Academic careers

The academic career path in Germany is traditionally connected to a habilitation. More recently, additional ways have been established with which you can qualifiy as "eligible for appointment" for a professorship. There are also a number of permanent university jobs at or just below the level of professor which emphasis lies in teaching, laboratory coordination, management, etc. These positions are rare though in most subject areas.

Most positions for academics at universities and research institutes are not permanent, either as a "Qualifikationsstelle" (for a Habilitation or similar) or for projects (in a fixed-term project funded by third parties). The Wissenschaftszeitvertragsgesetz regulates how often, how long, and with what additional rules fixed-time positions can be given.

If you have questions about whether an academic career is right for you or what you should pay attention to while pursuing it, you can take advantage of individual postdoc consulting at the Graduate Academy. In the qualification programme, you can also regularly find workshops about career planning and development.

Good scientific practice

In public, "good scientific practice" is often equated with cases of plagiarism when it comes to dissertations. However, the topic covers a substantially wider spectrum of scientific conduct: Dealing with data (including checking, recording, ownership and storage), the publishing process and authorship, responsible supervision, academic cooperation, conflicts of interest and dealing with conflicts. Examples of inappropriate academic behaviour include inventing or faking data, violating intellectual property (theft of ideas or plagiarism), and sabotaging the research of others.

Guidelines for a good scientific practice at the FSU Jena

The Friedrich Schiller University has adopted guidelines concerning the protection of good scientific practice. These can be found here.

Seminars on the topic of "good scientific practice"

The Graduate Academy regularly offers seminars on 'Good scientific practice'. In this workshop the myriad conflicts brought up in the day-to-day activities of research are discussed with the help of case studies. We recommend that you attend such a seminar, if possible at the start of your doctorate. The current offers can be found here.

Omudsman: Persons of trust at the FSU Jena

All academics at FSU must comply with the guidelines that ensure good scientific practice. Should you suspect or be accused of inappropriate academic behaviour, please contact the University's ombudsmen who deal with these matters.

Wissenschaftszeitvertragsgesetz (academic employment law)

In Germany, fixed-term employment contracts are legally permitted only under certain conditions. That is supposed to protect the employee: it is supposed to prevent employers from continually employing staff for a limited amount of time instead of giving them a permanent job contract with protection against unlawful termination. In academia, there is special regulation in order to allow for more flexibility, a law about fixed-term work contracts in academia (Wissenschaftszeitvertragsgesetz).

Fundamentally, academic personnel can be employed at a German institute of higher education for 12 years, including up to six years before the PhD is finished. If the PhD is completed earlier than six years after the start of employment, "unused time" before the PhD can be added to the six years after the PhD (so-called "saved PhD time").

All fixed-term employment contracts with more than a quarter of the working time of a full-time employee at a German institute of higher education will be taken into account. Caution: scholarships and grants are not counted towards the six years prior to earning a PhD, but do count towards saved PhD time!

Ever since German Bundestag passed an amendment to the Wissenschaftszeitvertragsgesetz in 2016, a fixed-term employment within the 12-year-period is only possible when the employment aims at the employee's own academic qualification. This can be either for dissertation or habilitation, but also for other academic qualifications such as the aquisition of specific scientific methods or teaching methods. Note that the duration of the fixed-term employment has to be adequate for the purpose of qualification, thus the actual qualification goal is to be laid down in the written contract of employment. If you seek further information on academic fixed-term contracts, please see here, or in this recommendation of the German Research Foundation (DFG).

Exceptions and options for the extension of the 6- or 12-year employment constraint may be: the extension due to the care of the employee's own children, foster children or stepchildren (up to two years per child); a chronic disease or a disability of the employee.

The 12 years are not valid for research projects funded by third parties, because there is a specific reason for the fixed term. That means that after the end of the 12 years, positions with fixed-term employment contracts can continue to be accepted. The duration of that employment is dependent on the duration of the respective project funding. There are still specific conditions to be fulfilled (see Abschnitt III: "Befristungsmöglichkeiten bei Beschäftigung in Drittmittelprojekten", in German only).

A paper which was written down by the FSU Doctoral council in cooperation with the Jena Abbe School of Photonics doctoral council and the FSU's own head of human resources, can give you a good insight into the most important contents of the Wissenschaftszeitvertragsgesetz and its application at Jena University: Das Wichtigste zum Wissenschaftszeitvertragsgesetz (the Most Important Facts of Wissenschaftszeitvertragsgesetz).

The classification does not often appear to be easy. If in doubt, the human resources department(Personaldezernat) is responsible for the decision. Additional information is available here.


The habilitation serves as evidence of an individual's capability of researching independently and of teaching in a certain subject area. Traditionally in Germany, a habilitation serves as a formal qualification needed to become a university professor. Along with the habilitation, one is awarded teaching qualification (Lehrbefähigung) and (upon request) a teaching license (Lehrbefugnis).

At present, there are other possibilities for qualification for the job of university professor than the habilitation (see here). If you aspire to become a university professor, you must know how important the habilitation is within your area of speciality. Only then can you decide whether or not you would like to complete a habilitation.

If you would like to work on a habilitation, you should have a professor that supports your plan. This relationship is typically not as close as it was during the doctoral process.

For the habilitation, you must complete both written (habilitation thesis; cumulative work, if allowed) and oral tasks (an academic talk with colloquium, public talk).

Specific regulations about the habilitation can be found in the faculty-specific regulations of the university's Conditions for habilitation (Habilitationsordnung).

Qualification for a professorship

The legal prerequisites for professors are regulated by the states' laws of higher education (Hochschulgesetze der Länder). You can find these laws here. The Framework Act for Higher Education (Hochschulrahmengesetz) can offer you a basic orientation. Concrete requirements are listed in each job posting for a professorship. For a university professor, typically a minimum of a "habilitation or work experience equivalent to a habilitation" is listed as a qualification for employment.

University professorships

For Information regarding the W1 professorship (Junior Professorship, Tenure Track Professor W1, Qhalification professorship W1), please see here.

In order to become a university professor, "additional scholarly achievements" (in addition to a PhD) must typically be demonstrated. In Germany, this is traditionally shown via a habilitation. Due to internationalisation, as an alternative to a habilitation, "work experience equivalent to a habilitation" is typically also acceptable. Another possibility to demonstrate "additional scholarly achievements" may be the so called Junior Professorship. In job advertisements, both possibilities are usually mentioned.

"Work experience equivalent to a Habilitation" includes additional academic publications written after the PhD has been finished. This means publications that could meet the Habilitationsordnung. Criteria regarding the adequacy of a habilitation are somewhat flexible. Each hiring committee is responsible for deciding whether your own work can be viewed as acceptable or equal to a habilitation.

Legally, it is possible to complete position prerequisites through a junior professorship or as the head of a junior research group, even without a habilitation or exam that proves that your performance is equivalent to that of an individual with a habilitation. In job advertisements for professorships though, usually either "habilitation or work experience equivalent to habilitation" is requested. In this case, commissions will check to see if junior professors and heads of junior research groups have a habilitation or work experience equivalent to a habilitation.

When deciding for or against a habilitation, you need to do more than decide whether you fulfil the formal prerequisites for a job, but also how you can lead the pack of applicants. The same is true when you apply for a junior professorship or head of a junior research group.

Depending on the culture in different subject areas, there are different customs. You can find out about these customs by asking researchers/from those in your subject. In addition, due to the states' laws of higher education (Hochschulgesetze der Länder) and at the local level, there are local customs. If you are a member of the German Association of University Professors and Lecturers (Deutscher Hochschulverband), you can receive additional consultation there.

General information about the path to a professorship is available through Academics (in German), the German Academic Exchange Service DAAD and the German Association of University Professors and Lecturers (in German).

Professorship (University of Applied Science)

In order to receive a professorship at a University of Applied Sciences, you must typically hold a PhD and have five years of work experience (a minimum of three years outside the institute of higher education) in the "use or development of academic knowledge and methods" ("Anwendung oder Entwicklung wissenschaftlicher Erkenntnisse und Methoden") (see HRG §44.1.4c and the Hochschulgesetze der Länder).

Tenure Track

From 2002, it has been possible in Germany to combine temporary appointments of professors with a tenure track option. In case of a tenure track option, professors with a temporary appointment will have the chance to be promoted to a superior professorship with a permanent contract if they complete their review successfully. Initially, this option had been applied only on rare occasions. However, thanks to the German TenureTrack Programme for Young Researchers that started in 2017, , this is about to change.

The German tenure track scheme aims at appointing professors at a comparatively early career stage (usually as professors with a W1 salary scale or as junior professors) to provide them with reliable and attractive career prospects. In case of tenure track appointments, both sides agree on the performance criteria for the prod´fessurship for the later review as early as in the appointing procedure. Depending on the review results, it ma then be decided whether a professorship with a W1 salary scale or a junior professorship will be transformed into a permanent appointment with a W2 or W3 salary scale. This decision is made by an  evaluation commission.

The tenure track option may be combined either with a professorship with a W1 salary scale or with a temporary appointment for professorship of W2salary scale. In the latter case, the position is to be transformed into a permanent appointment with a W3 salary scale , given that candidate has successfully passed their probation period after the agreed time.

Tenure Track at the Friedrich Schiller University Jena

The Friedrich Schiller University Jena is committed to, firstly, decrease the age of first-time professorship appointees. secondly,  we are commited to encourage early independence and self-reliance of young researchers and academics, and thirdly, we seek to improve the personal planning options and transparency of scientific career paths. Therefore, Friedrich Schiller University issued the Statutes on the Appointing of Tenure Track Professorships in May 2017. The Statutes are intended to regulate the tenure track process, i.e. the job announcements, the appointment procedure, the interim evaluation, and the tenure evaluation. Starting from now, the majority of available W2 professorships at friedrich Schiller University will be announced as tenure track professorships.

Statutes for the recruitment and hiring process for Tenure Track Professorships (in German)

Alternatives to an academic career

Not every postdoc stays at an institute of higher education or research institute. There are many ways to use your knowledge and abilities in other occupational fields. We can help you to map out ways to promote your talents and interests in job applications or to pursue new business concepts.

In the qualification programme of the Graduate Academy, you can find a number of workshops on the topic of "career planning and applications," including for a transition into a career outside of academia. You can discuss these ideas in an individual postdoc consultation. If you would like to found your own company or work on a freelance basis, the founder service (Gründerservice) of the FSU can help you.