Unlike the question Safely negotiate a salary for a PhD offer - Germany where the goal was to negotiate the % of the salary of a PhD position, my post instead focuses on the specific level (Stufe) of a 100% TVL E13 position offered to a PhD holder.

Additional details:

  • The field is CS. So, AFAIK first-year PhD students usually start at Stufe 1 of a 100% TVL E13. So, it seems unfair to let a postdoc start at that level too.
  • My PhD has not been obtained in Germany, but I spent slightly more than three years working on very similar topics/responsibilities as the ones envisioned in the new position.
  • I have no competing offers with a higher level.

How can I safely negotiate a higher level/Stufe if the human resources put me on the first level? Do I need support from the new professor? Or the PhD advisor (though not in Germany)?

I have read here that this is likely to depend on HR, but if some of you have some tips, they would be more than welcome.

PS: I have also checked this, this and this. But they do not answer the question of how to negotiate, especially if one's PhD is not from Germany.

  • Alternatively, you can of course also try to get E14.
    – user151413
    Sep 9, 2020 at 18:19
  • I think it's fixed as E13. Additionally, from what I've seen in one of the linked posts, it seems that E14 is when the position includes responsibilities such as project leadership and supervision, which are not part of the current job offer. I'd say it would be difficult to redefine the responsibilities to match the E14 level.
    – user129298
    Sep 9, 2020 at 18:45
  • That's what is typically claimed, but that's not what the official rules of the TV-L state - just checked: It is talking of difficult task pursued independently and responsibly. To talking of leadership and supervision at all. Of course, it could very well be that this is the university-internal rule. All I am saying that E14 is not ruled out for postdocs. Whether it is easier or harder to get than E13/2 or E13/3, I have no idea. Just the process to decide will be a different one, so if one does not work, one could try the latter.
    – user151413
    Sep 9, 2020 at 18:50
  • I see, thanks for the clarification! Care to share a link to the source where you checked this?
    – user129298
    Sep 9, 2020 at 18:54
  • 1
    "Entgeltordnung zum TV-L" tdl-online.de/fileadmin/downloads/rechte_Navigation/…, pg 40 (part II.6).
    – user151413
    Sep 9, 2020 at 18:55

2 Answers 2


First, talk to your future supervisor. If they do not support it, chances are slim. Or, if they say it is impossible, equally so.

If they support it: Find out what the rules are - well, probably your supervisor knows.

Generally, there are two options, depending on the place: Either, the administration decides on their own. Still, they might not proactively put you in a higher level, but wait for you to ask for it and supply documents proving that you have previous experience. In that case, the support of your supervisor will certainly help the process. And it is not unlikely that the administration would ask them if they judge the qualification equivalent.

Second, it could be that your supervisor has to write a justification why you should get a higher level, and then the administration decides. Certainly, in that case the support of your supervisor is essential.

Finally, it could be that the administration has very rigid rules on this, and the supervisor has no influence on that. In particular, they could have the rigid rule that they don't recognize anything which was not in German public service (that would be the most conservative option, since they don't have to vouch for anything).

Good luck!

(In any case, I would say that level 2 is realistic, since, it only requires >1 year of experience. Level 3 is more ambitious, since it requires >3 years of experience. In any case, also check the salaries for the different levels - the steps are not uniform.)

  • 1
    I would add option three: the supervisor de facto makes the decision and the administration merely signs it off. The gist of your answer still applies: talk to the supervisor and convince them.
    – quarague
    Sep 9, 2020 at 19:35
  • I'd say that pretty much is the second option.
    – user151413
    Sep 9, 2020 at 20:10
  • It might also be worth a try to contact the Personalrat to see if they can influence the decision.
    – erc
    Sep 11, 2020 at 13:06
  • @beetroot There's very likely a default policy. I mean, it is not that the OP will be the first postdoc with a PhD from abroad or on a grant. But it can make sense to contact them to learn what the default policy is.
    – user151413
    Sep 11, 2020 at 14:19
  • @user151413 at my institution (German research institute, öffentlicher Dienst) new employees can ask for the Personalrat to be involved in the hiring process (by ticking the respective check box on the form), which can be an advantage, because the Personalrat will argue for the new employee in terms of their Einstufung, while the administration is probably less interested in doing anything but selecting Stufe 1.
    – erc
    Sep 12, 2020 at 15:24

The argument you should focus on is that your professional experience counts as "einschlägige Berufserfahrung" (relevant professional experience). That's the official reasoning you need to meet to justify starting at a higher level. So I'd focus on explaining how exactly your experience is directly relevant to the work you'll be doing in that position.

As already mentioned, you need the support of your supervisor on this or it's not going to happen. The other person that is very important in my experience here is the person doing the actual administrative part of the process, e.g the secretary of the professor. They have likely been through this process several times already, and have a working relationship with the people inside the university that need to sign off on this.

There are a lot of factors outside your control here, and it depends entirely on the dynamics inside the university on whether you can succeed with this or not.

  • 2
    Yes, never underestimate having credit with the secretary.
    – henning
    Sep 11, 2020 at 9:10
  • 1
    Indeed, professional experience is the only thing which matters. Still, a central question is how this is handled by the administration. They can take the standpoint that no experience outside german public service will be recognized. This is certainly a very safe way to ensure consistent decisions. If they allow for this, getting times as a PhD in a related topic recognized should always be possible with support from the advisor.
    – user151413
    Sep 11, 2020 at 9:13
  • Note that you need to have an "Arbeitszeugnis" or equivalent document proving your experience. You also can't have significant gaps between the experience and the new job (I don't remember how many months would be problematic, half a year?) .
    – Roland
    Sep 11, 2020 at 9:16
  • @Roland an "Arbeitszeugnis" would not be relevant in my case, as my work while doing a PhD wasn't done in Germany. I don't know to what extent an "equivalent document proving your experience" would be accepted, especially if it's provided by a university outside of Germany.
    – user129298
    Sep 11, 2020 at 9:30
  • 1
    @user129298 Your work contract with the job title should be sufficient.
    – Roland
    Sep 11, 2020 at 11:04

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