I was wondering what paygrade (Stufe) I am likely to get for a position advertized as TVL-13 (100%), knowing that I have a 3-year PhD experience from a EU (non-German) university.

The postition's title is Wissenschaftliche Mitarbeiter in German but Research Engineer in English. Also, if we consider the kind of tasks/responsibilities involved in the position, it involves working in a EU project, which is something I did during the years of my PhD.

All similar posts (linked below) seem to be referring to the case where the PhD work has been conducted in a German university. So, I wanted to check if that wasn't the case, would chances of getting a higher grade be reduced or not?

I don't know if this is relevant, but unlike question (3), I paid taxes during my PhD.

Closely-related questions:

(1) Post-doc Salary in Germany

(2) Criteria of experience recognition for “TV-L 13” position

(3) Does PhD work experience (scholarship was tax free) count in Postdoc Salary contract (TVL-13) in Germany

Less closely-related posts:

(4) What is the difference between TV-L E13 and TV-L E14 positions? Is it negotiable?

(5) German postdoc salaries (TV-L E14)

  • 1
    I think it'd be entirely appropriate to contact the employer with this question. The Stufe can make quite a difference and what sort of experience counts might depend on "local customs" to some extend. I know Germans are fond of rules but academic experiences have become so international that the rules are often far too blunt to encompass all cases... Commented Jul 25, 2020 at 14:16
  • An important point here is that you need documentation equivalent to an Arbeitszeugnis. These documents don't only need to contain a job title and the employment period but also the kind of tasks you worked on. At least that's what our administration tells me. They then would ask me to confirm that these tasks count as relevant prior experience.
    – user9482
    Commented Jul 27, 2020 at 6:26
  • okay @Roland, thanks for mentioning the Arbeitszeugnis document. I'm still very early on in the application process, so I haven't been asked about it yet.
    – user126706
    Commented Jul 27, 2020 at 18:32
  • @Roland This is likely administration-dependent. I know at least of some places where the new boss has to write a statement as to why the qualification acquired during a PhD abroad is equivalent to (whatever) which justifies starting with level 2/3/... (well, usually 2). Of course, additional documentation never hurts.
    – user151413
    Commented Jul 28, 2020 at 20:15
  • 1
    @user126706 Note that even with a 3 year German PhD experience you would only get level 2. You would need 3 years + 1 day to get level 3. (Basically, the level carries over if you change jobs, but not the runtime within the level.)
    – user151413
    Commented Jul 28, 2020 at 20:16

3 Answers 3


I worked for three different universities in the same Bundesland (state) in Germany. Although they all followed the same general regulations, the interpretation was rather different.

  • one considered my PhD (on a scholarship, so not employed) as relevant experience, one not.
  • one said my Cambridge University (UK) degree was a Fachhochschulabschluss, one considered it as full university degree.
  • one was willing to negotiate (not with me, but with the institute that I should work for), one was not.

So you need to talk to your future boss and to the university that wants to employ you.

  • 1
    "one said my Cambridge University (UK) degree was a Fachhochschulabschluss, one considered it as full university degree." - That sounds ridiculous. Was the problem perhaps that the durations of your studies for B.Sc+M.Sc. were together only 4 years instead of 4.5 years?
    – DCTLib
    Commented Jul 27, 2020 at 12:34
  • 2
    It may, by the way be that the future university will be unable to tell because the process to estimate the "Stufe" only gets started once the hiring process is started. This is especially the case if the "Personalrat" is involved, which will not look at the case before that.
    – DCTLib
    Commented Jul 27, 2020 at 12:35
  • 1
    @DCTLib Indeed, I only studied 4 years and did not write a "long" master thesis, so that they put me into TV-L 12. Commented Jul 27, 2020 at 12:59
  • @JFabianMeier, thanks for your answer. It's impressive how your experience was considered in different ways by different universities. I am still in the early stages of the recruitment process so I don't find it appropriate to ask at this stage. But if I make it to final stages, I'll definitely ask and share the outcome here as an answer.
    – user126706
    Commented Jul 27, 2020 at 18:35
  • 3
    @DCTLib I also know of cases where people without a master (but with a PhD) would get a lower level than those with a master + PhD.
    – user151413
    Commented Jul 28, 2020 at 20:17

In the end that is something you can only clarify with your potential future employer. However, so far - from the little experience and insights I have - both options can occur: I know people who worked for the public administration before (which in the end is also paid according to the TV-L or TVöD) and started on Stufe (level) 1 - while others with just practical but related job experience started in a higher Stufe (level). So in the end it most likely depends on your institution and its flexibility - as well as your negotiation skills (and the availability of other applicants or the lack of such).


If the position is project funded, it may depend on the negotiation with the project leader. If it is a state funded position, then it should be up to the universities' policies. However given your experience, I think is unlikely that they only set you up for the first level/Stufe.

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