CareerCareer Paths
Scientific Career

Scientific Career

At German universities, the central goal of an academic career is still a professorship. You can apply for a professorship after several years as postdoc, once you have created your own research profile and can represent your subject in its entire breadth. The qualification and career paths to a professorship, however, are diverse: they range from the classic habilitation to a junior research group leadership or junior professorship to the new tenure track professorships.

Progressing on these different career paths, you have one thing in common: you acquire external funding, you publish your research, you teach and, of course, you establish networks in your scientific community. In this way, you create your own academic portfolio, which makes you appointable to a professorial position or employable for another permanent position in science.

  • Entering the Postdoc

    In the transition and entry phase into the postdoc position, it is important for researchers to finish previous research work, such as the publication of their dissertation or other small publication projects. In addition, it is important for them to settle into their new role - for example, away from doctoral supervision and into independent research - as well as their new tasks in research and teaching. Therefore, this first postdoc phase serves orientation primarily, and postdocs should consciously perceive it as such. This entry phase usually comprises about half a year to a maximum of two years after the Ph.D. Exploring your own options in science or preparing for other professions outside science and research are the top priorities in this phase. Job change, especially into other professional fields, are possible without any problems during this phase.

  • Intermediate and Advanced Postdoc-Phase

    Once postdoc researchers decided for an academic career in the orientation phase, it is important to increase conducting independent research and to develop an individual profile, the so-called academic career profile or portfolio. In most cases, questions about basic funding also play a role during this time.

    For a further information on what your academic profile should include, we recommend the third episode of our podcast series "NachwuchsFragen" (German only).

  • Probation and Appointment-Phase

    This is the crucial phase before your first appointment to a professorship. You have already established yourself in your scientific community and made yourself a name in your field. For you, this phase may be about completing research and qualification work such as the habilitation or the final acquisition of habilitation-equivalent achievements and then, of course, about applying for professorships.

  • Recurring in the Postdoc-Phase: Position Determination

    In the entry phase of your postdoc, the conscious decision for - or against - an academic career is essential. However, even as an advanced researcher you should always reconsider where you stand: You should put your profile and with it, your employment and research situation to the test, and consider how you are positioned in the academic competition or how you can position yourself better.

    We recommend using information and counselling services, but above all talking to people in your field, such as mentors. We provide funding for establishing contacts, for example, through the travel grant “Contacts, Networks, and Career”.

    For more information on assessing your academic career chances, you may have a look at Mirjam Müller, Promotion – Postdoc – Professur. Karriereplanung in der Wissenschaft, 2014 (German only).

  • Qualification and Career Paths after the Ph.D.

    The career paths to a professorship or other permanent position in science and research are highly diverse. The variety often results from the type of employment and the various qualification paths. Sometimes also from research funding that you may have obtained yourself, such as a junior research group leadership.

    The habilitation, which has been the classic path to initial appointment for a long time, has been replaced by appointment requirements such as the so-called habilitation-equivalent achievements in many fields. In order to decide whether to pursue a habilitation, it is worth talking to several, more advanced researchers and professors in your own discipline.

    Other paths and qualifications are, for example, the junior professorship - for some years now also provided with tenure track options through the federal-state program - and the junior research group leadership. At the end of the postdoc period, researchers often look back to a mix of different qualification paths; some pursued simultaneously, others consecutively.

  • Alternatives to University Professorship

    In addition to the university professorship, there are other opportunities for working in science. You can work in research and development departments of companies, or in non-university research institutions, or as professor at a university of applied sciences. The requirements for appointment to such a professorship are different; in particular, several years of practical experience are required. Nevertheless, the university professorship is an exciting opportunity to work in science on a permanent basis and to be strongly involved in teaching.

  • The Framework: The Academic Fixed-Term Contract Act

    The Wissenschaftszeitvertragsgesetz (Academic Fixed-Term Contract Act) is the employment framework for scientific staff during their Ph.D. and postdoc phases. It regulates postdocs’ employment on fixed-term for a maximum of six years after obtaining their Ph.D. Extensions are possible due to childcare, "saved" time from the Ph.D. phase, and currently due to the corona pandemic.

    If you have specific questions regarding your own contract and the calculation of your own maximum fixed-term period, please contact your personal reference person in the Human Resources and Legal Affairs Department.

    For an introduction and overview on the topic, we recommend episode 2 of our podcast series “NachwuchsFragen” (German only).

    You find further FAQ on the website of the Federal Ministry of Science and Research.

  • Job Fairs for Scientific Positions

    Academics - the leading job market and career companion in science and research:
    www.academics.de

    WissenschaftsKarriere: The career portal for science, research and management:
    https://wissenschaftskarriere.duz.de/

    German Association of Universities. The professional representation of scientists in Germany.
    - Tender service with subject-specific mailing lists:
    https://www.hochschulverband.de/en/translate-to-english-leistungen/translate-to-english-ausschreibungsdienst

    EURAXESS Germany - for job search in Germany and Europe:
    https://www.euraxess.de/jobs/search/country/germany-1105

    Otherwise, you may find interesting job tenders via professional societies and organisations.