Is it true that in Germany, after PhD you are required to acquire some kind of tenure track or teaching position before a certain age? Is this the same all over Germany? Does it depend on the field? I could not find any good information or statistics on this online, at least not in English.

2 Answers 2


There is no actual age limit.

However, there is a limit of the number of years on which you can be employed in academia in Germany before and after your PhD on positions with a limited-duration contract and that are not professorships - currently that is be six years before the PhD and six years after the PhD. Afterwards, no new working contract can be issued.

This requirement comes from the "Wissenschaftszeitvertragsgesetz", which is a federal law.

So at some point, you have to snatch a permanent position. There are some "glorified postdoc" positions ("Akademischer Rat") that are permanent, but they are rare.

There is an enormous amount of ifs and but surrounding the limits. This includes, but is not limited to:

  1. The maximum number of years get extended if you have children
  2. The limits are slightly different in the medical domain
  3. If the number of limited-time contracts held so far is too high, the administration may block your contract extension.
  4. Even beyond the limit, you may still be employable on third-party funding.
  5. Unspent parts of the 6 years before the PhD can be also used after the PhD, but times spent on a scholarship (not employment) need to be subtracted first.
  • 7
    Excellent answer. It might be good to add a few lines on why this has been introduced (e.g. exploitation of non-tenured staff on repeatedly extended fixed-time positions) and why this employment duration limitation is a problematic matter. Truly, this response answers the question very well, but it is useful for others perhaps to have some context. Jun 1 at 21:51
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    @CaptainEmacs Yes, I would love to add that, but I'm lacking a good source to be honest. The limit has several effects, including "freeing" the precious "Promotionsstellen" after some time and enforcing that those that will not have a scientific career find their way into industry faster. But which one is the reason why it was originally introduced is a bit hard to tell. Feel free to edit if you have a good source. Avoiding the exploitation of junior researchers is surely another aspect.
    – DCTLib
    Jun 2 at 10:30
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    Ah, yes, the clean sourcing problem! I sympathise; no, I do not have good sources at hand, just memories of general discussions. So, if you want sourcing instead of speculations, more digging would have to be done, right now I am reluctant to promise anything, as I have a full schedule. Jun 2 at 12:36

In addition to DCTLibs great answer: There is an age limit after which you cannot become "verbeamtet" (a special public official status) anymore. It varies from state to state but it is normally around 50.

Almost all professors are beamtet so getting your first professorship later than that might be a problem. There are ways around it but it is a hassle.

Additionally, in some states (Baden-Wüttemberg at least) you cannot get a junior professorship if you have been employed at the university for more than six years after the beginning of your PhD. But this is about your academic age, not your actual age.

  • "you cannot get a junior professorship if you have been employed at the university for more than six years after the beginning of your PhD": Similar rules are common for funding available for junior researchers. Also, this is not about biological age. Jun 3 at 8:52

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