doing your PhD in Germany

applying for a PhD in Germany

Are you interested in doing a PhD in Germany but don’t really know where and how to apply? Here’s some information which we hope might make things a little easier for you.

In addition to the information which we have compiled for you, the following website and the booklet for prospective international doctoral students provide you with much more detailed information on everything related to doing a PhD in Germany):

There’s basically three ways to do a PhD in Germany. You can either look for a paid PhD position (with a professor or at a graduate school), you can apply for a scholarship or you can do a self-funded PhD. Of course, the last option is the hardest, especially if you don’t live in Germany already and need to apply for a visa.

Finding a paid position or a scholarship

In general, your chances of getting a paid position as a PhD researcher are highest if you look for official job postings. These can be hard to find, especially in the humanities. If you are a member of GAPS, you can find job openings in the monthly newsletter. Moreover, you can also have a look at the openings posted by the German Association for American Studies and the Deutscher Anglistikverband.

If you get in touch with individual professors who have not advertised any openings, it is rather unlikely that they will be able to offer you a paid position. However, depending on your research proposal, some of them might be willing to offer you supervision. In this case, you can apply for a scholarship to fund your PhD. Before you do so, please make sure to familiarise yourself with the conditions of the scholarship and to tell your potential supervisor about these conditions. For instance, some funding bodies might stipulate that the university at which you plan to do your PhD offer you office space. As this is not always possible, please make sure to check with your potential supervisor beforehand.

Here is a list of funding bodies which offer PhD scholarships, including information on how to apply:

Applying for a paid position or a scholarship

In order to increase your chances when you apply for a paid position or a scholarship, please make sure to strictly follow the application procedure and requirements. Often, you will need a so-called Exposé, that is, a research proposal, to apply. If the job ad provides you with specific information on what this research proposal should look like, please follow the respective guidelines. If there are no specifications, the following general guidelines might help you put together your research proposal:

Academics: How to Apply for a PhD in Germany

DAAD (German Academic Exchange Service): How to Write a Research Proposal

Getting in touch with a potential supervisor

If you’re not applying for an advertised position, you will need to find a supervisor yourself. In order to do so, it might help to go through the secondary literature which you intend to use for your PhD and to check university websites to see whether there are any professors who work in the field of study of your PhD project. Please note that in Germany, usually only professors or those eligible to apply for professorships, that is, staff members who are listed under “Professors” or who have the title “Prof. Dr.”, “Jun.-Prof. Dr.”, “JProf. Dr.” or “PD Dr.” are entitled to offer supervision to PhD students. If you get in touch with these professors, it might help to stick to the conventions in German academia and to address them as “Dear Professor SURNAME”. Please keep in mind that some of them receive quite a few inquiries about potential supervision, so try to be as specific as you can when addressing them (that is, addressing them by their name and correct title as well as relating your PhD project to their research interests and publications). There isn’t one way of getting in touch with a potential supervisor, but it definitely helps to be as specific as possible in your first email; you might also want to attach your CV and ask whether you can send them a research proposal.


If you’ve read through all the resources above on how to apply for a PhD in Germany but still have questions, please feel free to sign up for an office hour with GAPS members Lucy Gasser or Julia Wurr. These open consultations strive to offer support in how to navigate German academia, but please note that helping you hone your research project in terms of content is beyond their scope. Consultations are likely to be most rewarding if you come prepared with specific queries.

Lucy Gasser’s office hours take place at 10 a.m. (CET) on the first Monday of every even month. You can join her in this online room ( Please drop her a short email to say that you’re coming (lgasser[at]  

Julia Wurr’s office hours take place at 10 a.m. (CET) on the first Monday of every odd month. You can join her in this online room ( Please drop her a short email to say that you’re coming (julia.wurr[at]

Resources for potential supervisors