In German-speaking countries, what is the difference between a Professor and an FH-Professor? I have come across both terms and FH-Professors seem to work at universities of applied sciences (FH=UAS; differences to universities see here) but I wonder what the difference in the formal qualification level of the professors is and what the formal requirements are to become one of the two?

  • 3
    Not a full answer, but more of a general hint: each of Germany's 16 federal states has its own local laws and regulations for higher education, and there are many commonalities but also differences between different states. In the case of FH professors, that might, for example, concern the required number of years in industry. Commented Jul 12, 2022 at 11:07
  • if you can choose between both types of professorships, I would rather think about what favors your life goals and personality, because we have enough teachers and professors in Ger which aimed for this career mostly because of public servant status. In future we cannot afford anymore such types of applicants and they will likely be much more out-selected. So the question among commitees will be is he the right person and not only qualified? Commented Jul 12, 2022 at 15:54
  • 1
    @user48953094: "we have enough [...] professors in Ger[many] which aimed for this career mostly because of public servant status." This seems very unlikely to me. One of the main advantages of working in public service in Germany - especially for "Beamte" - is the extremely high level of job security. But if one is mainly looking for high job security, a career in academia is probably one of the worst decisions one can make. Commented Jul 12, 2022 at 20:32

4 Answers 4


Situation in Austria:


FH-Professor have fewer scientific publications and they don't need to be in the most prestigious journals (as compared to university professors) but on the contrary management experience in industry is expected (e.g. managing multiple persons at the R&D department of a company for several years). Also the teaching qualification level is usually higher than for University Professors.

Long version:

The following criteria apply for a FH-Professor (FHStG):

  1. Formal criteria
  • At least PhD but ideally Habilitation
  • Proof of full-time employment at the UAS for at least 2 years and teaching activities during this time
  1. Quality Criteria
  • Scientific qualifications: Subject-specific publications, invited lectures, awards, memberships in (inter)national associations, editorial functions, grant, scientific and university management
  • Proof of professional qualification: Several years of industry experience, of which usually at least 2 years of non-university management experience. Optional additional qualifications such as e.g. patents
  • Proof of didactic qualification e.g. completion of relevant university didactic training seminars
  • Proof of international experience in teaching and/or research (e.g. research stay abroad)

The following criteria apply for a University Professor (UG):

  • Subject specific PhD or an equivalent foreign university degree (Habilitation is NOT a criterium anymore even though the below mentioned scientific qualifications usually need to exceed those of the Habilitation anyway)
  • Outstanding scientific qualification in the field
  • Successful and continuous acquisition of competitive third-party funds
  • Academic leadership and management experience, including gender and diversity competence
  • Educational and didactic qualification
  • International work experienc

To become a professor in Germany, you need sufficient academic qualification, that is at least a PhD and, in most cases, an additional habilitation, proof of relevant scientific activities trough publications and proof of capability of teaching through previous experience. If a habilitation is necessary is mostly dependent on the area of studies, in more "applied" university subjects like engineering it is sometimes/quite often waived.

To become a professor at the FH (university of applied sciences), you normally don't need a habilition. Until quite recently, you did not even (necessarily) have a docotorate if you had enough "applied knowledge", proven by relevant industry working experience. These days, after complaints from university professors that is is unfair that others can become professors without a PhD, they changed it in most places so that you DO need a doctorate on top of 3-5 years of relevant industry experience, teaching experience and publications.

If you do speak German, have a look at this list of types of professors in Germany.

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    Not sure if habilitation is still required "in most cases" to become professor - there's a trend in many fields to go away from habilitation (and instead asking for habilitation-equivalent merits). Otherwise good answer. Commented Jul 12, 2022 at 10:56

Practical differences:

  • A FH Professor has to teach much more. And he needs on average much more applied knowledge and expertise and often worked some years after or during his PhD in industry.
  • Professor is a title in Germany, no grade. You don't need under all circumstances a PhD or Habilitation to become Professor, but at Universities Habilitation or Junior-Professorship is mostly the rule/required after PhD vs. FH.
  • FHs can be better equipped with hardware and infrastructure than universities in the same state for similar study courses. To make it more complicated Germany also has TU's (technical universities)
  • Fundamental research is not the goal of FHs and graduating PhDs, so if you have to decide to become Uni or FH-Professor for 20-30 years there are quite different and distinctive criterions to choose imho

In common:

  • Both are public servants and get around 2/3 of their salary after retirement as a pension.

So much of the formal issues and legals duties and rights can vary by local state laws in Germany

  • 5
    He or she.... don't assume by default that professors are men. Commented Jul 13, 2022 at 12:57
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    And please do not assume that concise language equals discrimination...
    – Manziel
    Commented Jul 13, 2022 at 15:29
  • @DeboraWeber-Wulff when reading this answer, I was actually thinking about a German professor friend of mine (to compare with France). The fact she is a woman did not even register, I was comparing professors to professors.
    – WoJ
    Commented Jul 13, 2022 at 15:49
  • 1
    @Manziel I don't assume it equals discrimination; it clearly and on the face of it is discriminatory because it excludes women. I accept btw that your intention is that "the masculine includes the feminine", but that is not how it is read by most people and just adding that disclaimer doesn't actually help. Changing "He" to "They" only adds an additional two characters, so is not really much less concise. Commented Jul 15, 2022 at 7:28
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    Please go back to first grade and generic titles. A single person is never "they", that is a plural form. I feel pretty much annoyed by people who obviously have nothing better to do than pointing towards correct language as discriminatory. Even more so when it takes me not more than one minute on the university page of DWW to find various examples of so dicriminatory generic masculin... (to avoid further off-topic discussions this will be my last comment to this)
    – Manziel
    Commented Jul 15, 2022 at 12:31

There are several differences:

  • An FH professor is considered to have a full-time teaching position and as such is required to teach 16-18 hours per work week (differs from state to state). In contrast, a university professor is only required to teach 8-9 hours per work week.
  • The flip side is that each university professor has a mandate to conduct research in his field ("Forschungsauftrag"). While there is no formal test whether a professor indeed conducts research during the work time that he's not teaching it will look bad if he doesn't. In contrast, in an FH the mandate to conduct research applies only to whole departments, not to individuals. Individual professors may or may not conduct research, and due to their teaching work load if they want to conduct research they often have to apply to to be temporarily released from (part of) their teaching requirements ("Forschungsfreisemester").
  • University professors usually have a permanent budget to employ zero to four (as negotiated in the professor's employment contract) full-time research assistants ("Haushaltsstellen"). For FH professors there's no such budget. Both can apply for third-party research grants to hire additional research assistants.
  • FH professors are always at the formal job grade W2. University professors start at either job grade W1 (while being employed as a junior professor) or W2 (when in possession of a venia legendi either through a prior successful junior professorship or through "habilitation") and can be "promoted" to W2 and finally W3 - with significant salary increases. Promotion is usually not a university-internal process though, but rather happens either by accepting a higher-grade professor position at a different university, or as a counter-offer ("Bleibeverhandlung") from the professor's current university after having received a binding offer from a different university.
  • Very thorough answer! Only two things don't seem accurate to me: 1. There is no "promotion" from W1 to W2 or W2 to W3. It has to be a new hire (in all cases I know of). 2. Change "two to four full time research assistants" to "zero to four". This is very field dependent and I know professors with zero Haushaltsstellen.
    – Dirk
    Commented Jul 13, 2022 at 7:42
  • @Dirk Regarding 1: At least in some fields, tenure track models are getting more common these days. The most common is W1 to either W2 or W3, but I've also seen cases for W2-to-W3 tenure track. Commented Jul 13, 2022 at 8:21
  • @Dirk thanks for the feedback, I've updated the answer accordingly. Commented Jul 13, 2022 at 8:42
  • @lighthousekeeper That's true, but still, tenure track does not include promotion in the sense the you will just rise up to the next level. All cases I know worked like the university offered a new position that can be filled without public announcement of the position. But still, an application had to be written and a hiring committee had to make a decision (I even had to give a job interview and a lecture…)
    – Dirk
    Commented Jul 13, 2022 at 9:27
  • Great answer. Minor addition: the difference between FHs and universities is currently very dynamic. Many FH Professors are doing a lot of research, starting to do more fundamental research, are getting the right to supervise PhD students, and start to have less teaching load. Details depend on the state, the FH, the department and the individual professor. Commented Jul 14, 2022 at 11:53

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