A technician is using a touch display to operate a machine.
© www.industrieblick.net / Fotolia

Trades and crafts sector & technology

German companies are always seeking well-qualified skilled workers in the trades and crafts sector and in the area of technology. Recognition of your foreign qualifications increases the chances of obtaining a job in this area. In some cases, recognition is mandatory.

The trades and crafts sector alone includes around 150 dual training occupations. Vocational education and training programmes combine training at a vocational school with practical work at the company. There are also vocational education and training programmes which take place at full-time vocational schools. These are mainly theoretical and have fewer practical components.

The academic sector also offers technical focuses, such as the study of engineering or architecture.

If you have obtained a professional qualification in the trades and crafts sector and technology outside Germany, you will often be able to work without obtaining recognition. Although recognition is therefore voluntary in such cases, it will assist you in looking for a job which is in line with your professional qualification.

Recognition is mandatory if you wish to work in regulated occupations or professions on a self-employed basis.

What professional qualifications exist in the field of the trades and crafts sector and Technology?

Vocational education and training

Dual vocational education and training is a very common option in Germany in the craft trades sector and in the area of technology. Occupations in the trades and crafts sectors are very varied and include qualifications such as hairdresser, mechatronics fitter and joiner. These occupations are governed by the Crafts and Trades Regulation Code. The vocational education and training programmes end after between 2 and 3 1/2 years with a journeyman examination. Dual vocational education and training programmes in the craft trades sector and in technology are regulated in a uniform way across the whole of Germany.

Vocational education and training programmes at full-time vocational schools also exist in the individual federal states. It is, for example, possible to complete vocational education and training leading to the qualification of state-certified electrical assistant. Regulations vary in the different federal states.

Upgrading training and continuing Training

After completion of the journeyman examination in the trades and crafts sector, further occupational advancement may be sought by pursuing advanced training in preparation for the master craftsman examination, thus obtaining a master craftsman qualification. Those who have, for example, completed vocational education and training in the occupation of cycle mechatronics technician may complete advanced training in order to acquire the master craftsman level qualification of specialist cycle mechanic. Those who have achieved a master craftsman qualification are also permitted to work on a self-employed basis in licensed craft trades. Upgrading training programmes are regulated in a standardised way everywhere in Germany.

After completion of vocational education and training in a technical occupation, it is also possible to proceed to a trade and technical school to pursue continuing training leading to qualifications such as state-certified technician. Regulations vary in the different federal states.

Academic professional qualifications – higher education study/dual higher education study

Technical universities and institutes of higher education in particular offer programmes of study in the field of technology. Some subjects of study may lead to qualification in regulated professions such as engineer and architect.

A dual programme of higher education study combines a degree course with vocational education and training, thus enabling both a vocational qualification and a higher education qualification to be acquired.

When do I need recognition?

Self-employment in the trades and crafts sector

There are differences between “licensed craft trades” and “non-licensed craft trades and crafts or trades considered to be similar to craft trades”.

  • Crafts which require a license – recognition is mandatory
    You may not work in the licensed craft trades on a self-employed basis unless you have an entry in the Register of Crafts and Trades. In the case of German vocational qualifications, the prerequisite for this is a master craftsman qualification in the relevant craft trade. This means that your vocational qualification will need to have equivalence with the German master craftsman qualification.

Exceptional authorisation

Exceptional authorisation

Exceptional authorisation allows you work in a licensed craft trade on a self-employment basis without acquiring recognition. However, in contrast to self-employment with a fully recognised master craftsman qualification, you are mostly only permitted to carry out certain specific tasks with the relevant craft trade rather than all activities. Your local chamber of crafts and trades will provide you with guidance. The right chamber can be identified via the Recognition Finder.

  • Non-licensed craft trades and crafts or trades considered to be similar to craft trades
    In the non-licensed craft trades and crafts or trades considered to be similar to craft trades, you may register a trade and subsequently work on a self-employed basis without needing to fulfil any further formalities. You will not require a recognition notice.

Academic professional qualifications

Restrictions relating to recognition are also in place for the academic professional qualifications. In Germany, engineers and architects are only permitted to use the job titles of “engineer” or “architect” if they have received recognition. Nevertheless, you may work in these professions without having obtained recognition.

If you wish to work without using the job title or if there is no recognition procedure for your professional qualification, you may apply for an assessment of higher education certificates. This may be acquired from the Central Office for Foreign Education (Zentralstelle für ausländisches Bildungswesen - ZAB).