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I'm currently finishing up my undergraduate degree and I will soon start to apply for graduate school. I'm gonna apply to some schools in Europe (mainly Germany), but one thing I'm very worried about is funding. As I understand, European universities do not offer TA positions for international students. And I haven't been able to find suitable scholarships. I will most likely have to work, and this is what I want to ask about. How is the job market for people with a physics degree, say in Germany? Can I find a job to sustain myself during my master's study? Thanks.

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  • Do you need a visa to live in Germany? If so you would need one allowing you to work and study. – Jon Custer Jun 13 at 18:22
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    Some German scholarships for international students: DAAD, DeGiS. There is also German Grant but I think that requires your uni to recommend you. Also, check if you are eligible for a scholarship that your home country provides to international students. – justauser Jun 14 at 1:46
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    I am not even sure how much a European MSc. is even "graduate". It is normally heavilly lecture-based and not that much research. In the Bc. one learned some general basics (e.g. general physics and the necessary math) and in the MSc. one learns some more specific subject (astronomy, ttheoretical phys., solid state, ...). You will need most of your time for studying. – Vladimir F Jun 14 at 14:34
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    Europe is quite diverse in the relevant respect, and the situation in other European countries can be quite different from the one in Germany. – Richard Hardy Jun 14 at 15:45
  • It is diverse, but Bologna harmonised a lot. E.g. here (not Germany) used to be normal to have a 5 year MSc. right from the high school and now we have the 3 year BSc. and 2 years MSc. as Bologna prescribes. – Vladimir F Jun 14 at 22:59
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For Germany in particular some answers:

  1. It is not correct that German universities do not offer TA positions for international students. It is relatively common that M.Sc. students conduct tutorials for B.Sc. students and get paid for doing so. But this does not help you much. These "HiWi" positions are very poorly paid. Also, you basically have to start your M.Sc. studies first and then check each semester whether you will snatch one of these positions. Not a good starting point for somebody who has to prove that he/she can support herself/himself before getting issued a visa (note that there is no such thing as an offer letter for a HiWi position, so they cannot be used as a proof of funds in visa interviews). Oh, and if the language of instruction in the B.Sc. is German, then you need to be proficient in German. Oh, and of course priority will typically be given to those students who excelled as a participant of a previous iterations of the course.

  2. How good the job market is depends on (a) where exactly you go, and (b) what you skill sets are. If you, say, want to study in Berlin and are an excellent programmer, you most likely will have more problems finding a flat to live in than a job to pay for that. If you study in a city without companies whose primary working language is English, you will have a harder time finding a job. But note that even if your visa allows working on the side while studying, there is a legal maximum of 19 (or 20?) hours per week of working for many aspects (such as health insurance) because after that it's not working on the side while studying but studying on the side while working. Do not expect your visa type to allow the latter (if you need one - EU nationals have it easier here).

  3. Scholarships are rare in Germany. Now for international students, the database by the German academic exchange service (DAAD) appears to be quite well-filled....for German standards.

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  • Some remarks on the HiWi positions. First, these are meant to be taken by full time students. Usually the contract is for 10 hours a week and the working schedule fits with your other studies. Making studies and work fit into a single schedule can be a major issue for any other kind of job. Second, they are reasonably well paid relative to the amount of work required and the work is automatically related and often useful for your studies. But the pay is nowhere near sufficient to live on, it is nice supplement if you have another non work source of money. – quarague Jun 14 at 6:50
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Here is some more insight concerning the situation in Germany:

  • A lot of people I used to study with and a lot of the students I work with now have at least partially or often fully financed themselves while studying by working on the side. This is very common, and since you don't have to pay tuition fees it is also feasible. The amount of money you will have at your disposal will be at the lower end, and probably some frugality might be in order, but it can work.
  • As DCTLib already stated, there is a limit of 20h/week that you are allowed to work while officially being a student. As a German, or EU-citizen, you could opt for being a part-time student and work more, but if you enter Germany on a student visa, you probably will not be able to do that. You will be required to maintain the official student status. As suggested in the comments, I will add the following: the 20h limit applies only during the semester. In the 2 months summer break and about 1,5 months late winter/early spring break, you are allowed to work full time and can thus use these periods to earn extra money to make it through the semester.
  • If you work and study at the same time, the schedule of your courses will dictate when you will be able to work - at least when you take your studies seriously. This is preventing most students to take on "regular" part time 9-5 jobs. They rather work: in bars and restaurants, as sales assistants in shops, etc., that is in jobs that have more irregular hours and allow you to work on weekends, but might have nothing to do with your degree.
  • You can also work at universities, but as DCTlib already said, the chance you will get hired right away is low, because regularly, students that are already known for their skills from previous semesters get the job. A good alternative, though (especially for a physics graduate), is to look for student jobs at a non-university research institute: in Germany, there are Fraunhofer Gesellschaft, Leibnitz-Gemeinschaft or Max-Planck-Gesellschaft. They are all renowned research institutions, and have many institutes all over Germany. Depending on which city you decide to study in, the scope of one of their institutes might fit, and they often have student jobs available. Working at such an institution, you might even have the possibility to write your thesis there and do some research on your own.
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    You could add that the 20h restriction only applies during the lecture period which is only 60% (?) of the year. – FooBar Jun 14 at 15:44
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    @FooBar That is a good suggestion, I will do that. I think the "Vorlesunsgfreie Zeit" is roughly 3,5 months long – Sursula Jun 14 at 15:54
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    @Sursula: I think that, strictly speaking, "vorlesungsfreie Zeit" is between 4.5 and 5 months at most university (almost two months between mid of February and mid of April and almost three months between mid of July and mid of October). But of course the time period that might be effectively used for a full-time job is considerably shorter since many exams, and sometimes also small courses or seminars, are scheduled in this period. – Jochen Glueck Jun 14 at 16:49

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