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Overview: School in Germany

With graduation into apprenticeship

With the right school qualifications, you will receive an apprenticeship position more easily. We show you which qualifications there are in Germany and which professional paths are therefore open to you.

A certificate lies on the table.

At six years old, boys and girls start primary school. They normally stay there until the 4th year and learn reading, arithmetic and writing. After, the school structure works as follows:

Hauptschule (Secondary school) or middle school

In order to begin an apprenticeship, you need at least have a Hauptschule leaving certificate. You can acquire this school leaving certificate, generally through the Hauptschule or middle school respectively after ninth year through examinations or with an exact grade point average. This school leaving certificate is named differently according to each federal state (e.g. Berufsreife, Berufsbildungsreife or Erster allgemeinbildender Schulabschluss).


For some apprenticeships or for access to further education, a so-called “mittlere Bildungsabschluss” (intermediate-level school leaving certificate) is required. The requirements of the profession are therefore higher. You receive this school leaving certificate after tenth year through examinations.


If you would like to do a degree, you need the (subject-related) entrance qualification or the advanced technical college certificate. You receive this leaving certificate with the Abitur through a Gymnasium, or under certain circumstances, after attending a Fachoberschule (FOS) (technical college) or a Berufsoberschule (BOS) (higher vocational school). After, you can study at a university or a Fachhochschule (university of applied sciences).

Note: Acquaint yourself with the requirements of your desired profession. There are various possibilities for retaking final school examinations if it didn’t work out the first time. 

Already have a leaving certificate?

You have already acquired a vocational qualification abroad? You can find out more information about recognition procedures in Germany on www.portale.anerkennung-in-deutschland.de.

Of course, you can also ask the vocational advisers at your Agentur für Arbeit where and how you can get your qualification recognised.


Everything to do with school is regulated independently from state to state. For this reason, types of schools and leaving certificates have different names in some states.

Direct any questions to the local school authorities.

Status: 08.06.2017
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The accompaniment to choosing a profession:

Berufswahlfahrplan (Profession choice schedule) (PDF)

The Berufswahlfahrplan is now available in Arabic, English and French:

Arabic Berufswahlfahrplan (PDF)

English Berufswahlfahrplan (PDF)

French Berufswahlfahrplan (PDF)


You can find more foreign languages here:

Download center Berufswahlfahrplan (foreign language)

More info

Retake school leaving certificate

Start your profession in the federal states