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I am a Computer Science PhD student aiming for an Academic career. One of the options I am considering after I receive the degree is to apply for a W1 professor position in Germany (Junior professor).

My question is very specific to Germany. Is there a chance I can become a Junior professor without being fluent in German? Most of the job postings I come across are actually written in German. Some of them do not mention German knowledge as a requirement, but it could be that it goes without saying.

I know that many courses, particularly in master programs, are taught in English. So I am sure there is a capacity to teach in English. But I am wondering if there is a culture of preferring and only accepting German speakers. Because if that's the case, I should start putting back up options.

Obviously I could work on my German. But my question is assuming I did not reach the required level of German until the time I start applying for Junior professorship.

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    I've seen it happen that someone with only very basic command of German got a professorship in Germany, but I guess you have to be their first choice by far to get the position. – Sumyrda Jan 28 '16 at 14:25
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    I think it is quite unlikely to get a Juniorprofessor position without any PostDoc - or similar - experience. Regarding the knowledge of German, typically most BSc programs in CS in Germany are taught in German, and as a Juniorprofessor, you will generally be expected to teach at that level as well. – user42643 Feb 19 '16 at 10:19
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You can certainly apply. I don't think German language proficiency will have a major impact on your chances, as long as your research record/profile is good and you are able to at least understand some German in case a student asks in German. Computer science students usually need to be able understand at least some English...

I disagree with earlier posts that you would be "expected to give undergraduate-level lectures". On the contrary, they would usually prefer you to give smaller (=specialized) classes until you have some more experience... Sometimes, you can find this in the advertisement.

However, German academia is very competitive!

We do not have a lot of professor positions, and it appears quite common to take 6-12 months to fill a position (make that 12-24 months for full professor positions)... according to Times Higher Education, Germany has the worst student-to-professors ratio (source). You may say, the German system is very efficient. We have few professors, yet we have a very high output of very educated people!

As far as I can tell, you need to:

  • be the best match for their plan
  • have had some third-party funding
  • have a strong track record (papers in top venues, awards, 100+ citations)
  • have been at different universities
  • have some teaching experience
  • convince them in person

So don't be surprised if you don't hear anything back (not even an invitation to present) on your first applications. Maybe you will get a negative reply after a year or two, when the new professor has arrived at his position. Maybe not even that. So, do not wait for an answer when you apply. Continue sending applications and making backup plans.

There is a reason why Postdocs ("Mittelbau") complain a lot in Germany (according to a recent study, even 50% of Junior Professors consider quitting academia because of the lack of perspective - most junior professor positions are currently not tenure-track). They do a lot of the work (both in research and teaching) and usually have only up to three years of work contract.

  • "You may say, the German system is very efficient. We have few professors, yet we have a very high output of very educated people!" I may say this certainly made my day! – user12956 Feb 1 '16 at 14:44
  • You may also say the German system is very inefficient: Both in adding new positions, as well as in filling the existing positions (it seems to always take at least one year to fill a professor position). But either way, academic output is good. KDD2014 had acceptance rate by country with Germany being a positive outlier (it's clipped, because it was the add-later surprise) - so we do have quality. – Erich Schubert Feb 4 '16 at 13:10
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It depends on the position, but in general full German proficiency is not required for German professorships.

  • Why the downvotes? – Oleg Lobachev Feb 9 '18 at 12:57
  • @OlegLobachev probably because of any reference or source material for the claim (not that I downvoted myself, but just an educated guess) – posdef Aug 1 at 10:26

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