Vocational Training in Germany for Foreigners: Guide

a medical practitioner on her regular day at work.

Germany is one of the best places for skilled trade professionals. However, if you don’t have qualifications yet, vocational training or apprenticeship is an excellent way to start your career. It’s a dual program that allows you to work, earn money, and study simultaneously.

In Germany, vocational training, known as Ausbildung, is a training program for non-academic professions where participants gain the necessary skills and knowledge for their future job. They work and study simultaneously for an average period of three years.

If you aren’t looking for a university degree and a sedentary job, this program will be the right choice. Moreover, you don’t need to finance your education; you even will get paid! Read all about vocational training in Germany in this article.

What is vocational training?

Vocational training or apprenticeship is a very popular way to get qualifications and start working right after school. Due to the dual system, students work and study simultaneously. The program is developed for non-academic professions.

The dual system means that participants spend about 50–70% of their time working, and the rest is dedicated to learning. This way, they receive on-the-job training and work experience.

Depending on the profession, trainees may work for three to four days a week in the company/factory/firm/shop, and another part is spent learning at Berufsschule (professional school).

It’s the most common case for trade and craft occupations. Other professions, such as nurses, have block systems: 1-2 months of school followed by the same amount of practice. Read more about vocational training for nurses.


Vocational training usually lasts between 2 to 3 years. With the received qualification, skilled workers can continue to work in the company, obtain further qualifications (e.g., master craftsman or study at university), become self-employed, or return to their home country.

The most common jobs are nurses, bakers, merchants, electricians, ambulance workers, doctor assistants, plumbers, masons, painters, hairdressers, and some handicrafts. But often, you will find an Ausbildung profession in almost all fields and industries.

Especially nursing is in high-demand in developed countries and is considered one of the most sought-after professions 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 afterward. 

German immigration law 2020

a barista preparing some drinks.

After changes in the immigration law of Germany in March 2020, people from non-EU/EEA countries have better opportunities in Germany if they have vocational qualifications or want to complete vocational training.

Foreigners from all countries can start vocational training in Germany. Graduates have outstanding career opportunities. After vocational training, foreigners can stay in Germany to work in their profession.

1. Moving to Germany as a qualified worker

If you already have vocational qualifications that can be recognized in Germany, you can move to Germany for work. Earlier, this was only possible for people with a university degree recognized in Germany.

The reason for this is the shortage of skilled workers in the country. There are plenty of highly educated people who can do academic work and very few qualified laborers.

2. Chances for all occupations

The second change is that you aren’t restricted by the shortage list anymore. You don’t need to receive approval from the employment agency (Agentur für Arbeit) to work in Germany.

Therefore, you can apply to work in any job you are qualified for and receive a visa together with a work permit.

3. Coming to Germany to look for a job

The third charge was made in the Job Seeker visa: now, holders of lower-tier qualifications (equal to vocational training) from non-EU/EEA countries can apply for this visa and seek employment in Germany. Before, this opportunity was only available to university graduates.

4. Coming to Germany to look for a vocational training

Lastly, if you want to come to Germany in order to find a place for vocational training, you can do it. No Skype interview anymore; get to know your future employer and school personally. Furthermore, you can also work up to 10 hours per week during this time.

Requirements for an apprenticeship-seeking visa:

  • School leaving diploma
  • German language level B1
  • Maximum age 25
  • Financial proof of 600-700 EUR per month
  • Health insurance
  • Accommodation

After successfully finding a place in a vocational school, you can apply for an apprenticeship visa from Germany.

Advantages of vocational training

a welder working on metal sheet fabricator.

Vocational training has some advantages over studies in Germany. You can study and earn money at the same time.

Also, you don’t need to prove funds when applying for a visa; compared to university programs – 10,000 EUR must be in your banking account.

Other advantages of vocational training in Germany:

  1. Learn and practice simultaneously – the program covers practical and theoretical parts, which helps trainees have a broader understanding of the role and helps in their professional growth.
  2. Financial independence – individuals don’t have to depend on their parents for their living expenses or education. They earn enough to support themselves.
  3. Career opportunities – a straightforward way to get the job right after completing the training.

Moreover, Germany has a high demand for skilled people, so the chances of finding a position as an apprentice are pretty good. After completing the apprenticeship, you will be eligible to work in your field and apply for a residence permit together with work permission.

Here you can see the main advantages at a glance:

1. Salary

When you start a vocational training program in Germany, you will earn money from day one. Companies will pay you a salary for the work you do as part of your course.

The average salary of trainees ranges between 600 EUR and 1,200 EUR per month, depending on the profession.

2. Low chances of unemployment

Many German companies across all industries are constantly looking for trainees, and the shortage and demand are massive.

In 2016 alone, 43,478 positions in vocational training could not be filled. This means that Germany simply doesn’t have the required number of applicants. And the situation is getting worse year after year.

Therefore, your chances of securing a place for vocational training are excellent.

3. Theory and practice

Vocational training in Germany offers a lot of variety. It combines theory and practice right from the start in a very effective way, so trainees can learn faster and apply their knowledge.

4. Good career chances

Vocational training may be your ticket to a career in the German labor market. Around two-thirds of all trainees get a permanent job with their companies after completing vocational training.

After completing the program, you will be fully qualified in your profession and earn good money – and you will benefit from knowing your company, its operations, and your colleagues.

Furthermore, professionals with vocational qualifications are in-demand in the German labor market.

Disadvantages of vocational training

The main disadvantage of this program is the pay which is pretty low and may not be enough to cover your rent and living expenses, especially if you live in a major city or in the south of the country.

These points can range depending on your profession but generally applies to nurses and other hard-working occupations:

  • High intensity – vocational training is loaded with exams and tasks
  • Hard work – especially during the internships, hard work often delegated to the young trainees

As you can see, the advantages pretty much outweigh all possible disadvantages, and you can indeed take advantage of vocational training in Germany!

Choose the right profession

When choosing vocational training is very important to pick the right profession, so you can finish the program and work in this field in the future.

Germany has a vocational program for various jobs. The German training system offers you more than 340 dual training occupations. You can do your vocational training in various industries: in social, commercial, medical, commercial-technical, craft, or other fields.

Each of them has different lengths, salaries, and structures but the basics remain the same: half of the time you study, half of the time you work.

Skilled workers are lacking in many sectors. Besides, almost 58,000 training places remained unfilled in 2018. This is why trainees from other countries are more than welcome.

This applies to all professions in health care, construction, information technology, gastronomy, hospitality, sanitary, heating, and air conditioning technology, retail, as well as bakery and butcher trade.

Professions range from banker to plumber, generally speaking, you will find an apprenticeship program in any field. In many of them, graduates can educate and qualify further up to the master’s level. Hence, their responsibility and salary are growing as well.

Application and requirements for vocational training

a book, notebook, pen, laptop and bag place on top of a table.

To receive a place in a vocational school, you need to meet certain requirements.

Your application must be compelling, made in German, and addressed to the particular school. Companies often start looking for trainees a year before a program begins. So apply as soon as possible.

Your application must contain a CV, motivation letter, and certificates. The motivation letter is essential and must emphasize why you want to learn this profession and at this particular school and employer.

After, you will be invited to the interview, in person or via Skype/phone. The company may ask you to work for a trial period or complete an internship. In this case, you can apply for a job seeker visa (see new immigration law).

In terms of requirements for vocational training, luckily, apprenticeship has very few admission requirements, unlike programs for higher education.

First and most important, you will need a good level of German to apply for and complete an apprenticeship in Germany. The lessons are given in German, and work happens in German too. So far, there is no official apprenticeship available in English in Germany.

There is no age limit; however, the minimum age is 17. For educational background, you must complete ten school levels.

After receiving the contract with the school/employer, you can apply for a visa at the German embassy in your country.

A glance at the requirements for vocational training:

  • Sufficient knowledge of the German language at least level B1
  • A school-leaving qualification that is equivalent to the German (10 school levels)

Are there any age restrictions you need to be aware of? Read in this article.

In order to find out whether you meet the requirements for a specific vocational training course, you should have your school-leaving certificate recognized in Germany.

The recognition process isn’t complicated; you send your translated documents to the responsible authorities in Germany.

On this platform, you can see how your diploma is recognized in Germany and who is responsible for recognizing your school certificates.

Learn German with the best online classes on the web.

Requirements for the apprenticeship visa

Requirements for your apprenticeship visa have the same importance as requirements for admission. In the end, you will need a visa to come to Germany.

You will apply for a visa at the German embassy in your country or the immigration office if you are already in Germany. To be granted a visa, applicants must meet the following criteria:

  • Have found a vocational training place in a German company
  • Have the financial proof which covers the cost of living in Germany
  • Receive approval from the German Federal Employment Agency*

Financial proof can be provided in different ways; usually, your salary during the vocational training must be enough; therefore, you can show your working contract.

If the amount is too low, you need to have some funds in the banking account, so you have at least 600-700 EUR per month.

*German Federal Employment Agency (Agentur für Arbeit) will check if there are no German candidates or candidates from a privileged country (such as an EU member) for the respective position.

Candidates holding a school-leaving certificate from a German school are exempt from this criteria.

To cover all living expenses, trainees are allowed to take on additional employment outside of vocational training for up to 10 hours per week in total.

Salary during vocational training

100-euro paper bill.

As mentioned before, you will receive a salary throughout the entire program. The salary strongly ranges between the professions.

On average, a trainee earns around 908 EUR gross, which is undoubtedly not bad. Some programs are paid particularly well, learn more in this article. However, some programs pay only 500-600 EUR per month.

So if you depend on this salary, check carefully; 500 EUR won’t be enough to live in Germany. For example, a hairdresser earns only between 340 and 600 EUR per month.

But engineering trainees and nurses earn 1,088 EUR gross on average. The salary you receive as a trainee increases with each year of training you complete. Part of your wages will be deducted for social security contributions and partly for income tax.

Salary after vocational training

After completing your program, you will be fully qualified and eligible to work in your profession and earn good money.

Getting a well-paid and perspective 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 ask for a higher wage. 

In addition to the great salary, graduates will receive a permanent settlement permit after 2 years of work, thanks to the new immigration law.

Below you can see the average salaries for best paid vocational occupations when working full-time:

  • 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
  • Electronics Technician – between 1,600 and 2,000 EUR
  • Civil Servant (Bundesbank) – between 1,800 and 2,200 EUR
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  1. My name is Clement Owusu Ansah from Ghana in West African countries. I completed technical vocational training in the year 2015 with the program automobile engineering and due Germany is the best leading vocational country across the world , so I will be very happy if I get the opportunity to further my training course there. Thank you.

  2. I would love to enrol onto the vocational program but I am over 33 years old. Is it too late? Any feedback will be appreciated. Thank you

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