๐Ÿ‡ฉ๐Ÿ‡ช As a foreign doctor in Germany: How to become a professor?

โ€ข Get a doctoral certification (Dr. med. Titel)

What many foreign doctors do not know about Germany, they cannot write “Dr.” before their names. It has nothing to do with the recognition of medical studies. In Germany, along with about 5% of the countries in the world, medical graduates do not directly get the doctor’s titel after graduation. For this, they need to do doctoral work (๐Ÿ‡ฉ๐Ÿ‡ช eine Doktorarbeit). It is research or participation in a big research project and then writing a paper or a doctoral thesis. This is often not complicated like a PhD or master degree.

If you are a foreign doctor, you may already hold a doctoral degree from your home country. However, you will almost always need a German doctorate if your degree is not accepted in Germany. So, your first step to be a professor is to get a Dr. med. title.

โ€ข Should I start working in a university hospital from the beginning?

There are 38 univeristy hospitals in Germany:

There are 42 medical faculties:

To do doctoral work, you must do it in cooperation with someone working in a medical faculty or is affiliated with it.

Some heads of the department (๐Ÿ‡ฉ๐Ÿ‡ช die Chefรคrzte/Chefรคrztinnen) work in non-university hospitals but nonetheless, they are still affiliated with university hospitals and can then supervise you. If he/she cannot do that, you can simply contact a professor in a university hospital who agrees to supervise you. It is easy because university professors want more publications for their CVs and you will be doing the majority of the work; especially the lab work/work with patients and data entry/analysis.

But the problem is that you need to travel to the university hospital to work in lab or collect data from patients. Moreover, there are a certain number of courses and lectures about research that you need to attend in the affiliated university. Therefore, if you are sure that you want a career in research, then we suggest that you begin your residency in a university hospital. This is however hard for a beginner in German and with no clinical experience and not a very good German level. You could firstly save time and begin working in a normal hospital and do the doctoral work. It is only then a question of time before you can get a job in a university hospital (we are talking about months or 1-2 years; or at least, until you are finished with your doctoral work). Do not be sad. Some discover that they do not love research and decide to remain in a normal hospital and never ever do research again ๐Ÿ˜…

Yes, some specialties are hard to get in normal hospitals, not to mention in a university hospital. You can see the list here:

๐Ÿ‡ฉ๐Ÿ‡ช Which medical specialties are the easiest or hardest to get in Germany?

The work in university hospitals is almost always for long unpaid hours and there is a high competition among the doctors. Nonetheless, the doctors there are usually excellent and the best level of medicine is practiced in university hospitals.

โ€ข Publish a lot of papers in recognized journals

After you get you Dr. med. title, you should continue publishing papers and presenting research results at conferences. There is a point system for that in each university. For example, they specify how many papers you need to publish as a first author, as a last author, as a co-author. Or for example, you present your research results as a lecture or as a post in conferences.

“Publish or perish!” You need to do a lot of research… and publish it!

This summarizes your road to become a professor.

โ€ข Get the habilitation

After doing enough research, you apply for this next step. A habilitation is a qualification in Germany that demonstrates one’s capacity for independent research and high-level teaching. Of course, continue doing research. Other tasks would be requested from you like teaching medical students and supervising other doctoral students.

After a certain number of years and after a certain number of publications, you can at the end:

โ€ข Apply for the professor degree

When you have a habilitation you can look for open positions in jobs websites or in the websites of universities as a professor. Get through the selection process: An application, an interview, and a presentation or lecture are typically part of the selection process for a professorship. You will need to demonstrate your ability to contribute to the academic community, as well as your skills in research and teaching.

โ€ข The summary

The road is not short (around 8-15 years) and mostly, you will be doing the research in your free time and working for extra hours on weekends and after the normal working hours. Mostly, this is not paid! Financially it will be rewarding if you start doing paid lectures (from pharma companies; of course, if they found your research subject interesting and this takes years). Most importantly, professors can easily be heads of departments in like 10-15 years. If you enjoy research, then certainly this is not a long or boaring road ๐Ÿ˜Š

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