Career Roadmap for International Students
What it is all about
Hey there! The Student Career Roadmap is a practical, customisable, and individualised tool we have developed in order to guide you through the steps leading to your job in Saarland, Germany and Europe. It works like a checklist and a map: you check the knowledge you possess so far, you identify the elements that you still need to integrate into your path and you create a series of interconnected milestones you want to achieve to reach your final destination: integration in your new society through the job you want. These milestones spread over time throughout your studies. Some of them will be crossed during your first days and weeks, while reaching others will take some more time. And don’t worry if you do not have an answer to every step of the map. You can count on us during the whole process! This Roadmap is a customisable support tool personalised to your needs, your field of studies and your professional goals.
Now it is time to explore the stages composing the Roadmap!
First Stage: Planning Ahead
Exploring your new environment will allow you to adapt much easier to your new surroundings. The more you know your surroundings, the more you will be ready to take advantage of what is there for you, but also how you can contribute to it, be it through a new student job, as a volunteer for a social cause or through your studies and research.
- Participate in the Welcome Week organized by the Welcome Center.
- Attend the introductory session for first-year students of your study programme.
- Visit the university’s “Coming to Saarbrücken” website.
- Register for the ISZ Saar's course “Landeskunde Deutschlands".
- Take part in ZiS-events specially held for international students.
- Register for the ZiS-BuddyProgramme *you & me*.
- Consider joining an association or a club (sports, culture, politics, wellbeing, environment-related, etc.). This is among the best ways to know new people and engage with them!
- Look for volunteering opportunities at the university.
Having an idea of what your goals are will help you identify the steps leading to them. This requires reflecting on how you see yourself in the next couple of years, that is, during and after your studies. Are you planning to do an exchange semester or internship? Are you staying in Germany once you complete your degree? What could be the steps that could be taken to reach your professional goal? How do your personal, social, and professional goals interact and influence each other? If you want to get a better overview of various topics surrounding the German/European job market to help make up your mind, you can check out our events!
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 basis for any internship or job you apply to. Knowing the specificities of these documents here in Germany will increase your chances of getting the position you want. We have a special section exclusively on this matter, where we give you tips for a complete and professional CV, cover letter and other elements related to internship applications. We strongly encourage you to have a look at it.
Depending on your country of origin, there are some regulations you need to consider before applying for a job. In a nutshell, if you are from an EU member state, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, or Switzerland, you can normally work as much as German students. If you are a national of any other country, you cannot work more than 120 full days or 240 half days per year. Good news: this limit doesn’t apply if you work as a student assistant at a university. If you want or have to surpass this limit, you must contact the Federal Employment Agency to get their authorization.
If you are a non-EU citizen about to complete your studies or have recently obtained your diploma, you can apply for a residence permit for the purpose of seeking employment valid for up to 18 months. For detailed information on the subject, please contact the university’s Welcome Center or the Immigration Office (Ausländerbehörde) directly. You can also visit the following website:
Moreover, here you will find more information on different job permits you could obtain depending on your employment status after your graduation:
Every employed person in Germany has to pay taxes according to their income. However, if you earn 520€ per month or less, you do not have to pay taxes. This also applies if you have scholarships or grants (e.g.: DAAD). Moreover, if you earn less than 10.908€ per year, you will get back the taxes you paid if you submit an income tax return to the tax authorities.
All employees in Germany must make a contribution from their earnings to the state pension scheme. Usually this amounts to 9.3% of your income. However, if your income is:
- lower than 520€/month, you are exempted from the contribution.
- between 520€ and 2000€/month, or if you work more than 20 working hours per week, you pay a lower contribution.
- higher than 2000€/month, you will pay the full share of 9.3%.
Health insurance/Nursing care insurance
Even if they have a side job, students are usually insured as students and not as employees. In this case, they do not have to make any income related contributions towards health insurance. However, if you work more than 20 hours per week, you have to pay a contribution to a health insurance. Clarify this beforehand with your employer!
Students do not normally pay unemployment insurance contributions. This means that they cannot claim unemployment benefit if they lose their side job.
In Germany there’s a minimum hourly wage, which changes regularly. As of 01.10.2022, it is 12€ an hour. On the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs’ website, there is an FAQ section on the subject specifically dedicated to students interested in/currently doing an internship. Considering that it is only available in German, below we provide you with the most relevant Q&As for international students, translated from the Ministry’s document available here. But first, let’s have a look at the 2 main types of internships, as the specific type will determine whether or not you are paid.
- Voluntary study-related internship: This type of internship is about gaining an insight into everyday working life during the semester break, as well as getting some first practical experience in your field. As a rule, if the internship lasts three months or less, this type of internship is not remunerated with the minimum wage.
- Mandatory internship: Many study programmes include mandatory internships to help their students gain practical experience. They are carried out within the framework of the university regulations. Contrary to voluntary internships, mandatory internships are usually exempt from the minimum wage.
In a nutshell: “Internships in Germany may be offered on an unpaid basis if they are no longer than three months in length. Unpaid internships may run longer than three months only if they are a compulsory part of a program of study. Internships running for longer than three months and not part of a study program must be paid at the national minimum wage for their entire length.” (Source: DAAD).
Also, regardless of the type of internship, you must bear in mind the validity period of your residence/study permit in Germany, to make sure that you finish your studies within that time. Also, if you are not a national of an EU-country, you must inform the Immigration Office about your internship.
Now, let’s have a look at some FAQ’s:
1) Does the minimum wage also apply to foreign students?
In general, the Minimum Wage Act applies to all internships in Germany. It does not matter where the interns come from. The same internship regulations apply to domestic and foreign students.
2) I am writing my Master's thesis in business administration at a company. Do I get paid minimum wage for this?
No, because this is neither a company activity nor an internship relationship. However, if you work for the company as part of an internship beyond writing your Master's thesis, it must be examined in each individual case whether the internship is to be remunerated with the minimum wage.
3) Some employers offer internships that last up to a year. What about the minimum wage?
Study-related internships that last longer than three months are subject to minimum wage from the first day. An internship is about gaining an insight limited time to gain an insight and gaining initial experience experience. Internships are not intended to replace a complete apprenticeship or a a permanent job.
If you have further questions, there’s a minimum wage hotline you could contact (service only in German): 030/60 28 00 28.
Requesting a certificate of good conduct (Führungszeugnis)
When applying for a job, you might be asked to send this certificate, which basically allows the recruiter to know if you have any criminal record or not. You can request such document at one of the Citizen Offices (Bürgerämter). You can do so both online or in person, and it costs 13 €. Also, there are two types of certificates: for private purposes (type N) or for the authorities (type O). Moreover, the certificate can be an "extended" one (erweitertes Führungszeugnis). Make sure to know which type your future employer is asking you to provide.
To request the certificate of good conduct online, you need to fill up the form available in the Citizen Office website (only in German). You will need to upload an ID, the letter of your future employer where it is indicated that you need the certificate of good conduct, and a written request. A written request is basically an informal letter written in a Word Document, in which you state that you need the certificate.
To request the certificate in person, you need to first book an appointment online (only in German). If you live near one of the Citizen Offices, we encourage you to opt for this option. You just need to bring with you your ID and the letter of your future employer.
In both cases, the certificate will be sent directly to the employer within two weeks following the request. If you are asking for a certificate for private purposes, it will be sent directly to your address.
Second Stage: Counselling and transitioning into your professional life
There are various services on and off campus that counsel students on a wide variety of topics, such as internships and applications, studying abroad, studies reorientation and finances, employment and immigration affairs, among others. Do not hesitate to contact them if you have any question related to those fields.
Online job portals and recruitment fairs are among the best ways to find an internship or a job. The Career Center offers both services: a Career Portal as well as the Career Fair "next". For both of them you need to register and create an account. For more details, please visit the webpages. Moreover, there are external online portals such as that of the Federal Employment Agency, which displays job offers from all over Germany.
Even after finding a job, you might want to further develop your knowledge in specific areas related or complementary to your field. In most cases, the continuing education programmes are offered part-time. Moreover, some are offered online and during evenings or weekends – which might allow you to fit them into your schedule. Besides the options we propose to you below, we invite you to ask your supervisor at your workplace for certifications and trainings offered to employees.
Registering for courses and workshops that help you develop your language, writing, intercultural and soft skills is a great way of taking action towards reaching your goals. Have a look at the offers of each of the following services, while paying special attention to registration deadlines. All of these courses and workshops are free of charge for Saarland University students (unless otherwise indicated).
Extending your network in your new society is of utmost importance, and you can do so in a wide variety of ways.
- Take part in cultural events held by the Center for International Students—ZiS.
- During your studies, do an internship (in some study programmes it is mandatory) and/or a position as student assistant.
- Create, update and be active on social platforms such as LinkedIn.
- Take part in our career fair “next” held every year, exclusively for Uni Saarland students.
- Join an association or involve yourself in an initiative related to your field of studies/work. AStA’s working groups could be an option.
- Keep in touch with your professors and colleagues.
- Explore the services provided and register for the events organized by the International Alumni Office of Saarland University
- Register on AlumniPortal Deutschland.
- Participate in other networking activities, such as conferences, summits, cocktails, etc.
Quality Management Studies and Practice, International Students
Education and Quality Assurance Devision
Building A4 4 (Campus Center) | Room 2.05
Office hours: Monday to Thursday, 7:00 - 15:30