The Student Career Roadmap for international students
The Student Career Roadmap is a practical and individually customizable tool specially designed for our international students. It aims to guide you step by step on your path from university to a career in Saarland, Germany or Europe. The roadmap is designed as a check list that helps you to review what you already know and to identify and define the important milestones on your path to securing your dream job. You'll be able to reach some of these milestones within a few days or weeks, for others you'll need a little more time. And if you're having problems along the way, there's no need to panic. We're here to help – every step of the way! The Student Career Roadmap is a tool that can be customized to take account of your individual needs, what you're studying and what your career goals are.
So let's take a closer look at the various stages of your roadmap.
Stage one: Planning ahead
The best way to get used to new surroundings is to find out as much as you can beforehand. The more you know, the easier it will be to benefit from all that your new surroundings have to offer. And you'll be able to see how you can contribute to or help shape your new environment – whether that's by starting a new student job, volunteering for a good cause or getting involved in student activities on campus.
Try these tips:
- Take part in the Welcome Week, which the Welcome Center organizes for all new students.
- Join the semester opening event for new students in your degree programme.
- Take a look at the university's 'Coming to Saarbrücken' web page.
- Register for the course 'German Cultural Studies' run by ISZ Saar (International Study Centre Saar).
- Take part in ZiS activities, which are specially organized for our international students by ZiS – the university's Centre for International Students.
- Sign up for the ZiS buddy programme *you & me*.
- Why not join one of the many clubs and associations in and around the university. They cover a wide range of interests (sports, culture, politics, health and well-being, environment, etc.) and are one of the best ways to get to know new people and to help you settle in.
- Sign up for one of the voluntary programmes available at the university
Having an idea of what your goals are early on will allow you to determine the individual steps along the way. To do this, you need to think about how and where you see yourself in the next few years, i.e. during and after your studies. Do you want to do an exchange semester or internship? Will you stay in Germany after you graduate? What steps could you take to reach your professional goal? How do your personal, social and professional goals interact and influence each other? You should think about all these questions and attend our Student Career Roadmap event, do the checklist (you can find the download further down the page) and contact us if you have any questions.
Learning German should be among your top priorities. Having an intermediate or advanced level of German will allow you to better adapt to your new society, to increase your chances of finding a new job position, and to participate more actively at university, at your workplace and at home with your flatmates. Plus, there are lots of other advantages like improving your cognitive abilities, finding the love of your life (why not?!?!), and being able to communicate while travelling through Germany, Austria and Switzerland – don’t you dare forget Liechtenstein!
As an international student at Saarland University, you can register for free for German language courses offered by the International Study Center Saar (ISZ-Saar). They have three different kinds of courses:
Once you know which course applies to your situation, take note of the registration date! Moreover, for the in-sessional courses, you can register for more than one course at a time (e.g.: Grammar and C1-level)
Parallel to these courses, there are other options – all free of charge! – you can explore to enhance your German skills, such as:
On a more personal note, you can improve your German skills by listening to music, watching movies, interacting with the locals, and volunteering.
And if by any reason you still aren’t convinced you should learn German, these 10 reasons given by the Goethe Institut might change your mind.
Application documents are the starting point for every position you apply for, whether that's an internship or a full-time graduate role. To give yourself the best chance of success, you'll need to understand the specifics of the German job application process and how best to present your application. To help you, we've compiled a special section with lots of tips covering all aspects of the application process: how to write a professional CV, drafting a good cover letter, preparing to apply for a work placement or internship. Take a look, you'll be glad you did!
The rules and regulations you need to know when applying to work in Germany will depend on your country of origin. Put simply, if you come from an EU member state or from Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway or Switzerland, you can usually work just as many hours as German students can. If you are a national of any other country, you may not work more than 120 full days or 240 half days per year. The good news is that these restrictions don't apply if you work as a student assistant (Hiwi or StuA) at a higher education institution. If you want or need to work more than the specified number of days, you must get approval from the Federal Employment Agency (Bundesagentur für Arbeit).
If you are not an EU national and you've recently graduated or you'll be graduating soon, you may apply for a job-seeker's residence permit, which is valid for up to 18 months. For more detailed information, please contact the university's Welcome Center or get in touch directly with the Foreigners Registration Office (Ausländerbehörde) at your place of residence. Information is also available on the following websites:
Every employed or self-employed person in Germany has to pay tax on their income. However, you don't have to pay tax if you earn less than €520 per month. The same applies if you receive a scholarship (e.g. from the DAAD). If you earn less than €10,908 per year, you can file an income tax return and the tax authorities will refund the taxes that you paid in that year.
Retirement benefits / Pension funds
All employees in Germany must pay into the statutory pension insurance scheme. This payment is deducted automatically from their salary. In most cases, the pension insurance contribution is 9.3% of your income. Exceptions:
- If you earn less than €520 per month, you do not have to pay pension insurance contributions.
- If you earn between €520 and €2,000 per month, or if you work more than 20 hours a week, you will pay a reduced contribution
- If your income exceeds €2,000 per month, you will pay the full 9.3%.
Health insurance and long-term care insurance
Even if they have a part-time job, students will normally have student health insurance cover and are therefore not treated as employees. That means that they don't pay health insurance contributions based on their earnings. However, if you work more than 20 hours a week, you will have to pay an earnings-related health insurance contribution. We recommend that you talk to your employer about this, before you take on extra hours.
Students do not normally pay unemployment insurance contributions. This means that you will not be entitled to receive unemployment benefits if you lose your part-time student job.
Germany has a statutory minimum wage that is adjusted from time to time. The Federal Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs has published a downloadable brochure on its website with information specially compiled for students. A few of the more relevant points for international students are provided below.
Before we get into the details, it's important to understand the difference between voluntary and mandatory work placements or internships – as this often determines whether or not you will be paid for the work you do.
- Voluntary, study-related internships
These are usually undertaken during the semester break and provide an opportunity for you to gain practical experience and some initial insight into working life in a particular field. This type of internship is only paid if it lasts longer than three months.
- Mandatory work placement / internship
Many degree programmes include a mandatory work placement or internship so that students can acquire relevant practical experience during their studies. The mandatory work placement / internship phase is usually governed by university-specific rules. In contrast to voluntary internships, statutory minimum wage rules do not apply to mandatory work placements / internships.
Since 1 October 2022, a statutory minimum wage of €12 per hour applies in Germany. This means that nobody, including students, may be paid less than the minimum wage, although this does not always apply in the case of work placements / internships. The minimum wage does not have to be paid for a mandatory work placement / internship, and only has to be paid for voluntary internships that last longer than three months. Students on work placements are usually unpaid or paid at a low rate. In some cases, scholarship funding may be an option. (Source: DAAD)
Regardless of the type of work placement or internship that you undertake, please remember to check the duration of your (student) residence permit so that you can complete your study programme before it expires. If you are not an EU national, you will also need to inform the Foreigners' Registration Office when they start a work placement or internship.
1) Does the Minimum Wage Act (MiLoG) also apply to foreign students?
Yes. The Minimum Wage Act applies to voluntary internships in Germany that last longer than three months and to mandatory work placements / internships in Germany, regardless of the student's nationality. The same minimum wage rules apply to all students, regardless of their country of origin.
2) I am doing my Master's thesis project in business administration in a company. Will I be paid the minimum wage?
No, your thesis project is neither a business activity that would normally be carried out at the company, nor an internship. However, if you work for the company in addition to completing your thesis project, you may be entitled to the minimum wage for the work that you do. Each such case will need to be examined individually.
3) Some employers offer work placements / internships that last up to a year. Do they have to pay the minimum wage to student interns?
Anyone undertaking a study-related internship lasting more than three months must be paid the minimum wage from day one. The purpose of a work placement or internship is to enable a student to spend several weeks or months gaining insights into and first-hand experience of a real and relevant working environment. A work placement or internship is not a replacement for a traineeship programme or a permanent position in a company or organization.
If you have any questions about minimum wage issues in Germany, the Federal Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs has set up a hotline that you can call: 030 60 28 00 28.
Applying for a criminal record certificate
When you apply for a job, you may be asked to provide a criminal record certificate (Führungszeugnis) so that the employer can see whether you have a criminal record. You can apply for your criminal record certificate from the Residents’ Registration Office (Bürgeramt) either online or in person. You will need to pay a service charge of €13. There are two types of criminal record certificate: type 'N' for private purposes (Führungszeugnis für private Zwecke) and type 'O' for submission to a government agency of public authority (Führungszeugnis für behördliche Zwecke). There is also an extended criminal record certificate (erweitertes Führungszeugnis). Before you apply, make sure you know which type of certificate your potential future employer requires.
To apply for the certificate of good conduct online, you need to fill out the form that you can find on the website of the Federal Office of Justice. You will need to upload a copy of your identity card or passport, the letter from your potential future employer asking for your criminal record certificate and a written letter from you (e.g. a Word document) in which you simply ask for the certificate to be issued.
If you would prefer to go to the Residents' Registration Office in person, you should first make an appointment, which you can do online. We recommend applying in person if you happen to live near the Residents' Registration Office. In this case, you will only need to take your ID card or passport and the letter from your potential future employer.
However you choose to apply, your criminal record certificate will be sent to your potential future employer within two weeks. If you have applied for a type 'N' criminal record certificate for private purposes, it will be sent to your home address.
Stage two: Preparing to make the move from university to the world of work
Students can take advantage of the numerous on-campus and off-campus service providers offering information and advice on a wide range of topics, such as work placements and internships, job applications and recruitment, studying abroad, employment issues, residence permits, etc. Don't hesitate to contact one of the services listed below if you need help.
One of the best ways of finding a work placement, internship or job is to visit an online job portal or attend a recruiting fair. Saarland University's Career Center maintains a career portal and runs the on-campus job fair 'next'. For more information, click on the links provided. There are also numerous other online information sites, such as the searchable job database maintained by the Federal Employment Agency.
Even after you've begun your new career, you'll probably want to keep learning and acquiring new skills in your field and in related areas. Most of our advanced professional study programmes can be studied part-time, making it easier for you to fit studying around your work commitments. Some courses are also offered as online courses or are held in the evenings or at weekends. We've listed some of our advanced professional study programmes below. Ask your employer about your company or organization's policy on continuing education and advanced professional qualifications.
Saarland University organizes courses and workshops that can help you improve your written and spoken language skills or develop intercultural, social and other core competences. Take a look at what's on offer – and don't forget to register before the deadline. Unless otherwise stated, these courses and workshops are free for Saarland University students.
Establishing and developing a network of contacts is an essential part of building your career – and you can do it in many ways.
Try these tips:
- Take part in the cultural events organized by the Centre for International Students (ZiS).
- Undertake a work placement or internship during your studies (in some degree programmes this is a mandatory requirement) and/or work as a student assistant.
- Create a profile on employment-focused social media platforms such as LinkedIn and update your profile regularly.
- Attend our annual career fair 'next', which is organized exclusively for Saarland University students.
- Get involved with a club or association in an area related to your work or to the subject you study, or try doing voluntary work in that field. One option might be to join one of the working groups within AStA (General Student Committee).
- Keep in touch with your university teachers, co-workers and fellow students.
- Find out about the services and events offered by Saarland University's International Alumni Office.
- Register at AlumniPortal Deutschland.
- Take part in networking activities such as conferences, student summits, networking cocktail events, etc.
Quality Management Studies and Practice, International Students
Education and Quality Assurance Unit
Building A4 4 (Campus Center) | Room 2.05
Office hours: Monday to Thursday, 7:00 - 15:30