doctoral cap

Academic career

Doctorate, academic activities, research opportunities
doctoral cap
Image: Christoph Worsch (University of Jena)

For those who want to head in the academic direction

Another field of work after finishing your studies might be an academic career. After their degrees, many students can see themselves remaining in the university and, like their professors before them, giving lectures in packed lecture halls and doing research. However, the path to success might be a challenging one. In Germany, the period between gaining a university degree and achieving a professorial position is 14 years on average. Usually the days in between are characterized by precarious employment arrangements resulting in a limited degree of independence regarding your academic duties.

To be able to apply for a professorial position at a university, you need to have a doctorate (except for a few disciplines related to the arts) and a postdoctoral lecturing qualification (“Habilitation") which comprises a written research paper and/or compilation of related research papers, and giving a public lecture.

On the following webpages, you can find information on doctoral programmes, the specific academic career options available, what are characteristics of the labour market for academics, and what you have to bear in mind when applying for an academic position. Finally, you can learn more about the extensive research options at the University.

Doctorate Show content

According to the information published by the Federal Statistical Office, the number of doctorates earned in Germany has been increasing continuously. In 2016, 29,303 persons received their doctorate in Germany, thereof 716 in Thuringia. The University of Jena conferred 539 of these. 

Students in an advanced phase of their studies and those graduates aspiring to a doctorate should acquaint themselves with general information available on doctoraces in advance, for example, on admission requirements, other procedures, and funding. The Graduate Academy of the University gives you a comprehensive range of information and advisory services if you are thinking of undertaking a doctorate at our university.

How is the doctoral examination procedure structured? Show content

The term "doctorate" stands for the act of awarding a doctoral degree and/or the related academic procedure by which the doctoral candidate acquires the given academic title. The doctorate entitles proves one’s ability to carry out independent research at an institution of higher education or equivalent. The doctoral programme involves a research paper (“Dissertation”), which must be produced independently and demonstrates the knowledge candidates acquire during their doctoral phase, an oral examination (“Rigorosum”), and/or an academic debate (“Disputation”). Once the candidate gains a doctorate, the academic training is considered as completed.

Is a doctorate useful for my career? Show content

The reasons why young academics decide to pursue a doctorate are manifold. Many doctoral candidates, for instance, are eager to work in academia or within a specialized field, whereas some of them consider a doctorate a way to set themselves apart from the numbers of graduates without this very academic title.  But two prestigious letters in front of one’s name are not always critical to one’s career. That is why you should consider well whether pursuing a mortarboard is reasonable for you at all. You might use the information below to give you the impression of this career path. In addition, you might consult the Federal Employment Agency or our Central Academic Advisory Service to learn more about the prospects for specific industry sectors and job profiles.

If you want to stay in the academic sphere after your studies and you aspire to a career at a university or at non-university research institutions, you must earn a doctorate for sure. Similarly, this is the case if you strive for well-paid jobs in the chemical and pharmaceutical industry. For example, for graduates in pharmacy who do not have a doctorate there are only a few qualified jobs.

In addition, many career in the humanities, e.g. in museums and independent institutes, are only possible if you hold a doctoral degree. By contrast, those intending to work in the economy are rather expected to possess in-depth practical knowledge than academic degrees. Those who want to receive a doctorate, but gain practical experience at the same time, too, might consider working as freelancers.

Relevant studies show that the effort involved in gaining a doctorate usually pays dividends. However, the more practical the desired activity is, the less noticeable a “Dr” is on your payslip.

How to finance a doctorate successfully? Show content

There are various options for funding your doctorate:

  • Research position at a university

In particular, natural scientists and engineers often have doctoral positions and are involved in research projects at the same time.

  • Doctorate as a “part-time job”

Some doctoral candidates have a full-time position or a part-time job in a company interested in the topic of their doctoral thesis project. Whether part-time or not – you need a very high degree of self-discipline!

  • Working as a freelancer

Ideally, you can combine your job and knowledge from your doctoral thesis project to be a successful IT trainer, course leader, or a lecturer.

  • Member of a research training group

Backed by scholarships, many doctoral candidates carry out their work as part of a coordinated research programme supervised by several professors. You must apply for a scholarship within the research training group first.

  • Scholarship

Some of the major foundations promoting young talents award scholarships to doctoral candidates. To be granted such scholarships, you must submit an application, including reference letters.

  • Graduate scholarships from state funds

In addition to the nationwide funding opportunities, you might also apply for scholarships granted by particular federal state (“Bundesland”).

Please refer to the list of funding options.

Which requirements must you fulfil for a doctorate? Show content

To be granted admission to a doctoral programme, you usually require a university degree (Diploma, Magister, state examination, or a master’s degree. In addition, some faculties can impose further requirements (e.g. specific language skills or minimum study periods at the respective institution).  As a doctoral programme usually lasts several years (often between three and five years), doctoral candidates should also be well-organized, self-disciplined, and have a strong motivation (in particular if working from home), be committed to their doctoral thesis project, and have the ability to work independently.

Doctorate at the University of Jena Show content
  • The Graduate Academy provides you with a comprehensive range of support options and information on earning a doctorate at our university. 

For general information on earning a doctorate in Germany, please refer to the Research in Germany website.

Graduate Academy
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