A Comprehensive Guide to Average Salaries in Germany (2021)

Marle

Updated on Aug 19 • 10 minute read

It is tough for new expats to get a real feel for what is considered a good salary. With thousands of expats relocating to Germany every year, you are not alone in wondering “What is the average salary for my profession and position?, “Where should I go for the highest paying jobs?,” “How can I understand my German payslip?!”.

To save you time, this guide will walk you through all things salary related:

  • Everyone deserves the minimum wage in Germany.
  • Is Germany a good place to work for expats?
  • What is a good salary in Germany in 2021?
  • Average salary by different professions.
  • The 5 factors that influence your salary: Work experience, education company size, region, and gender.
  • Understanding your German payslip.

Everyone deserves the minimum wage in Germany

As of July 2021, the gross minimum wage in Germany is €9.60 per hour. This minimum wage also applies to expats, international students, and overtime work (unless your contract states otherwise or you agree to take time off at a later date).

This statutory minimum wage has been introduced by The German Federal Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs (BMAS) and is good news for you for 3 reasons. It helps:

  1. Protect employees from inappropriately low wages or company wage competition.
  2. Reflects the economic situation and the general trend in salary rates.
  3. Maintains a stable social security system.

So, let's do simple math. With a 40 hour week as a full time employee, you'll easily earn a minimum salary of €1.620 per month!

International students can also work part time in Germany while on their student visa. If you are voluntarily working next to your studies, you can work 120 full days or 240 half days a year (a full day is 8 hours of work).

However, it’s good to keep in mind how much you can earn as a working student. (International) students do not need to pay taxes or social security contributions if they earn less than €450 a month. Since taxes in Germany are high, you can work for 46 hours a month and earn minimum wage to ensure your monthly income will not be over €450.

Here’s a tip: The minimum wage is updated in January and July. Check Zoll, the German Central Customs Authority, to stay up to date with the latest minimum wage.

Did you know that even interns are entitled to a minimum wage in Germany?

Your internship has to satisfy the following conditions:

  • Has to exceed 3 months in length
  • It is not a compulsory requirement by your university
  • It is not an apprenticeship
  • You’re not a volunteer

However, if you are self-employed, a freelancer, volunteer, or are required to do a vocational training or a compulsory traineeship of 3 months long, you are not eligible for minimum wage.

Is Germany a good place to work for expats?

Yes! Choosing to work in Germany as an English speaking expat is a great decision as Germany pays 10% higher net average salaries than its neighbouring countries.

According to Reinisfischer.com, the only countries that out-pay the Germans in terms of gross wages (salary pre-tax) are Luxembourg and Denmark (2020). That said, Luxembourg is a bit of a cheater, being a very small country with unique tax status. So, hats off to Denmark in terms of salaries, but unfortunately they can’t offer nearly as many opportunities for English speaking jobs!

However, for most of you, looking at the net salary (salary after tax and any social contributions) is the best indicator of how much you're really earning.

Let’s put it in perspective with a little table comparing the average net salary with other gateway countries in the EU.

CountryAvg Net. salary (2020)Comparison with DE
Germany€ 2439baseline
France€ 2225-9.6%
the Netherlands€ 2152-13.3%
Belgium€ 2170-12.39%
The UK€ 2288-6.5%

As you can see, working in Germany results in a net salary that is around 10% higher than other nearby expat havens.

What is a good average salary in Germany in 2021?

A good annual average salary in Germany is between €64.000 to €81.000. This gross salary (salary before taxes or social contributions) depends on your profession, industry, and education.

According to the StepStone Salary Report 2021 (Stepstone Gehaltsreport 2021), the average gross salary in Germany amounts to €56.985. But most Germans consider a salary ranging between €64.253 and €81.503 a good salary.

Another salary study conducted by the online job portal XING estimated an average gross salary of €70.754, which includes bonuses, holiday and Christmas allowances. At any rate, there’s a heap of money ahead of you!

Average salary by different professions in Germany

Here’s an overview of the gross annual average salary of the top 15 professions in Germany.

ProfessionAvg. Gross salary (2021)
Doctor€89.539
Finance€73.847
Lawyer€68.642
Business Advice€64.173
Banking€62.744
Engineer€62.564
IT€60.563
Marketing, PR€60.174
Production€60.046
Distribution and Sales€59.591
HR€58.029
Construction€57.270
Research€56.399
Logistics€50.358
Design€48.574

As you can see, your career choice determines your average salary in Germany. A complex curriculum that involves a great deal of responsibility, such as being a doctor or lawyer, is rewarded with a generous salary.

However, this is just a snapshot of the average income in Germany. Salaries differ depending on your industry, your experience and education, the size of the company, the region, and your gender.

Here’s a deep dive into all the factors that influence your salary in Germany.

Your work experience influences salary

While it’s good to know the average gross annual salary in Germany, it’s also good to remember that if you’re just starting out, it can take 10 years or more to reach this level.

Here’s how much you can expect to earn in Germany based on your years of work experience:

Years of ExperienceAvg. Gross salary (2021)
Less than 1 year€38.932
1-2 years€41.518
3-5 years€48.058
6-10 years€56.229
11-25 years€66.686
25+ years€ 67.480

Apart from age, your experience in managing people also influences your salary.

Number of EmployeesAverage Annual Gross Salary
Up to 14 employees€65.257
Up to 100 employees€79.562
More than 100 employees€96.357

The company size influences your salary

As Stepstone points out, large companies (+10,000 employees) in Germany can approximately pay a whopping 29% above the average salary of €56.985 !

Medium- to large-sized companies (5,001 - 10,000 employees) top the average gross salary in Germany by approximately 18%. Medium-sized companies (1,000 - 5,000 employees) exceed the average by approximately 13%. On the other hand, startups or smaller companies with up to 250 employees tend to pay much less than the average salary (-23% to -6%).

So, remember: The bigger the company, the higher your salary is likely to be.

Your Education influences your salary

Academics in Germany receive an average salary of €58.058 as opposed to non-academics who earn €49.346.

To put it in perspective, someone in finance can earn €78.769 with an educational background and €61.596 with a vocational background.

Even for those who are educated, master degree holders can expect to earn an annual gross salary of €61.906, compared to those with a bachelor degree who earn €54.210. And while a 14% difference might look small now, it will definitely make a big impact on your savings and net worth as you grow older.

There is one exception when education is not a strong factor in determining your salary. If you are an IT professional with 7 years of work experience and no educational or vocational background, you are in luck! Find out if switching to a different visa type might be more useful for your situation.

The South pays the highest average salary in Germany

Did you know that there are major differences in salaries within Germany?

According to the most recent StepStone survey, the best-paying companies are located in the South. In Hessen people earn €60.936 on average, followed by Baden-Württemberg (€60.182) and Bavaria (€60,013).

The top 3 large cities in the South also boast the highest paid salaries. Frankfurt am Main accounts for the largest average gross salary at €66.529, followed by Stuttgart (€66.174) and Munich (€65.164).

Asking yourself what is the rationale behind this? Many major corporations have their headquarters in these federal states or cities. For instance, Stuttgart has several automotive, high-tech or consumer goods industries, Frankfurt is the financial hub with its airport and trade fair, and Hamburg hosts many media houses and consumer goods companies.

While you might want to flock to these highest paying large cities, do keep in mind the high cost of living in cities such as Frankfurt .

Now compare the salaries in the South to the salaries in the North and East of Germany. Brandenburg in the North has the lowest average annual gross salary of €47.008. Popular northeastern cities like Berlin also have a comparatively low average annual gross salary of €53.408. So it's good to compare cities to decide which one's the best to live in for you.

It’s 2021 and the gender pay gap still exists in Germany

According to a survey by the Federal Statistical Office of Germany, men earn an average of €3,964 per month, while women earn considerably less, at €3,300 per month.

The XING study also highlights the fact that women still earn far less than men in all professional fields. In most cases, they only receive three-quarters of what men earn.

Understanding your German Payslip

Last but not the least, your payslip issued at the end of the month will also influence the salary paid to your bank account.

At the end of the month, you'll be issued a payslip for your tax return which will most likely be in German. Don't worry. We'll walk you through the sheet of paper step by step so that you'll understand it in no time at all!

But before we get to that, let's start by clearing up the difference between gross and net salary:

The gross salary (Bruttogehalt) is your monthly salary without deductions. It is also the sum that was agreed in your employment contract.

The net salary (Nettogehalt) is the amount paid into your account. This is the salary from which income tax, social security and other payments have already been deducted. Income tax is usually around 35% (which varies depending on the gross salary).

In other words: If you have a gross salary of about €3,000 you will receive about €1,900.

Now back to the paylsip breakdown.

1. Employee data: Your personal details are recorded here, such as your full name, date of birth, tax and social security details.

2. Presence overview: Your vacation and working hours are recorded in this field. So you can see your exact times of absence.

3. Address field: Your address should be here, but also your staff number and maybe department number. You’ll also find the address of your employer here.

4. Accounting details: The cost centre, working hours, hourly wage or notes on parental leave are recorded here; all additional values, so to speak.

5. Gross pay: This list shows you, line by line, the breakdown of your monthly pay. This includes your hourly wage, holiday pay, vacation pay, and is always linked to tax and social security obligations. Oh, a note: "****" indicates further information from the payroll office.

6. Tax/Social Security: This section shows you exactly why your generous gross salary has shrunk dramatically. Here you'll find a list of income tax, church tax, solidarity surcharge and other tax deductions.

7. Net salaries/net deductions: Right at this point you can see what you should ultimately receive on your bank account. Should there be other contributions listed here, these will be added or deducted from your net income. So, here is your net income! 8. Payout sum: Read it one more time here: your net income. Make sure that you have received this amount in your bank account.

9. Bank details: Your salary didn't roll in on your bank account? Then have a look here to see if your bank details are correct.

10. Total costs for employers: Your employer usually lists the total costs (e.g. social security contributions)

11. Certificate of Merit: All accrued gross pay and deductions that have arisen in this employment relationship are listed here.

12. Footer: Small print to explain all abbreviations and legally-required information here.

13. Company pension scheme (bAV): The contribution you have made to the pension fund is indicated here. This contribution is not subject to tax; it is deducted directly from your net income.

Now that you know what the average salaries in Germany are and what factors can influence them, go ahead and smash that interview or ask for the raise that you deserve!

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