While learning never ends, obtaining a Ph.D., or Doctor of Philosophy, represents a significant milestone in one’s academic journey — the culmination of years of intensive academic work. It provides an opportunity to specialize and become an expert in your chosen area. Throughout this process, you will dedicate years to focusing on a specific topic, conducting research, analyzing data, and potentially contributing new knowledge to the world. It’s a challenging but rewarding journey, unlocking numerous career opportunities in academia, research, or industry.

This is especially true in Germany, a country with top-notch research universities and a strong emphasis on research. However, the application process for Ph.D. programs there can be confusing. That’s where this guide comes in, assisting you in turning your dream of studying in Germany into a reality!

Ph.D. Degree Admission Requirements

Before taking the step to apply, let’s ensure you grasp the foundational prerequisites expected by the majority of German top universities offering Ph.D. programs. As the standard procedure goes, most German universities usually expect a completed master’s degree, a compelling research proposal, your Curriculum Vitae (CV), and the score reports of some standardized tests. Let us break it down into the specific elements you’ll need to focus on:

1. Completed Master’s Degree

A prerequisite for Ph.D. admission in Germany is the completion of a master’s degree or its equivalent, which may include qualifications like Magister or Diploma. This postgraduate degree signifies the comprehensive achievement of one’s academic foundation in their respective field of study.

2. Research Proposal

Submitted alongside the application forms, a research proposal is an important document that strengthens your application, offering a way to convince the respected faculty member. It outlines the details of your intended doctoral study, demonstrating your grasp of the research topic and explaining the importance and potential impact of your proposed research within your chosen field.

3. Curriculum Vitae

Casually called a CV, your Curriculum Vitae outlines your strengths, skills, and accomplishments relevant to your Ph.D. aspirations. This includes your complete academic background, from your undergraduate studies to any research experience you’ve gained.

4. Standardized Tests Reports

In line with Ph.D. admission norms in Germany, most German universities require standardized test score reports including IELTS or TOEFL for English proficiency, TestDaF for German, and DSH (German Language University Entrance Examination), depending on your program language and requirements. These reports serve as objective measures, ensuring that candidates possess the necessary language and subject-specific skills to pursue their research.

While these are the core requirements common to most German Ph.D. programs, remember that specific details may vary depending on your chosen university and program. Be sure to always consult the program website or contact the relevant department for the most up-to-date information. For instance, the Technical University of Munich and Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich offer detailed program requirements on their websites.

Language Proficiency Tests Needed for Doctoral Programs

Acting as a haven for international students and researchers, both public and private universities in Germany offer doctoral degrees in English, in addition to the national language, German. This bilingual approach, as emphasized by the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD), extends to universities of varying sizes, including smaller and major institutions such as the University of Bremen and Hamburg University of Technology, making Germany an attractive destination for global candidates.

For English-taught programs, demonstrating basic proficiency through international tests like TOEFL or IELTS is usually accepted. While universities may not enforce specific minimum scores, aiming for IELTS 7.0 or TOEFL iBT 90 significantly strengthens your application and showcases your language skills. Conversely, for German programs, standardized tests like TestDaF or DSH are typically required, with equivalence often demonstrated through scores like TDN 4/5 or DSH Level II.

 Ph.D. Degree Application Process

Knowing what’s required, the application process becomes easier. So, let’s break down the steps for a straightforward application process.

Step 1. Identify Your Specialization and Research Interest

After getting a master’s degree, if you want to pursue a Ph.D., it’s advisable to find your area of specialization. Take the time to explore and identify a subject that fits best with your academic passions and future career goals. Research various disciplines, look into faculty profiles, and find research centers within top German universities such as LMU and TUM.

Step 2. Compile Key Faculty Members and University List

In Germany, Ph.D. programs come in two main types: individual doctorates and structured doctorates. Therefore, after making your specialization choice, compile a list of key faculty members in your field if you intend to pursue an individual Ph.D., or simultaneously create a comprehensive list of universities if you plan to opt for a structured doctoral program. Finally, ensure that all the requirements of the universities on your list are thoroughly met.

Step 3. Gather Tthe Required Documents and Submit the Application

Now, gather all the required documents your chosen university needs. This could be your transcripts, your CV, and a proposal for your research. Make sure you follow all the rules and send it in before the deadline ends. After that, all you have to do is wait for their decision.

FAQs: Ph.D. Application Process in Germany

Is It Expensive to Study Ph.D. in Germany?

Contrary to popular belief, Germany offers one of the most affordable Ph.D. destinations for international students. According to the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD), German state universities, like the renowned Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich or the esteemed RWTH Aachen University, do not charge tuition fees for their Ph.D. programs.

While you can expect a small semester fee and average living costs totaling around €1,200, this is a far cry from the hefty tuition burdens faced elsewhere. This policy opens doors for talented students from diverse backgrounds to pursue their research goals without being crippled by financial constraints.


With the straightforward application steps, we have come to an end, guiding you through the essential stages of pursuing a Ph.D. in Germany. With affordable education and a bilingual medium of instruction, it’s no wonder why Germany is the best destination for your doctoral degree!


We hope this article will help start your journey in postgraduate studies! For more valuable tips and articles, go over our Study in Germany! As for currently open courses, head on over to our Available Programs for International Students!

About the Author: Hyun Lee

Hi! I am Hyun, and I am the founder at Global Scholarships. I've received a full-tuition scholarship at Birmingham-Southern College and a $1,000 Burger King Scholarship for my undergraduate degree and was offered a fully funded scholarship consisting of tuition, living stipend, and health insurance for computer science Ph.D. program at North Carolina State University. You can read more about my scholarship journey here. If you are interested, you can follow me on Linkedin where I regularly write about scholarship opportunities.

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  1. Gofur Khurramov February 23, 2024 5:01 pm - Reply

    I would like to say that this website is very useful for me because I regularly follow the posts. More precisely, I am looking for a phd program suitable for me.

    • Hyun Lee March 7, 2024 7:25 pm - Reply

      Hello, there are many Ph.D. programs available in Germany. You can find which programs are suitable by going to their websites as well as finding information in forums.

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