I am a French citizen currently employed by an Institute part of the Helmholtz association. I had been looking forward to starting this position for a while and was a bit in a rush when signing my contract (not ideal I know). I overlooked an important point that I fear is too late to change now anyway.

The job posting did only mention that an "engineering degree" was required, without specifying if a master's degree was needed. I personally hold 2 master's degree from the double-degree program I followed during my studies (might be irrelevant). I have ~2.5 years of experience prior to this position.

Without going into details, it's quite a demanding job and de facto all people that I know of that had this position held at least a master's degree in the past. But I am classified as TVöD 11 level 1 nonetheless. Is this normal ? It is clearly stated in my contract that I would be payed as TVöD 11 but I was wondering if there were any law superseding contracts that forced public employers to pay you according to the degree you hold, or if it does not matter if clearly stated in the contract. I'm not too confident anyway but I would like to clarify it with my employer at least for those who'll follow.

Thanks for your help!

Edit: I talked about it with my boss. The justification for the pay group 11 is that my job does not encompass design activities. This is true, it is mostly a technician job even if they only employ engineers with a master's degree to do it. I think it's somewhat fair, even if the job is quite specialized. They would like to get it to a higher pay group but were blocked when they tried to in the past. They actually don't get to see my contract and were quite surprised that I was placed at level 1. They will discuss with the person responsible for this to get me to level 2. Will update when I get a definitive answer.

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    As far as I know, there must be a Tätigkeitsbeschreibung, i.e. a description of your tasks. You might not have seen it, but your employer probably had to write it. The salary is a result of this description. Mar 21, 2022 at 10:38
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    no legal advice or expert here, but, if there is such a law superseding the contract you signed, you may have to check if your degree(s) are officially recognized in Germany. I remember something like "you have to have a degree from a German uni, to officially use the Ing. prefix" (I may be completely wrong, I am sure german people can correct me during their Mittagspause)
    – EarlGrey
    Mar 21, 2022 at 10:46
  • On level 11, a Master's degree cannot be required for this position. As already mentioned, you need to see the "Tätigkeitsbeschreibung" to check if pay scale category 11 is correct. Pay scale categories 9-12 are for those with a Bachelor's degree (or a degree from a University of Applied Sciences). Also check if in your ~2.5 years of experience, you did anything also mentioned in your "Tätigkeitsbeschreibung" and can prove that. The "Stufe 1" may simply be mentioned because it your job title was one that would count as a lower pay scale in TV-L, and then it would normally not count.
    – DCTLib
    Mar 21, 2022 at 10:57
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    Note that having a Master's degree does not automatically mean you get a into a higher pay scale class. What is relevant is if the degree is needed for this position. For instance, technicians with a Master's degree are not paid pay scale level 13.
    – DCTLib
    Mar 21, 2022 at 10:58
  • I have not heard about the Tätigkeitsbeschreibung before, I will check with my employer. This is a fixed-term position and as I said all the former employees had a master's degree or above. I wouldn't say it's absolutely necessary though so I don't think I can argue about that. But the field I work in is extremely specific and the whole of my 2.5 years of experience are highly relevant to my current position so as you guys said I think it's worth discussing it. Thanks !
    – qwetzal
    Mar 21, 2022 at 11:27

1 Answer 1


The degree associated with a certain payment group only serves as orientation/minimal requirement. It is also usually coupled to the position within the funding, so even if they wanted to offer you a higher group there, they couldn't. Roughly speaking, if they hired you e.g. as an untrained lab assistant, then you get paid as an untrained lab assistant, even if you also happen to have a PhD in the same field.

What is different is the level (Stufe) within each group. This only depends on work experience relevant to the job. So if your work experience was in something similar to what you are hired for now, this may be worth discussing with your boss.

  • Thanks for the explanation. My previous experience is in the exact same field and pretty relevant to this position. I was not employed in Germany though, would that be an issue ? I will discuss it during our next meeting anyway.
    – qwetzal
    Mar 21, 2022 at 13:32
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    @qwetzal If you have not been employed in the "Öffentliche Dienst" before (basically in a position that pays according to TVöD), the worthiness of previous work experience (an with it the level into which you are sorted), even if done in Germany, is something that you need to negotiate with your future employer. Normally the levels work like this: after one year you switch to level 2, after 2 more to level 3 and so on.
    – Sursula
    Mar 21, 2022 at 13:57
  • @qwetzal Normally the country does not matter. Depending on whoever makes the decisions in the bureaucracy, the result may vary though. I've heard everything, from people getting their PhD-time (in a different country) counted as work experience for a post-doc position to "only work in the precisely same position in the same federal state can be counted"...
    – mlk
    Mar 21, 2022 at 14:06
  • @mlk Thank you guys, I will have a chat with my employer, I have a good relation with them and they are honest people so hopefully they can push in my direction. Will edit this post with the answer I got.
    – qwetzal
    Mar 21, 2022 at 14:28

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