How can I find a suitable internship position?
Doing an internship helps you to gain work experience and can considerably improve your job opportunities. In many schools and universities, the students are expected to take part in a compulsory internship during their studies. Here you will learn about your rights as an intern, the benefits of doing an internship, and the crucial issues you need to consider before starting your internship.
What do I need to know?
There are three different types of internship in Germany: the student internship ("Schülerpraktikum"), the compulsory internship for university students ("Pflichtpraktikum") and the voluntary internship.
Based on the type of school one attends, a student internship ("Schülerpraktikum") is usually completed in the eighth or eleventh grade. Such an internship is often included in the curriculum, which means It is usually mandatory for all students. A student internship usually takes one to two weeks to accomplish and serves to help students in their career orientation.
Compulsory internships ("Pflichtpraktikum") are often included in university programmes. In some specific fields, you have to take part in an internship before you start your university education. The course and duration of a compulsory internship are usually specified in the program's guidelines and regulations. Compulsory internship is meant to facilitate students' professional orientation and help them to start gathering work experience in some fields.
Anyone who wants to gain hands-on experience or familiarise himself with the environment and workflow of a company or organisation can do a voluntary internship there. A voluntary internship usually takes between two weeks to a few months to accomplish.
An internship provides you with the necessary insight into different occupational fields or companies, and thus, can help you choose a better job or establish an initial connection with a specific company. Such a connection may help you in case you decide to apply for a job at the same company. By doing an internship, you also have a better chance of employment in the future, because any potential employer recognises that you have already gained some initial work experience during your internship. If you are currently unemployed, specific types of internship can help you to make your CV more interesting- adding an internship to your CV means you have more comprehensive and diverse work experiences to attract the potential employers.
You can do a student internship ("Schülerpraktikum") or a compulsory internship (“Pflichtpraktikum”). Whether you are permitted to do a voluntary internship, however, depends on your residence permit. The following applies to refugees:
- If you have a valid residence permit as a refugee, in principle, you are allowed to do an internship without any restrictions. Recognised refugees and asylum seekers are entitled to full access to the labour market, including internships, for the duration of their residence permit.
- If you have a tolerated stay permit ("Duldung"), you need to apply for a work permit from the Immigration Office before starting an internship. They review each case separately to decide whether a work permit must be issued or not. In order to obtain the Immigration Office's approval, you must first find an internship position in a company or organisation and then apply for a work permit for that specific position.
- If your asylum procedure is still ongoing, you need a work permit from the Immigration Office before you can start an internship. You can apply for such a work permit at the Immigration Office three months after the submission of your asylum application (so-called “Sperrzeit ”). In order to obtain their approval, you first need to find an internship position in a company or organisation and then apply for a work permit for that specific position.
Please note: If you have a tolerated stay ("Duldung") or a residence permit, come from a so-called safe country of origin (currently: Serbia, Macedonia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Kosovo, Montenegro, Albania, Ghana, Senegal) and have applied for asylum after 31.08.2015, you will not be granted a work permit. Likewise, people with a tolerated stay ("Duldung") who intend to prevent their deportation by starting an internship or the individuals who are believed to have come to Germany only for financial reasons are not issued work permits and cannot start internships.
In a voluntary internship extending three months, you have the same rights as an employee when it comes to wage, vacation and working hours. In other words, you must receive (at least) the minimum wage, be allowed to take a vacation (two days a month), and should be treated like your employed colleagues in the workplace. You can read more in our chapters “Employment Contract” and “Labour Rights”.For compulsory internships, however, there are no specific pre-existing laws regarding wages and vacations- nevertheless, your working hours must not differ from the usual working hours in the company or organisation.
You are entitled to gain beneficial information and experiences during your internship. So, if all you are doing during your internship is preparing coffee for the team or standing in front of a copy machine, you must speak to your supervisor. If things remain the same, you have the right to cancel your internship contract and search for a better position.
After doing an internship, you are entitled to receive an internship certificate. In this certificate, the company or organisation verifies that you have performed certain activities during your internship period. The company also evaluates your performance and your social skills. When it comes to job hunting, presenting an internship certificate can increase your chances of landing your favourite job.
Your employer may choose to pay you during a student internship ("Schülerpraktikum") or a compulsory internship ("Pflichtpraktikum"), but he is not obliged to do so. Wages you may receive during a compulsory internship usually does not require you to make social insurance contributions. You can learn more in our chapter “social insurance”.
During a voluntary internship, you usually receive wages. The amount of your monthly income, however, is decided by the company or organisation which has provided you with the internship opportunity. If your internship period extends three months, your wages must not be less than the minimum wage. Furthermore, the company or organisation must then make contributions to your health and pension insurances. If your internship period extends three months and provides you with an income higher than 450€ per month, then you too must make social insurance contributions.
Attention: If your internship extends three months and provides you with an income higher than 450€ per month, you cannot continue to be covered by a family insurance and have to apply for a health insurance scheme independently. You can read more in our chapter “Health Insurance”.
If you start a compulsory internship before or during your university years, you will be entitled to the financial support designated for students or the BAföG. In case you receive wages which exceed the stipulated income limits for entitlement to the BAföG, you will receive correspondingly less or no BAföG.
If you finish a voluntary internship before graduation, you will not be entitled to the BAföG- but if the voluntary internship takes place during a semester break or as a part-time internship during university semesters, you will still be considered as entitled to the BAföG. However, if your internship produces an income, the amount of money you receive as BAföG will be reduced accordingly. In case you start a voluntary full-time internship during the university semesters or if you take a leave semester to do a voluntary internship, you will lose your entitlement to the BAföG.
You can find an internship position at the Federal Employment Agency or try various job search engines specifically set up for internships such as www.praktikum.info, www.meinpraktikum.de, www.praktika.de, www.karriere.unicum.de or www.prabo.de. You can also directly contact companies and organisations and make inquiries regarding the possibility of an internship. In principle, you do not need to have any work experience to apply for an internship- all you need is some enthusiasm and motivation. To learn more about applying process, check the Job hunting and application chapter on our website.
If you have found an internship position, it is recommended to sign an internship contract with the relevant company or organisation. However, an internship contract is not required by law.
Please note: In most companies and organisations, you need to speak German to be able to work. Sometimes speaking English may suffice, but for most internships, it is important that you speak German well. There are many ways to learn German or to improve your proficiency. For more information, please refer to the language chapters on our website.
Yes. However, the Employment Agency (or the Jobcentre) must approve your internship position- which often happens when the internship is assumed to lead to a gainful employment subjected to social insurance contributions. If your internship is not paid, you can continue to receive unemployment benefits. If your internship wages exceed € 100 (for unemployment benefit II) or € 165 (for unemployment benefit I), your unemployment benefits will be reduced accordingly.
Internships can be quite beneficial for your future career- but after gaining some experience, you should try to find a job instead of starting another internship. Keep in mind that some companies use interns as a cheap labour force. If you have the same responsibilities as an employed worker, you should ask the company or organisation for a permanent employment contract.