- Rund ums Studium
Securing sufficient funds for your studies is one of the most basic requirements to study successfully. Ideally, you should try to save money for your studies abroad in good time before your intended stay.
But what if your savings are not enough? Which financing options are there for international students, and for which of them are you eligible? Here are several options to secure your income in Germany:
Applying for a scholarship is possibly the best known way to gain financial support as a student. Scholarships are granted e. g. by many funding organisations, as well as politically-affiliated foundations, religious institutions or business-related organisations.
When it comes to international exchange, the German Academic Exchange Service ("Deutscher Akademischer Austauschdienst", or "DAAD" for short) is one of the most important German institutions. Here, German and international students and scientists on most levels of academic qualification can apply for financial support in many different funding programmes.
The DAAD offers an extensive scholarship database, which you can use to search the funding programmes of the DAAD and many other funding organisations to find a scholarship that suits your needs and requirements:
DAAD Scholarship Database
Important scholarship providers besides the DAAD are the 13 Stipendium Plus organisations for the promotion of young talent ("Begabtenförderungswerke"), or the Deutschlandstipendium, for which you can apply at most universities in Lower Saxony.
N. B.: Generally, there are no scholarships in Germany to fund an entire course of study, or for first-semester students in Bachelor’s programmes! Also, the selection procedures are very strict, and there is no general entitlement to a scholarship.
Even so, do not let this deter you from applying for a scholarship, since scholarships offer you financial security and allow you to focus on your studies while you are in Lower Saxony. Ideally, you should secure a scholarship before coming to Germany.
You should also find out if there are any scholarships or other funding measures in your home country for which you are eligible!
A part-time job alongside your studies can be a good opportunity to earn some extra income. However, it is very unlikely that you will be able to cover all your expenses by jobbing.
You should consider that spending a lot of time on a side job will extend the duration of your studies considerably – especially if you are working a job that is not related to your study subjects. If working is really necessary for financing your studies, you should try to work during the semester breaks, provided that this is compatible with the exam or internship phases of your studies.
Also, there are legal regulations in Germany which prescribe how many hours you are allowed to work as a student. The amount is determined by your country of origin and your student status:
Students from these countries have practically the same working rights as students from Germany. They also have unrestricted access to the German labour market. During the semester, EU-students are allowed to work up to 20 hours per week. If they work more than 20 hours, they will have to pay certain insurance contributions.
If you earn more than 520 Euro per month on a regular basis, you will need a tax number, and part of your monthly salary will be deducted. If you work only throughout the semester breaks and on a short-term basis, you are allowed to work more than 20 hours per week.
If you are from a country that is not part of the EU or the EEA, you are allowed to work a maximum of 120 full or 240 half days per year. You are not allowed to be self-employed or work as a freelancer.
If you would like to work more than 120 full or 240 half days per year, you will need the permission from your local employment agency ("Agentur für Arbeit") in Germany. Whether the permission is granted or not depends on the unemployment rate in your area in Germany – the higher the unemployment rate, the more unlikely it is that you will be allowed to work more hours.
If you are attending Niedersächsisches Studienkolleg or a language course, you will be subject to stricter legal regulations than regular university students. If one of these cases applies to you, you are only allowed to work throughout the semester break and only with permission of both the local employment agency ("Agentur für Arbeit") and the Foreigners' Registration Office ("Ausländerbehörde").
However, there is one exception: Working as a student assistant or academic assistant ("Hiwi") at university is always allowed, provided that you do not work for more than 20 hours a week, as specified in the Lower Saxony University Regulations (§ 33 NHG).
Student assistants work e. g. in libraries, teach tutorials, or assist professors and research projects in their (research) tasks. These jobs are usually very compatible with your studies and can even benefit your course work – but as a consequence, they are also very popular among students.
For more detailed information on student jobs, visit the German National Association for Student Affairs ("Deutsches Studentenwerk") or the DAAD, or ask your university's International Office. They can also give you tips on how to get a job.
FYI: There are also special legal regulations for (mandatory) internships as part of your studies! For general information regarding internships, please visit the DAAD website, or contact the German Employment Agency for details.
A student loan may seem like a quick fix to your funding problems - but please be careful: Student loans can just as quickly turn into a debt trap! Before taking out a student loan, you should definitely try to exhaust other financing options, such as scholarships.
If there really is no way around a loan, please seek advice already in your home country (e. g. from a student guidance institution at a university, or from a bank), and make sure to choose a serious provider to avoid overpriced interest rates.
European students can also take out Master Degree Loans through Erasmus+ at favourable conditions. These loans are intended to finance a complete Master's degree abroad. However, since the programme is still in its early stages, it is currently only available in a few countries.
For students from the EU, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, Turkey and the Republic of Macedonia, there are special exchange programmes – such as Erasmus+. With this programme, the European Commission promotes e. g. the exchange of students in Bachelor’s, Master’s or PhD-programmes, as well as international internships.
The exchange always takes place between partner universities in Germany and the respective home country. Therefore, you have to apply for your place in the exchange programme to the sending institution in your home country. You can get funding for placements of three to twelve months per study cycle.
In other words, you may participate several times, and can get funding for up to 36 months, provided that you go abroad as a Bachelor’s, Master’s and PhD-student. Furthermore, the funding period per study cycle can be split, so that you can e. g. study abroad for six months and do an international internship for another six months, all while in your Master’s degree programme.
For students from several other countries – the so-called "Partner Countries" – Erasmus+ offers various funding programmes as well. To find out whether your home country is an Erasmus+ Partner Country or not, please check the DAAD website, or contact the International Office of your home university.