only. So you need to meet the German language requirements for studying in Germany.

3

Universities

There are 43 Medical Universities in Germany. Most of them are public, and only four of them are private.

4

Fees

Public universities in Germany are tuition-free - except in Baden-Württemberg which charges non-EU students 1,500 € per semester.

5

Application requirements & admission procedure

The application procedure for a degree course in medicine is extremely competitive and complicated due to the complex selection process via Hochschulstart, that only EU students have to go through.

6

Studying

A degree course in medicine is very time and energy consuming.

7

Medical doctor

The studies, culminating in graduating with the state examination, are followed by a practical phase of up to 6 years in which one is trained as a specialist in a certain medical field (German: Facharzt). This training concludes with the specialist medical examination.

8

Scholarships

DAAD offers no scholarships for international students in medicine (Staatsexamen), the big foundations (Begabtenförderungswerke) usually accept applications only after the Physikum. But there is at least the Deutschlandstipendium available.

Medical Degree: Staatsexamen (State examination)

asian guy on the day of his graduation wearing a gown and graduation cap

Medical studies and training in Germany are strictly regulated under federal regulations on medical registration. Therefore, no matter which university you choose to study medicine in Germany, you can expect a similar course structure and similar steps of training until you can work as a medical professional.

Medical school (the medical training students obtain at a university) lasts 6 years and 3 months in Germany and it is not integrated into the Bachelor’s and Master’s degree system. Therefore, it differs from most other courses offered by German universities. Instead, medical school finishes with a state examination (German: Staatsexamen) that leads to the approbation as a physician. Note, that the medical training in Germany can be taken up directly after graduating from high school. For many international students, this would be after finishing the prep-year (Studienkolleg) in Germany.

However, university education is not the only training people need in order to become a medical practitioner in Germany. After their state examination, prospective doctors join practical training units that may last up to 6 more years and may then opt to take part in additional trainings and education measures throughout the course of their careers.

Is medicine taught in English in Germany?

sign with the word "welcome" written in German

Studying medicine in Germany is only possible with excellent German skills because courses to study medicine in Germany are taught in German only and require interaction with patients in German. To get admitted to a study program, excellent language skills on a C1 level are often needed, but some programs also admit applicants who speak German on a B2 level. The medical studies that lead to an approbation to practice as a physician in Germany end with a state examination, which is exclusively offered in German.

 

While the degree form of state examination is only offered in German, there are other degree formats that are integrated into the bachelor’s and master’s system and that include studies in English in the field of health sciences. Therefore, one option to get academic training in the field of medical studies and health science are English language master’s programs or bachelor’s programs that are not part of the curriculum to become a practicing medical physician but can still grant beneficial insights into the field and may be a great addition to your training as a medical doctor abroad. Use our StudyFinder to find many options.

Medical Universities

woman doctor taking care of a patient

The majority of universities that offer medical studies in Germany are public, i.e. 39. Some of the great upsides of that are that they have comprehensive infrastructures and research networks in Germany, that they are free of charge (no tuition fees), and offer the opportunity to engage in doctoral studies as well. All medical studies at public universities underlie certain federal regulations, influencing the course structure as well as application processes. To get admitted to one of Germany’s public universities, students typically need outstanding GPAs.

 

There are four private German universities that offer medical studies. Unlike the public universities, they are not subject to the nation-wide NC, and therefore, the application process differs and is not only dependent on the applicants’ GPAs. You can still expect, however, to undergo some rigorous testing system in order to get admitted to these universities. On the downside, students need to pay fees to the private universities, which currently amount to 5,700€ - 15,500 € per semester, depending on which university you choose.

 

To learn more about various medical universities in Germany, including an overview of all medical universities there are in Germany, check out our article.

How much does it cost to study medicine in Germany for international students?

lots of different coins

As for most programs offered at German public universities, studying medicine in Germany is typically tuition free for international students and German students alike. The only cost they have to cover is the semester contribution twice a year, which, depending on the university amounts to 200 - 300 € each semester and comes with many perks for students.

 

International students can typically study medicine for free in Germany.

 

There are two scenarios in which international students do have to pay to study medicine in Germany:

 

  • International students from outside the EU who want to study at a university in the federal state of Baden-Württemberg have to pay tuition fees of 1,500 € for each semester.
  • Students who enroll at one of the four private universities that offer medical studies in Germany have to pay tuition fees amounting to 5,700 € - 15,500 € per semester.

Application requirements & Admission procedure

pile of documents with a guy in the background and out of focus

Because medicine is a federally regulated course of study that is subject to nation-wide entry restrictions, applicants can expect to face similar application requirements and procedures no matter where they seek to apply.

To study medicine in Germany, international students typically need to fulfill the following application criteria:

Requirement Explanation
Excellent German skills
  • Medical studies to become a doctor are almost only taught in German.
  • Excellent German (often C1-level) skills are necessary at the time of application.
  • Students who need to visit a Studienkolleg can increase their German language level in the Studienkolleg.
Secondary school leaving certificate
Good English skills
  • Despite courses and practical trainings in German, English skills are necessary to read the scientific literature.
Excellent school knowledge in biology, chemistry, maths
  • A good understanding of these subject areas is essential to pass the first part of the medical training.
  • Universities may make your grades in these subjects part of the selection procedure.
Excellent GPA
  • Because of the high competition, students of medicine in Germany are often straight-A students.
  • Amongst other university-specific criteria, your GPA will very likely play a role in the selection of applicants.
University-specific criteria
  • Since German universities receive more applications for the subject medicine than they have spots available, they need to come up with additional criteria to rank the applicants and find out whom to admit.
  • These criteria differ from university to university but may include: Professional training in a medical field, having dedicated time to voluntary service, good results in one of the medical study aptitude tests (see below).

 

The application process and admission procedure differ for students from outside the EU and within the EU.

What are the admission procedures for international students who want to study medicine?

african woman thinking about something

Just this much for now: Applicants who obtained their secondary school-leaving certificate outside the EU and want to start their studies in medicine at a German university have to apply directly to the university or via uni-assist. For this group, the application process to study medicine in Germany is not much different from that to other subjects.

 

Students who obtained their A-Levels in the EU, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, or from official German Schools Abroad cannot apply to German universities directly to study medicine. Their application is managed by hochschulstart, a platform managed by the Trust for admission to higher education (Stiftung für Hochschulzulassung - SfH). This means that for this group of applicants, applications are centrally coordinated and managed.

 

This specialty about the application procedure to study medicine in Germany has effects on the admission, which is unique, as well: 5% of study spots at each university are reserved for foreign students from outside the EU in an extraordinary quota for internationals. If you are in this group of applicants, have performed outstandingly in your high school career and gotten excellent grades in your Studienkolleg, you have a chance to score one of these reserved spots.

 

After spots are allocated to international students from outside the EU and to other groups that are considered in special quotas, such as the German military, around 87% of total spots remain. Applicants from the EU, Liechtenstein, Iceland, and Norway and from German schools abroad compete for these remaining spots. Admission quotas can give you an idea of how one can score a spot to study: In the GPA quota (German: Abiturbestenquote) only applicants with the highest GPA will get admitted. The majority of students, i.e. 60%, are admitted according to criteria that are set by the universities (German: Auswahlverfahren der Hochschulen, AdH). The remaining 10% of spots are allocated to applicants who fulfill additional qualifications, such as excellent scores in the assessment test or working as a health professional, such as a nurse (German: zusätzliche Eignungsquote).

Is it hard to study medicine in Germany?

woman thinking about something

The sincere answer to this question is that yes, studying medicine in Germany requires lots of hard work, hours of studying, a skill set that reaches from understanding natural sciences to interacting well with patients, lots of resilience, the ability to cope with stress and passion for the subject and the profession. Not to scare you off, but the second part of the medical examination used to be called hammer exam (German: Hammerexamen) because it was perceived to be so hard that it hit you like a hammer.

 

On the bright side, there have been reforms so that some free periods to study for the examinations were integrated into the curriculum. Also, students of medicine quit their studies less often than those of other subjects, so it is demanding but doable. After all, training you to work hard and long hours, to deal with stress, and to take over responsibilities will prepare you for the work as a doctor, as well.

Become a Medical Doctor (MD)

portrait of a doctor wearing a surgeon mask

When you start your studies in medicine, your goal will often be to practice as a physician after and to become a doctor to treat patients. So the question is: How does one get there?

 

In the regularly structured medical studies program, there are certain milestones that one can achieve throughout their studies. The first milestone, the state examination, is divided into three tests that medical students sit throughout the university portion of their medical training. Afterward, they are licensed physicians and have the approbation to work as a doctor in Germany.

 

Additionally, once they pass the state examination, students begin their specialist training, which you may also know as residency (German: Facharztausbildung). This portion of the training allows practitioners to specialize in a certain medical field and ends with another examination. The specialist training is necessary to work as a medical specialist and to open one’s own practice. This portion of the training is paid.

 

Within the German system, the degree format MD is equivalent to passing the state examination. Additionally and optionally, students of medicine may engage in doctoral studies to obtain an academic doctorate title. For medical students, this is a doctor of medicine, or in Latin, doctor medicinae.

Structure of medical studies in Germany

  Study/Training Phase Content & Training Elements Final Examination
University Studies
(regularly 6 years)

Stage 1 studies “prae-clinic” (German: Vorklinik).

 

4 semesters = 2 years.

  • Theoretical foundations of medicine (e.g. anatomy, psychology, biochemistry).
  • First-aid-training.
  • 3-months internship as a nurse.
First part of medical physician’s examination (so-called “Physikum”; German: 1. Abschnitt der ärztlichen Prüfung).

Stage 2 studies “clinic” (German: Klinik).

 

6 semesters = 3 years.

  • Introduction to medical subjects (e.g. neurology, orthopedics, gynecology).
  • 4-months internship (so-called “Famulatur”) in a hospital, a general practitioner’s office, and an outpatient medical facility.
Second part of medical physician’s examination (German: 2. Abschnitt der ärztlichen Prüfung).

Stage 3 studies “practical year” (German: Praktisches Jahr).

 

2 semesters = 1 year.

  • Practical work in a clinic or a hospital in the fields of internal medicine, surgery, and one elective field.
Oral-practical examination; third part of examination (German: 3. Abschnitt der ärztlichen Prüfung).
Upon successful completion of the university medical studies (all 3 parts of the examination), students receive their approbation. Graduates may now call themselves physicians (German: Arzt/Ärztin).
Optional: Doctoral studies (German: Promotion)

(1-3 years)

Writing a doctoral thesis.

 

2-6 semesters = 1-3 years.

 

Often executed parallel to the university studies or specialist training.

  • Doctoral students conduct their own dissertation project (100 pages on average).
Upon handing in a doctoral thesis, students carry the academic title “Dr. med.” = Doctor of medicine.
Specialist training / residency (German: Facharztausbildung)

Specialization in one medical subject field.

 

5-6 years.

  • Practical work as a resident in different medical institutions relevant to the chosen specialty.
Specialist medical examination (German: Facharztprüfung) conducted by the state medical association (German: Landesärztekammer).
Upon successful completion of the specialist medical examination, the physicians can work as a medical specialist and open their own practice. Without special training, physicians can only treat privately insured patients or work in a field related to medicine and health science where they do not treat patients.

 

To be able to apply to a university in Germany after their high school, most international students from non-EU countries have to visit a preparatory year, the so-called Studienkolleg first. This 2-semester course prepares students for studying in the German higher education system, helps them improve their language skills, and ends with the Feststellungsprüfung, an examination that allows international students to enter the German higher education system. Students who want to study medicine need to visit the M-Course at a Studienkolleg, which prepares them for studying medicine.

Scholarships for Medical students

a suitcase full of united states currency

A good starting point to finding scholarships for international students to study medicine in Germany can be the typical databases and the organizations we present to you in our article on scholarships for international students. Before you start this search and research, we want to give a little disclaimer:

 

  • The DAAD, which is the biggest scholarship provider for international students looking to study in Germany, does, with only a few exceptions, not provide DAAD scholarships for (degree-seeking) students looking to study medicine in Germany.
  • To apply to one of the 13 talent-based scholarship foundations (German: Begabtenförderungswerke), international students of medicine typically need to have completed the first 2 years of studies and passed the first part of the medical state examination, or have completed a similar course of study abroad. For more information, check out the websites of each scholarship foundation or our article on scholarships. Every student who is enrolled at a German university that offers the so-called Deutschlandstipendium also has the option to apply for this funding scheme.

 

We would like to furthermore draw your attention to additional funding schemes that are exclusively offered for students of medicine. Many of these schemes were introduced as a reaction to the shortage of doctors in Germany, especially in rural areas of the country. For students who are willing and able to commit to working as a general practitioner in a rural and medically understaffed area of Germany for a certain number of years (often around 5), the German states offer monthly support. One example is the "Meilenstein-Emsland" foundation, which sponsors students who are committed to practicing in the Emsland region after their graduation. Similar programs are offered for other regions and presented in the journal Praktischer Arzt (only in German). Further medical scholarships that come with fewer strings attached are offered by various associations of practitioners and presented here.

 

Whether this is an option for you or not depends on your plans and preferences. No matter how you decide, you should bear in mind that, while the medical training continues after your graduation from university with the specialist training, you already receive a salary throughout the specialist training (50,000 - 70,000 € as annual salary).

Further Reading

10 things you need to know about scholarships in Germany

How to find the right medical university?

african woman sitting and smiling at the camera with a laptop in front of her

Rankings can be a good way to get an overview of your options or may sway your decision to choose one university over another. Still, we recommend to not overrate rankings. Especially when it comes to studying medicine in Germany, there is a fairly homogeneous level of quality. In fact, because of a system of cooperation and specialization, each faculty is known and leading in different disciplines, so informing yourself on areas of specializations of different faculties might be an even more promising strategy to identify the best medical university in Germany for your interest. Furthermore, no matter where you study, the employment rate for medical practitioners in Germany is very high.

 

Learning about the way that medical training in Germany is organized can furthermore help you to make a decision on where to study. Universities cooperate with certain hospitals for the practical portions of the medical studies. The 32 university hospitals (German: Universitätsklinikum) in Germany are some of the most important places for the exchange of theory and practice for medical students in Germany.

 

To help you make an informed decision on what university is the best to study medicine in Germany we wrote an article on different medical schools in Germany.

Which career opportunities do I have after studying medicine in Germany

woman surgeon while performing an operation on a patient

Germany is a good destination for the study of medicine because Germany needs doctors which creates many career opportunities for internationals. Secondly, German medical training enjoys a great reputation around the globe and may allow you to start a career in other countries as well. Thirdly, studying medicine in Germany not only leads to a promising career with a stable and high salary, but it can also be the ticket to jobs outside the clinic, for example in insurance, medical technology, or as an advisor for public health.

Germany needs doctors!

Germany has one of the world’s fastest aging societies and even though the total number of doctors has increased throughout the past years, it is still not sufficient to address the medical needs of the society in Germany. Germany’s need for doctors becomes especially apparent when considering that an estimated 20% of doctors are to retire in the near future. Some German regions have even started initiatives to recruit medical doctors from abroad, e.g. Saxony (German: Sachsen).

 

Given this situation, the job market offers great opportunities and job security to doctors. Accordingly, being a doctor in Germany is compensated with a good annual salary. A specialist in a clinic earns around 82,000 €. The steady increase of doctors from other countries in Germany is welcomed by the government: In 2019 the number of foreign doctors in Germany increased by 7% and now totals around 58,000.

Diverse career opportunities for doctors in Germany - inside and outside the clinic!

Medical expertise is not only needed to heal patients but also to contribute to improving public health through good policies and innovations. Therefore, trained doctors also find work in respective government offices, insurance companies, or health tech and pharma companies. In 2019, 8.8% of doctors worked in government offices and other corporations.

 

For those who have their heart set on working in practices or clinics to heal people, job opportunities are easy to come by, as well. Especially outside the bigger cities in more rural areas, medical doctors are sought after. Some German states offer scholarships or salary increases for doctors who decide to work in rural areas as part of the scheme to attract skilled practitioners.

German medical training enjoys great reputation around the world!

Some of the strong suits of the German medical training are the combination of theory and practice, often achieved through the proximity of universities and university hospitals. This allows for students to combine practical skills with scientific qualifications and to scope out various possible career paths. This rigorous training is not just beneficial for students - it also enjoys an excellent reputation around the globe.

 

The status quo of medicine in Germany is known for excellently equipped hospitals and highly skilled practitioners. Germany has one of the leading markets for biotechnological innovations. In international rankings for the subject medicine, the University of Heidelberg, the Charité - Universitätsmedizin Berlin, the LMU Munich, and the Technical University of Munich make it in the top 50 universities to study clinical and health sciences in the THE ranking. With this high reputation, you will also be able to take your training elsewhere after studying medicine in Germany.