How can I partake in a vocational training programme?
If you want to find a job in Germany, a good alternative to studying at university is taking part in a vocational training programme. There are approximately 330 different jobs you can qualify for with vocational training. These training programmes usually last between one and three-and-a-half years. They are either school-based and take place solely in a classroom (“schulische Ausbildung”) or combine classes with practical training in an establishment or company (“Duale Ausbildung”). In this chapter, you can read about the dual vocational training. For more information about the school-based vocational training programs, please refer to the chapter “School-based Vocational Training”.
Upon completion of a vocational training programme, you become a skilled employee (“qualifizeierte Fachkraft”). Skilled employees are in demand in Germany and earn more money for their work compared to unskilled workers. So, completing a vocational training programme may constitute an important step towards building a career in Germany.
What do I need to know?
A dual vocational training programme lasts between two and three-and-a-half years, depending on the job you have decided on. During this period of time, you work in an establishment and go to a vocational training school as well. Usually, you have classes once or twice a week or for weekly periods. These classes impart important theoretical knowledge for your job. Practical skills and knowledge are learned on-the-job. As this type of vocational training programme consists of these two parts, it is called “dual” vocational training (or “betriebliche Ausbildung”) in Germany.
You must be able to speak German, as the language of school programmes and everyday communication in the companies is German. Furthermore, the exams you are expected to pass to complete the programmes are given in German. The level of German proficiency required depends on the type of vocational training you've chosen.
The school-leaving certificate you need to start vocational training depends on your career aspirations and the vocational training programme you've chosen. If you have obtained your school-leaving certificate from your home country, first you should have it recognised in Germany. You can read more about the procedure in our chapter "Certified Copies". You can learn more in our chapter "Recognition of foreign certificates."
You do not necessarily need a school-leaving certificate to start dual vocational training at a company or firm. Each company can decide which qualifications they require from applicants. Nevertheless, a school-leaving certificate, good grades and sufficient knowledge of German language are a plus. You can directly apply for a training slot at the relevant company.
There is not any age restrictions. So, it does not matter how old you are when you start vocational training, but you need to have finished basic compulsory education.
In general, third-country nationals need a residence permit for the purpose of training in order to be able to start training in Germany. You can find out more in our chapter „Vocational Training Visa“.
If you are a refugee, whether you can start dual vocational training ("betriebliche Berufsausbildung") depends on the type of residence permit you hold:
- If you have a residence permit as an individual entitled to asylum, refugee status or subsidiary protection, you may start dual vocational training without any restrictions. You have free access to the labour market, including vocational training, for the duration of their residence permit.
- If you have a Tolerated Residence Permit ("Duldung"), then need a work permit. You will be issued a work permit only if the Foreigners Registration Office ("Ausländerbehörde") and Employment Office ("Arbeitagentur") agree. They assess each case individually. In order to get a work permit, you must first look for a training position and then apply for a work permit for that specific training position. If you have been in Germany for four years, in principle, approval from the Employment Agency is no longer required. You can find out more in our chapter "Work permits for refugees". Please note: Individuals who are living in initial reception facilities will not be issued a work permit and cannot start vocational training.
- If your asylum procedure is still ongoing, you need a work permit. You may apply for a work permit from the Foreigners’ Registration Office ("Ausländerbehörde") and Employment Office ("Arbeitagentur") after three months (“Sperrzeit “). To do so, you need to find a trainee position and then contact the Employment Office to request a permit for that specific training opportunity. If you have been in Germany for four years, then, in principle, you are allowed to work or start vocational training without any need for extra permits. You can find out more in our chapter "Work permits for refugees". Please note: A work permit will not be issued for refugees who live in an initial reception centre. That means you cannot start vocational training until you leave the initial reception centre.
Please note: Asylum seekers, in general, and those who have been issued a "Duldung" need a specific permit from the relevant Foreigners' Registration Office ("Aulsländerbehörde") and eventually, the Employment Agency ("Arbeitsagenture") also for internships ("Praktikum"). Contact the Jobcentre or Employment Agency and seek advice in this regard.
Attention: Asylum seekers coming from a safe country of origin who have applied for asylum after 31 August 2015 are not permitted to take part in a dual vocational training programmes. This also applies to people with a tolerated stay ("Duldung") who come from a safe country of origin and have submitted their application for asylum after 31 August 2015. Currently (as of January 2019), Bosnia and Herzegovina, Macedonia, Serbia, Montenegro, Albania, Kosovo, Ghana and Senegal are considered to be safe countries of origin. You can find more detailed information in our chapter “Safe Countries of Origin“.
You can obtain a tolerated stay permit if you start (or are going through) vocational training in Germany. You can learn more about "Ausbldungsduldung" in our chapter "Tolerated Stay for the Purpose of Vocational Training".
The German state provides support for people looking for a job or training opportunity. The Federal Employment Agency is responsible for this service. The Jobcentres managed by the Federal Employment Agency offer consultation on education and employment free of charge. Their staff, however, almost exclusively speak German.
The counselling centres of the Youth Migration Service (JMD) and Counselling Office for Adult Migrant ("Migrationsberatung für Erwachsene") also provide assistance in your search for a training position. On BAMF's website, you can find a JMD office in your area or search for a Counselling Office for Adult Migrant nearby. The staff in these offices speak several languages.
There are also various organisations and initiatives that help refugees prepare for and find a vocational training programme. You can find out more about this in our chapter "Vocational Training: Orientation for Refugees".
For dual vocational training, you can apply directly to the company. These training programmes usually begin in August or September. The exact time depends on the school and the city in which you live. For example, in Berlin and Hamburg, dual training courses start each year in February. In some vocational schools, when there are enough applicants, courses start in January.
On http://www.azubi.de/ you will find instructions on how to write a successful application (in German). There are also some guidelines which prepare you for the job interview. You can also find much useful information about the correct format for an application portfolio and the appropriate attitude during a job interview on planet-beruf.de.
The counselling centres of the Youth Migration Service (JMD) and Counselling Office for Adult Migrant("Migrationsberatung für Erwachsene") can also provide you with assistance. On BAMF's website, you can find a JMD office in your area or search for a Counselling Office for Adult Migrant nearby. The staff in these offices speak several languages. You can find out more by reading our chapter "Job hunting & Application".
During dual training, you will receive a wage. The amount you earn depends on the profession and the federal state in which you live. In the second and third year of training, you often earn a little more than the previous year. A part of your salary will automatically be deducted to cover your social insurance fees. If you earn more than 9,984 euros a year (as of 2022) from your dual training, you also have to pay taxes. Learn more in our chapter Tax Declaration.
Under certain conditions, you can receive vocational training allowance ("Berufsausbildungsbeihilfe" or BAB) during dual training. The BAB is financial aid for trainees, provided by the Federal Employment Agency. The youth who cannot live with their parents or those who are already 18 or older and need financial support can benefit from BAB. The amount of allowance is calculated individually. The maximum monthly payment is 635 euros. Non-German citizens can benefit from BAB, only if:
- they are EU citizens with the right to permanent residence according to the European "Freedom of Movement" Act.
- they have a settlement (or permanent residence) permit.
- they are recognised as refugees or asylum seekers or an individual entitled to subsidiary protection.
- they are tolerated, hold a so-called "Duldung" and have been legally residing in Germany for at least 15 months. During the first 15 months, you will receive asylum seekers’ benefit (“Asylbewerberleistungen”).
- they have been in Germany for at least 5 years and were gainfully employed during this time.
- at least one of their parents has been in Germany for a total of at least three years during the last six years while being engaged in a gainful employment.
During your asylum procedure, you can only obtain BAB if you can be expected to stay in Germany legally and permanently in the future. This is the case, for example, if you have a good chance of recognition or chance of another form of residence permit (e.g. through training). It is worthwhile to apply for the BAB. If your application is rejected, you can seek advice from a counselling centre. If you do not obtain BAB at the end, you can continue to receive asylum seeker benefits.
To apply for BAB, you need to directly contact the employment agency responsible for you. There, you will be asked to submit the contract you have signed for the vocational training. In principle, you cannot receive unemployment Benefit II (ALG II) during an in-company training. Exception: Participants who are still living with their parents and whose salary is not sufficient to cover living expenses can apply for ALG II at the Jobcenter. To do so, you need to contact the jobcentre branch responsible for you.
During training, you can work in another job for up to ten hours a week. But you have to inform your boss.
In order to find the appropriate training programme, you can seek advice from the Employment Agency or call the hotline 0800/4 5555 00 (free of charge within Germany, from abroad you need to call 0049 911 12031010, for which there is a service fee). The experts there help you find a training programme which suits your qualifications and interests. Their staff, however, only speak German. There are also websites such as www.ausbildung.de, Berufenet, www.azubi.de, www.planet-beruf.de, www.berufe.tv and the IHK job search engine where you can read job descriptions and what each profession entails. The youth migration service ("Jugendmigrationsdienst" or JMD) and adult migrant counselling centre ("Migrationsberatung für Erwachsene") help you to choose the right vocational training programme. The staff there speak many languages.
You can also visit job fairs organised in many German cities to find out more about skilled professions you can practice after vocational training. Relevant dates for such fairs can be found on Planet-Beruf.net.
You might like to also take a look at the so-called Positive list ("Positivliste"). On this list, you can find the vocational training programmes for occupations referred to as shortage occupations or "Mangelberufe" in Germany. This means that there are many vacancies. The "positive list" adapts to changes in the job market. You can find a current list of the occupations in which skilled workers are highly sought-after at mangelberufe.de. Most people opt for dual vocational training. The advantage of dual vocational training is that you end up with not only theoretical but also a great deal of practical knowledge- comprehensive expertise that is highly valued by many companies.
At the end of your training, you will receive a certificate from the vocational school, the vocational academy (“Berufsakademie”) or the chamber (HWK or IHK), which has organised the training programme.
But what comes next? Maybe you have already thought about your professional goals before starting your training programme. There are many possibilities: you can start a job, go for further training or enter university.
Vocational training is worthwhile. Not only it gives you the chance of a well-paid job, but also the opportunity to obtain permanent residence in Germany.