Professional Recognition of a Study Abroad

Professional Recognition of a Study Abroad

There are many reasons to complete a full degree abroad. Be it because the entry requirements for a certain subject area, such as medicine, are more moderate than in Germany. Or maybe because a foreign university offers a unique program that doesn’t exist in Germany. Another reason: employers particularly like some degrees if they were obtained abroad: This is especially the case with a Master of Business Administration (MBA) or a Master of Laws (LLM).

As beneficial as a foreign degree can be, it is important to think about whether there might be problems in Germany with the professional recognition of a study abroad. Because in Germany there are special regulations and laws regarding the necessary qualifications for some professions.

Regulated vs. non-regulated professions

In Germany, as in most other countries, there are a number of professions that are regulated. This means that access to and exercise of the profession is linked to clearly defined qualifications and is subject to certain laws and regulations. These are primarily professions in the field of health, medicine, nursing, teaching and pedagogy and law, as well as some professions in the field of engineering, such as architecture.

All courses of study that lead to a state examination belong to the regulated professions. Students who have acquired their qualifications in these professions abroad and would like to work in Germany are dependent on the professional recognition of their studies abroad. You must have your foreign degree checked for equivalence and have it recognized.

The situation is different for non-regulated professions. Anyone who has studied political science, economics or journalism abroad, for example, can apply freely to the German job market or become self-employed. Whether a potential employer recognizes the foreign degree as sufficient in professional terms is at its own discretion. Even if official professional recognition of the study abroad is not absolutely necessary for non-regulated professions, it may be advisable to have the foreign degree assessed.

Professional recognition of a study abroad in regulated professions

Anyone who wants to work in a regulated profession in Germany but has acquired their qualifications abroad must have these qualifications officially recognized. There is no central point of contact for the professional recognition of a study abroad. The responsibilities depend on the profession and in which federal state it is to be practiced. The applicable laws and regulations also vary from case to case.

“Official professional recognition” of a study abroad

In the case of “official professional recognition”, the competent authority carries out a so-called equivalence test. It compares the qualifications acquired abroad for a specific occupation with the German training standard. If the authority fully confirms equivalence, there are no significant differences between the two professional qualifications. Nothing stands in the way of the professional recognition of the study abroad and the foreign degree is officially recognized. From a legal point of view, it is on a par with the German qualification.

Laws and responsibilities for the professional recognition of regulated professions

As already mentioned: There is no central office for the professional recognition of a study abroad in Germany. This is due to the fact that different laws apply to the individual regulated professions. There are regulated professions that fall under federal law, then there are professions that come under state law. The various professional rights apply to the respective professions. If the professional qualification was acquired in an EU country, then EU law also applies.

The respective offices in the federal state in which one would like to exercise the activity are responsible for the recognition procedure.

The Internet portal Recognition in Germany serves as the first point of contact when it comes to information about questions about professional recognition of a study abroad including foreign degrees. Which professions are regulated and which authority in Germany is responsible for the respective recognition can be researched in the following databases:

  • anabin database of the Conference of Ministers of Education
  • Recognition finder of the Federal Ministry of Education and Research

Professional recognition of studies abroad: federal law

Federal law primarily covers the health professions, i.e. professions whose activities are characterized by work with and on patients. This includes not only professions such as doctor, dentist and veterinarian, but also psychological psychotherapist, pharmacist, speech therapist, physiotherapist and occupational therapist. These are protected job titles that can only be obtained with an approbationor a professional license. Professions that require in-depth knowledge of German law, such as lawyer, notary, public prosecutor and judge, are also anchored in federal law.

Professional recognition of studies abroad: state law

Many regulated professions fall under the law of the individual federal states. This is the case, for example, with teachers, architects or engineers. In contrast to the regulated professions under federal law, different rules and regulations apply to professions regulated by state law. For example, anyone who has studied to become a teacher in Lower Saxony cannot automatically work as a teacher in Bavaria. The same applies to the recognition of foreign qualifications: If the qualification was recognized in one federal state, the professional recognition of the study abroad does not automatically apply in other federal states.

Professional recognition of study abroad: EU law and automatic recognition

EU citizens who have obtained their qualifications for a regulated profession in one of the EU member states usually do not have to worry about recognition in Germany. Because in countries of the European Union, the European Economic Area (EEA) and Switzerland, the so-called Directive 2005/36 / EC on the recognition of professional qualifications applies.

With the “automatic recognition procedure”, the guideline guarantees access to and exercise of the regulated profession without an extensive individual equivalency check. So if you study medicine at a university in Latvia, the Czech Republic or Slovakia due to the moderate admission requirements, you can later apply for a branch in Germany without having to worry about a lengthy equivalency test as part of the professional recognition of the study abroad.

In 2013, the European Professional Card, an electronic certificate, was also introduced. The card serves as proof that the professional fulfills all the necessary requirements to perform temporary and occasional services in another EU country. At the same time, the ID is proof of the recognition of relevant professional qualifications.

Recognition procedure for some regulated professions

Doctor / dentist / veterinarian

The practice of the medical profession in Germany is only possible with a license to practice medicine (state approval). Those who have completed their medical studies abroad must first prove that there are no major differences to the German medical studies for professional recognition. Thanks to the 2005/36 / EC Directive, there are no significant differences in medical training in the member states of the EU, the EEA and Switzerland. The recognition process runs automatically after the application, without an individual equivalency check.

Anyone who only wants to work as a doctor in Germany for a limited period of time (maximum two years) can apply for a temporary professional permit. This can also be limited to certain activities and employment positions. For degrees from EU, EEA and Switzerland countries, it is advisable to apply for a license to practice medicine straight away.

Legal basis:

  • Doctor: Federal Medical Regulations and Licensing Regulations for Doctors (BÄO)
  • Dentist: Law on the Practice of Dentistry, Licensing Regulations for Dentists (ZHG)
  • Veterinarian: Federal Veterinary Regulations, Veterinary Licensing Regulations (TAppV)


The State Medical Association is responsible for the recognition of specialist training abroad. The recognition is based on the advanced training regulations of the state medical association in the respective federal state; these are largely identical nationwide.


Those who want to work as psychotherapists in Germany also need a license to practice medicine. However, an automatic procedure for the recognition of the study abroad according to EU guidelines does not apply here. An equivalency check is carried out. Proof of professional experience can compensate for any differences. If there are significant differences, there is also the option of taking part in adaptation measures or undergoing an examination. The adaptation measures differ depending on whether the qualification was obtained in the EU, the EEA or Switzerland, or in a third country.

Legal basis:

  • Psychotherapists Act (PsychThG)
  • Training and examination regulations for child and adolescent psychotherapists (KJPsychTh-APrV)

Engineer / Consulting Engineer

The job titles “engineer” and “consulting engineer” are protected in Germany and are linked to proof of specific qualifications. Anyone who wants to officially call themselves a “consulting engineer”, for example to work as a test engineer or expert, needs at least three years of professional experience in addition to a corresponding degree. In addition, he must have attended special training courses.

The equivalence procedure is based on the specialist law of the federal states and is carried out by the local chamber of engineers. In some federal states, an equivalence test is only possible for degrees from EU and EEA countries or from Switzerland.

However, if you want to practice engineering without an official job title, you do not need a certificate of equivalence. There is also the option of having the university degree assessed by the ZAB.


Anyone who has completed their law degree in the EU, the EEA or Switzerland and would like to work as a lawyer in Germany has two options with regard to professional recognition of the study abroad:

  1. Application for access to the legal preparatory service (legal clerkship), which ends with the second state examination in law. Thereafter, admission as a lawyer is possible.
  2. Application for admission as a European lawyer: Legal activities can be carried out under the foreign professional title and, after sufficient experience with German law, admission as a German lawyer can be applied for.

Legal basis:

  • Law on the Activities of European Lawyers in Germany (eurag)
  • Federal Lawyers’ Act (BRAO)
  • German Judges Act (DriG)


A method for recognition of a foreign notary training does not exist. Anyone who has obtained their legal degree in the EU, the EEA or Switzerland can, after an equivalence test, seek access to the legal preparatory service.

Legal basis:

  • Federal Notary Code


The individual federal states are responsible for the regulations and laws on teacher training; they are anchored in the respective teacher training law. Anyone who wants to teach at a German state school with a foreign university degree must have a determination procedure checked to determine whether this degree is equivalent to the corresponding teaching qualification.

In Germany, teachers usually have training in two subjects. If you haven’t studied a second subject abroad, you have to catch up on it. In individual federal states there is the possibility of being admitted to preparatory service in so-called “shortage subjects” and then to follow the state examination. Employment as a teacher at private schools or as a substitute teacher is also possible in individual cases without recognition of a professional teaching qualification.

Possible results of a recognition process

The professional recognition of a study abroad is about checking the equivalence between a foreign professional qualification and the German reference occupation. The main question is whether there are significant differences between the qualifications or not. The following results are possible:

  1. Full recognition and certificate of equivalence or admission to the profession
  2. Partial recognition in the case of significant differences with the possibility of compensating for the differences through certain adaptation measures
  3. Rejection if the differences are too great

In the case of partial recognition, the notification shows the main differences between the foreign and German qualifications. In the regulated professions, the deficits must be compensated for, depending on the profession and country of origin (EU / non-EU), either by passing an examination or through further training. Only then can the full professional recognition of the study abroad take place, which in turn provides the prerequisite for working in the desired occupation. Sometimes applicants can also decide for themselves whether they would rather take an exam or whether they would prefer to attend further training courses.

In addition, “partial access” to the profession is possible if equivalence can be established in some areas but deficits exist in other areas.

Professional recognition of a study abroad in non-regulated professions

A professional recognition of qualifications that do not lead to a regulated profession, is not required. Anyone with an Australian Bachelor of Journalism can apply to the job market as a journalist or editor. The profession of journalist or editor is not regulated in Germany.

Nonetheless, it may not hurt to have a certificate assessment of your foreign degree carried out by the Central Office for Foreign Education (ZAB) in Bonn. This is particularly advisable for qualifications that are not or hardly known in Germany, as they do not exist in this form.

Since 2012 there has been the “Law for the Improvement of the Determination and Recognition of Professional Qualifications Acquired Abroad”, also simply called “Federal Recognition Act”. The law guarantees that everyone can have their foreign professional qualification checked to determine whether it is equivalent to the German training. However, the Federal Recognition Act does not specifically regulate the professional recognition of degrees. It mainly refers to the “classic” training occupations in the dual system and to the 40 or so professions regulated by federal law.

Certificate evaluation for foreign degrees

The Central Office for Foreign Education (ZAB) in the Secretariat of the Conference of Ministers of Education and Cultural Affairs in Bonn can evaluate the certificates of foreign university degrees from any country in the world. The aim of the certificate evaluation is to compare the qualification both academically and professionally with German qualifications and to describe them in detail. The evaluation facilitates access to the German labor market. It also provides information on what options the holder of the degree have with regard to continuing their studies in Germany.

The certificate assessment is an official document, but it is not a professional recognition of the study abroad. Its legal basis is the so-called Lisbon Convention, the “Convention on the Recognition of Qualifications in Higher Education in the European Region”. Above all, the convention plays a role in the academic recognition of studies abroad.

Professional Recognition of a Study Abroad