I am currently pursuing my masters degree in computer science from TU Munich, and I would love to pursue my PhD soon after my graduation, but I am worried about the finances at the same time.

What I gather is I should be able to make a decent enough salary but what I do not understand clearly, is whether I would retain my student status during my PhD and enjoy reduced taxation?

With reduced taxation and few other student benefits, it could possibly mean I have a more stable financial situation.

  • I don't know specifically about Germany but in other European countries you would retain your student status. That will most likely be the case for Germany as well.
    – Trylks
    Jul 31, 2014 at 10:30
  • I don't think many people do a PhD for reasons. You may avoid taxes but you get paid significantly less than equivalent jobs in industry.
    – nivag
    Jul 31, 2014 at 10:44
  • 1
    Look at it this way: If you don't do a PhD right after finishing your Masters, then what are the chances of you ever doing one? If you love your subject and want to do the PhD, then will you be able to look back in 50 years and say you don't regret not taking the chance when you had it?
    – user643192
    Jul 31, 2014 at 10:52
  • The question about compensation in a non-academic career (I gather you were asking about salary in industry in the first part of the post, not the PhD salary, though it's not completely clear) is off-topic here, so I have removed that part from the post. (For future reference: please include only one question per post, anyways)
    – ff524
    Jul 31, 2014 at 11:04

2 Answers 2


Yes and no. Student status does not lead to reduced taxation in Germany (that should hold for non-locals, too). Instead, low incomes and scholarships are not subject to tax, which is probably what you are referring to. The maximum amount for scholarships before they are subject to taxation is said to be higher for non-Germans, though. As a student, health insurance is also cheaper.

You are unlikely to get the cheaper health insurance as a PhD student as well. Depending on the state in which you do your PhD, you may or may not be allowed to enroll as a PhD student, so you may lose benefits such as cheaper food in the student canteen. Other than that, see the links provided in the comments to your question by Wolfgang Kuehne, as the taxation situation is very much dependent on how your PhD studies are funded.

However, being subject to taxation and full-fee health insurance is not necessarily bad, as if you manage to find a 100% paid scientific employee position (which is not uncommon for CS), you will see that the net income is actually quite ok - even if you take the higher accommodation cost in Munich into account.

  • It may make sense to move the question to the expats stackexchange site, though.
    – DCTLib
    Jul 31, 2014 at 11:21
  • Some Universities (e.g. Potsdam) actually require that all PhD students are enrolled. Jul 31, 2014 at 17:18
  • Also, most student discounts are bound to you being primarily a student, i.e. spending most of your 40h/week time on studying/researching instead of outside work. That means, that in order to be eligible to e.g. the public student health insurance, you can only work at most 20h/week (and be below a certain age). Jul 31, 2014 at 17:20
  • The problem with student health insurance is that it requires you not to have completed your education-for-the-job. A Master counts as such. While many health insurance in the past weren't so precise about these rules, the legal situation is that the cheap student rate is not available for PhD students if they have a Master's degree already - even if you are on a scholarship. For non-scholarship holders (i.e., scientific employees at universities), this is a non-issue anyway as the "regular" rate is mandatory for public service employees. However, the university pays ~%50% of it.
    – DCTLib
    Aug 1, 2014 at 8:10

I'm not sure where you get the idea that a CS grad student in the US makes more than a CS student in Germany. If you get a full TV-L position (100%), which many CS positions are, then your net pay after deductions starts at 25,000 € per year (roughly $34,000), and goes up from there. I know of very few US graduate students whose net income is that large—most of them may get that much as a gross salary, and are then responsible for paying taxes and health insurance out of that sum.

If you aren't trying to raise a family, or have exceptional financial circumstances, the graduate salary (it's a salary, not a stipend—as it usually is in the US) is probably more than sufficient to live anywhere in Germany. (Also, you receive full social benefits, including retirement and health insurance.)

So, salary considerations shouldn't be a significant part of your decision-making process—at least not in the sense of "can I afford to be a graduate student?" You can ask if that's a lifestyle you want to be living, compared to what's possible if you go into industry.

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