Is my university qualification recognized in Germany?

Is my university qualification recognized in Germany?

Step by step guide to navigating the Anabin database — even if you don’t know German

If you’re thinking about coming to work in Germany, you’ll want to know whether your university degree is going to be recognized here. Having a recognized qualification will affect your visa options and your employment opportunities in Germany. So let’s look at how to find out the status of your degree.

Firstly, what exactly do I mean by recognition?

In this article I distinguish between “basic recognition” and “full recognition”. Basic recognition means that your degree is considered comparable to a German one, and you are entitled to a document called a Statement of Comparability (Zeugnisbewertung).

This article mostly focuses on how to check whether you are entitled to this basic recognition.

Full recognition, called Anerkennung in German, is something else. It means that your degree is not merely comparable but equivalent to the corresponding German degree. This status is harder to obtain, but necessary for some jobs.

It’s very important to keep this difference between the two in mind, so as not to get confused.

But let’s start with the basics.

Why would I want to check on my degree recognition in Germany?

I know people who came to Germany to work without checking their degree status beforehand, so it is possible to do this. But it’s not something I’d necessarily recommend.

There are so many reasons to check whether your college degree or university qualification is recognized in Germany before coming. 

For example, your degree recognition status partially or fully affects all these matters:

  • Am I considered as a “skilled worker” and thus eligible for a “skilled worker visa”?
  • Does my degree make me eligible for applying for the six-month job-seeking visa?
  • Can I expect to be paid the same as a local, if my degree is seen as equivalent?
  • What kind of jobs can I look for in Germany with my qualification?
  • What further documentation do I need to prepare before leaving my home country?
  • What further steps do I need to undertake for full recognition in a specific profession?

I will be dealing with these questions in future articles.

For now, let’s move on to the first steps.

Government criteria for basic recognition: introducing Anabin

Fortunately the German government has ensured that their criteria for determining basic recognition of qualifications from overseas are transparentthey’ve made them available online in a database called Anabin

No matter where you come from, you can use the Anabin database to look up the institutions you studied at (as well as your qualifications) to see how they are evaluated by the German authorities. 

However, this doesn’t mean that Anabin is easy to navigate. Like many administrative tasks, using Anabin seems overwhelming at first. Also, rather unfortunately, the website is only currently available in German.

I admit that I was confused the first few times I used Anabin, even though I know German. But now I have learned how to get useful information out of Anabin in just a few clicks. 

In this article I’m going to explain the process step by step, so you don’t get lost clicking on the wrong links like I did to begin with. You don’t even need to know German yet. I’ll show you how to quickly find your qualification and check whether it will be recognized in Germany.

Step 1: go to the Anabin website

Here is the link to the Anabin database:

In the screenshot below you can see what the main page of Anabin looks like. It’s all in German and the menu structure is not the most user-friendly. But don’t worry, you won’t even need most of the links you see here.

Step 2: Search for your institution in the Anabin database

There are two approaches you can take to searching. 

Either begin by searching for the institution where you studied (college, university or other higher education institution) or begin by searching for your qualification according to its official title.

I recommend starting with the institution. Why’s that? Well, the list of institutions is exhaustive, so you’re certain to find your institution on it and come away with an answer. But the list of degrees is not as complete, simply because the government has not individually assessed every degree from every college.

Search for your institution by clicking on the word “Institutionen” on the left-hand side.

Now you will come to a window that looks like the screenshot below.

Please click on the word “Suchen” next to the word “Info”, above the grey text box.

You will now land on the front-end of the Anabin database where you can begin your search.

Step 3: Find your college by filtering the search by country and city

Start by selecting your country. Just click on the purple button “Länderauswahl” in the middle of the page, and a drop-down menu will open up. Now you need to find the name of your country – but remember, the list is in German. 

If you’re not sure what your country’s name is in German, try googling it or checking on Some countries are spelled differently, eg. Canada begins with a K, not C, so bear in mind that this affects the order in the alphabet your country appears in. Some countries have different names entirely.

Here is a brief list of country spellings in the list:

  • USA is under U for USA 
  • Canada is under K for Kanada
  • UK is under G for Großbritannien
  • Australia is Australien 

Let’s say you have a degree from the University of Texas at Austin.

Once you have selected USA as your country, click “Länderauswahl bestätigen” (the purple button on the right, above the window for finding your country). Here is an example of what it looks like when I select USA.

Another field will now open up, called “Alle Orte”. This refers to the towns and cities in that country. So this is where you look for “Austin” in the drop-down menu.

After you click on “Austin”, all the universities, colleges and higher education institutions located in Austin will appear in the list below the grey box. Sometimes there are so many in a certain city that you need to scroll down and click through a few pages.

In this case, the University of Texas at Austin appears on the second page of results.

Now comes the important part: you will find out if your degree is considered comparable to one from a university in Germany.

Step 4: Identify your college’s grade

In the entry, click on the plus symbol on the left next to “University of Texas at Austin”, and a pop-up window will appear with more information about the institution.

Can you see the H+ under status?

That’s what you are looking for.

This H+ means that the German government has checked out the University of Texas at Austin and confirms that they view it as a legitimate university.

H+ is good news 

If you have earned a Bachelor’s, Masters or PhD degree from an institution graded with H+ status, your degree will be considered as comparable to a university qualification in Germany. This is what I call basic recognition.

Bear in mind that this is only the case if you have a full degree at Bachelor’s, Master or PhD level. Most other certificates and diplomas from the University of Texas are not officially recognized and won’t make you eligible for the advantages I list below (although they can still be valuable when applying for jobs).

A degree certificate from an H+ graded institution entitles you to some advantages. First, you are eligible to apply for a six month job-seeking visa in Germany. (More about that in a future article.)

Plus: With a degree from an H+ institution you are considered a “skilled worker” (Fachkraft) in Germany. So if a German employer offers you a job that corresponds to your qualifications, you are entitled to apply for a work permit, and the government agency for work permits (Bundesagentur für Arbeit) will not require that a local candidate be considered for the job instead. 

Germany prioritizes work permits for skilled workers due to a growing shortage.

But before you get too excited, I should let you know that having a degree from an H+ institution isn’t a ticket that opens every door. It is only the basic recognition, not full recognition.

Full recognition means more bureaucratic hurdles for some kinds of jobs: Anerkennung und Approbation

Depending on your profession, you may still need to jump through some more hoops before employers are willing (or permitted) to hire you.

Certain professions in Germany are classified as “regulated” (reglementiert in German). In those cases you will also need more than the basic recognition of your degree from an H+ institution. You’ll need a government agency to examine your university degree and transcripts up close. They will decide whether your qualification can be considered as equivalent to a German degree in that field and then grant you what I call full recognition, or Anerkennung. You may need to complete further courses before receiving your full recognition.

Examples of regulated professions are teachers, social workers and doctors.

For example, if you are a teacher with a Bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education from Oklahoma State University at Northwestern, your degree is basically recognized as a comparable university degree, because your institution is graded with H+. So you would be allowed to pick up an education-related job in Germany. 

However, you would not automatically be allowed to work as a teacher in a public school, because the profession of public school teaching is regulated. Regulated professions require full recognition, or Anerkennung.

You can apply for this, but you may not be successful, since studying to be a teacher is a longer and more rigorous process in Germany than in Oklahoma, so the government agencies may not view them as equivalent.

On top of full recognition, some professions also require a license. For example, if you are a doctor or psychologist, your qualifications alone are not sufficient for you to start working in these professions. In order to practise you also need a practice license, or Approbation.

Obtaining this license may entail further exams, internships and language components.

But as I mentioned above, don’t be disheartened when you read this.

Any Bachelor’s, Masters or PhD degree from an H+ institution is still included in basic recognition and entitles you to the job-seeking visa and status of a skilled worker. It’s just not fully sufficient for practicing certain government-regulated professions.

(In a future article I’ll explain how to find out whether the job you would like to do is regulated or requires a license.)

If I have a Bachelor’s, Masters or PhD from an H+ institution, do I still need a Statement of Comparability (ZAP)?

You may have read that the German authorities can issue something called a “Statement of Comparability“, or Zeugnisbewertung

This document is basically an official written confirmation of basic recognition: that you have a degree from an H+ institution and therefore that your qualification is legitimate and comparable to a German university qualification. 

Why would you need a Statement of Comparability?

Well, as you may have noticed, navigating the Anabin database is quite complicated and the fact is that most employers don’t know how to do it. 

Let’s say you have a BA or BSc in sociology. You apply for a non-regulated job, for example as a sociologist, with full confidence in your H+ institution-issued degree. However when you tell your potential employer about the basic recognition during the interview, he or she is not convinced. Without a Statement of Comparability, you’ll have no written proof that your degree and institution are legitimate (except to show them in the Anabin database, which probably wouldn’t be appropriate for a job interview…).

So a Statement of Comparability (Zeugnisbewertung), is clear written proof to an employer that your university degree is legitimate. It’s an official looking document, in German, with seals and signatures on it, that you can put in your resume. And in Germany written proof and documentation are important and always go a long way.

I personally have never needed a Statement of Comparability in the jobs I have applied for. But you won’t go wrong if you want to work in Germany long term and decide to apply for one. 

Here is the website to apply for your Statement of Comparability (Zeugnisbewertung).

Just for the sake of planning, I should let you know that it  takes about 3 months to process the application for a Statement of Comparability, and costs around 200€, plus translation and postage costs. So make sure you start the process early on

If you do end up with an employment contract in your hand, all thanks to your degree research on Anabin and your Statement of Comparability, it will have paid for itself in no time.

What if my institution is graded as H- or H+/- on Anabin?

Unfortunately, if you discover that your institution is graded on Anabin as H- or H+/-, then you have more work ahead.

This means that the German government has not made a decision about whether your college or university has similar standards to a German institution of higher education. This might be because they were not satisfied that it met their standards, or because they just haven’t had the opportunity to fully evaluate your school and make a decision.

In this case, you will need to send your degree certificates in for an individual evaluation. 

I’ll explain more about that in a future article.

So now you can try it:

In this article you’ve learned:

  • How to navigate the Anabin database.
  • How to identify whether your degree has a basic recognition in Germany based on the institution’s grade (H+).
  • That a written confirmation of this, a – a Statement of Comparability (Zeugnisbewertung) – can be very helpful for job applications.
  • That there are more hurdles if you would like to apply for a regulated job or a job for which a practice license is required.

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