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With a population of over 83 million, Germany is the second-most populous country in Europe. Whether you’re attracted to the business center of Frankfurt, the liberal and open-minded city of Berlin, or the historic port city of Hamburg, Germany’s 16 states are diverse enough to suit any taste. Its citizens have a quality of life that is considered one of the best in the world due to the low unemployment rate, high wages, a relatively low cost of living, and a rich cultural offering that means you are rarely going to get bored! In many ways, Germany lies at the apex of European culture and European business, offering a combination of the two that is unlikely to be bettered elsewhere.
As the undoubted financial powerhouse of the European Union – in large part due to its world-renowned manufacturing, pharmaceutical, and construction industries – job prospects for graduates are promising in Germany. It is increasingly becoming a hub for international students, having been named the most desirable country to study in Europe for two years running. Although the lure of free tuition for undergraduate programs (and some master’s degrees) is an obvious attraction for many, the country backs that up with world-class teaching and universities that are growing in reputation each year.
The price of a Master in Germany ranges between EUR€30,000 and €50,000 (and more for an Executive Master). For living costs, international students need a minimum of EUR€10,332 per year (or EUR€861 per month) to study in Germany.
Germany has some of the most welcoming visa requirements in the world. Citizens from the EU/EEA can enter the country without a visa and apply for their right to remain after arriving. Here’s a useful tool to quickly check whether you need a visa to study in Germany. If you are not an EU/EEA citizen, you need to supply documents, including proof of health insurance, proof of sufficient funds, and a letter of acceptance from your university.
German universities are steadily becoming some of the most reputable in the world. According to the Financial Times European Business School Rankings 2021, Germany has five schools ranked in the top 50. This includes ESMT Berlin, ESCP Business School, WHU – Otto Beisheim School of Management, and Frankfurt School of Finance and Management.
Germany has the largest economy in Europe with significant manufacturing, pharmaceutical, and construction industries. German graduates have an employment rate of over 90%, one of the highest rates in Europe.
The country is second, only behind the UK in Europe, when it comes to international students. There are currently over 400,000 international students in Germany.
Depending on where you are from, how long you plan to stay, and even what kind of passport you have, you might need a visa to study in Germany. There are plenty of resources available – including this quick check on whether you need a visa.
Generally, EU/EEA and Swiss nationals do not need a visa to enter and study in Germany. You must, however, register with the local authorities within one week after arrival (a fine for late registration is applicable). This local office can have different names: Einwohnermeldeamt, Bürgerbüro, or Bezirksamt. Make sure you can show proof of health insurance and proof of ample funds upon arrival, in order to obtain your registration confirmation document. Per January 1, 2021, the required amount of funds for international students is EUR€10,332 (US$11,500).
If you are not from the EU/EEA or Switzerland, you need to apply for a visa well in advance before your arrival in Germany, as the procedure can take several months. After arrival, you also need to register with the local authorities in Germany. With your registration confirmation document, you can then apply for a residence permit.
Germany has student bank accounts available for students who can prove their student status. The criteria differ from bank to bank as well as age. In general, student bank accounts are not available for students under 18 or over 28 years old.
Since all international students need to show proof of funds in order to obtain a student visa, most students open a “blocked account,” in which money deposited into the account cannot be withdrawn until the account holder arrives in Germany. Per January 1, 2021, the required amount of funds for international students is EUR€10,332 (US$11,500), or EUR€861 per month. Popular blocked account providers in Germany are Deutsche Bank, Fintiba, Expatrio, and Coracle.
In Germany, you are obligated by law to purchase health insurance. You will need proof of health insurance coverage to enroll at university and you will also need it to apply for a residence permit. It is highly recommended to obtain insurance prior to arriving in Germany. Health insurance for international students typically costs between EUR€104 and €112 per month with a public health insurance provider. This covers basic healthcare, as well as long-term care.
Students from the EU, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Iceland, Israel, Liechtenstein, Morocco, Macedonia, Montenegro, Norway, Switzerland, Serbia, Tunisia, or Turkey, can use their home country’s health insurance. They can also get the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) to prove their health insurance coverage. However, if you work alongside your studies or if you are doing a paid internship, you will need to take out German health insurance.
Student housing is plentiful in Germany, and there are several types of accommodation. You can choose to live in a residence hall, provided by your university. This is one of the cheapest options, in which students share kitchens and bathrooms. Renting a room in a residence hall usually costs around EUR€250 per month. It is important to note, however, that securing a spot in a residence hall is a competitive process, so apply as soon as you have your enrollment confirmation letter.
Apartment-sharing is another common type of student accommodation in Germany. It is commonly referred to as “WG” (Wohngemeinschaft). This entails sharing an apartment with a small group of students. Each student has their own room, but you will share the living room, kitchen, bathroom, and costs for rent and utilities. This type of accommodation usually costs over EUR€400 per month. Renting your own apartment (one bedroom) can set you back at least EUR€750 a month.
Germany has one of the best public transportation systems in the world. It is efficient, easily accessible, and reliable. There are five commonly-used forms of transport: S-Bahn (city rapid rail), U-Bahn (metro), trams, buses, and regional trains (usually operated by Deutsche Bahn). Besides motorized transportation, the use of bicycles is on the rise, especially in urban areas.
Bus and metro prices in Germany are affordable – single bus, tram, or metro tips usually cost between EUR€1 and €2. Monthly travel cards cost around EUR€80-90. Students may receive a free travel card, or they can buy a discounted travel card. You can also buy a BahnCard 50 discount card, which offers a 50% discount on off-peak fares.
The Big Mac Index was invented by The Economist in 1986 as an informal way of measuring the purchasing power parity (PPP) between two currencies. The price of a Big Mac in Germany is around EUR€4.50 (equivalent to US$4.80 and JP¥613). For US$50, you can buy 10 Big Macs.
The cost of living in Germany is reasonable compared to other countries in Europe. To obtain a student visa, international students need to show proof of ample funds – a minimum of EUR€10,332 (US$11,500) per year. This amounts to around EUR€861 per month.