Postdoc giving a lecture in front of a big audience

Application and appointment phase

What requirements do I have to fulfil in order to successfully apply for a professorship?
Postdoc giving a lecture in front of a big audience

If you want to become a professor, on the one hand you must fulfil certain formal appointment requirements (see below). On the other hand, it is your individual qualification in research, teaching and third-party funding that make you an attractive candidate for your field. On the pages on the academic profile, you can find out what a good profile for a professorship entails and what points appointment committees look for.

As soon as you meet the appointment requirements for a professorship, you can apply for matching calls for applications. If a call fits your research profile particularly well, but you do not yet meet the hiring requirements completely, an application could still be successful - get advice from your mentors and go ahead and try it!

While you are in the application or appointment phase, you will also gain further qualifications as an advanced postdoc and improve your academic profile.

  • Appointment requirements for a professorship

    There are different types of professorships with different appointment requirements: The junior professorship or qualification professorship (W1), for which you can apply soon after completing your doctorate; the university professorship (W2 or W3), for which you need to show further academic accomplishments in addition to your doctorate (habilitation or comparable qualification); and the professorship at a university of applied sciences, for which you need professional experience outside the university in addition to your doctorate.

    The legal requirements for getting a professorship are regulated by each federal states' laws of higher education (Hochschulgesetze der Länder). You can find these laws hereExternal link.

    More detailed requirements are listed in each job posting for a professorship. HereExternal link you can get an overview of current job postings.

    General information about the qualifications for different types of professorship is available through Research in GermanyExternal link (in English), AcademicsExternal link (in German), and the German Association of University Professors and LecturersExternal link (in German).

  • Junior professorship with or without tenure track ("W1-Professur")

    Even within the first couple of years after completing your doctoral degree, you can apply successfully for junior professorships ("Juniorprofessur" or "Qualifikationsprofessur", both also labelled W1). The German junior professor is a bit similar to an assistant professor in other countries. You need a very good doctoral degree (and very good publications), but no further qualification like a habilitation or equivalent research qualification. Prior experience with academic teaching and/or grant application might also be required in job postings.

    As a junior professor, you will usually get a non-permanent contract for up to six years in total. However, if the job posting mentions Tenure Track, there is the possibility of getting a subsequent permanent full professorship (W2 or W3) after successfully completing the junior professorship. The success will be measured by two evaluations, one after three or four years and the other towards the end of the junior professorship.

    Please find further information on the Tenure Track here.

  • University professorship ("W2-Professur" and "W3-Professur")

    In order to become a full university professor, "additional academic achievements" (in addition to a PhD) must be demonstrated. In Germany, this is traditionally shown via a habilitation. Due to internationalisation, as an alternative to a habilitation, "academic qualifications equivalent to a habilitation" are usually also accepted. Another possibility to demonstrate "additional academic achievements" may be the so called junior professorship (see above) or leading a junior research group.

    Qualifications equivalent to a habilitation include additional academic publications written after finishing the PhD (and on another research topic). Strictly speaking, this means publications that could meet the regulations for habilitation. However, criteria regarding the equivalence to a habilitation are often somewhat flexible. Each hiring committee is responsible for deciding whether your own work can be viewed as acceptable or equal to a habilitation.

    When deciding for or against a habilitation, you need to do more than decide whether you fulfil the formal prerequisites for a job, but also how you can lead the pack of applicants and whether a habilitation will help you to do that. The same applies if you are considering applying for a junior professorship or head of a junior research group.

    Depending on the culture in different subject areas, there are different expectations regarding habilitation (and also other requirements for future professors). You can find out about these expectations by asking experienced researchers in your subject. In addition, due to the states' laws of higher education (Hochschulgesetze der Länder) and at the local level, there are regional and local customs. If you are a member of the German Association of University Professors and LecturersExternal link (Deutscher Hochschulverband), you can receive additional consultation there.

  • Professorship at a university of applied sciences

    Professorships at universities of applied sciences are an opportunity to work permanently in teaching and research in technical, economic or social science subjects. There can be professorships at universities of applied sciences for all scientific subjects that are taught in more application-oriented degree programmes.

    If you like teaching, enjoy combining research and teaching, and see an application connection in your research, this career path could be attractive to you. The number of applicants for these professorships is usually not as high as for university professorships.

    To meet the requirements for a professorship at a University of Applied Sciences, you must hold a doctoral degree and have five years of work experience after completing your master's studies. Part of these five years can be an employment as a doctoral candidate, but a minimum of three years must be some work outside university. The work experience should be in the "use or development of academic knowledge and methods" ("Anwendung oder Entwicklung wissenschaftlicher Erkenntnisse und Methoden") (see HRG §44.1.4c and the Hochschulgesetze der LänderExternal link).

Michael Wutzler, Dr
Counselling for postdocs
Graduate Academy
Dr. Michael Wutzler
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Baustellenschild Wissenschaftszeitvertragsgesetz
The academic employment law ("Wissenschaftszeitvertragsgesetz") regulates the employment opportunities in the postdoc phase on budgetary and third-party funded positions.