An overview of master's degrees in Germany


An overview of master's degrees in Germany

With an affordable cost of studying, award-winning curricula and emphasis on students’ practical experience, master’s degrees in Germany offer excellent prospects. While the decision for which master’s degree to apply for and at what university may be easy for Germans, it may seem intimidating for international students. That is why today we are doing an overview of master’s degrees in Germany.

Types of universities that offer master’s degrees

In Germany, there are four types of higher education:

  • Research Universities - postsecondary educational institutions that provide facilities and academic expertise to award students with degrees like master’s and PhD. Most of these are publicly administered. 
  • Technical Universities - are a sub-group of research universities since they specialise in science, technology, and engineering disciplines.
  • Universities of Applied Sciences - engineering, business and social sciences are the main areas of study. They frequently collaborate with professional or commercial organisations. A great number of them are private institutions.
  • Colleges of Art, Film and Music - specialise in providing education in the creative disciplines. Candidates must possess creative skills and experience. Colleges can be part of both research universities and universities of applied sciences. Some of them operate independently.

Choosing the right university for your master’s studies

It may seem like a very difficult decision to make, but ultimately, it comes down to the subject you are truly passionate about. The most important differentiation is whether your focus is academic, in which case you should apply to study at a research or technical university. 

On the other hand, if you are interested in picking up new vocational experience or professional skills, you are better off attending a university of applied sciences. Lastly, students with a creative set of skills in the areas of art, film or music should apply for a postgraduate course at the Colleges of Art, Film and Music.

Length of study for master’s degrees

The courses for the master’s degree may differ from the following, depending on how many semesters your chosen discipline has:

  • One year,
  • One and a half years, and
  • Two years long.

There are two semesters in one academic year and your master’s degree will also include your final project, also known as a dissertation.

ECTS credits for master’s degree

Usually, master’s degrees are worth 120 ECTS credits, which the students earn during two years of studying (60 credits per year). The dissertation or research project during the final semester is worth 30 credits.

Content of master’s programmes

Master’s degrees are taught in courses further divided into separate modules or units of study. Students may learn through lectures, hands-on workshops, fieldwork, small-group seminars, or directed independent study, depending on the course.

To go into a bit more detail:

  • Research Universities - involve core lectures, seminars, practical work and independent reading and studying.
  • Universities of Applied Sciences - offer more practical instruction and workshops led by external industry professionals and various experts. 

Colleges of Art, Film and Music - focus on developing and evaluating the students’ skills and proficiencies.

Master’s dissertation

During their final year of master’s studies, students work on completing a project that is an extended written dissertation or thesis. Students are assigned a mentor from the university for support and advice, however, the student creates and presents their own ideas and academic expertise. 

The examination procedure of a master’s dissertation involves the evaluation of the presentation and the oral ‘defence’ of the research topic. It concludes with the answering of questions about the findings and conclusions.

Consecutive and non-consecutive master’s degrees

Students who intend to pursue a master’s degree straight after completing a bachelor’s degree in the same field or a closely related field, are pursuing a consecutive master’s degree. Only applicants with a suitable bachelor’s degree will be considered for admission to these courses. 

A non-consecutive master’s degree refers to students who focus on a different but related area completed in their bachelor’s degree. Non-consecutive courses may also require practical experience, except the bachelor’s degree. Non-consecutive studies need not be related to the undergraduate topic. These programmes are ideal for students who want to continue working and receiving training between their undergraduate and graduate studies. Non-consecutive studies also include students who have completed their bachelor’s degree outside of Germany.

There are also professional master’s degrees that focus on vocational subjects, like teaching, nursing, law, etc. (regulated professions)

Application deadlines for a master’s degree in Germany

Different universities have different application deadlines, however, these two general times often apply:

  • For the summer semester: Apply before January 15th
  • For the winter semester: Apply before July 15th


Make sure to check beforehand the deadlines for the university you are applying to!

Language requirements to study for a master’s degree in Germany

Language is a requirement if you are applying for German-taught programmes. But, the good thing is, that many universities in Germany also offer English-taught programmes, in which case the German language is not a requirement. 

Master’s degree fees in Germany

The cost of a master’s degree varies depending on whether your studies are consecutive or non-consecutive. Consecutive studies are usually considered ‘free’ since students only pay the semester fees, which are around 100-200€. This includes payment for enrolment, administration and a Semesterticket (a public transport ticket). Non-consecutive studies, on the other hand, have tuition fees depending on the programme and university of choice. 

Tuition fees are mandatory for both consecutive and non-consecutive studies at private universities. The cost of a semester of non-consecutive study can range from 6000€ and up, especially at private universities. 

Thanks for taking the time to read through our overview of master’s degrees in Germany. Should you choose to start your studies here, take a look at the on-campus master’s degrees we offer.


At PFH we make sure you receive a high-quality education while fully experiencing being an international student!