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Career Information for Foreign Engineers in Germany

Engineers who want to work in Germany should be aware of some important facts.

Foreign engineers coming to Germany are in the news these days – and in a good way. They are being welcomed as immigrants and are filling many of the engineering job vacancies that are opening up in Germany. Below are some particulars for engineers to know as well as specific employment information to be considered when working in Germany.

Job situation for Engineers

Germany industry has traditionally put a strong emphasis on science and technology. Germany has the highest number of employed engineering workers and the second highest share of engineering workers among all employees in the European Union. But, demographic trends are causing some concern. Currently 21% of engineering workers are older than 55 and many companies face severe replacement problems. The largest numbers of job vacancies in engineering are the Hamburg and Stuttgart areas as well as in the cities of Berlin and Munich. Work Permit requirements have been relaxed.

Engineers from non-EU countries can now benefit from the new EU Blue Card, which gives highly skilled foreign immigrants the right to live and work in Germany. Because of the shortage of engineers this group has low entry requirements at the moment. This means an engineer only needs two things to get the Blue Card:

  • a university degree
  • a employment contract with a salary of at least €34,944 per year

The permit is valid for the duration of a work contract plus three months but no longer then four years. Blue Card holders can renew the permit or apply for a permanent residence permit after 33 months. Spouses of Blue Card holders are allowed to work in Germany without any restrictions. The permission has to be requested at the local Ausländerbehörde (Foreigners Office).

For more information on the EU Blue Card see the separate article here.

Use of the title “Ingenieur”

The professional title for an engineer is protected by law. You may not use the German word “Ingenieur” (e.g. in your résumé) until you have gone through the accreditation process. However, there are only a few special cases where you really need the title for your work. But you may face situations where it is a psychological advantage.

Language requirements

A precondition for working in Germany is often a certain level of proficiency in the German language. How good your German actually needs to be is very different. As a guideline: The bigger the company, the more international the field of work and the bigger the city or industrial region is, the less knowledge of German you will need. You can survive without any German when you work as an experienced mechanical engineer in the aerospace industry; e.g. at Airbus in Hamburg. But you will need really good German language skills if you want to work in a medium-sized construction company in a non-industrial area. It is recommended to have finished the German Level B1 when first applying for jobs. The application period gives you time to reach B2, which is usually good enough to start working.

Civil Engineers are a special case. This group uses a specific vocabulary for their work, which comes from a legal regulation called HOAI (Honorarordnung für Architekten und Ingenieure). It will be very important for you to know this technical language. It is highly recommended to take a close look at this regulation and to learn the vocabulary.

Salary expectations

As anywhere in the world, what you can earn depends on your work experience, the company size and the local region. To give you an idea take, for example, a mechanical engineer with work experience of two years. The most likely salary will be between €44,000 and €52,000 per year. In a small company it can go down to €38,000. In lucky cases it can increase to €65,000. (This level of income is taxed at 42 per cent for a single person. If you earn less, are married or have children the rate decreases.)

Despite the high demand for engineers, the selection process is not easy. Germany has a very formal and defined application process that is quite different from many other countries. To be well informed is a prerequisite for a successful application.

Contributed by Heidi Störr
Heidi Störr is a consultant offering career advice for international experts. For information about her company and the variety of services available and their fees, visit her website at: www.push-your-career.com