Information about studying psychology in Germany
(West Germany and Berlin)

last updated in 1992

The situation at German universities has become more and more problematic in the past years: Increasing numbers of students have to be educated with the same amount of staff, rooms and financial means. In 1989 we had 171.900 fresh(wo)men at the universities. A longer time of studies is only one of the consequences. But also there are increasing problems to get jobs after an academic education ("academic unemployment").
Financial support from the state during your studies has become harder to get, so that many students have to work during their studying time.

In every second year the "Deutsches Studentenwerk" makes a survey on the social situation of students in the Federal Republic of Germany. This is a brief summary of the results of the 1986 survey:

- social classes among students:
lower class 16%
middle class 32%
middle upper class 24%
upper class 28%
- the average monthly income of students is ca. 900.- DM.
- professions of the parents of German students
civil servants 49%
independents 36%
employees 32%
workers 8%
- students get money from (summer 1988)
parents 69%
own work 62%
state (BAFöG) 23%
scholarships 3%
- most of the money is spent for
room ca. 302.- DM
food ca. 220.- DM
travelling ca. 100.- DM
clothing ca. 62.- DM
educational matters ca. 55.- DM
others ca. 187.- DM
- students live in
community or own house 70%
student’s homes 10% (growing difficulties)
private rooms 10%
parent’s house 5%
- main problems of students are
working / concentration 23%
examination fears 21%
inferiority problems 14%
depression 15%
fear / nervousness 15%

An education in psychology which leads to the "Diploma" is available at 37 faculties in 36 universities (list see appendix) of western Germany.
As there are some 7.000 people who want to study psychology in every year, but only 3 300 places at the faculties, you can’t only inscribe at university. We have an administrative body in Dortmund (ZVS: Zentralstelle für die Vergabe von Studienplätzen) which distributes the studying places among the people. Criteria are the average of the high school final’s grades and the waiting time. There is a fixed quote of places for foreigners (8%) and handy-capped (2%) in this Numerus clausus distribution.
Studies begin twice a year: at April 15th and October 15th. Applications have to be filed three months before.
In 1988 about 23.000 students were inscribed for Psychology, more than 2.000 per year get their degree. The average duration of studies is 6-7 years (with a range from 4 to 10 and variations from faculty to faculty) which is one of the longest compared to other disciplines. In the faculties we have one professor for 20 (Oldenburg) to 150 students (Göttingen), the average is 64.
In East Germany we have four universities teaching psychology. Concerning the inscription mode in eastern Germany we want to remark that you have to inscribe directly at the universities and till now only for the winter semester.

Foreigners who want to study in West Germany have to inform themselves about the recognition of their high school degree, a proof of the knowledge of the German language, costs of living, and conditions for immigration and residence permits. Keep in mind that there are differences between the application procedures for EC and non-EC students.
Informations are available at the academic foreign office of your university or at the Deutscher Akademischer Austauschdienst (DAAD) or at the German Embassies or Consulates of your countries.
If you want to study here you have to know that you can not convert a tourist visa into a residence licence. After getting your residence licence on an official way you can study here under two further conditions. The first in order to get a job here you need a working licence, which is not included by the residence licence and secondly it is necessary to afford a proof from where you get money for the whole duration of your study.
German language courses may be available at your university or at private language schools and Goethe-Institutes. A half or full year course ending with the German Exam should be sufficient to register at a German university. Foreigners have to apply directly at the faculties, not at ZVS! Any EC-resident can stay in the FRG for half a year. Residence permits for other foreigners are only available for foreign students who have an application form from a German university. It is limited to the time of their studies. A working permit for EC-residents is easy to get, but not for foreigners from other countries. Informations about scholarships are available at your embassy in the Federal Republic of Germany, but these grants are difficult to get. Foreign students can also attend most of the courses as guest students, but then it is not possible to get any proof for participation.

The common grade for academically educated psychologists is the diploma ("Diplom"). The regular duration of this education is 9 semesters (= 4½ years) in East Germany 10 semester. The curriculum is divided into two parts, a basic program and a main program.

In the basic program you should learn the basic psychological knowledge, scientific methods and application techniques. It has a regular duration of 4 semesters.
The main subjects in this part of the education are:
- general psychology I (recognition, motivation, emotion)
- general psychology II (learning, thinking, memory)
- developmental psychology
- individual and differential psychology
- social psychology
- biological/physiological psychology
- psychological methodology

Examinations have to be made in these seven subjects at the end of the program ("Vordiplom") in order to be allowed to start with the main program. There are also some other obligatory courses without examinations such as global introductory courses, psychological history, exploration of practical institutions etc.
The contents of the basic program is quite similar at the different faculties, and also the seven examinations are the same. But there are quite big differences in the variety of courses from which you can choose and also big differences at the level of demands for the particular subjects. There are faculties where you have a minimum program only (nothing to choose from), and others with a lot of non-obligatory courses to choose from. At some faculties you have to pass written examinations at the end of a course, seminar papers or home works in order to participate in the final exams, at others it is not necessary. At many of the faculties you don’t have to pass all examinations at once, you can split them up into two parts (after the 3rd and the 4th semester).
The whole curriculum of the basic program makes about 70 - 80 hours of obligatory courses (lessons, seminars, exercising courses and practical courses).
In addition you have to deliver a written pre-diploma at the four universities in the former GDR. It presents a literature work that deals with a psychological problem chosen by yourself. The examination order is now the same like in the former FRG.

In the main program you should improve your knowledge in the basic subjects by choice and become more orientated towards applications of psychology. The regular duration of the main program is 5 semesters. This time does not cover the practical training (see below). At the end you have to write a thesis.
In the East German universities the regular duration of the main program is six semester. There is enclosed time to get practical experience.
The field of applied psychology is divided into three areas in the main program:
- clinical psychology
- pedagogical psychology
- industrial/economical psychology
In addition you have two methodical subjects which are obligatory:
- diagnostics and intervention
- evaluation and methodology of research
Finally you are supposed to choose:
- one of the above basic subjects to deepen your knowledge
- a non-psychological subject.
(f.i. medical subjects, computer science sc., industrial management)
In these seven subjects you have a final examination in the main program. At many of the faculties you don’t have to pass all examinations at once again, you can split them up into two parts.
The whole curriculum of the main program makes about 75 - 85 hours of obligatory courses (lessons, seminars, exercising courses, practical courses, case studies and research seminars)
To become a graduated psychologist ("Diplom-Psychologe/-in") you need a thesis and practical training.

During your studies you have to absolve practical training for 6 months at all (some faculties demand 12 weeks only). The training should be absolved in two sufficiently different institutions where at least one graduated psychologist is working (for the supervision). Reports have to be written about the experiences made in this training. The practical courses vary a lot: mostly they are not paid, sometimes they are (industrial psychology: up to 1200.- DM monthly). Often supervision does not happen, students are cheap workers...
In the former GDR you still have two times 10 weeks for practical training. It is possible to work once in research in our institutes.

Your thesis should be an empirical one. It should be made individually (group works are the very exception!). You can choose a theme by yourself and try to find a supervisor for it, or you can ask your professors for giving you a theme, but then you have to do what s/he wants. The calculated time is half a year. In reality most people need one year.

Since 1985 we have a new frame law2 for the academic education which has brought a lot of changes. The education in psychology as it has been described above is already according to the new law. Before we had f.i. a regular duration of 10 semesters for our education, and we could choose one of the areas of application in our main program. Now this specialisation has been cancelled. Instead, it will be offered to us at a "third stage": post-gradual education with a planned duration of three years.
This development seems quite good - but not for the most of us: The "Diplom" will be depreciated, because the education becomes shorter, more superficial and diffuse. In post-gradual education which are planned to be offered in cooperation of faculties and practical institutions, some of us (5 - 20%) will get a highly qualifying special education with a title like f.i. "clinical psychologist". Since we have about 20% unemployed psychologists, this has fatal consequences also on the employment market.
With this concept the professional associations try to push forward a law for psychologists. The argument is that the higher we are educated, the greater the possibility for having effort with our demand for a law.
But, as you know, it takes time until laws become reality, and therefore a lot of faculties still haven’t adjusted their studying orders according to the new law. This means, there are still a lot of faculties where you can specialise in your education, therefore only working in clinical psychology, others only working in industrial psychology etc.

The profession itself is considered being a "free" profession, even if the lesser part of the professionals work independently. The share of employed psychologists is growing rapidly and reaches a quote of about 75%.
We don’t have a professional law in our country, but there are a lot of laws and rules touching our work. One of it is the "Berufsordnung für Psychologen" of our national association of psychologists (Berufsverband deutscher Psychologen, BDP). It is comparable to most of what are called "ethical codes" in other countries. This means that it is only an internal behaviour code among professionals which is quite difficult to apply and to control. Punishment is independent from punishment through public laws (the hardest is to be excluded from the association).
Besides there are the common public laws such as human rights, pledge of secrecy, interdiction of competition etc. which professional psychologists have to respect.

Since psychologists often make additional education in therapeutic interventions they tend to work also curative, not only counselling. This lead to conflicts with the physicians who are the only curative profession in the narrow sense of the word (this is written in a law from 1939, the so-called "Heilpraktiker-Gesetz" (HPG) !). This law also allows psychologists to work curatively as non-medical practitioners, but it does not authorise them to get money from the health insurance funds directly. They only can get their service paid if their clients are delegated from a physician.
Since the physicians themselves have problems to get jobs they specialise in psychotherapy they, step by step, push psychologists out of the market. As a result, the space for our profession becomes rapidly more narrow. The urge for legal regulation increases.
With the harmonisation in the EC we hope to profit from the fact that in many other countries there have been efforts in the legislation concerning the work of the psychologists. The FRG may be forced to adjust at the higher level of the others. The government promised us a professional law for this period of legislation (which will end in 1994).

At the moment we have about 30.000 educated psychologists with a yearly increase of 1.500. The estimated number of working psychologists is more than 20.000.
The share of professional fields in the FRG are:
- clinical (hospital, (nursing) home, counselling) 41%
- independent (therapists and counsellors) 19%
- research and teaching (university, research centre) 17%
- industrial (industry, economy, - administration, army) 9%
- marketing and advertising (market and social research) 5%
- pedagogical (school and education) 4%
- traffic (administration) 3%
- forensic (jail, court, police) 2%
Actually we have more than 4.000 unemployed psychologists registered at the employment offices. The real number (included those who work in other professions and those who don’t get unemployment support) is estimated more than 6.000. Two thirds of them are between 25 and 35 years old, the share of women is 60%. Since the average age of the working psychologists is very low it will take some time until they retire and jobs could be re-occupied.

At all universities we have student members in the decision making bodies at both university and faculty levels, mostly with the right to vote. But the distribution of power is unequal: the professors always have the majority of seats, the students’ share of seats is less than one third in all bodies.
At most of the faculties there are students associations ("Fachschaft") who represent students’ interests at the faculty level and provide services for students such as selling scripts for lectures, organising introduction weeks, parties etc.
At the national level we have since 1989 a students section in our National Association of Professional Psychologists ("Arbeitskreis StudentInnen im bdp" - Berufsverband Deutscher Psychologen) which currently has 1.100 members. Only students after the second year of studies can be members there. Within the Association students have no full membership rights. But anyway, in the beginning of the Nineties this is the only working association of psychology students at the national level in Germany.
At the East German universities the student councils are working up to these days both at the level of faculties and universities. They are founded in the "turning period" in the autumn 1989 as a real democratic representation of students interests. They take one third of the places in the self - administration of the university. The power of the students is very different from university to university and is now pushed back by the conservative government. At the moment they take part in preparing the new study order, the application of the examination order from the HRG.

Since in the FRG education and science are matters of the federal states we have quite a lot of little differences in our common education system, even if there is a strong development towards a harmonisation also on our national level (see above). Some like it complicated... Therefore all the faculties where psychology is taught as main subject shall be shortly specified in the following table (you will find the addresses in the appendix of this article).
City main orientation
(Faculty) special features stud. prof. staff begin order

Aachen industrial (only main program !) 150 3 9 s/a new
Bamberg clinical, counselling, organizational 350 7 20 s new
Berlin FU I work, counselling 1200 8 32 s/a new
Berlin FU II clinical, industrial, pedagogical 940 14 39 s/a old
Berlin TU clinical, industrial, pedagogical 940 11 34 s/a new
Bielefeld social, pedagogical, rehabilitational 810 16 38 a new
Bochum clinical, pedagogical, industrial,
ecological 1100 14 29 a old
Bonn clinical, industrial 570 7 17 a old
Braunschweig clinical, industrial, pedagogical 350 6 8 s/a new
Bremen clinical (counselling), industrial 750 12 4 a new
Darmstadt pedagogical, industrial 290 8 7 a new
Düsseldorf physiological, clinical 490 8 13 a old
Eichstätt industrial, clinical, pedagogical 220 6 12 a new
Erlangen applied, pedagogical, clinical 310 8 16 a old
Frankfurt clinical, psychoanalysis, traffic,
pedagogical 600 9 12 s/a old
Freiburg pedagogical (counselling), clinical,
rehabilitat. 610 11 14 a old
Gießen clinical, applied, pedagogical 650 15 28 a old
Göttingen clinical 450 3 15 a new
Hamburg clinical, pedagogical, ecological,
work 1600 21 19 s/a new
Heidelberg clinical, pedagogical (counselling) 700 11 13 a new
Kiel clinical, pedagogical, forensic,
industrial 430 5 22 a new
Köln traffic, pedag., forensic, clin.,
medical, econom. 520 6 19 a old
Konstanz clinical, pedagogical 550 11 24 a new
Landau school, couns., organizatl.,
communic., medical 320 8 10 a old
Mainz clinical, industrial, pedagogical 600 8 20 a new
Mannheim economical, clinical 470 6 18 a old
Marburg clinical, pedagogical, work 800 16 17 a new
München clinical, pedagogical,
organizational, economic 800 11 33 a old
Münster clinical, industrial, pedagogical 1200 20 40 a new
Oldenburg industrial, clinical (counselling) 250 11 12 a new
Osnabrück clinical, industrial 380 13 11 a new
Regensburg clin. (couns.), communic.,
med., pedag., indus. 480 7 30 a new
Saarbrücken clinical, organizational 550 6 25 a old
Trier pedagogical, applied,
developmental, clinical 840 13 28 a new
Tübingen clinical, industrial 880 6 20 a old
Würzburg clinical, pedagogical, industrial 450 6 22 s/a old
Wuppertal work, profession, pedagogical 320 8 7 a old

Berlin HUB clinical, work 250 7 a new
Dresden work a new
Jena social a new
Leipzig clinical, pedagogical a new

- the main fields are in order of their importance at the particular faculties.
- beginning of studies: s = spring, a = autumn.
- study order: new = adjusted according to the frame law of 1985

ZVS (Zentralstelle für die Vergabe von Studienplätzen)
Sonnenstraße 17
W 4600 Dortmund 1
Tel. (0231) 1081 - 0

Head office Bonn - Bad Godesberg
Deutscher Akademischer Austauschdienst (DAAD)
Kennedyallee 50
D-5300 BONN 2
Tel. 8820/8821; Telex. 88 55 15; Fax. 88 24 44
(publisher of booklets, e.g. "Studying in Germany")

Berufsverband Deutscher Psychologen (bdp) e.V.
Heilsbachstraße 22
D-5300 BONN 1

Arbeitskreis StudentInnen im bdp
Heilsbachstraße 22
D-5300 BONN 1

Bundesanstalt für Arbeit
Psychologischer Dienst
Regensburger Straße 104

Zentralstelle für Arbeitsvermittlung
Feuerbachstraße 42

FRISCH,Marion: Studium der Psychologie. Köln 1988 (Hayit)
ISBN 3-89210-148-5 108 p. DM 12.80
WILHELM, Horst: Informationshandbuch Psychologie. Frankfurt 1987 (Fischer).
ISBN 3-596-24533-8 471 p. DM 24.80
WILHELM; Horst: Studienführer Psychologie. München 1989 (Lexika)
ISBN 3-89293-094-5 264 p. DM 24.80

Information Booklet of the FRG Delegation for the 3rd congress of EFPSA in Lund / Sweden from April 2nd to 8th 1989.

DAUN, Heike: Health politics in the FRG (1988)
EPPLE, Michael: The employment market for psychologists in the FRG (1988)
EPPLE, Michael: The universitary education reform in the FRG (1988)
ROTH, Martina: The social situation of the students in the FRG (1988)
MICHAELIS, W.(Hrsg.): Psychologieausbildung im Wandel (1986), München Profilverlag