These positions exist, but at least here in Germany they are rare.
In, German, we call everyone in a research or teaching position at a university who has graduated and is not a professor Akademischer Mittelbau. I'll translate this for now as mid-level faculty (but would be happy to receive better translation suggestions). Mid-level faculty includes what would be an assistant professor in the US, and also researchers/teachers working on their habilitation but not junior professors.
If you look up the fraction of such positions that is permanent, you'll see quite some variation depending on whether the fraction is given for mid-level faculty without PhD students (who are are counted in this mid-level group unless they volountarily enrolled as student; PhD "students" basically always on fixed term positions) and whether the fraction is given for mid-level researchers paid by the Land or includes also positions in third-party funded research (the latter being fixed term for the project duration).
Of the mid-level positions paid by the Land Thüringen in 2017, 53 % were fixed term.
FAZ from March 2018 about the situation in all of Germany (so not specific Länder) says the fraction of fixed term positions among those paid by their respective Land (Grundfinanzierung) rose from 67 % -> 75 % from 2005 -> 2015.
If you include positions on third-party funded projects, you'll find fractions around 80 - 85 % of the mid-level staff being on fixed-term positions.
In my experience, mid-level faculty permanent positions are maybe an Oberassistent being the head of the labwork practica, often also teaching a lot, or they may be the "keeper" of delicate large instruments where at some point the professor was able to negotiate with the Land that such an expensive instrument also needs someone alongside who doesn't change every few years (these ones are involved in ongoing research). They are often approaching pension age (because some decades back, there were more permanent positions in academia) - but once they retire, there often won't be a permanent contract any more.
The other type of permanent positions are technical staff (which still may require a PhD).
The chance to get a permanent contract as researcher but not professor is IMHO higher if you consider non-university research such as research institutes run by the federal government or the big research societies (Max Planck, Leibniz, Fraunhofer, Helmholtz). It may also be higher if you consider a University of Applied Science (Fachhochschule) rather than a normal university.
I also recognize that academic departments often have general office positions such as secretaries, human resources professionals, IT help desk technicians, etc., but these sort of roles do not typically involve the use of advanced academic skills.
Yes, but: as I hinted at above, there are also technical positions that require at least a Master or even a PhD. E.g. I know
- a physicist holding a technical position in a deprtment of psychology (building measurement instruments for their experiments)
- a computer scientist half on a research position and half on a IT technician position (didn't ask exactly what they do there, but the institute does quite heavy computations)
- another physicist who's "keeper" of a research laser.
- some chemists looking after similarly delicate machinery, and practicum and teaching (of whom I don't actually know whether they are on a permanent position, but if not they are at least sufficiently high up on the priority list whom to keep by the responsible professor to be there since at least 15 a)
"Ok, I'm wrapping up my MS in Chemistry and I don't want to go for a PhD, my thesis was hard enough! I'd really like to spend the next ten years grading freshman homework, TA'ing the Organic Chemistry I lab, and designing data-gathering protocols for others' research projects. Those were the parts of the past two years that I truly enjoyed."
My experience as a chemist is that chemistry is one of the very few fields where the PhD is pretty much unavoidable. This plan has a few practical problems:
grading freshman homework, TA'ing the Organic Chemistry I lab: yes, that's done by fresh Masters. But these TA positions are usually reserved for PhD students who have to earn their living somehow. Someone who doesn't want to go for a PhD will typically not get such a position.
designing data-gathering protocols for others' research projects: unfortunately, for all I know chemistry is still very blind with respect to data, curation, and programming resources needed for their projects. Again, a PhD student doing this and pointing out the need during their research will be welcome (highly appreciated even; I've done that), but getting a (full) position for this that isn't involved in PhD research will be extremely hard.
I've hardly seen any permanent teaching staff at higher levels (i.e. not the PhD student TAs, but those responsible for their own lecture series) that did not have a PhD, and many even did/had their habilitation.
So from what I've seen, it is easier to transition from a point where you've proven to be capable as researcher to doing more and more teaching, or more and more of the high-level technical stuff.