Are you interested in becoming a registered nurse in Germany? This country has one of the best healthcare in the world, so it is a good choice. However, foreign nurses must have a corresponding qualification to practice nursing in Germany.
In Germany, you can get a nursing qualification by completing a vocational school or university. Most vocational training programs last up to three years and include several months of internships, where students work at healthcare facilities.
Nursing is one of the most popular professions in Germany. The interest for qualified nurses is growing together with its salary. In this article, we have summarized the most relevant information about how to become a nurse in a foreign country and all common European framework requirements.
Related: “How to work as a nurse in Germany.”
Requirements to study nursing at a university in Germany
Here are the important factors to enter a German university for a nursing degree:
- University entry qualification A level (Matura) or
- Preparation course with additional qualification
- German language proficiency – at least B2 level
- Financial proof of 10,000 EUR or
- employment contract with a salary above 900 EUR
- Entrance examination
- After approval is required
- Good health and mental condition
- Proof of current vaccination status
- Criminal record (from home country or Germany)
- Relevant professional qualifications, if applicable
- Trustworthiness and responsibility
If you are coming to Germany from non-EU countries to study nursing, you must apply for a student visa in your home country. An essential aspect of this is financial security. Therefore, you must prove at least 10,000 EUR in your bank account.
Also, consider the tuition fee; you will also need to pay it. It will depend on the university you apply to. Usually, costs range between 120 EUR – 300 EUR per semester. After you have considered every aspect up to this point, the next step to studying nursing in Germany will be to send your application to the university of your choice.
It’s recommended to send your documents as soon as the application procedure is open, so you will have enough time to prepare your visa. You can do it simply by emailing it to your university or through the admission portal www.uni-assist.de.
For your visa application as well as for future stay you will need a German health insurance, check out the best ones in this article.
Working as a nurse in Germany: overview
Becoming a nurse is a very popular destiny for many German nationals and foreign nurses, despite their gender. Nevertheless, many women and men have a beautiful and unrealistic image of a nurse’s job and overlook the fact that the job is often stressful and exhausting long hours.
Luckily, unemployment insurance is available to most nurse work contracts in a nursing home.
If you are interested in becoming a nursing assistant, you need to know your future duties:
- Patient care and sickness care (emotional support, wound dressings etc.)
- Treat the elderly and sick according to the doctor’s instructions
- Plan care measures, notice and document them
- Serve as a contact person for relatives, doctors, and therapists
The area of responsibility for certified German nurses includes caring for sick people of all ages with physical and mental illnesses, people with special needs, or seriously ill and dying people. In addition, they provide prevention, health promotion, and health advice.
Besides general tasks, you will face quite a lot of bureaucracy. Everything must be accurately documented – every change, every tablet.
Computer work often takes up to three hours of a nurse’s working day. Consequently, this leaves less time for direct contact with patients.
University or vocational training in Germany?
There are two main ways to become a nurse in Germany:
- University degree (3 years)
- Vocational training (3 years)
Here are the main differences, requirements, advantages, and disadvantages.
In many other countries, completing a university degree is a classical way for certified nurses. However, in Germany, this system is still new; only in the last ten years have nursing degree programs started to pop up in various universities across the country.
Usually, they are a part of (Dual) cooperation with the hospitals and clinics, so students study and work part-time. The program lasts for 3 or 4 years. Graduates finish with a Bachelor of Science in Health + professional qualification in health and nursing or a Bachelor of Science in Nursing + Diploma in Health.
Although both a Bachelor’s degree and vocational nursing training allow you to work as a nurse, a university degree will offer more employment opportunities for your future career. And most importantly, graduates with sufficient German language will climb a career ladder faster than training nurses. The latter usually will need a significant amount of experience to get a promotion.
University graduates can take up more responsible and administrative jobs, so they don’t necessarily need to work as practising nurses. Another popular path after finishing a university program is to become a nurse teacher at a vocational school. Many combine their nursing job at the hospital with teaching positions.
Further education is also possible: those with a bachelor’s in nursing can apply for various Master’s degree programs to fast forward their knowledge and career.
A qualified nursing graduate with German language skills is guaranteed job opportunities and better work-life balance and retirement insurance.
What will you learn at the university?
The courses at the university are adapted to international standards. They include not only nursing aspects but also Psychology, Health Sciences, Social and Human Sciences, and a comprehensive understanding of health and illness.
In the end, the degree must give you all that nurses need to care for and treat sick people in the best possible way. The training is comprehensive and prepares for higher job positions with more responsibility. The university course covers all of the skills taught under the vocational training program and includes the more complex needs of patients.
Content of nursing programs at the university includes:
- General medical basics
- Basics of nursing
- Theories and Concepts in professional care
- Profession, law, and economy
- Scientific work
- Social communication skills and self competences
- Pathology and diagnostics
- Health sciences
- Special health and nursing care
In addition to the theoretical courses at university, a big focus is placed on the practical part. The length depends on the university; on average, about half of the study program will be dedicated to practical experience (internships).
It’s the perfect way for students to gain insight into working life, implement knowledge and gain qualifications and competencies. Everyone must complete the theoretical and practical part of the degree to graduate from university.
In the practical part, students go through classic nursing fields such as long-term care, acute care, or mobile care. In general, they complete internships in all areas of care, for example, in hospitals, rehabilitation centers, in-home nursing, or long-term care houses.
Vocational training for foreign nurses
What is vocational training for nursing?
Vocational training (Ausbildung), also known as the nursing apprenticeship, is the most common way to become a certified nurse in Germany. The program was made for people interested in pursuing a nursing career in Germany but don’t have the required prior education.
The training takes place at a nursing school, which has the necessary state recognition. The program lasts for three years and ends with the state examination. After successfully passing the exam, students qualify 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 apprenticeship, 2,100 hours must be invested in theory and 2,500 hours in practice.
Notice that the same like the university, practical experience is obligatory: even vocational schools require practical experience for patient care in care facilities.
The content of the training is tightly organized and structured. It includes not only courses on health and nursing care but nursing and health sciences, as well as scientific and medical basics and the development of nursing – all is relevant knowledge from the humanities and social sciences.
The training process is usually divided into six-week blocks, sometimes longer. Especially in the first year, students learn a lot of theory. It’s essential for future internships.
The practical lessons at vocational schools include the following subjects:
- Body care
- General Wound Care
- Administration of medication
As a part of the internships, students will need to work in all departments:
- General Internal Medicine
- Maternity and newborn care
- Ambulatory care
So after completing vocational training, they become general professionals and can work in all areas of medical care.
Nursing has a high demand in developed countries and is considered to be one of the most demanded jobs at the moment. Germany opened its door to non-European applicants a long time ago, so they could come to pursue vocational training and work afterwards.
Advantages of attending either university or vocational school
- Financial independence – Individuals don’t have to depend on their parents for their living expenses or education. They earn enough to support themselves.
- Job opportunities – A straightforward way to get a job after completing the training or university.
- Practical and theoretical training – Both programs cover practical and theoretical parts, which helps nurses to have a wider understanding of the role and helps in their professional growth.
But there are also some disadvantages:
- High intensity – Studies and vocational training are loaded with exams and tasks.
- Hard work – Especially during the internships, hard, dirty, or noncompetence required work is often delegated to the young nurses.
- Work shift – Even during the internships, you will have to work in shifts most of the time. However, this usually doesn’t include many night shifts.
Requirements for a nursing vocational school
- Sufficient German language at least B2 level
- A school-leaving qualification that is equivalent to the German
- The minimum age limit is 17 years old, and successful completion of 10 school levels or
- 18 years and corresponding additional education
- Physical and mentally healthy
- Trustworthiness and responsibility
- Pass the assessment test
Whether you want to study at a university or vocational school, applicants must bring several vital skills before you begin working. They need to be diligent, emphatic, responsible, emotionally stable, and in good physical shape in order to meet the wide range of tasks they will be faced with.
To apply for the vocational school, you will need to reach hospitals because they usually post job ads and hire for this position. Each such 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 send the application, CV, and cover letter to the potential school, you will generally be invited for an interview, sometimes by telephone. Usually, you will hear from them in a couple of days or weeks. They will inform you if you are accepted for vocational training or not. If the response is positive, you should hurry up to apply for an apprenticeship visa. You can either do it from your home country or already in Germany. Logically, in Germany, this process will be way easier and faster, and you can start working and attending school within a couple of days.
For a detailed list of documents, check the website of your local immigration office or the German embassy in your home country.
Which career opportunities can you expect if you study nursing abroad?
There are so many opportunities with a nursing degree or vocational training that it’s hard to list them all. The most important factor is, by far, your specialization.
Since the German medicine industry is very diverse and specialized, most nurses choose one direction and work there all their life.
Specializations to choose from:
- Regular nurses
- German doctor (Geriatric (gerontological nurse pediatric (child nurse))
- The first category is for general nurses working with adults in different departments.
- The second is a type of nurse that helps care for aging and elderly individuals. They can complete special training that helps them better understand the special needs of many older adults.
- The last type is child nursing; they care for sick, injured, or disabled children, young people, and infants.
Usually, when you apply for university or vocational training, you can already choose your direction. In apprenticeship, you can also decide on the 3rd year of training because the first two years will usually provide you with general knowledge.
In addition to the standard three years of education, nurses can take additional courses (master’s degree) to specialize in the following fields:
- Anesthesia and intensive care
- Operations and endoscopy service
- Clinical geriatrics
- Rehabilitation and long-term care
- Palliative and hospice care
- Psychiatric care
Potential employers for nurses are hospitals and nursing homes, but also, depending on the type of training completed, ambulatory care, residential homes for the elderly, home care, children’s hospitals, and many more.
Some popular places for work as a nurse in Germany are:
- Specialist practices
- Nursing homes
- Dormitories for people with disabilities
- Outpatient social services
- Insurance companies
How much do you earn as a nurse in Germany?
In Germany, the average salary for nurses is between 2,500 EUR – 2,800 EUR per month. Yet, when I googled this question, I found astonishing information about salaries in nursing. The Salary Explorer states that the lowest salary among nurses is 6,280 EUR, which is insane. This salary might earn a CEO or a leading engineer, but not a nurse.
Related: “How much nurses earn in Germany?”
So don’t trust all the information out there. The actual salary is between 1,000 – 1,200 EUR during the vocational training and 2,500 EUR while working as a qualified nurse full-time.
The tool also compares your salary with other nurses in different departments/hospitals. Here are more exact numbers on paycheck during the vocational training: 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. The amount varies slightly from one state to another. Be aware that it’s the gross salary; without the tax, it will be around 200-300 EUR less.