Deutsches Studentenwerk

Working during studies

Earning money alongside studying is a way of life for many students in Germany. The latest social survey carried out by the Deutsche Studentenwerke shows that in total around two thirds of all students go to work.

For international students in particular a side job is an important means of subsistence. However, for students who do not come from the EU or EEA countries, work is restricted. Things are different for the majority of Europeans who practically stand on equal terms with German students and have free access to the job market.

Two warnings:

  • If you work too much and not in line with your qualifications, you lengthen the time of study. You should only use lecture-free time for going to work.

  • The job market for students is getting more and more difficult; jobs are becoming increasingly rarer.

How much are you allowed to work?

As of August 2012 international students who do not come from the EU or EEA are allowed to work 120 full or 240 half days in a year. To do this they do not need authorisation from the Employment Agency, i.e. the German authorities.

International students who do not come from the EU cannot go self employed or work freelance!

If you want to work more than 120 full or 240 half days you need the approval of the Employment Agency and the Aliens Department. Please contact the Aliens Office in this regard. Whether you receive the approval depends on the situation of the job market in your place of study. In regions with high unemployment you will have little chance of working more than 120 days.

One exception, however, is the occupation of academic or student assistant. As long as your studies are not impaired by it, this work can be carried out for an unlimited period of time. The Aliens Department must still be informed if you wish to work as an academic or student assistant!

Students in language courses or preparatory colleges

If you attend a language course or study at a preparatory college the regulations are stricter than for normal enrolled students. You are only allowed to work with the approval of the Aliens Department and the Employment Agency - and only during lecture-free time.

Students from the EU and the EEA

Basically students from the European Union and the EEA stand practically on equal terms with German students and have free access to the German job market. You are regarded as a regular student and not as an employee if your job during term time contains no more than 20 hours a week.

Since Mai 2011 students from Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Slovakia, Slovenia, Czech Republic and Hungary can work in terms similar to the German students.

Please note the following change that applies since the end of 2017: As soon as EU- or EEA-students take up a part time job or a paid internship, they have to apply for German health insurance.

Work experience

If you do not come from the EU or the EEA and have a work placement in Germany it counts as normal work - even if the placement is unpaid! Every day of your work experience will be subtracted from your 120 days.

For example, if you have already worked 120 days you must get authorisation from the Aliens Department and the Federal Employment Agency to be able to do a work placement.

The only exceptions are work placements that are a compulsory part of your studies.

More on the Internet

  • Subject related work placements in Germany: Brief information for students from abroad from the International Placement Services (ZAV) at German Federal Employment Agency (PDF)

Finding work

In Germany different places offer side jobs for students. Most regional employment agencies have job opportunities for students. In large university cities, such as Berlin, the Studentenwerk or the students themselves run job agencies.

Often jobs are advertised on the notice boards at the universities. Most university websites and Studentenwerke have a job market on their website. What is more, all regional or local newspapers have an appointments section where vacant positions are advertised.


More on the Internet

Jobs are also advertised on the website of the Federal Employment Agency!

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Social insurance contributions and taxes - quite simple!

In Germany several different types of social contribution as well as taxes are deducted straight from your earnings. The rules for students are, however, often generous. You pay either lower contributions or none at all.

Income tax

Every employee in Germany has to pay taxes. The amount depends on your income.

If you have a so called "mini-job" earning 450 Euro per month, you do not have to pay taxes.

If you earn less than 8,130 Euro a year you will get back the taxes you have paid at the end of the year if you submit an income tax return to the tax authorities.

Pension insurance

All employees in Germany must make a contribution from their earnings to the state pension scheme. Usually this amounts to 9.45% of income.

Student contributions are normally lower.

An income up to 450 Euro is exempted from contribution. With an income of between 450 and 850 Euro per month or more than 20 working hours per week the amount is reduced. Whoever earns more, pays higher contributions. As of an income of 850 Euro per month students pay the full share of 9.45 %.

Health insurance/nursing care insurance

Even if they have a side job students are usually insured as students and not as employees. In that case they do not have to make any income related contributions towards health insurance. Under some circumstances, if they work more than 20 hours a week, students have to pay a contribution to health insurance. Clarify this beforehand with your employer!

Unemployment insurance

Students do not normally pay unemployment insurance contributions. This means, though, that they cannot claim unemployment benefit if they lose their side job.

With or without an income tax card?


If you work in Germany you usually need an income tax number. This can be obtained from the citizens' administration office where you live. However, there are minor occupations, so called mini-jobs, for which you do not need an income tax card.

Basically: different types of employment require different social insurance contributions.

Minor occupation = 450 Euro job = mini-job

If, as a student, you have long term employment for which you do not earn more than 450 Euro per month, the so called mini-job rule applies: you do not have to pay taxes and you can choose not to pay contributions towards the state pension.

The employer, however, does pay pension contributions for mini-jobbers so that their claim to a state pension is secured. Students can supplement the employer's contribution with their own voluntary contributions.

Mini-jobs are also available in private households; legally, for the employee, they are hardly any different from mini-jobs in industry.

Mini-jobs are advertised by the employer in the mini-job centre. If you do several mini-jobs at the same time the total income must remain below 450 Euro, otherwise you have to pay taxes.

More than a minor occupation

In Germany, if you regularly earn more than 450 Euro per month in your job, you will need an income tax number. This means that certain deductions will be made automatically from your salary; for students these are the pension insurance contributions and taxes. As a rule, students get back the tax they have paid at the end of the year. For this they have to submit an income tax return to the tax authorities.

What percent of your income is deducted as a pension insurance contribution depends on the amount of your income. If you receive between 450 and 850 Euro the pension insurance contribution is reduced. The contributions increase gradually and as of 850 Euro per month students pay the full pension insurance contribution of 9.45 %.

Students who work less than 20 hours per week can remain insured by their student insurance. When working more than 20 hours per week students will have to pay contributions to pension insurance, as well as health and unemployment insurance.

Working during term holidays ("lecture-free time")

During the term holidays special rules apply for students.

Jobs taken on during the term holidays are subject to income tax but normally students get back the taxes they have paid at the end of the year via the income tax return.

If the job is carried out only during lecture-free time students do not have to pay any additional health insurance contributions, even if they work more than 20 hours a week.

During term holidays the obligation to pay contributions towards the state pension may not be applicable: this applies if the employment is limited to a maximum of 2 months or 50 working days per year.

Casual work, contract for services, freelance or self-employed

Sometimes students are offered work on a freelance basis. If you work self-employed you don't need an income tax card.

In this case your employer or contractor will ask you to submit an invoice, or you agree on a contract for services.

The income you earn in this manner is not taxed for the time being, but at the end of the year you must declare the income to the tax authorities on your income tax return.

Attention: international students who are not from the EU or EEA are not allowed to work self-employed!

Helpful links and information:

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