I am trying to understand if a 6-year long position of "researcher for habilitation" (called "Habilitationsstelle"), and that is offered in German universities, would be a junior position (just after the PhD) or with some level of seniority (maybe after 4-6 years of postdocs).

Other way around, what could be the average age for people who start the "Habilitationsstelle" in Germany ? Maybe just after the PhD, or after several years of postdocs ?

Also, could the "Habilitationsstelle" be equivalent to an Assistant Professor?

  • 3
    From experience: several people I know have started their Habilitationsstelle straight after completion of their PhD
    – Sursula
    Mar 20, 2023 at 7:34
  • Thanks a lot for your comment! Given this comment, to me, it looks like a junior position, with a sort of unique 6-year block of postdoc instead of the very common succession of 1 or 2 years long contracts as postdoc.... Therefore, a sort of long postdoc... :-) Therefore, to my understanding, if for example you have already 5-6 years of postdoc experience (plus other work experiences), this "Habilitationsstelle" does not look like a real step forward in your career, but more a continuation of the current status of postdoc...
    – Ommo
    Mar 20, 2023 at 8:22

2 Answers 2


One is not supposed to be employed on temporary positions at German universities for more than 6 years after the PhD. While there are exceptions to this rule, this indicates that such a position should be available to recent PhDs.

Such a position shouldn't be considered equivalent to a US-style Assistant Professorship, because of the lack of independence. It is a postdoc position.

  • Thanks a lot @Arno!! ... But I don't understand something... So, if you have already 5 years of postdocs in another country (i.e. not Germany), and you get that position of "Habilitationsstelle" in Germany, it means that you can be employed for only 1 year for that position of "Habilitationsstelle" in Germany (even though it is a 6-year position)??
    – Ommo
    Mar 19, 2023 at 22:59
  • 5
    @limone Positions outside of Germany doesn't count for the 6 year rule.
    – Arno
    Mar 19, 2023 at 23:02
  • In addition, if in that position you are supposed to get third-party funds to hire some PhDs (and even 1 post-doc), would that position of "Habilitationsstelle" still be considered as a postdoc job ??
    – Ommo
    Mar 19, 2023 at 23:03
  • 1
    @limone Is this a NachwuchsgruppenleiterIn?
    – Arno
    Mar 19, 2023 at 23:06
  • 3
    @limone If the role indeed includes applying for funding in your own name, and then being the official supervisor of PhD students, I'd indeed be inclined to consider it an Assistant-Professor-equivalent. On the other hand, it might be that the role is to "assist" the Professor in charge in doing those things.
    – Arno
    Mar 19, 2023 at 23:30

In Germany (and countries with similar systems) the route to becoming a professor requires* an additional qualification above your doctorate. This process is known as Habilitation. So a "Habilitationsstelle" is the position / job that you will do while working towards this even higher qualification. Same as a Doktorstelle is the position / job you will hold while working towards your doctorate. So yes it is postdoctoral, but not really equivalent to the way the US or UK systems work.

* Thanks to the commenters who have clarified it's not strictly required, it's also possible to have your body of work judged to be equivalent to having completed a Habilitation.

  • Many thanks @jovisg!!
    – Ommo
    Mar 20, 2023 at 11:00
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    To nitpick a bit here: The additional qualification for a professorship does not need to be a Habilitation. Doing enough work so that it counts as equivalent ("Habilitationsäquivalente Leistungen") is also sufficient. How common that route is depends on the subject culture. With the "1000 Tenure-Track Stellen Programm" by the federal government having started a while back, it's at least moderately common, though.
    – DCTLib
    Mar 20, 2023 at 12:19
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    Thanks a lot @DCTLib!! From your comment I understand that the Habilitation and therefore the Habilitationsstelle is not really necessary (even though quite useful) to get a professorship (maybe directly as Associate Professor, W2)
    – Ommo
    Mar 20, 2023 at 16:57
  • 2
    @limone Yes, it's not strictly needed if the respective state laws mention the possibility of "Habilitationsäquivalente Leistungen" (which I believe all do). However, hiring committees will want to see substantial research experience, teaching experience, and success in attracting third party funding. Not all scientific positions enable you to work towards ticking all of these boxes.
    – DCTLib
    Mar 20, 2023 at 22:28
  • thanks a lot @DCTLib!!
    – Ommo
    Mar 21, 2023 at 13:50

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