According to the Vocational Training Act (BBiG) and the Crafts and Trades Code (HwO), no specific prior training is required for taking up vocational training. Depending on the respective profession, however, most companies require at least a secondary general school-leaving certificate, if not even an intermediate school leaving certificate (middle school leaving certificate, intermediate school-leaving certificate) or the (technical) university entrance qualification (higher education entrance qualification). Without a school-leaving certificate, it is very difficult to find an apprenticeship on the German job market.
Responsibility for the school system lies with the respective 16 Federal states. Therefore, parts of the school system can be designed very differently. You can find a graphic overview of the school-leaving qualifications from primary school to general and vocational schools as well as the educational qualifications on the website planet-beruf.de of the Federal Employment Agency.
Primary school is the first school for all children. It is usually divided from class 1 to class 4. After primary school, the children can usually attend three classic types of school, which should be briefly described:
Secondary general school-leaving certificate:
The secondary general school-leaving certificate qualifies above all for taking up dual vocational training. To do so, however, young people first have to find an apprenticeship in a company. However, many companies providing training require an intermediate school-leaving certificate. Adolescents who are no longer of school age and
- have not yet found an apprenticeship or
- have lost the training position and would like to reorientate themselves professionally or
- who do not have a school-leaving certificate can complete a pre-vocational training program (BvB) from the Employment Agency. It usually lasts up to ten months.
Intermediate school-leaving certificate:
For young people with an intermediate school-leaving certificate (also called secondary school leaving certificate or middle school graduation) the range of career opportunities is significantly larger. The intermediate school-leaving certificate opens the way to many vocational training courses. In addition to dual vocational training, it also enables full-time school-based vocational training and provides access to the various types of school at the upper secondary level (specialised upper secondary school, two-year full-time vocational school, specialised academic secondary school) and the higher education entrance qualification (Abitur), in some cases subject to a certain average grade.
Higher education entrance qualification (Abitur):
The higher education entrance qualification opens up the possibility of studying at a university if this is desired. This can be a university or a university of applied sciences. The university entrance qualification is obtained by means of the following school qualifications:
- the general higher education entrance qualification (Abitur),
- subject-restricted higher education entrance qualification (subject-restricted Abitur) or
- the entrance qualification for universities of applied sciences (Fachabitur)
The website of the Standing Conference of the Ministers of Education and Cultural Affairs (KMK) provides a schematic overview of the education system in Germany with explanations of the qualifications in German or English.
It is usually possible to catch up on a school-leaving certificate at night schools (evening secondary schools, evening intermediate secondary schools, evening academic secondary schools) and full-time adult education colleges. Evening secondary schools prepare adults in a one-year course (2 semesters) for the acquisition of the secondary general school-leaving certificate. Evening intermediate secondary schools lead adults in evening courses (4 semesters) to the middle school certificate. Evening academic secondary schools enable the acquisition of the university entrance qualification within a period of usually 3 years. Full-time adult education college are full-time schools to obtain the university entrance qualification.