How To Work as a Nurse in Germany
Working as a nurse is a dream of many. Statistics show that nursing is one of the most favorable professions and especially among the female population. Being a nurse in Germany sounds even better. You can expect a decent salary, good working conditions, and a chance to live in the middle of Europe.
However, before starting your application process, you need to consider whether you can work as a nurse in Germany according to current regulations. Germany is a very organized and structured country, with hundreds, when not thousands, of rules and especially when it comes to qualifications.
Read this article about nursing jobs in Germany.
Your chances of working as a nurse in Germany
Today you have even better chances of working as a nurse than a year or two before. The German population is aging, and the country needs more people to take care of sick people.
Moreover, Germany experiences a big shortage of medical professionals. There are just not enough nurses to cover all the demands. Therefore, Germany seeks help from abroad by hiring foreign nurses.
Hospitals actively employ foreign nurses and nursing assistants, as well as doctors. Some of them even organize support for foreign nurses to bring them to Germany from abroad.
Currently, Germany has around 80,000 open vacancies for nurses and expects to have around 150,000 by 2025. So there are definitely some significant chances of receiving a nursing job in Germany.
Moreover, there are plenty of recruitment agencies that work in partnership with hospitals, to hire and train foreign nurses for future jobs.
To speed up the process, you can directly contact such an agency, and they will organize almost everything from connecting you with an employer to the preparation of the required documents for the visa.
Some agencies in Germany only work with particular countries, such as the Philippines, Mexico, and Eastern Europe, but most of the time, you can find one of these organizations also in your country.
Nationality and qualification
Your nationality, country of residence, and country where you have received your nursing degree play the most significant role in the estimation of chances to work as a nurse in Germany.
Generally, all European citizens who have completed their training in the EU/EEA can work almost straight away. While non-EU/EEA citizens will need a work permit and get their qualifications recognized.
1. For most European countries, applies the following:
Your degree will be recognized in Germany, and you’re entitled to reside and work in the country. Hence, most healthcare institutions and agencies can easily hire you.
2. Citizens of Bosnia, Serbia, Tunisia, Philippines, and Vietnam
Nurses from the above-mentioned countries (except Vietnam*) are eligible for the government-sponsored TripleWin recruitment program for foreign nurses. The government will support you in getting a nursing job in Germany, applying for and receiving your residence permit.
Nurses from Vietnam are required to have at least 3 years of experience before applying for the program.
*Vietnamese nurses are eligible for support of another state project, which works almost the same way as Tripple Win.
3. Citizens of countries from the WHO Human Resources for Health Crisis list
Citizens of countries like Bangladesh, Gambia, and others on this list will encounter more difficulties in getting a job in Germany. This is due to the serious shortage of health workers in these places.
For this reason, nationals of these countries won’t be supported by the German government, and also commercial recruitment agencies can’t legally assist them in getting employment in Germany.
However, there is still a chance, citizens of these countries just have to go through all the procedures on their own.
4. Citizens of Non-EU/EEA countries
If you don’t fall into one of the previous categories, as a qualified nurse, you have the opportunity in Germany. These nationals can use the professional services of recruitment agencies, which will help in finding a job, documents, and other important steps.
Requirements for foreign nurses to work in Germany
A nursing job is one of the most regulated professions in Germany. For this reason, there are some defined requirements that have been implemented by the Gerrman government. It also means less flexibility and strict rules foreign nurses will be dealing with.
You can only work in Germany as a nurse if you have a certificate about your skills which is recognized in Germany. Below we describe the recognition process; here are the main requirements:
- Qualification in nursing
A candidate must have a nursing degree or vocational certificate. If you are from a non-EU/EEA country, a university degree with at least 3 years of study is a must.
- GOETHE/TELC/OSD Certificate of German language skills at level B1 or B2
Language is also a challenge for foreign nurses. After all, as a nurse, you have to take care of people – who often speak only German.
Certified nurses are also required to document their daily work in health reports for each patient. This requires good language skills. It might take you a year of learning in order to speak on a required level.
After you start working in Germany, most hospitals will provide a medical German course for foreign nurses, which is usually paid for by the hospital.
There are so many specific words you need to know to work in the medical field, don’t underestimate this fact. It’s recommended to start learning German as soon as you have decided that you want to work in Germany.
Be aware that just professional experience without special training and a certificate isn’t sufficient to work in Germany as a caregiver/nurse or nurse/nurse.
Recognition of foreign nursing certificates in Germany
If you are from an EU or EEA country and completed your nursing degree in one of these countries, your degree will be easily recognized in Germany, and you can start working straight away.
All other nurses with non-EU/EEA certificates need to get their qualifications recognized too, but it will be more difficult and time-consuming. The entire process can take up to 12 months, but usually, you can work as a nursing assistant during this time.
Germany sets high standards for medical professions, and foreign nurses must fulfill all criteria in order to work in the medical field in Germany. As we already mentioned, most medical professions are highly regulated.
To be recognized as a nurse in Germany, you will need to wait for authorities to verify your certificate and all criteria in it as well as pass a special nursing exam.
After receiving a job offer or arriving in Germany, foreign nurses must submit their degrees and qualifications to the competent authority of the federal state in which they stay. They can apply for recognition even without a working contract.
Only after receiving recognition, will you be granted a visa for working as a qualified nurse. However, you can receive another type of visa to come to Germany. Generally, it’s recommended to provide all required documents to the recognition authority as soon as possible.
Keep in mind that a B2 level of the German language is required for foreign nurses.
After they went through the process of recognition and successfully pass exams, they will receive a permit to practice in the nursing profession (Berufserlaubnis).
However, there might be a situation when the professional degree/qualifications of foreign nurses couldn’t be recognized or fully recognized, so they don’t receive a permit to work as a nurse in Germany.
In this case, a nurse can pass the necessary exams and take additional courses in Germany, so they can cover the lack of theoretical or practical knowledge. Meanwhile, they might be allowed to work as a nursing assistant.
You can check this official website for all information about recognition in Germany.
Steps to take to work as a nurse in Germany
Currently, there are 154,000 foreign nurses and nursing assistants working in Germany. Nothing should stop you from moving to Germany and pursuing a nursing career.
Here are the most important steps to tale to work as a nurse in Germany:
1. Learn German
Obtain at least a B1 language certificate before you start with your job application. Hence, you can attach your certificate to the application and so make a good impression on the employer. Moreover, some organizations even don’t accept applications in English.
2. Translate your credentials and certificates into German
Also, most organizations will need your nursing certificates in German. Otherwise, it won’t be accepted.
3. Apply for as many jobs as you could
Look for a job on websites like Monster, Medijobs, Stellenanzeige, Make it in Germany: Job Listings, Stepstone and Kimeta. Send your application with all the required documents attached and wait for answers.
You might want to get professional help in completing a German job application. It’s very advisable to apply in German, so organizations see you speak the language.
4. Attend interviews
If the company showed interest and invited you to the interview, be prepared to jump on a skype call or show up in person in Germany. This means you will need to fly there. Not all hospitals will agree to video interviews.
Some employers will expect you to volunteer for a couple of days in the hospital, so they can really see your work and how you match with the team.
5. Sign a working contract
6. Apply for recognition of your nursing qualification
File for recognition of your degree at the German authority in charge of the state you’re going to work in. Then you should wait. The process might take up to a year. While you’re waiting, upgrade your German.
7. Apply for a working visa
After your qualifications were recognized, you can apply for a working visa in your home country or in Germany.
8. Finish line – Get your visa, move to Germany, and start your nursing career!
Nurse salary in Germany
There are very many factors that can influence the nursing salary. But overall, the job paid well, and it grows with years of experience and expertise.
On average, nurses in Germany earn about 33,000 EUR annually gross and between 2,800 EUR – 2,900 EUR gross monthly. The salary also depends on the region, experience, qualifications, and working time (night shifts are paid better).
After deducting the taxes, you can expect between 1,580 EUR to 1,800 EUR on your bank account monthly.
Foreign nurses who aren’t fluent in the German language will need to attend a German language course. For this reason, they will work less -around 36 hours per week and receive a lower salary – roughly 1,800 EUR gross and between 1,250 EUR to 1,420 EUR after tax.
Salary during the vocational training depends on the year of studying: in the 1st year, you will earn about 1,100 EUR, in the 2nd year about 1,200 EUR, and in the 3rd year about 1,300 EUR.
Read our guide on nursing salaries in Germany.
Study nursing in Germany
If you don’t have a nursing qualification yet, you can always start vocational training in Germany to become a nurse. Your nationality doesn’t play a role here. Generally, you only need a school leaving diploma and an intermediate level of the German language.
Vocational training is an apprenticeship program. It’s the main way to become a nurse in Germany.
The training takes place at a nursing school, which has the necessary state recognition. It usually lasts for 3 years and ends with the state examination.
You can read more about how to become a nurse in Germany in the dedicated article.
After successfully passing the exam, students qualified as Registered Nurses, which enables them to start working immediately.
The training as a nurse is organized in schools, with the students later attached to the various hospitals and departments where they gather practical experience. During the three-year training, 2,100 hours must be invested in theory and 2,500 hours in practice.
In both cases, while studying at university and completing vocational training, students receive a monthly salary.
The training is tightly organized and structured, it includes not only courses on health and nursing care, but medical science, scientific basics, and the development of nursing over the years. All these, are relevant knowledge from the humanities and Social Sciences.
The training prozess is usually divided into six-week blocks, sometimes longer. Especially in the first year, students learn a theory and do internships later.
So after completing vocational training, they become general professionals and are able to work in all areas of medical care.
The advantages of attending vocational school and becoming a nurse in Germany are :
- Financial independence – Individuals don’t have to depend on their parents for their living expenses or education. They earn enough to support themselves.
- Career opportunities – A straightforward way to the job right after completing the training or university.
- Practical and theoretical training – A program covers practical and theoretical parts, which helps nurses to have a wider understanding of the role and helps in their professional growth.
- No need to recognize qualifications – you can start working as a registered nurse in Germany and in other developed countries right after completing the training.
- No age limit – you can become a nurse in Germany at any age!
But there are also some disadvantages:
- High intensity – Vocational training is loaded with exams and tasks.
- Hard work – Especially during the internships, hard, dirty, or noncompetence required work is often delegated to the young nurses.
- Shift work hours – Even during the internships, you will have to work in shifts most of the time; however, this usually doesn’t include many night shifts.
- Sufficient German level, at least B2
- School-leaving qualification, which is equivalent to the German
- The minimum age is 17 years, and successful completion of at least 9 or 10 school levels or
- 18 years and corresponding additional education
To apply for vocational school, you must reach out to hospitals because they usually post job ads and hire for this position. Each such a hospital has a vocational school where you will have a theoretical part.
Therefore, you will be employed in this hospital and its partners during the practical part. After you have sent the application, CV, and cover letter, you will be invited for an interview, sometimes first by telephone.
Usually, you will hear from them in a couple of days or weeks if you are accepted for vocational training or not. After that, you need to hurry up to apply for an apprenticeship visa.
You can either do it from your home country or already in Germany. In Germany, this process will be way easier and faster, and you can start working and attending school within a couple of days.
For an exact packet of documents check out the website of your local immigration office or german embassy in your home country.
What is a Tripple Win?
Tripple Win is a recruitment program for foreign nurses started by the German government back in 2013. Tripple win is the win from all 3 sides: country of origin, German employer, and foreign employee.
They support employers in Germany in the selection, recognition, and integration of foreign nurses. Hospitals benefit from this and can fill vacancies with well-qualified staff.
Foreign nurses, on another hand, receive a professional and personal perspective. They receive support from the organization in job finding, and the entire migration process, from visa application to integration in Germany.
Tripple win ensures a fair and transparent hiring process for nurses, without unwanted side effects such as lower wages or other drawbacks. Nurses from abroad have the same rights and obligations as German nurses.
The countries of origin benefit from a reduction in their labor market. The Tripple Win project only hires nurses from countries with a surplus of health professionals.
Thus, they avoid the migration of nurses to Germany, triggering a shortage of skilled workers in other countries.
With that said, foreign nurses from countries with a shortage of medical workers can’t attend this program. Today Tripple win supports only professionals from Bosnia-Herzegovina, Serbia, the Philippines, Tunisia, and Vietnam.
Selection and obligations:
Candidates need to pass a language test as part of the selection procedure. (at least B1). After traveling to Germany, participants are required to obtain the recognition of their professional qualifications within the first year of their stay in the country. After they can start work.
Nursing professionals can work in hospitals, outpatient care, and elderly care, but, irrespective of the field in which they work, they are required to undergo the recognition procedure for nursing.