Two ways to do your PhD

DAAD Volker Lannert

There’s more than one way to get your doctoral title in Germany. Depending on the subject, research proposal and type of university, there are several possible paths to a PhD, the most common of which are individual doctoral studies and structured PhD programmes. The majority of doctoral candidates in Germany pursue PhDs through individual doctoral study, yet structured PhD programmes are becoming increasingly common.

Individual doctoral studies

The majority of doctoral candidates in Germany choose to pursue their doctorates through individual doctoral study. In this model, candidates must find a university professor who will supervise their work on their dissertation. Depending on the subject, the dissertation can be written independently or in collaboration with other researchers. The duration of an individual doctorate depends on one’s personal schedule – or the length of one’s research contract. The duration of individual doctoral study usually ranges from three to five years.

Doctoral candidates are free to choose where they would like to conduct research. There are various options:

  • Getting a doctorate at a university
  • Getting a doctorate at a non-university research Organisation
  • Getting a doctorate in the industrial sector

For more information about individual doctoral studies and how to find a supervisor please visit our website “Research in Germany”:

Structured PhD Programmes

In addition to individual doctoral study, candidates can also attain their doctorates in structured PhD programmes which strongly resemble those in Anglo-Saxon countries. In such a programme, a team of supervisors are responsible for advising the doctoral candidates. The programmes offer a curriculum of accompanying courses which are usually interdisciplinary in focus and promote the acquisition of “soft skills” and additional qualifications. The systematic and intensive supervision offered in these programmes allow candidates to complete their doctoral studies within three to four years.

More information about structured PhD programmes, how to find the right structured PhD programme and how to apply please visit our website “Research in Germany”: