An internship may be a mandatory part of your degree, or perhaps you’re simply craving a little real-world experience after all the theory of the classroom training. At any rate, there are several excellent options for a placement abroad, especially in any one of Germany’s many diverse cities.
There are several things to consider when opting for an internship, including what kind, for how long and where — not to mention the cost of living that you might want to compare to choose the best city to live in Germany. So, let’s jump right in and learn exactly why you should do an internship abroad, and why Germany could be the perfect home-from-home during this transformative adventure that so many post grads embark on.
At this moment in time, over 300,000 students are living abroad in Germany, and a good portion has already started an internship or will be sticking around for one after their current semester ends. The reason is simple: Germany is a hugely rewarding place to live!
Germany is working hard on making itself a more and more attractive haven for international students, expats and international interns like you! We’ve gone in depth about why Germany is great for internationals before, so here’s the rundown:
Cost of living - When compared with the United States, the rent alone in Germany is 31.6% lower. In Berlin, the capital city, total monthly expenses can average around €850, especially if you’ve learned how to effectively budget during your stay abroad. So, as far as European countries are concerned, Germany is pretty affordable!
Language - Germany is becoming more and more friendly for internationals. First of all, German children learn English in school, so most young people speak English to some degree. In recent years, German educational institutions are offering more and more courses in English. That said, Germans really appreciate it if you at least put some effort in learning the local language and, if you ask me, learning a new language is one of the major perks of going abroad! So, make use of the cheap, or even free, language courses your new employer may offer to overcome language barriers in Germany.
Safety - If safety is a concern for you, know that major German cities appear in the top 10 of safest cities in the world! Munich tops the list at #4, while even the capital Berlin is the #7 safest city for internationals. So, if you’re moving abroad and living alone for the first time, Germany is one of the places where it’s unlikely that you’ll run into any serious incidents!
The location - As an international, you probably don’t have easy access to your own car. You could invest in your own bicycle, but if you really want to get around in Germany, its high quality public transport is the way to go! It will get you where you need to go in your city, but also across the country or even help you make use of your time in Germany to explore some of the other nearby European countries like Belgium, the Netherlands and France!
As you begin to learn more about internships, you’ll discover that there are some differences, ranging from the length to the companies with which you’ll be involved. Internships can be paid or unpaid, and they can run for just the length of the summer or may last for over a year, sometimes resulting in permanent employment.
We all know the classic stereotypes for internships: you either spend your time doing coffee runs or are expected to know and do as much as other employees for little to no money. Thankfully, Germany has a very different approach to internships. Companies, large and small, all know the value of internships; it’s an excellent way to secure talent early on and help them grow into their full potential … and career that benefits that company! Even though unpaid internships do exist, most companies will pay a living wage to their interns. In fact, if your internship meets certain criteria, they are obliged by law to pay at least the minimum wage (€9.35 since Jan 2020). These criteria are:
So, even if you have a mandatory internship of 3 months for your studies, you could still try to score an internship that is longer than that, so you would be able to gain more experience, tackle bigger projects all while getting paid (past those 3 months).
How much will I earn as an intern in Germany?”
A full-time intern for a non-mandatory internship which lasts at least 3 months, earns the German Federal minimum wage of €9.35 an hour or €1.620 a month! That’s a lot better than internships in other countries, where you either earn nothing, only get your travel expenses paid for or where you earn only a fraction of what you earn in Germany. Of course, not all internships are created equal, so let’s take a look at what your options are.
Which type of internship is best for me?”
Internships are all about experience. Figure out what kind of job you want, study its requirements and start developing those skills! If you know where you want to go, it will be easier to shape your internships. Besides, companies love it when you have clear ambitions. Now all you need to think about is what type of company can give you the experience you need.
Larger corporations are very popular among international students! They’re often quite internationalised and are always on the hunt for new talent. An internship with these bigger companies means options in many different departments as well as more data to work with. These companies are often also a lot more generous with their pay for interns, but landing a position here can get quite competitive. That said, it will look great on your resume and could land you a nice position out of the gate.
Top companies in Germany include:
Zalando - with its headquarters in Berlin, if you have an interest in fashion or logistics, this industry leader has a variety of internships available. Many interns decide to continue to grow with Zalando, as they can opt for a student job.
McKinsey & Company - This company has spread over 65 countries and offers internships for undergraduate degrees and also to MBA candidates. Are you an advanced professional degree student? They also have internships suited to you. You can explore nine offices in Germany, including Berlin, Munich and Frankfurt, and even set your sights on graduate engineering jobs down the line.
- Google - We don’t need to introduce these guys. Put your business and technology skills to the ultimate use! This global leader has offices in Berlin, Munich and Hamburg.
Rocket Internet - This company is known for branding startups, including Zalando. Its main headquarters are located in Berlin.
Amazon - Like Google, Amazon is yet another well-known name that offers internships throughout Germany. They have locations in Berlin, Munich, Frankfurt and Dusseldorf.
Adidas - The super-popular German sportswear manufacturer offers a wide range of internship opportunities. Its main headquarters are in Herzogenaurach.
SAP - This German software company is another excellent option for internships, especially those who have technological-related career paths. SAP has offices all over the world, but it is headquartered in Walldorf
Another good source of internships for internationals is the wealth of startups in Germany. Startup companies are usually small, with tight budgets but great opportunities. You’ll find quite a few startups that use English as their company language alongside the small communities that expats at these companies tend to form. While interning at a startup might not be as prestigious, it will offer you a wider range of activities and responsibilities. Small companies grow quickly and are considerably more agile than large corporations. If you can leverage your ingenuity, you can implement changes that have a direct impact on the success of the company, leading to opportunities to grow with the company after your internship. The only downside is that startups are often strapped for budgets, so don’t expect to earn more than the already impressive minimum wage.
Top German Startups in 2020: Here you’ll find some of the fastest growing startups in Germany right now! A growing startup is often an intern-hungry startup! They might not always be listing an internship, but if your skills meet their needs, even an unsolicited application could land you a position!
Vytal: This company is focused on providing the booming food delivery industry a sustainable, reusable packaging solution. No more disposable packaging for your fries!
Cloudeo: Cloudeo specialises in providing geospatial data through satellite imaging. They have solutions for anything from agriculture to infrastructure and forestry.
Rooom: Room is at the forefront of easy to use 3D imagery. Implement 3D modelling, 3D scanning. Augmented reality or Virtual Reality for a multitude of business purposes.
Userlane: Userlane is a so-called Digital Adoption Platform. Userlane enables companies to automate their software onboarding, training, and support efforts, allowing anyone to quickly use any kind of software.
If these companies aren’t looking for your particular set of skills right now, don’t give up! There are plenty of ways to find a spot for you. Here’s a list of resources to help you score that internship abroad:
XING: Essentially the DACH version of Linkedin. If there’s an internship in a German speaking country, it’s on XING. You need an account to view the opportunities, though. Are you in for an internship in Hamburg?
Mein Praktikum: A german website dedicated solely to interns! Only available in German, but with some Deepl or Google translate magic, you should be fine!
Stepstone: Another German career website that offers numerous internships suitable for English speakers!
Germany is a pretty nice place to live in terms of affordability, safety and mobility. Social security is also up to par, with even interns having the right to a minimum wage! There are also plenty of great companies for you to kickstart your career with, as well as the opportunity to be a part of a budding company by working for one of its many startups. And with the resources we gathered for you, it’s time for you to start writing application letters. Now that you know why Germany’s going to be your destination, we hope we've been able to help you find the internship of your dreams!