The glossary explains the most important terms which are used on the Recognition in Germany website.

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Adaptation period

The term "adaptation period" is used in the EU Directive on the Recognition of Professional Qualifications (2005/36/EC). Adaptation periods serve to compensate for substantial differences identified between foreign qualifications and their German reference qualifications in the regulated professions in order to achieve recognition and obtain authorization to pursue the profession or use the professional title. The adaptation period can include additional training and is subject to an assessment. Frequently, adaptation periods take the form of professional practice supervised by a qualified member of the respective profession.

Advanced training occupation

An “advanced training occupation” is described as an occupational activity for which it is necessary to be in possession of knowledge and skills at a higher requirements level. These are defined in nationally standardised advanced training regulations pursuant to the Vocational Training Act (BBiG) and the Craft and Trades Regulation Code (HwO), and candidates provide evidence that they have the required knowledge and skills via an examination (leading to a so-called advanced training qualification).

In Germany, continuing training is usually based on vocational education and training (initial VET). It is, however, also possible to access continuing training via relevant occupational experience. The aims of continuing vocational training are to retain, adapt or expand the skills, knowledge and competences acquired during vocational education and training and to achieve career advancement.

Aptitude test (also deficits test)

The term "aptitude test" is used in the EU Directive on the Recognition of Professional Qualifications (2005/36/EC). This test is carried out by the competent authorities to enable the applicants to prove the equivalence of their level of knowledge. The aptitude test covers subjects knowledge of which is essential in order to pursue the profession in the receiving Member State. Directive 2005/36/EC provides that the aptitude test must be limited to subjects not covered by the applicant's previous training. The recognition authorities must take account of the fact that the applicants have already acquired professional qualifications in their home Member States.


The Professional Qualifications Assessment Act (BQFG – Article 1 of the Recognition Act) is a new federal law within the sphere of competence of the Federal Ministry of Education and Research. It is core legislation for the recognition of professional qualifications in Germany. It stipulates the procedures and criteria for assessing the equivalence of foreign professional qualifications with those of the German reference profession.

Certificate of equivalence

If the assessment procedure to check equivalence in accordance with the BQFG has not revealed any substantial differences between the foreign qualifications and the German reference qualifications, the competent authority issues a document certifying equivalence. This is not a German examination certificate but a certificate of equivalence. It accords its holder the same legal status as people holding the corresponding German training qualifications.


Statutory associations organized under public law, mostly at Länder level, to promote the interests of a particular trade or commerce. In addition to representing the interests of their members, the chambers perform the public duties assigned to them. The chambers are supervised by the government. They issue authorizations for the regulated professions and bring their influence to bear on vocational training and examination standards.

Under the BQFG, the following chambers are the competent authorities responsible for the assessment of equivalence in the occupations which require formal training under the German dual system:

  • Chambers of Industry and Commerce
  • Chamber of Skilled Crafts (Handwerkskammer)
  • Chamber of Agriculture
  • Chambers of lawyers, patent lawyers and notaries
  • Chambers of auditors and tax advisers
  • Chambers of physicians, dentists, veterinarians and pharmacists

Compensation measure (=adaptation measure)

The term "compensation measure" is used in the EU Directive on the Recognition of Professional Qualifications (2005/36/EC). Compensation measures can be used to compensate for substantial differences identified between foreign qualifications and their German reference qualifications in the regulated professions in order to achieve recognition and obtain authorization to pursue the profession or use the professional title. Compensation measures (=adaptation measures) serve to furnish evidence of equivalent knowledge and skills. Depending on the profession or occupation concerned, the compensation measure may be an adaptation period or an examination (aptitude test or knowledge test).

competent authority

An authority or other institution (for example a chamber) which assesses the equivalence of foreign professional qualifications on the basis of applicable legal and administrative provisions.

Dual system (of vocational education and training)

Specific form of training in the training occupations in Germany combining practical training phases in a company with theoretical instruction at part-time vocational school. "Dual" refers to the two places of learning, namely the classroom for theoretical knowledge and the company for the acquisition of practical skills.

Ethnic German resettler

Ethnic German resettlers are people of German descent from the successor states of the former Soviet Union and other Eastern European states whose residence in Germany is based on a special procedure (admission and certification procedure at the Federal Office of Administration - BVA) and who have to fulfil all the conditions stated in the Federal Expellees Act. Spouses and children may also fall under these regulations.

EU Directive 2005/36/EC

The European Union's Recognition Directive entered into force on 15 October 2005; it combines and replaces 15 separate directives on the recognition of professional qualifications. It applies to regulated professions and establishes criteria and procedural principles for the mutual recognition of professional qualifications acquired by EU citizens in EU Member States. The term "substantial differences" is introduced in the Directive as a criterion for assessing the equivalence of professional qualifications. The Directive provides that the recognition authorities must take relevant professional experience into account which can compensate for substantial differences between the training requirements. The Directive also provides that compensation measures should be taken where substantial differences have been identified.


Member States of the European Union (EU) and of the European Economic Area (EEA) as well as Switzerland. The EU Member States are: Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Germany, Estonia, Finland, France, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, United Kingdom. The EEA countries include all EU Member States plus Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway. Switzerland participates in the European system of professional recognition on the basis of bilateral agreements concluded with the EU.

Knowledge test

A test to verify the equivalence of previously acquired professional knowledge and skills. The knowledge test refers to the content of the relevant state-administered final examination in Germany. This does not mean that the test can be understood to be equivalent to the state-administered examination. But the entire range of content covered by the final examination can be tested.

Meister occupations in skilled trades requiring an official licence

Meister qualifications are obtained by completion of advanced training in Germany. A Meister can run his/her own business and provide regular training in his/her trade. People with Meister qualifications are specialists in their field; they are both training instructors and entrepreneurs. They can also work as senior-level employees in a company. Trades which involve special risks require an official licence; they are listed in Annex A of the Craft Trades Law (Handwerksordnung, HwO). Inclusion in the register of crafts and trades (Handwerksrolle) is a prerequisite for self-employment in these skilled trades.

Non-regulated professions

The access to or exercise of non-regulated professions is not regulated by the state. This means that people can work in these professions without having to apply for a state licence. This applies in particular to all training occupations in the dual system. People with foreign professional qualifications can apply directly for employment or set up their own businesses in professions and occupations which are not state-regulated in Germany. A list of all recognized (non-regulated) occupations for which training is offered under the dual system in Germany can be found on the website of the Federal Institute for Vocational Education and Training.

Professional experience

The actual and lawful pursuit of an occupation or profession in Germany or abroad.

Professional qualification

Proof of professional knowledge and skills in the form of a training certificate or relevant work experience.

Qualifications analysis

Within the scope of the Professional Qualifications Assessment Act (BQFG), professional skills can also be established by means of qualifications analysis. The instrument of the qualifications analysis applies where applicants cannot present (all) the required documents or where there are doubts about the content and correctness of the documents presented (§ 14 BQFG and § 50b para 4 HwO). Qualifications analysis can be based on work samples, interviews, and practical and theoretical examinations. These can only be conducted if the applicant is not at fault for his/her inability to present the required documents. The competent authority may request that the applicants sign an affidavit stating that it is not their fault that the documents cannot be presented.


The recognition of professional qualifications means the assessment and – in the event of a positive result – confirmation of the equivalence of the foreign professional qualifications with the relevant German training certificates. In a formal assessment procedure, the foreign qualifications are compared with the corresponding German training qualifications, applying certain formal criteria such as content and duration of training. The result of the procedure is documented in a certificate which confirms that the applicant has the same legal status as holders of the corresponding German training qualifications.

Recognition Act

"Recognition Act " is short for the "Law to improve the assessment and recognition of foreign professional qualifications". It governs the recognition of foreign qualifications for professions for which the Federal Government is responsible. The Recognition Act combines a new federal act, the Professional Qualifications Assessment Act – BQFG (responsibility of BMBF), with amendments to existing professional legislation and regulations (government departments in the respective fields are responsible).

Regulated professions

Entering or practising regulated professions is governed by legal or administrative provisions which require proof of specific professional qualifications. Examples of regulated professions are medical doctor, psychotherapist, nurse, lawyer and teacher. Only people who have obtained the required professional qualifications are entitled to work in these professions and use the professional title. In Germany, 81 professions and occupations are regulated at national level (including 41 licensable Meister occupations in the skilled trades) and 18 professions are regulated at Länder level. A list of all professions which are regulated in Germany can be found on the website of the European Union.

Third country

In Germany, the term "third country" is used to refer to all countries outside the European Union and the European Economic Area with the exception of Switzerland.

Training certificate

A diploma, examination certificate or other proof of qualification which is issued by an authority of the state offering the training and certifying successful completion of professional training or further training.

Training occupation

Training occupations are occupations which require formal training under the dual system (for example, in accordance with the Vocational Training Act – BBiG or the Craft Trades Law – HwO); there are specific national training regulations for each training occupation. There are approximately 330 training occupations in Germany, for example industrial mechanic, motor vehicle mechatronics technician, management assistant for retail services, medical assistant.

Training qualification

Evidence of completion of initial or further vocational training issued after passing a state-administered or state-recognized examination.

Vocational training

Initial or further vocational training governed by legal or administrative provisions. Initial training is provided in regulated courses which teach the knowledge and skills (vocational competence) required for the pursuit of a qualified occupation. Initial training can also include the acquisition of the required work experience. Further training enhances the vocational competence acquired during initial training. The aim is to improve career prospects and adapt knowledge and skills to changed requirements.