If you are a foreigner and don’t have a degree, getting a job in Germany can be challenging, especially if you don’t know where to start. Moreover, some additional pitfalls can be on your way if you come from a non-EU country.
Getting a job in Germany without a university degree is possible, but your actual chances will depend on your nationality. People from the EU/EEA states can take any employment without restrictions. Citizens of non-EU/EEA countries are eligible to work in Germany if they have qualifications in this job category.
People from non-EU countries will need to put more effort into getting a job in Germany. However, if you have some qualifications, work experience, and basic knowledge of German, you have a good chance of finding a job in Germany, especially in specific industries with labor shortages.
Also read: Which non-degree jobs pay the most in Germany?
Getting a job in Germany without a university degree
Germany has the largest economy in Europe and the fourth largest in the world. There are plenty of jobs for skilled professionals and casual workers without a degree.
Although Germany is a degree-focused country obsessed with qualifications, they even have a school for waiters.
Many factors play an important role in getting a job in Germany. The country of your origin is one of them. An applicant from the EU state will have different changes in Germany than someone from India or the US.
If you aren’t speaking German, finding a job will be more complicated. For native or fluent English speakers, it’s possible to find English-speaking jobs.
If you’re a citizen of an EU/EEA country, you can easily move to Germany and start your job search without having a university degree. You don’t need to apply for a work permit.
Depending on your goals and interests, you can choose from a wide range of jobs for unqualified workers in all sectors. Some of them can offer you a career, whereas some don’t provide any perspective and suit more for occasional work.
For non-EU/EEA citizens, the process of finding a job without a university degree in Germany is not easy. Here are the main options if you fall into this category:
- International developers can apply for EU Blue Card if they demonstrate at least 5 years of relevant professional experience
- If you find a job on the shortage occupations list, you can apply for a work visa in Germany
- Apply for an apprenticeship (Ausbildung) in Germany
- Get a degree in Germany. You will be able to work and study at the same time, and after graduation, apply for the EU Blue Card or work permit
To employ non-EU/EEA citizens, companies need to prove the reason why they don’t hire Germans or someone from the European Union. That’s why shortage occupations work in this case. There are simply not enough workers.
Nowadays, companies have slowly changed their approach to hiring. Instead, they started to employ more people without a traditional degree but with experience and knowledge.
These changes open new opportunities for foreigners to come to Germany and find work. For example, your chances of getting a job without a degree are very high in the tech sector.
To find a job, you need to have experience or expertise in that field. If you can convince the employer, and they can justify the choice to hire you over a local applicant, you will likely be eligible for this working visa.
Most people stay and work in Germany on the EU Blue Card; however, it requires a university degree. Some exceptions exist for developers. They can receive EU Blue Card by providing 5 years of experience.
Apply for an apprenticeship (Ausbildung) in Germany
First and most importantly, you will need a good level of German to apply and complete an apprenticeship in Germany. All apprenticeships involve classroom-based training at a vocational school, where the lessons are given in German.
Germany needs more skilled people, so the chances of finding a position as an apprentice are high. The training lasts for 2-3 years, with 50% of your time at school and 50% at work. You will receive a monthly salary for all 3 years (the average is 600-1,200 EUR).
After completing the apprenticeship, you will be eligible to work in your field and apply for a residence permit together with work permission. You can see the highest-paid training programs under best-paid non-degree jobs in Germany.
There is separate apprenticeship training in Germany for each job from this list. But you can also gain qualifications in your country before moving to Germany. Some jobs aren’t requiring any certification.
Learn more about how to apply for vocational training in Germany as a foreigner.
Understand the job market in Germany
Germany has one of the lowest unemployment rates in the EU, reaching a record low of 3.1% in October 2019. In some parts of Germany, it will be easier to find a job; in some – harder.
For example, in the country’s south, the labor market is thriving. At the same time, the eastern part of Germany is experiencing some financial problems.
The German labor shortage is growing each year. As a foreigner willing to work without a degree, you need to understand which professions are in demand. The so-called shortage list will give you an idea about the chances of receiving a job in Germany.
Many shortage occupations don’t require a degree, but some qualifications or experience in that area are necessary. In this official document, you can see all these professions or professional groups.
Learn more about the in-demand jobs in Germany.
The aging population and a shortage of engineers, IT specialists, and healthcare staff have become major challenges for the country.
If you fall into this category, go ahead with your job search, write companies, if needed, and go through interviews (many employers are open to do it via Skype).
Expect detailed questions on your job offer, your chosen field of employment, your current occupation, your desired salary, and so on.
And finally, apply for your working permit at the German Embassy or immigration office if you are already in Germany.
Of course, it relates only to non-EU/EEA citizens. Europeans can just start working without permission and choose jobs outside of the shortage list.
A shortage occupations list offers opportunities for people from third countries (non-EU/EEA states like Australia, Israel, Japan, Canada, New Zealand, South Korea, and the US).
Shortage occupations in Germany
For many years Germany has experienced a shortage of skilled workers in certain professions, where foreigners could get a job without a degree easier.
These include mechanical, automotive, electrical, construction workers, IT specialists (especially developers), health and social workers, and certain manufacturing positions.
Professionals with vocational qualifications (Ausbildung) are also in demand. Due to an increasingly older population – workers in the geriatric, health, and nursing professions are on the shortage list.
Moreover, English teaching and hospitality jobs are available for foreigners with language knowledge.
Shortage occupations list Germany(2022):
- Special(ist) power engineers (Techniker für Starkstromtechnik)
- Metal turners (Dreher)
- Black toppers (Schwarzdecker)
- Milling machinists (Fräser)
- Welders, cutting torch operators (Schweißer, Schneidbrenner)
- Specialist technicians for mechanical engineering (Techniker für Maschinenbau)
- Electrical installers, electrical fitters (Elektroinstallateure/Elektroinstallateur, Elektromonteure/Elektromonteur)
- Special fitters (Schlosser)
- Motor Mechanics (Kraftfahrzeugmechaniker)
- Roofers (Dachdecker)
- Construction joiners (Bautischler)
- Cost accountant (Kalkulant)
- Concrete fitters (Betonbauer)
- Pipe installers, pipefitters (Rohrinstallateure/Rohrinstallateur, Rohrmonteure/Rohrmonteur)
- Blacksmith and carriage builder (Huf- und Wagenschmiede/Huf- und Wagenschmiedinnen)
- Special fitters (Spengler)
- Train driver, stoker (Lokomotivführer)
- Varnishers (Lackierer)
- Carpenters (Zimmerer)
- Special technicians for low voltage engineering and communication engineering (TechnikerInnen für Schwachstrom- und Nachrichtentechnik)
- Floor and Wall Tilers (Platten-, Fliesenleger)
- Ophthalmic opticians (Augenoptiker)
- Nurses (Gesundheits- und Krankenpfleger)
- Auto body tinsmiths and radiator tinsmiths (Karosserie-, Kühlerspengler)
- Pavers (Pflasterer/Pflaster)
- Die makers, cutter makers and punch makers (Werkzeug, Schnitt- und Stanzenmacher)
- Machine fitters (Maschinenschlosser)
- Building fitters, sheet metal fitters, construction fitters (Bau-, Blech-, Konstruktionsschlosser)
- Special technicians (Sonstige Techniker)
- Retailer and seller of iron and metal goods, machines, household and kitchen appliances (HändlerInnen und VerkäuferInnen von Eisen- und Metallwaren, Maschinen, Hauhalts- und Küchengeräte)
- Payroll accountants (Lohn-, Gehaltsverrechner)
- Restaurant chefs (Gaststättenköche)
- Construction and furniture joiners (Bau- und Möbeltischler)
- Special coarse mechanics (Sonstige Grobmechaniker)
- Special floor layers (Bodenleger)
- Plastics processors (Kunststoffverarbeiter)
- Special(ist) technicians for data processing (Techniker für Datenverarbeitung)
- Wood machine workers (Holzmaschinenarbeiter)
- Building plumbers (Bauspengler)
- Special technicians in business administration (Techniker für Wirtschaftswesen)
- Special medical-technical specialists (Medizinisch-technische Fachkräfte)
- Electrical mechanics (Elektromechaniker)
- Florist (Naturblumenbinder)
- Bricklayers (Maurer)
- Special technicians for civil engineering (Sechniker für Bauwesen)
- Healthcare assistant (Pflegeassistenten/Pflegeassistentinnen)
- Nurse (Krankenschwester)
- Qualified healthcare assistant (Pflegefachassistenten)
Getting a job without speaking German
To find a job without speaking German is possible but challenging, and options are limited. Answer this question before starting your job search:
Do you have skills that no one else has? Skills that will get you hired even without German?
Make sure your qualifications and experience are relevant to the German labor market. Your target zone will most probably be larger international companies or multicultural startups.
Be aware of resident permit requirements for non-EU/EEA citizens. They can apply either for an EU Blue Card or a German working permit.
Nationals of Canada, the US, Australia, Israel, New Zealand, Japan, and South Korea can come to Germany without a visa and start a job search.
After receiving a job offer, they also must apply for a residence permit to work (EU Blue Card or German working visa).
Europeans (EU/EEA) can just come to Germany and start working. No paperwork is required.
In most cases, there’s no need to worry about the local language if these criteria can apply to you or your plans in Germany:
- Highly Skilled Professional
- Teaching English
- Tutorial teaching of English subject at university
- Job in one of international companies
If you want to fully integrate into your new country and make strong friendships, you’ll need to learn the local language.
Read here about jobs for Americans and English-speakers in Germany.
Applying for a work permit & visa in Germany
Your specific work permit requirements for Germany strongly depend on your nationality. If you’re a citizen of an EU/EEA member state, you don’t need to apply for one.
Citizens of other states, excluding Australia, Israel, Japan, Canada, New Zealand, South Korea, and the US, need to apply for a visa and work permit from their home country. In case you need to apply for a German Employment visa.
IT developers can apply for EU Blue Card after demonstrating five years of experience and a minimum annual salary of 43,900 EUR since they fall into the shortage category. For regular professions, the minimum wage is 56,400 EUR (2022).
Citizens of Canada, the US, Australia, Israel, New Zealand, Japan, and South Korea can enter Germany without a visa and remain for up to three months. After receiving a job, they can apply for residency and working permits within Germany.
Once you apply in your home country, the German diplomatic mission will contact the immigration department (Ausländerbehörde) in Germany. This office works together with the Federal Employment Agency. In the end, they decide if you receive a permit or not.
Details regarding the visa application process may vary according to your country of origin. Please get in touch with your local German Embassy to check the exact work visa requirements.
If you have a higher education qualification that is recognized in Germany, you can receive a six-month visa to look for a job (German Job Seeker Visa).
The probability of receiving a residence permit to work in Germany depends on your qualifications and the field you want to work in.
Professions from the shortage list will give you better chances. Otherwise, the employer will have to justify why they choose you over other potential workers in Germany and the EU.
Best non-degree jobs in Germany
Getting a well-paid and prospective job without a degree isn’t an easy task. German salaries are one of the highest in the world, although the employer will try to save some money on poorly qualified workers.
To increase your chances, get some qualifications and gain experience so that you can demand a higher wage.
Read here about jobs for foreigners in Germany.
All of these professions don’t require a degree, but for most of them, you need qualifications, which can be completed either in Germany or your home country. Here is the list of best-paid NON-DEGREE JOBS and average starting salary:
- Dental Hygienists – 3,300 EUR
- Real Estate Agents – 3,000 EUR
- Nurse – 2,900 EUR
- Truck Driver – 2,500 EUR
- Air traffic controller – between 6,000 and 8,000 EUR
- Aircraft mechanic – 3,100 EUR
- Bank clerk – between 2,500 and 2,900 EUR
- Policeman – 3,300 EUR
- Ship mechanic – 2,700 EUR
- Biologielaborant – 2,700 EUR
- Senior caregiver – 2,640 EUR
- Mason – 2,400 EUR
- IT specialist – 2,400 EUR
- Investment fund manager – between 2,300 and 2,500 EUR
- A merchant insurance and Finance – 2,400 EUR
- Media technologist – 2,800 EUR
- Technical system planner and product designer – between 1,600 and 2,900 EUR
- Social Security Specialist – 2,000 and 2,500 EUR
- Physics laboratory technician – 2,200 EUR
- Mechatronic – between 2,000 and 2,900 EUR
- Administrative specialist – 2,000 EUR
- Undertaker – between 1,900 and 2,200 EUR
- Electronics Technician – between 1,600 and 2,000 EUR
- Civil Servant (Bundesbank) – between 1,800 and 2,200 EUR
See the full list of best paid non-degree jobs in Germany here.
To learn more about salaries in Germany, read this article.
Finding jobs in Germany
The most crucial step in this process is finding a job. Here we have collected the resources that you need to find a desirable position.
Almost all jobs in Germany can be found on online job boards (Jobbörsen) or companies’ websites. If the company’s official language is German, it will be described in German; if English, accordingly in English.
Most popular websites:
Other helpful resources:
English-speaking jobs in Germany:
- English jobs
- The Local
- Top language jobs – English-speaking jobs in Germany (and other languages)
For people with a high degree:
- Academics – academic and research jobs
- Jobware – management and specialist
- Staufenbiel – internships and graduate jobs
- Stepstone – includes internships and graduate positions