Academia Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for academics and those enrolled in higher education. Join them; it only takes a minute:

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

Recently I have received an offer for PhD studentship in Biology from a lab in Germany. I have completed my Bachelors degree and I have solid 2 years of research experience with 3 peer reviewed publications. Now to formally enroll as a PhD student they are asking me for Masters degree which I don't have.

My question is, is it possible to enroll without masters degree into PhD in Germany? I know that in US, UK Masters degree is not a pre-requisite for PhD. How about in Germany? Can't my research experience be accounted as qualification ?

share|improve this question
Where did you get your bachelors? How many years was it? Did it include an honours year? In what circumstances did you conduct your research? – Dave Clarke Jan 22 '14 at 8:07
@DaveClarke In those german universities that I know, all these things are irrelevant. No masters -> cannot enroll into PhD programme. – xLeitix Jan 22 '14 at 11:27
@xLeitix: In (non-German) universities I've worked at, we consider whether one degree is equivalent to another. For instance, a British Honours degree can be considered equivalent to a masters. – Dave Clarke Jan 22 '14 at 12:37
@DaveClarke That's interesting! I have never heard about an honours degree being considered equivalent to a masters. – xLeitix Jan 22 '14 at 12:41
Most PhD's I know of ask for a Master's degree or equivalent research experience (What you hope for). There are also some PhD's that include an MPhil within their 'program'. That would require you to take some taught courses within this first year though. You should enquire at the specific University in Germany. – Amber Jan 22 '14 at 15:17
up vote 22 down vote accepted

Essentially, you cannot start a PhD program without a master's degree in Germany. Some programs feature a dual-degree option, whereby you're admitted to a master's program as well as a PhD program. US and UK programs do basically the same thing, which is why the master's degree is not a prerequisite—you earn it, or the equivalent, along the way to the PhD after the bachelor's.

However, in German universities, most PhD positions are actually government jobs in what is known as the TV-L system. More precisely, it's what's called a "TV-L E13." Now, one of the requirements of the TV-L E13 is a master's degree in the appropriate subject. There really isn't a way to waive this requirement.

What perhaps can be done is to ask if the group is willing to sponsor you as a "Wissentschaftliche Hilfskraft"—essentially, a part-time worker in the group—while you complete the master's program. (If they're eager enough to hire you with a bachelor's, then they should be willing to support you while you get the necessary training.)

share|improve this answer
Actually I don't think it's very common for UK PhD programs to include the master's degree in the same way that US PhDs do. – Tara B Jan 22 '14 at 12:36
The UK system is midway between the US and German systems. It's definitely easier to do an admission to a combined master's and PhD program in the UK than it is in Germany. – aeismail Jan 22 '14 at 12:45
This answer is wrong. It really depends on the University, the doctoral degree regulations of the faculty, etc. For example my faculty (Maths and Computer Science, FU Berlin) offers Bachelors to enter. They have to attend the first year Master lectures and pass an exam, however, they don't have to complete the Master and they also don't receive the degree. In turn they save 1 year. – barbaz Jan 22 '14 at 15:47
Actually, you're still supporting my argument. You are not allowed to start the PhD until you've completed the equivalent of the master's phase. Your program lets them skip the thesis phase. This is very much an exception, not the rule. (Hence the "essentially" at the beginning of the answer.) – aeismail Jan 22 '14 at 15:54
Master's programs are not always two years. Some are three semesters, so you don't have extra savings. But even then, the university has to certify to itself that you have the equivalent of the master's degree. That certification won't work anywhere else. – aeismail Jan 22 '14 at 16:37

My question is, is it possible to enroll without masters degree into PhD in Germany? I know that in US, UK Masters degree is not a pre-requisite for PhD. How about in Germany?

In Germany, as well as many (most?) other places in central Europe, a Master's degree is a formal requirement for starting a PhD.

The reason for this is mostly historical: in Europe, we did not really have Bachelor's and Master's degrees until 2000 or shortly thereafter. Until then, a "Diploma" (sort of equivalent to master's degree, a bit of a mixture of MSc and MBA) was the first degree you could get from an university. Around 2000, the so-called Bologna process went into action, with the goal of homogenizing the way how higher eduction works across Europe, and the chosen target model was the traditional Bachelor / Master / PhD model of US universities. Of course, adopting this model in the somewhat different realities of european universities meant that what was really implemented in many places was sort of a half-hearted mixture of old and new system. For instance, in my country of origin (Austria), almost every study basically just took the their old "Diplomstudium" (old curriculum, where the equivalent of MSc was the first degree) and more or less randomly awarded a BSc after 3 years. Of course, at this point, the student did not have a completed education in any way - the curriculum was fully designed that students do another 2 years after master studies afterwards (and the majority of students does so). As a result, public opinion, for instance in industry, of people with "only" a bachelor are not very good -- in many ways, those are considered people who stopped their studies prematurely. In a similar vain, universities also require a "completed" undergrad study (which, in Austria, means doing the entire 5-year original master studies) before being allowed to enroll into a PhD programme.

Now, that being said, I find it more than just a bit awkward that your department in Germany did not clarify this in advance. This issue is not an unknown quantity in Germany -- everybody who hires even occasionally from outside of Europe should know about this and handle this issue in advance. I am afraid it will be a difficult problem to solve.

Can't my research experience be accounted as qualification ?

I highly doubt it. This is not just a small administrative hurdle -- in many places (I do not know about Germany, though), the requirement of a Master to get enrolled to a PhD programme is defined by national university law, so it is not a requirement that a university or professor can just waive for you.

share|improve this answer
Which other countries apart from Germany require a Master for a Ph.D.? My impression is that there are not so many, but I don't know. – Zane Jan 23 '14 at 15:07
Certainly Austria, Switzerland and the Netherlands. I think France, Spain and Italy as well. For other european countries, ymmw. However, it is certainly not uncommon in Europe. – xLeitix Jan 23 '14 at 18:37
Hmm after having though about this, I remember at least one person that got a German Ph.D. without a Diploma (no master at that time). I think it's really a faculty decision, and any exemption is possible. And I think this holds for every University. National University Law - do you have links? My professors would not care about such a thing. – Zane Jan 24 '14 at 17:07

I know of some cases when it is possible: e.g. when the university offers a so called fast-track PhD program. In this case you are required to have at least a B.Sc. in a related field. Then within the first year of this fast-track program you basically start working on your M.Sc., but you don't write M.Sc thesis. Instead of that when the first year is over, you keep working on your topic for the next couple of years and make a dissertation out of it.

Check out e.g. this page:

share|improve this answer
There's also – Christian Clason Jun 22 at 12:33

I see people claiming that Masters is an absolute requirement to start PhD in Germany. I am not an expert in the field but my supervisor in my university does not have a Masters, he has registered PhD studies immediately after the Bachelors. He is a German and was a student at the same uni. How he did it I don't know. What I know for sure is that such a case exists.

share|improve this answer
Are you sure he did his PhD (and not just his Bachelors) at a German university? Or maybe he doesn't have a Masters but an old-fashioned diploma? (Not doubting you, just checking.) – Christian Clason Jun 22 at 12:33
100%, he was student in the group seated opposite to ours so I would check their poster from time to time, and he did not have a Diplom Ing but a BSc, and graduated recently. Just to confirm I checked his online account now. It has 3 years of Bachelors, 1 year of undefined and then 3 years of PhD in Theoretical Computer Science – Kristof Tak Jun 22 at 21:21

I believe it is possible. I have no masters but I have Honours (not really known or recognised outside the Commonwealth) and 3 years work experience as a research assistant. I had no trouble enrolling in my PhD in the Netherlands. The actual university guidelines say that candidates must have a Masters unless they have been given a special exemption by the director of the institute. If you've been given an offer then it's likely an exemption will be made, unless the rules are more strict in Germany than in NL.

share|improve this answer

protected by Community Jan 16 '15 at 22:12

Thank you for your interest in this question. Because it has attracted low-quality or spam answers that had to be removed, posting an answer now requires 10 reputation on this site (the association bonus does not count).

Would you like to answer one of these unanswered questions instead?

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.