I am working at a German research institute as a HiWi.

HiWi jobs pay hourly wages based on the education level of the employee. For instance there is a "without bachelors" and "with bachelors" wage.

Prior to taking the job, I was told that I would be paid the hourly rate "with a bachelors" because I have a B.A in Economics from North America.

Im am currently studying a B.Sc in Molecular biology.

Now the institute says that there is a law which says that they will not recognize my North American education because Im currently studying a B.Sc in Germany. Thus, they are only paying me at the "without bachelor's level".

Does anyone know of the laws surrounding these issues.

Thanks, D


Usual disclaimer: I am not a lawyer and this is not legal advice.

What the institute says is completely wrong: there is no such law.

The salary of Wissenschaftliche Hilfskräfte (HiWi, student doing scientific work) varies by state and by university, and it is not regulated by law. As explained in Chapters 3.3 and 6 of this document (unfortunately, information about this is only available in German), these student employees are in most cases not even included in the worker unions, and tariff negotiations do not apply to them (the only exception being Berlin). This means that these salaries are almost exclusively decided by the employers.

The only available "official document" are the Richtlinien der TdL über die Arbeitsbedingungen der Hilfskräfte (Guidelines of the Tariff Association of German States about the working conditions of the assistants), which are just guidelines, not a law. These guidelines only provide a maximum salary (not a minimum), and distinguish between three groups of students. The highest salary group is for students with a Master's degree. The second-highest salary group is for students who, among other options, have a


i.e., a Bachelor's degree. There is no clause that says that currently studying another Bachelor's degree disqualifies you from being in this group.

This said, getting your foreign Bachelor's degree recognized might take some effort, but I would at least ask them what law they are talking about.

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    I suspect that there is probably a university policy to fund based on the program on which (s)he is enrolled rather than the degree one has. Usually, there is no difference, but if the university can save some money... You can ofcourse try, but don't get your hopes up, and expect to be sent from one department to another in an infinite loop if you try. – Maarten Buis Jan 29 at 16:11
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    @MaartenBuis that is probably true, but the university should not lie to its employees by saying law instead of university policy. – wimi Jan 29 at 16:15
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    In addition, I guess in most universities AStA they have some people responsible for student assistants and maybe some "Ombudsperson" working on their behalf. If so, this would be a good person to talk to without causing much of controversies. – ttnick Jan 29 at 16:51

If your job is in the Biology department, it could simply be that an Economics degree does not count towards prior experience in the field and therefore doesn't raise your wage. That's at least how it works with full-time "Wissenschaftlicher Mitarbeiter" job positions.

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  • This answer makes a lot of sense! Even though pay in Germany often depends on abstract qualifications such as university degrees, sometimes the actual (and much more sensible) qualifications with respect to your work is what counts... – user2705196 Jan 31 at 22:35

Germany maintains a list of accredited foreign universities from which degrees are recognized; you can find it on https://anabin.kmk.org/anabin.html . I would first advise you to check if your American university is there.

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