Medicine is one of the most popular subjects to study in German universities, particularly among local students. Becoming a doctor is a dream of many; additionally, medical professionals belong to the top earners in Germany.
The quality of education and affordable costs in Germany also make medical programs very attractive for international students. Moreover, German doctors are known as the best in the world. In this article, you will learn how you can study medicine in Germany as an international student.
Studying Medicine in Germany: all you need to know
Being a doctor is often associated with prestige and a tremendous reward. Germany is one of the best and most affordable countries to study medicine in the world. The main reason for this is that most medical schools don’t charge tuition fees, and the quality of education is unbeatable.
Additionally, students can stay in the country and pursue their careers after they finish the program. Germany is one of the best countries to be a medical professional in the world.
The government supports foreign specialists by regularly simplifying legalization and immigration prozess. The reason for this is also the lack of medical workers in the country; without help from abroad, Germany won’t be where it’s now.
The competition in medical faculty is quite steep; local students are expected to have outstanding notes; if not, they must wait till next year or even for many years.
If German students need to “fight” for one place in the medical faculty, international students have an advantage in this situation. Each university has a quota for foreigners, so you won’t compete with German applicants.
What to expect from medical studies in Germany?
Studying medicine in Germany is an intense and lengthy process, including a lot of learning and practice. However, the program is very diverse and interesting from a medical stand of point; you will be introduced to all areas of medicine and, of course, its basics.
Internships are a must for future doctors in Germany. Therefore, you will spend at least 1 year working at different hospitals during your studies.
In Germany, regular medical study lasts for 6 years and 3 months. Most of the courses are taught in the German language, so students must make sure they possess the required level of language – level C1.
Eventually, foreigners need to spend one year of preparational courses at Studienkolleg because of the difference between German and foreign education. With that said, medical studies may take up to 7 years and 3 months.
A medical degree in Germany has 12 semesters and is divided into a preclinical study section (1st – 4th semesters) and a clinical study section (5th – 12th semesters). The last two semesters, students spent working in different hospitals as interns.
Main stages of a medical degree in Germany
Medical study in Germany is divided into those main stages, which take place for 6 years.
1. Pre-clinical section
Pre-clinic it’s when you learn all basics and all major vital concepts of medicine. This stage involves a lot of learning and studying, it’s also considered to be one of the most challenging times when students tend to give up and stop their studies.
So you better go through it and remember the most interesting things will come after this stage.
Subjects you will learn during these 2 years:
- One elective subject to be taken by the student
2. First state examination
After 4 semesters, the first state examination is the first major hurdle in studying medicine in Germany. It lasts two days in a row. In the written part, you will encounter 320 multiple-choice questions. As well as oral examination in anatomy, physiology, and biochemistry subjects.
3. Clinical phase
Anyone who has successfully completed the pre-clinic and 1st state exams can breathe out. The workload of the following semesters is less than it was in the beginning. Now you have to learn about the practical relation to the theory you just learned.
This section is the most crucial part of your medical studies because you will be taught about core concepts and topics in medicine while also visiting hospitals and learning it “live.”
Subjects you will find on your timetable:
- General practice
- Emergency medicine
- Occupational and Social Medicine
- Eye medicine
- Ear, Nose and Throat Medicine
- Human genetics
- Hygiene, microbiology and virology
- Internal Medicine
- Clinical chemistry and laboratory diagnostics
- Neurology department
- Pharmacology and toxicology
- Psychiatry and psychotherapy
- Psychosomatic medicine and psychotherapy
- Legal medicine
In addition, there are so-called cross-sectional subjects:
- History, theory, ethics of Medicine
- Health Economics
- Clinical-pathological conference
- Clinical Environmental Medicine
- Medicine of aging and the elderly
- Prevention and health promotion
Moreover, during the semester break, all medical students must complete internships or so-called Famulatures in outpatient and inpatient care facilities. Total of 120 days:
- 30 days in an outpatient care
- 60 days in a hospital
- 30 days in a general practitioner’s office
These internships can also be completed abroad if their length is more than 15 calendar days.
5. State examination (writing part)
At the end of the 10th semester (after your clinic phase and summer internships), the written part of the 2nd State Examination (so-called Hammer examination) follows, which also includes 320 questions about clinical contents and takes 3 days in a row.
6. Practical year
After that exam, you can start your practical year in a hospital, clinic, or practice. Internships are divided into 3 periods in which you will pass through the departments of internal medicine, surgery, and one department of your choice.
For a year, you’ll participate in real-life training sessions where you can put your skills and knowledge into practice. Students need to work for at least for 4 months in each of these areas. Parts of the practical year or the entire year can also be completed abroad.
In the end, you will be ready for the third and last medical examination.
7. State examination (verbal part)
The last examination happens verbally at the respective training center. For two days in a row, MBBS students will be examined in the 3 clinical subjects (internal, surgery, and one elective).
In addition to a theoretical part, the examination includes a practical part in which the student has to demonstrate their practical skills (examinations, diagnosis) on a previously assigned patient. This is the most serious part of your medical studies, so take it seriously.
Eventually, you will need to get a license to be allowed to practice your job as a doctor. Such a license is called Approbation or Berufserlaubnis, and it’s legitimate for your entire life.
Graduates of medical faculty work as doctors in private practices, hospitals, or any other place needing a medical specialist. For example, you can work in research and development, the pharmaceutical industry, public administration, health management, or environmental medicine.
How to become a doctor in Germany?
Before you can wear the title doctor or Dr. med, you must have completed a doctorate and have written your medical doctoral thesis. This process can be started either during the clinical phase or after completing your program.
Having the title Dr. Med. isn’t mandatory for working as a doctor in Germany. You can start your career already upon finishing your medical degree.
Admission for medicine at German Universities
As in any other country, German universities have their own application processes and requirements international students need to fulfill to apply for the medical program.
Studienkolleg or direct application
First, you need to know if your school’s leaving certificate or other high school certificate equals the German one. This is the most important requirement of German universities.
In most cases, the European school leaving certificate is equal to the German one; however, non-European can differ significantly. For example, in many non-EU/EEA countries, school years are shorter than in Germany.
Therefore, the previous education of some applicants isn’t sufficient to start studying medicine directly in Germany.
There are two options to access a German university if the school system of your country is different:
The Studienkolleg was made exceptionally for foreign applicants and lasts for two or sometimes one semester. In the end, students pass the exam, which will give them access to German universities.
This doesn’t mean that they are automatically enrolled, but they can apply for the desired program and participate in the competition and entrance tests with other students.
To enroll in Studienkolleg, applicants must have at least a B1 level in the German language. Your language capacity will be tested at the entrance examination.
There are 4 main courses held in Studienkolleg, each specified for a future university program. To study medicine, you need to complete the M-course.
The following subjects are taught in the M-course:
- German language
It is also possible to complete the final exam from Studienkolleg without attending it. You can prepare on your own and after come to Germany to pass the test. However, you can’t receive a visa for this reason.
You might want to consider going on this path if you are already in Germany or can arrive on another visa, for example, the tourist one or a visa for the language course.
Be aware that with a tourist or language course visa, you can’t apply for a student permit/visa in Germany, you will need to travel home and organize it from there.
Medical degree in the home country
Applicants from non-EU/EEA countries can also fulfill the requirements of German universities by attending university in their home country. Usually, a direct application to a German university can be made after successfully finishing 2 or 4 semesters of medical education at a foreign university.
However, the direct application can only be accepted when a future student possesses the C1 level of the German language.
Whether foreign or local applicants, when applying for a medical degree, all experience related to medicine counts. German universities consider the previous medical background, the completed vocational training, voluntary work, or the nursing internship of all applicants.
This can significantly increase your chances of direct access by having a background in the medical field. However, all foreign applicants must submit all their certificates to Uniassist to determine if they are eligible for studies in Germany.
If you already know which university you want to study at, then you can inform yourself directly at their website about which achievements increase your admission chances.
Pass a test for medical courses (TMS)
More and more German universities choose to use TMS in the selection process and admission to medical programs. Therefore, all students must pass this exam before being considered applicants.
Today 22 universities use this test, and you can check with your desired university if it’s a requirement. Although this test isn’t mandatory, but can significantly increase the chances of the applicant if they don’t have excellent grades. The exam is in German and takes about 5 hours. Currently, the examination fee is 73 EUR.
Test for foreign students (TestAS)
All German Universities have a 5% quota placed for non-EU/EEA citizens. Applicants from non-EU/EEA countries can take the TestAS test instead, which will also improve their chances of receiving a study place.
To participate in the TestAS, the applicant’s language skills should be approximately at level B1. The TestAS can then be done in German as well as in English.
TestAS examines language competence, cognitive abilities (core test), and the capabilities to study medicine which contains field-specific test modules.
You can expect the following tasks:
- Analysis and interpretation of scientific diagrams, charts, and tables
- Formalizing processes, analyzing flowcharts
This test gives foreign applicants a better and fairer chance within the selection process for the admission-restricted program such as medicine. This examination helps especially to differentiate you from other applicants with the same school notes.
Recommendations for foreign applicants
1. If you have a chance to participate in Studienkolleg, better take this opportunity.
It will give you good basics for your studies in Germany. Thus, you can keep up with the workload in the first 2 years of the program.
2. Nobody will help you with the paper.
Be responsible for submitting all documents on time and in the correct format. As well as, apply for your visa on time, and don’t forget to take out health insurance beforehand.
3. Students from non-EU/EEA countries have 10 years to complete their medical degree BUT stay on track.
When you apply for a visa extension (every 3 years) immigration office will check all your achievements and how you are doing in school, if you are too behind, they might not extend it.
Requirements to study medicine in Germany as an international student
German medical universities are among the best in the world and, therefore, are highly competitive. To get a place in a medical course, you have to show a good knowledge of medicine-related subjects.
Also, other skills will be tested during the admission process, including personal skills, ability to handle pressure, communication skills, cognitive and critical thinking abilities, and so on.
Depending on your country, you might not need a visa to study in Germany, but all non-EU/EEA students will need to apply for a student visa/residence permit.
There are two types of German student visas you can apply for:
- German Student Visa
This is the standard student visa for international students who have been admitted to a German university and are ready to start their studies at a full-time university program.
- German Student Applicant Visa
Apply for this visa if you need to be in Germany to pass the entrance examination or other exams in person. This visa doesn’t allow you to study in Germany. It’s only valid for the university application process.
If you are participating in Studienkolleg, you can apply either for a regular student visa or a student applicant visa. It depends on these factors:
- If you already have written confirmation from a Studienkolleg or University, you can apply for a student visa.
- If you only have the invitation to participate in the entrance examination at Studienkolleg or university, then you must apply for an applicant visa.
- And if you are coming to Germany to learn the language, you should apply for a German Language Course Visa.
Visa application process
To study in Germany, you will need to provide funds for your stay in the country. Proof can be provided in different ways:
- 10,236 EUR deposit confirmation in a German blocked bank account
- Letter of commitment and evidence of your parent’s income records and financial assets
- Letter of commitment by a German resident (Verpflichtungserklärung)
This letter is made at the immigration office in Germany by the German resident who is going to take responsibility for covering your costs if something happens. It can be someone you know well, e.g., your boyfriend or your relative who lives in Germany.
- Scholarship certificate – however, neither DAAD nor any other German organizations provide scholarships for international students studying medicine in Germany.
- Bank guarantee, issued to you by a recognized German bank
A blocked account is still a traditional way to prove your funds and is 100% accepted by the German embassy. There are two established companies where you can open such an account quite easily and cheaply: DR.WALTER and Fintiba.
DR.WALTER is the insurance provider for international students in Germany.
Fintiba offers blocked accounts as well as health insurance. They provide services exceptionally for international students in Germany. You can either open only a blocked bank account there or two in one account and health insurance for your stay in Germany.
A blocked account isn’t free in Germany; there is always an initial fee and monthly payments (around 5 EUR).
Other requirements for international students
In addition to the standard requirements for studying medicine in Germany, foreign applicants should pay attention to the following criteria:
- High school certificate
It must be recognized in Germany and equivalent to a German school leaving certificate if you’re a citizen of a non-EU/EEA country.
- Grades from the previous education
You must have completed particular subjects related to medicine, like chemistry and biology.
- German language proficiency
You must possess a sufficient amount of German language: TestDaf level IV, DSH Certificate II or III, Goethe Certificate C2, Telc Deutch C1, or B2 Hochschule Certificate – all of them accepted by higher institutions in Germany.
For English programs, you must prove proficiency in the English language:
- TOEFL Test. The required scores: IbT-88, Pbt-66
- IELTS Test. IELTS Academic must be 6.5+
- Cambridge Advanced English Certificate level A, B, or C
As a doctor, you will have constant engagement with patients and, therefore, good communication skills are necessary.
Moreover, you will need health insurance for a) visa application and b) studies in Germany. We have made a comparison of the best insurance providers and coverages for international students in Germany. There you will find the best coverages at affordable rates.
How much does a medical degree cost in Germany?
Education is free in Germany, and students only pay a semester contribution covering administration fees. The amount ranges between 150 EUR and 400 EUR per semester. Luckily, these fees include costs for your public transportation ticket and other services.
In fact, Germany and Austria are some of the few places in Europe that don’t have tuition fees for international students, or they are very low.
However, you need to consider the cost of living in Germany so you can survive during these 6 years of studies. Fortunately, Germany isn’t that expensive to live in compared to other EU/EEA countries.
Your cost of living will depend on which part of Germany you will study. It’s recommended to have at least 850 EUR monthly to be on the safe side. The German government itself estimates student living costs at 853 EUR per month.
Education is an investment, especially medical education, because returns are so high. The living costs of the average student lie at 61,416 EUR (for 6 years), but it’s worth 100%.
Imagine, as a doctor, you can earn around 5,000 EUR per month at the beginning of your career, which quickly pays off all your investments in education.
A private university is an expensive alternative in Germany. Due to the limited number of free places and the high admission requirements, free medical education remains a dream for many German school leavers. Those who want to pursue their dream anyway decide on a private university.
There is no shortage of private medical schools in Germany. Students only need to be ready to pay. The costs range from 6,000 EUR to 12,500 EUR per semester.
Some most popular of them are the University Targu Mures, Witten / Herdecke University, Kassel School of Medicine, Asklepios campus Hamburg, Paracelsus Private Medical University of Nuremberg, and Medical University of Brandenburg.
Can you study medicine in English in Germany?
If you are looking for a medical degree in English, only one university in Germany that offers it. In general, medical education is taught in the German language.
Only in Hamburg will you find your dream studies in English. The program lasts for 6 years and is completely in English.
Nevertheless, you still will need to speak some German due to the internships in German hospitals. As an option, you can learn a language later since internships happen at the end of the program.
The study of human medicine begins once a year, in September. Each academic year consists of 28 weeks of teaching divided into two semesters (Autumn/Winter and Spring/Summer). Upon completion of the program, graduates are entitled to take the American State Examination (USMLE).
- English (no English certificate required)
- German (B2) for clinical internships in Germany
The Targu Mures doesn’t require applicants to have good marks, and they don’t set any minimum average, which is a significant distinction from all other medical universities.
Since it’s a private university, students pay a significant amount in tuition fees: for the first 4 semesters, 12,500 EUR each, the following 8 together with practical semesters – 14,000 EUR each. In total: 166, 000 EUR.
You need to decide if it’s a good investment for your future or if you should study at home or in another country.
Best medical universities in Germany for international students
Heidelberg University is one of the most prestigious and oldest universities in Europe to study medicine. In fact, it’s the oldest university in Germany.
It especially focuses on cancer; if you are interested in this area, Heidelberg is a place to study.
Some advantages of medical studies at Heidelberg University:
- Numerous partnerships around the world
- Practical year worldwide
- Exchange programs
- 8-month for doctorate
- Strong scientific approach
- Research focusing on neuroscience, cardiovascular diseases, oncology, infectious diseases, transplantation, and genetics/genomics.
University offers 320 places for human medicine and 81 for dentistry each year. Administration fees are 142 EUR per semester.
The medical school of the Humboldt University of Berlin is also ranked as one of the best places to study medicine in Germany.
Each semester university provides 300 places for medical newbies. International students especially benefit from studying in the capital of the country. Berlin is a center of action in Germany and in Europe.
This city will satisfy all tastes with cultural activities, music, festivals, and going out opportunities. Moreover, Berlin is more affordable than Heidelberg, for example.
Currently, the university charges administrative fees of 265 EUR per semester.
The Technical University of Munich, or just TUM, is located in the south of the country and is ranked as THE best university in Germany! TUM is primarily a research university, which of course, only benefits your studies and opportunities for a doctorate.
TUM is a member of the TU9 – the largest and most notable German alliance of technical institutes. Furthermore, the Technical University of Munich is among the leading technical universities in Germany and Europe.
Students of TUM go through the pre-clinical section together with students of Ludwig Maximilian University, and the clinic phase is completed separately. A degree in medicine at TUM costs only 150 EUR per semester. However, keep in mind that Munich is the most expensive city in the country.
The Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich raked right after TUM – the second-best university in Germany. LMU is the second-largest university in Germany, offering a wide range of different majors.
Medicine and psychology are both very popular among local and international students. Each year LMU ensures 877 study places for medicine, around 17% of them occupied by international students.
LMU’s administrative fee is only 111 EUR per semester.
RWTH is well known among engineers, but this university is great for studying medicine too. I was lucky enough to live nearby Aachen and get to know many students from RWTH. They all were very satisfied with their choice.
RWTH is also a part of the TU9, thus, one of the best technical universities in Germany. Aachen university is one of the largest technical universities in Germany and one of the most renowned in Europe.
Every year, numerous international students and scientists come to the university to benefit from its high-quality courses and excellent facilities, which are recognized globally.
RWTH was ranked as the best university to study medicine accordingly to CHE Ranking. Currently, the university offers a study place for 2,600 medical students from around the world.
Furthermore, RWTH has an assigned clinic in the same city – RWTH Aachen University Hospital, where most of the research and internships happen.
Students pay 237 EUR for administrative fees per semester at Aachen’s University.