Higher Education System
Types of Degrees


Depending on the examination regulations of your chosen study programme, you will have to take a university examination, a state examination, or an ecclesiastical examination at the end of your studies. There are different types of degrees.

you will receive a certificate of your achieved academic degree. The corresponding "diploma supplement" provides information on the exact contents of your studies.


You begin your academic education with a basic Bachelor's programme. The Bachelor's degree is the first degree with professional qualification awarded by universities and universities of applied sciences. Usually, the standard period of study to earn this degree is three to four years, but exceptions are possible.

Bachelor's programmes can focus on one major subject ("Mono-Bachelor" or "One-Subject-Bachelor"), or they can be studied as a combination of several subjects ("Combination Bachelor" or "Two-Subject-Bachelor").

This type of study programme focusses on a single study subject. Once you have earned the Bachelor's degree, you can either take up a professional activity, or you can continue your studies with a Master's degree programme in your field of study.

For this type of study programme you choose two subjects – either as a combination of "two majors" or "one major, one minor". Some universities offer further variants.

With a Two-Subject-Bachelor's degree, you can either move on to a professional activity, or you can take up a teacher training Master's programme, provided that your Bachelor subjects are in correspondence with the respective combination specifications. Alternatively, you can continue your academic education with a Master's degree programme in your field of study.

Usually, you will receive one of the following Bachelor's degrees: Bachelor of Arts (B. A.), Bachelor of Science (B. Sc.), or Bachelor of Engineering (B. Eng.).


To take up a Master's degree programme, you will need a Bachelor's degree or a recognised equivalent. The standard period of study is one to two years, exceptions are possible. Master's degree programmes can deepen and broaden the scientific and methodological knowledge acquired during your Bachelor’s studies, or they can lead to a specialisation. A Master's degree qualifies you for many professional activities and is a requirement for an academic career (doctorate).

There are application- or research-oriented study profiles. Depending on the admission requirements, a distinction is made between consecutive Master's programmes and non-consecutive Master's programmes for further education ("weiterbildend").

Consecutive Master's degree programmes can deepen and broaden the subject-specific knowledge acquired during the Bachelor's studies, they can extend your knowledge across disciplines, or they can introduce you to new fields of study.

To study a Master's degree programme for further education, you will need at least one year of vocational experience. Usually, you will be charged tuition fees for this type of study programme.

Usually, you will receive one of the following Master’s degrees: Master of Arts (M. A.), Master of Science (M. Sc.), or Master of Engineering (M. Eng.).

State Examination

State examinations give you access to certain state-regulated professions (medical doctor, teacher, pharmacist, judge etc.), for which the quality of education is so much in the public interest that education and examinations are centrally regulated by the federal or national government.

If you study medicine, dentistry, veterinary medicine, law, pharmacy, or food chemistry, you will have to take a state examination. In some federal states (but not in Lower Saxony) you will also have to take a "First State Examination" if you study to become a teacher.


Study programmes that lead to the degree "First State Examination" can be studied at universities, but the exams will be organised by a State Examining Board. If you pass the first state examination, you will be admitted to preparatory service/traineeship ("Referendariat"). This preparatory service ends with a "Second State Examination". After the first state examination, you can also pursue a doctorate. In Lower Saxony, teacher training is organised within the Bachelor-Master-system. The Master's degree is then followed by a traineeship ("Referendariat"), which ends with the second state examination.

Here, you will have to take a first, second and third part of the medical/pharmaceutical examination. For dentistry and veterinary medicine, you will have to pass a first, second and third state examination successfully. Subsequently, you can apply for the state licence to practice your profession ("Approbation").

Further Types of Degrees

Infos & Fakten
Ecclesiastical Examinations
Ecclesiastical examinations in Theology are based on the examination regulations as laid down by the church authority.

This way, you can be awarded either a diploma ("Diplom"), a "Magister" degree, or Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees.

Infos & Fakten
Even though most universities in Germany have switched to Bachelor's and Master's degrees by now, a few "Diplom"- and "Magister" degree programmes still exist. These study programmes are usually divided into a foundation and a main study course, or several study phases. In contrast to a Bachelor's degree, an intermediate diploma ("Vordiplom") or a successful intermediate examination ("Zwischenprüfung") are not recognised as degrees with professional qualification. Like a Master's degree, a diploma or magister degree awarded by a university will qualify you to pursue a doctorate.


To earn a doctorate or PhD for further academic qualification in your field of study, you have to submit an independent piece of scientific work – your doctoral thesis or "dissertation" – and successfully pass an oral examination ("Disputation" or "Rigorosum"). 

You must have a university degree to pursue a doctorate. Only universities and higher education institutions with the same legal status have the right to award doctorates, but sometimes cooperations with other types of universities and research institutions exist. A doctorate is the requirement for an academic career.

What's next?

Facts & Info
Find out how studying in Lower Saxony works: