Office for the Equal Treatment of EU Workers

FAQ Vocational training

It is possible to begin a vocational training programme at any time in Germany, irrespective of your age, gender or nationality. However, it is necessary to find a company which will offer you a training place. The Employment Agencies or chambers (such as chambers of trade and industry, chambers of crafts or chambers of agriculture) can help you to find the right training occupation and a company to provide training.

In certain circumstances, you can also develop your vocational skills through continuing training (Weiterbildung) or retraining (Umschulung). Depending on the occupation in question, these programmes have a duration of between 1.5 months and 3.5 years, and they can be funded by the Federal Employment Agency (Bundesagentur für Arbeit), job centres or rehabilitation funds. For example, you may be eligible for funding if you lack a vocational qualification which is in demand in the labour market, or if you have to change career for health reasons. Further information is available here.

More detailed information on the education system in Germany and on general and vocational education for adults, in particular, can be found on the website of the European education information network, Eurydice.

People who complete a vocational training programme under the dual system or full-time school-based vocational training gain a vocational qualification which entitles them to pursue a specific occupation.
The dual system, which combines in-company training and theoretical learning, has a long tradition in Germany and enjoys strong support from businesses. It is a vital part of the reason why Germany has the lowest youth unemployment rate within the EU. Nationwide standards and a state-recognised qualification are a guarantee of quality which employers can take into account when hiring new employees. Vocational training leads to occupations which are in wide demand, and this secures the mobility of workers with a vocational qualification – they usually find a new job more quickly. Skilled workers with a vocational qualification therefore have a lower risk of unemployment and often earn more than workers without formal vocational qualifications. In addition, the dual system offers excellent opportunities for advanced vocational training and career advancement, e.g. to become a Handwerksmeister (master craftsman), an Industriemeister (industrial supervisor) or a Fachwirt (certified specialist in a given field). Vocational training under the dual system therefore provides a foundation for lifelong learning and good career prospects.

A wide range of individual support services are available to promote initial and continuing vocational training. The local Employment Agency (Agentur für Arbeit) or job centre decides on a case-by-case basis whether funding for continuing vocational training is the right instrument to support adults’ integration into the labour market and whether the legal requirements are met. The Federal Employment Agency offers information about this on its website. You will also find a link there to Leaflet 6 (Merkblatt 6), which sets out in what circumstances funding can be provided for continuing training programmes.

Entry requirements: Full-time vocational schools (Berufsfachschulen) usually expect applicants to have an intermediate school-leaving certificate (Realschulabschluss). In some fields, a secondary general school-leaving certificate (Hauptschulabschluss) is also accepted. A prior work experience placement is also required for some training programmes. Some schools set additional aptitude tests.

Duration: The duration of a purely school-based vocational training programme is normally between 1 and 3 years.

Work experience placements: Work experience placements are an important part of school-based vocational training. They can take place either on certain days each week, or as a block over a longer period of time.
The theoretical part of the training programme is supplemented by 3 or more work experience placements in various organisations. Particularly in the health sector, vocational schools are able to arrange these placements because they have close links with businesses or are even directly affiliated with hospitals. These placements offer an opportunity to put theoretical knowledge into practice.

Qualification: Attending a full-time vocational school for 1 to 2 years results in a “basic vocational training” qualification (Berufliche Grundbildung). A programme with a duration of 2 to 3 years, however, leads to a vocational qualification (Berufsausbildung). Generally, people who complete school-based vocational training receive a recognised qualification (e.g. state-certified IT assistant, state-certified business management specialist or state-certified care assistant).
Depending on the vocational school and Land (federal state) in question, individuals undertaking school-based vocational training can also gain an intermediate school-leaving certificate (Realschulabschluss) or even the entrance qualification for universities of applied sciences (Fachhochschulreife or Fachabitur) in the course of the programme.

Vocational training under the dual system is regulated by the Vocational Training Act (Berufsbildungsgesetz) and the training regulations for the individual occupations. These define the framework for the vocational training, for example the rights and responsibilities of apprentices or the programme content.

The specific framework for an individual’s vocational training is defined by the training contract. The competent organisations (e.g. chambers of industry and commerce or chambers of crafts) oversee the training and set the examinations.

Entry requirements: Strictly speaking, a specific school-leaving certificate is not required to undertake vocational training under the dual system. In principle, the Vocational Training Act allows anyone to undertake any vocational training programme under the dual system, irrespective of gender, age or school-leaving certificate. In practice, however, many companies which provide training set minimum requirements for applicants; for example, applicants can be required to have a certain school-leaving certificate or good marks in certain subjects.

Duration: Depending on the occupation, the duration of a vocational training programme under the dual system is usually between 2 and 3.5 years. The individual’s school-leaving certificate and performance during the training can affect the duration and lead to the programme being shortened or extended.

Vocational training in the workplace: The apprentice normally spends 3 or 4 days a week working in a company or organisation, where he or she learns practical or craft skills. The content to be learned for each occupation is set out in the occupation’s overall training plan.

Vocational training at a vocational school: In addition to working in the company which is providing training, apprentices generally attend a vocational school (Berufsschule) for between 8 and 12 hours of lessons each week. The curriculum varies depending on the occupation in question and the Land (federal state) where the vocational training is being undertaken. The lessons are divided into specialised theoretical content designed specifically for the occupation in question, and general content. The general content includes German, politics, religion and sport, for example.

Qualification: During vocational training under the dual system, there are usually two important examinations which apprentices have to pass. The first is the intermediate examination, which is sat halfway through the programme, and which is intended to show that the apprentice is making good progress and has grasped the content covered so far. Passing the final examination (or “journeyman’s examination” (Gesellenprüfung) in the crafts sector) marks the end of the vocational training programme.

Completing vocational training does not have to be the end of the story. In many sectors, it is possible to work towards advanced vocational qualifications; in the crafts sector, for example, people can work towards the master craftsman’s diploma (Meisterbrief). A wide range of other possibilities also open up after completion of a vocational training programme, such as continuing vocational training, additional training or education programmes, or higher education.

Every apprentice is entitled to “appropriate pay”. The amount of pay varies depending on the sector, the occupation and the company providing training. Anything from an average of 250 euros a month to 950 euros a month is possible. If employers have concluded a collective agreement with the trade unions, the level of pay is defined in it.

In certain circumstances, apprentices can receive additional financial support from the Employment Agency (Agentur für Arbeit), in the form of the vocational training grant (Berufsausbildungshilfe).

Please note: This entitlement, which you have as an EU worker, has not been fully taken into account in German legislation (Section 59 of Book III of the Social Code (Sozialgesetzbuch)). Your application is therefore likely to be denied unless you have lived in Germany for at least 5 years (permanent resident status). You can take action to overturn this denial. Seek legal advice. You can use our search tool to find an advice centre near you.

Vocational school students are paid during some school-based programmes. This is the case for people training to become a registered general nurse, for example.

However, it is often the case that vocational school students are not paid. Financial support is offered by the training assistance offices (Ämter für Ausbildungsförderung): people undertaking school-based vocational training programmes can ask these offices to check whether they are entitled to receive financial support under the Federal Training Assistance Act (Bundesausbildungsförderungsgesetz); this support is better known in German as “Schüler-BAföG”.
The training assistance offices are part of the local authorities at town or county level.

The Employment Agencies (Agenturen für Arbeit) are available to provide advice and assistance at any time in the search for a suitable vocational training place. In addition to personalised services in the form of advice sessions and placement services, young people also have access to a wide range of services to help them to search for vocational training places independently. They can use the Jobbörse site to search for in-company training places. School-based vocational training programmes nationwide can be found online using the Kursnet website. Assistance in the search for a training place is also available at the information days held by the Employment Agencies’ careers information centres (Berufsinformationszentren) or at vocational training fairs.

In addition to the support provided by the Federal Employment Agency (Bundesagentur für Arbeit), assistance in the search for a training place is also offered by the online jobs sites run by the chambers of crafts and the chambers of industry and commerce.

Support is also available from the chambers themselves (e.g. chambers of industry and commerce, chambers of crafts or chambers of agriculture). They have advisers who seek to bring potential apprentices and businesses together by helping small and medium-sized businesses to recruit young people from within Germany or abroad for their training places.

General information can also be found on the website “Du und Deine Ausbildung = praktisch unschlagbar”.

The 10 most popular training occupations among young women at present are as follows:

  • Office manager
  • medical assistant
  • sales assistant for retail services
  • management assistant for retail services
  • dental assistant
  • industrial business management assistant
  • hairdresser
  • specialist in the hotel business
  • salesperson specialising in foodstuffs
  • bank clerk

The 10 most popular training occupations among young men at present are as follows:

  • Motor vehicle mechatronics technician
  • electronics technician
  • management assistant for retail services
  • industrial mechanic
  • mechanic for sanitation
  • heating and air conditioning systems
  • sales assistant for retail services
  • IT specialist
  • warehouse logistics operator
  • management assistant in wholesale and foreign trade
  • office manager

It is often difficult to find a training place for particularly popular occupations. For this reason, young people should find out about various occupations rather than pinning all their hopes on a specific occupation from the outset. They should try to identify their own capabilities and preferences and choose suitable occupations on that basis. Besides the ten most popular occupations, there are a wide spectrum of interesting occupations in a variety of different sectors. More detailed information on occupational profiles and the school-leaving certificates required can be found on the website of the Federal Institute for Vocational Education and Training (Bundesinstitut für Berufsbildung) or the Federal Employment Agency (Bundesagentur für Arbeit), for example. The Federal Employment Agency offers a careers advice service for young people, which seeks to help them to find the right occupation for them (Berufsberatung). At the Federal Employment Agency’s careers information centre (Berufsinformationszentrum), young people can find information about the full range of vocational training and higher education opportunities.