Am I qualified?
When compared to the international job market, the job market in Germany is extremely structured. Most Germans leave school with a vocational certification or a university degree that qualifies them for a specific career path. Some of these career paths are in regulated professions, which are strictly regulated. In these fields, employers are prohibited from hiring employees who do not have the relevant qualifications. Other career paths are a bit more flexible, but German employers do tend to expect candidates to have specific expertise. Although job market is getting more and more flexible with each year, both because of changes in the German education system (the Bologna reforms shifted most German higher education from a variety of traditional German degree programs to a combination of Bachelor and Master’s degrees) and because of shifts in the job market, employers tend to look for relatively specific profiles – especially when compared to international employers – when searching for candidates. In some non-regulated professions, specific degrees or professional qualifications can be an inflexible requirement.
There are a few steps you can take to find out whether you’re considered qualified for a job in Germany. First, you’ll need to find out whether your field is considered a “regulated profession”. If you’re in one of those fields, there’s no way around the qualification. In that case, you’ll need a professional qualification that’s recognized by the appropriate authority. You can find out whether you’ll need a professional qualification using this tool from the government. Anerkennung in Deutschland (English version)
If you’re not in a regulated profession, the next step is to find out how important your background will be to employers who are hiring in your field. You might be able to find some information using the tool above. You can also check Berufenet (this tool is only available in German, so you’ll need to have some German skills to navigate the portal).
If you’re a student in Germany or a recent graduate, check with your department coordinator to see if they can help you. They can often give you feedback on whether your career path fits with the degree program you’re enrolled in or have just completed.
Once you’ve got some basic information, the next step is to do an analysis of job postings. See what degrees or qualifications are listed in as many postings in your field as you can find in Germany. If the posting lists “or similar degree” then there is a bit of flexibility, but if it simply lists degrees, then they’re primarily interested in candidates with that background and may not be open to others.
For some fields – primarily professions that require vocational training, but occasionally also for career paths based on applied university degrees – you can try checking with the career counselors at the Arbeitsagentur, but they’re not always knowledgeable about career paths for people with university degrees. Finally, check with peers in your field who are already working in Germany.
Remember, for non-regulated professions, you have a much better chance of moving forward on a career path without all of the standard qualifications. You’ll need to tell a great story and find an organization that will be open to hiring you.