Ways to Get Your Ph.D. Funded in Germany

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If you're an international student who is planning to pursue a doctoral degree from Germany, there are several ways to fund your Ph.D. studies in Germany

Ways to Get Your Ph.D. Funded in Germany

One of the best things about studying at a German university is getting respite from tuition fees. Why? Firstly, the majority of the research activities in universities and non-university organizations are sponsored by the government. Secondly, the industry also plays a major role in funding research activities and innovations via its research organizations and strong relations with different German universities and non-university institutes. Thirdly, several private institutes, foundations, and organizations such as Gerda Henkel Foundation and Fritz Thyssen also fund these activities. However, the story doesn’t end here.

The European Union is a great help in this regard. They allocate research and education fund to the research programs. And, last but not the least, the Federal Government also plays an important role. Due to different global complexities such as demographic and climatic changes, need for healthful food and safety from diseases, and deficiency of energy sources and fossil fuel, the Federal Government came up with a hi-tech strategy to aid research and innovation in these fields of concern. Reports show that in 2015, 10% of Germany’s GDP was allocated to research and education by the German Federal Government.

There are approximately 20,000 private and public funding organizations which provide funds to foreign doctoral candidates. Some of these are – the Helmholtz Association, DAAD or Academic Exchange Service, and Alexander von Humboldt Foundation. The Stifterverband für die Deutsche Wissenschaft, a German organization contributes over 35 million Euros to science, research, and education.

So, what is the problem?

With so many resources available to fund research and education of foreign doctoral students like you, the need for a tuition fee does not exist. However, the problem does not end here. As an international student, there are several living and semester costs that you’ll encounter. To get entitled to receive the 8040 Euros annually as an international student studying in Germany you must present your visa. Also, it has been estimated that the average cost of living per month in Germany is 794 Euros which is more than the annually entitled 8040 Euros. Therefore, to ensure that you can meet the payouts as an international student residing and staying in Germany, you must find a funding source for your Ph.D.

Several doctoral students who engage with research institutes and graduate schools or become a part of research training groups work as associates who are paid and obtain scholarships from a funding organization. Many doctoral students are also employed in part-time jobs related to their field of research and study in the industry.

How much will I end up spending on my doctoral program?

To reiterate, you are not required to pay any tuition fee for your Ph.D. program as the same is taken care of by the Government. The approximate average monthly spending is 794 Euros, and the breakup of the same is mentioned below:

Semester costs – 75-250 Euros
House rent – 250-298 Euros
Food – 140 – 160 Euros
Travel – 75-85 Euros (public transport or cab)
Sports and entertainment – 65-68 Euros
Clothing – 50-55 Euros
Health insurance – 60-68 Euros
Telephone/TV/Internet – 30-35 Euros
Books and Stationery – 30 Euros

Opportunities for seeking funding

If you’re hassled after seeing a detailed summary of your possible payouts, don’t be. There are several funding opportunities, and you can leverage them to sort of your financial commitments during your doctoral program in Germany. Here are some options that you can explore:

1. Part-time job

You can look for part-time employment in a non-university organization, university, or the industry (related to your research field). You can look for a good opportunity in a research-based industrial business. In such a case, you will be supervised by your university as well as your employer. In case you plan to get employed with a non-university research organization, you will be supervised by the non-university organization, the university, and the industry.

If you’re enrolled in a structured doctoral program, you can get employed as a doctoral researcher from Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft.

2. Scholarships

Institutes and organizations such as Leibniz Association, Helmholtz Association, and Max Planck Society can provide doctoral students like you with fixed-term jobs, scholarships, or even both.

Funding institutes/organizations for Ph.D

As you already know, in Germany, science and development, research, sports, and educations are sponsored by the country. There are approximately 20,000 private and public institutes and organizations in Germany that offer funds for encouraging research programs that turn into innovations in the science industry. 

Some of these organizations support international doctoral students like you by providing individual doctoral program scholarships, while the others offer part-time employment opportunities. In some cases, some organizations give both. 

Several German universities also help a great deal in supporting international doctoral students like you by providing research-based paid part-time employment roles in the university itself. You can get an opportunity to work as a research associate by honing your teaching and research skills. This paid part-time job can help you meet additional costs during your doctoral study program. 

In this section, we will talk about the most popular and useful organizations and institutes that provide funds to support research-based activities and education. Let’s look at them one by one. 

The Alexander Von Humboldt Foundation

The Alexander Von Humboldt Foundation is a joint initiative of Federal ministries, Federal Foreign Office, and International partner organizations. The funds provided by this foundation are dedicated to the welfare of international doctoral candidates, as well as, German doctoral candidates who wish to conduct their research program in Germany. And it currently supports over 2000 national and international research candidates.

Find more details here>

DAAD or the German Academic Exchange Service

DAAD is indeed the most established financial support for international students in Germany. One of the primary areas they cater to financially is research activities and doctoral programs for international students in Germany. DAAD spread across 51 centers and 15 offices in Germany. 

Find more details here>

German Federation of Industrial Research Associations (AiF)

The German Federation of Industrial Research Associations dedicates its funds to financial support research activities catering to applied research and development, devoted to SMEs (Small and Medium Enterprises). One of the primary aims of the foundation is to foster the relationship between research, science, and the industry to produce innovative products. 100 industry-based research institutes with approximately 50,000 businesses from the SMEs league constitute the Aif. Also, every year, a budget of around 490 million Euros is allocated to research and development. 

The German Research Foundation (DFG)

DFG is a self-governed funding foundation which is affiliated to several research-savvy non-university institutes, higher education institutes, scientific organizations, and several academies of sciences. One of the primary areas of focus for this foundation is providing financial support to young and talented research students and encouraging international co-operation by offering funds primarily collected from the German Lander and the German Federal Government. 

Find more details here>

Other funding sources

Apart from the funding organizations, there are other funding sources that you must be aware of. These include:

The European Union (EU)

As a part of the Horizon 2020 strategy, the European Union allocates a part of their budget to research-based activities for all of Europe. With the help of these funds, the European Union supports research programs and individual actions. Through this initiative, the European Union aims to encourage research, innovation, and development in science and technology. 

The Horizon 2020 strategy is an endeavor to promote best practices in science via research and innovation. For this strategy, the European Union has dedicated a budget of 246 billion. 


Many German firms are among the biggest supporters of research and innovation in the country. Small and Medium Enterprises support innovation and research that yield interesting, marketable products.  Therefore, the industry maintains a good relationship with universities and research institutions supporting such research initiatives and providing funds whenever required. Firms, on the other hand, offer a similar support system by providing part-time employment, scholarships, and prizes to doctoral students involved in research. Germany is a hub for industrial companies. The authority in this regard is the Federation of German industries and looks after 36 industry-based associations consisting of a total membership of 100,000 companies. 

Find more details here>

The Federal and State Governments 

Two major contributors – the Federal and the State Government also offer funds for research initiatives and innovation-based activities. Both the governments focus on funding activities that are related to the Lander’s policy or other Governmental policies. A classic example of this is the Robert Koch Institute. The Federal Government funds the research programs of this institute aimed at bringing innovative research-based discoveries to a national level in the field of diseases and prevention.

Find funding institutions here>

Other Foundations

Apart from the wonderful funding sources mentioned in the earlier sections, there are many other foundations (approx. 20000) that financially support research and innovation. The Association of German Foundations consists of a list of 10000 foundations. These foundations focus on educations, research, and innovation.

Some of the well-known foundations belong to this list are:

Based on the research activity they encourage; the above foundations are further segmented into different categories. These include:

  • Foundations supporting young researchers and doctoral candidates
  • Foundations supporting talented young individuals
  • Foundations supporting research-based activities
  • Foundations supporting senior researchers


Scholarships for Doctoral Studies

In case you depend on a scholarship for enrolling in a doctoral program, here’s some interesting information for you. Many doctoral scholarships support potential international doctoral candidates like you to pursue a doctoral degree from Germany in the field of your choice. However, you must know the complete details of applying for a doctoral a scholarship and duly fill the application form to obtain a scholarship for your doctoral studies. 

If you want more information about the available scholarships for doctoral students, you can refer to these essential databases:

  • You can get access to relevant information about several doctoral scholarships by consulting DAAD or the German Academic Exchange Service. Use this link to get the desired information.
  • You can also check the pilot website by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) for the list of scholarships for doctoral candidates

An online portal for scholarships – EURAXESS can help a great deal in finding funding sources and scholarships for doctoral students in Germany

Part-time jobs for doctoral students

Another super idea to meet your cost of living and studying in Germany is finding a paid part-time employment in the industry related to your subject, in a non-university research organization, or the university itself. 

Part-time employment in University

You can get employed as a research assistant in a university where you will be required to work on research activities for a specific project. It will be supervised by a team of mentors and a team of the university. For more information on vacancies for research assistance, you can get in touch with the university’s international office or your supervisor. 

Part-time employment in a Non-University organization

Even though a non-university organization is not authorized to award doctorate degrees, they support doctoral students because of their close connections with universities and the industry. The employment opportunities provided by non-university organizations are usually the paid ones with contracts and fixed terms for employment. 

Part-time employment in the industry

If you have plans to enter the industry during your doctoral program to earn some money, then you’re in for some treats! Since the industry has close connections in the non-university organizations and the university, there are ample part-time opportunities in this space. As a doctoral student, you will work on a research project related to your research paper under the mentorship of your supervisor, university faculty or someone from the industry. 

Information regarding available part-time job opportunities can be obtained from a career counseling center, the international office of the university, or from your mentor. You can also scan company websites for available vacancies. 

Independent employment

Apart from getting a part-time job in the industry related to your research subject, non-university organizations, or the university, you can also get employed part-time with restaurants and other businesses. However, the only thing you must remember as an international student is that to work as a part-time employee in Germany, you must consult the Alien’s authority (understand requirements for taking part in any economic activity in Germany as an international student) first and possess a valid work permit. 

For job opportunities, you can get in touch with the Federal Employment Agency.


If you’re an international student who is planning to pursue a doctoral degree from Germany, don’t get hassled if you’re short on funds. There are several ways to fund your Ph.D. studies in Germany as mentioned above. If you still have any questions, get in touch with us for more details. We’ll be happy to assist you!

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