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For potential and enrolled doctoral researchers


Funding and application options for doctoral researchers


If you want to undertake a doctorate you can receive funding in Research Training Groups, Graduate Schools or posts in DFG-funded projects. In addition, some Collaborative Research Centres offer 'Integrated Research Training Groups'. Available posts and fellowships are advertised on our website with the job advertisements from DFG-funded projects.

Posts or fellowships are awarded by Research Training Groups, Graduate Schools, Collaborative Research Centres or project leaders themselves. Please apply directly to the persons in charge of these institutions or projects.

You cannot apply to the DFG for individual funding for your doctorate, as one of the basic requirements for submitting proposals to the DFG is that you must already hold a doctorate.

To find out about the funding opportunities offered by the DFG at different career stages, please see the information pages on research careers.

The DFG cannot fund doctorates abroad. However, as a doctoral researcher in a Research Training Group you can benefit from international contacts and spend time researching abroad. In the programme variation of International Research Training Groups, research visits of several months (usually 6 to 12 months) to the international partner institution form part of the programme. However, a doctorate entirely carried out abroad is not possible with a post or fellowship in a Research Training Group.

The DFG is not involved in the awarding of fellowships and posts for doctoral researchers. Please contact the persons in charge of the institution or project you want to join. They will also be able to tell you if there are any available posts or fellowships.

You can search for a thematically suitable group in the list of currently funded Research Training Groups. All DFG-funded projects are also listed in the GEPRIS information system. Here you can search by research area, individual researcher, university or type of programme.

The website lists job advertisements from DFG-funded projects.

Specific requirements are defined by individual Research Training Groups and projects as well as the applicable doctoral regulations. In general terms, you should have a very good university degree, completed within a fairly short space of time, a genuine interest and talent in research. Your main area of interest and your qualifications should also be relevant to the topic of the group or project. You should have demonstrated motivation and scientific interest in your studies so far and, preferably, you should have some initial experience of research work. Your doctorate should also form a logical link with your professional career so far and your future career plans.

If you have a bachelor's degree or a degree from a university of applied sciences, you should contact the relevant institution or project leader to find out about the admission requirements. Some Research Training Groups offer qualification fellowships (€800/month) for a maximum of 12 months to allow potential doctoral researchers with a bachelor's degree or degree from a university of applied sciences rapid access to a doctoral programme.

No. The selection of suitable applicants in Research Training Groups, Graduate Schools and other DFG-funded projects should take place in a performance-based, transparent process which is focused on the qualities offered by candidates and not their age.

Yes, of course. The leaders of Research Training Groups, Graduate Schools and projects welcome applications from international applicants. Many DFG-funded projects and institutions run their study programmes in English and offer language courses for international doctoral researchers.

To find out what language skills you will need as a doctoral researcher, please contact the leaders of Research Training Groups, Graduate Schools and DFG-funded projects directly.

Undertaking a doctorate in a Research Training Group


The individual funding duration for doctoral researchers in a Research Training Group is usually 36 months.

You normally enter into an employment contract or a fellowship contract with the university. The DFG recommends that a supervision agreement should be signed in which the responsibilities and obligations of both parties, supervisor and supervisee, the basic principles of the supervisory relationship and the general framework are defined.

The majority of Research Training Groups offer posts. In accordance with the relevant collective bargaining agreement for public employees in Germany, the remuneration for these posts is 65% to 100% of a full-time post at TV-L E13 level and is usually based on alternative posts available in the same geographical area and research area. Please contact the individual Research Training Group for information about the specific conditions.

If you are financed through a DFG-funded fellowship, you will receive up to €1365 per month plus an allowance for direct project costs of €103 per month. Parents may receive a child allowance.

In addition, you may receive funding for consumables and travel expenses from the funds of the Research Training Group in order to carry out your research and present it at conferences. The Research Training Group is responsible for deciding how funds are allocated.

As a fellow you receive up to €1365 per month plus an allowance for direct project costs of €103 per month and a child allowance for parents. However, a fellowship is not an employment relationship, i.e. you are not employed by either the university or the DFG. A fellowship is tax-free and is not subject to mandatory social insurance. As a fellow, you therefore do not automatically receive pension, long-term care or unemployment insurance and you also do not receive health and accident insurance. Please contact the university for information about local accident insurance regulations. For international doctoral researchers, the DAAD offers group insurance on relatively low-cost terms.

If you have a post for your doctorate, this means you have an employment relationship with the university or other institution at which you are working. As an employee, you must therefore pay income tax and you also have pension, long-term care and unemployment insurance. Before signing a contract it is advisable to check whether your employment will be based on Section 2 Para 1 of the Fixed-term Employment in Higher Education and Research Act (WissZeitVG) (reason for time limit: qualification) or Section 2 Para 2 of this Act (reason for time limit: third-party funding time limit). This has implications for the possible extension of your employment in the event of maternity and/or parental leave: you are only entitled to an extension of your employment or to a continuation of your employment corresponding to the period of absence if the employment relationship is based on Section 2 Para 1 of the WissZeitVG, but not Section 2 Para 2 of the WissZeitVG.

Research Training Groups, Graduate Schools and projects must submit concepts for the support of equal opportunity in order to obtain DFG funding. DFG research groups can apply for money which is specifically used to support women in their research careers. It is also expected that women will be represented in an appropriate number at all levels of the group. Additional support is available for doctoral researchers with families.

Research Training Groups, Graduate Schools and projects must submit concepts for ways of balancing family and research in order to obtain DFG funding. For example, fellows in Research Training Groups receive a child allowance of €400 per month. The allowance increases by €100 per month for each additional child.

For parents in receipt of a fellowship, the maximum individual funding period may be extended by up to 12 months if they share a household with their children up to the age of 12 years. If you do not use this extension, or do not use the full extension, you may receive financial resources for childcare instead.

If you are funding your doctorate through a post, the usual statutory requirements and benefits apply. The university is also expected to make suitable childcare measures available. More detailed information is available from the equal opportunity officer at your university.

All non-research jobs are offset against the fellowship, i.e. the fellowship is reduced by the amount of the additional income (including the gross tax portion if applicable). It is however possible to add earnings from academic work provided that these additional earnings do not exceed €6000 per year. The spokesperson of the Research Training Group must be made aware of incidental earnings.

As a doctoral researcher in a DFG Research Training Group, you can organise workshops with members of thematically related RTGs to discuss research results and experiences and to network. If you are interested, please talk to the spokesperson of your RTG.

Thanks to an agreement between the DFG and the German Academic Scholarship Foundation (Studienstiftung des Deutschen Volkes), as a doctoral researcher in a Research Training Group you have the chance to participate in doctoral forums run by the Foundation in your research area. Doctoral forums in the three areas of society, culture and nature are held twice a year. If you are interested, please speak to the spokesperson of your Research Training Group in the first instance. The contact person at the German Academic Scholarship Foundation is Dr. Hans-Ottmar Weyand (weyand@studienstiftung.de; +49 228/82096-282).

The RISE programme enables doctoral researchers in Research Training Groups and Collaborative Research Centres in the natural and engineering sciences to invite and host research fellows from North America. If you are interested, please contact the spokesperson of your RTG.

No, the DFG does not offer post-RTG funding. Research Training Groups are expected to ensure that doctoral researchers can complete their doctoral projects within three years through intensive supervision, a favourable research environment and suitable research topics. If the doctorate is not completed within the maximum funding duration, the supervisors or the university are obliged to provide or arrange post-RTG funding.

If you are a member of a Research Training Group, you can share in the publication funds available to the group. The participating researchers are responsible for deciding how these funds are allocated.

If you are not a member of a Research Training Group, it is not impossible in principle to obtain assistance with printing costs from the DFG for a dissertation, but the hurdles are fairly high. More information is available in the guidelines "Publication Grants" (DFG form 51.10).

If the DFG is unable to help you, there are various other foundations and organisations which may be able to offer assistance.

Further information for doctoral researchers


Your topic should be in an area that interests you and in which you are qualified. Discuss possible ideas with experienced researchers to make sure of the feasibility and quality of your final choice. Most importantly, you should speak to your supervisor to ensure an effective supervisory relationship. In spite of careful preparation, doctoral topics often change and crystallise during the research process.

If you want to undertake your doctorate in a Research Training Group or Graduate School, your topic must fit into the research programme of the RTG or School. The GEPRIS information system is a database that provides details of all DFG-funded Research Training Groups, Graduate Schools and projects. Here you can search by research area, individual researcher, university or type of programme. If you are interested in a programme, please contact the person in charge directly.

There are also job advertisements from DFG-funded projects.

Your choice of supervisor should firstly be based on the area in which you want to undertake doctoral research. You should also consider how much time your supervisor will have to work with you and how much experience he or she has in supervising doctoral researchers. It is worth discussing these things in a preliminary meeting and also talking to other doctoral researchers who have already been supervised by the individual in question. It is usually helpful and often standard practice to have a second adviser.

If you are undertaking your doctorate as part of a structured programme such as a Research Training Group or Graduate School, there will already be a defined supervision programme which governs the supervision framework.

Generally speaking, it is difficult to predict the quality of the supervision you will receive. Like all interpersonal relationships, the supervisory relationship depends to a large extent on the dynamics and understanding between the two individuals involved. There is also a certain responsibility on your part to build up the relationship. The rights and responsibilities of both parties can be defined in a supervision agreement.

For help with these matters, please contact the International Office or the Welcome Centre at your chosen university.  Useful tips for researchers who have newly arrived in Germany can also be found on the European mobility portal Euraxess and the portal “Research in Germany”. For international fellows, the DAAD offers group insurance on relatively low-cost terms.

While you are working on your doctorate, your research may seem to demand all your attention and it may seem impossible to look beyond the submission of your dissertation. However, it is worthwhile considering from an early stage what you want to do after completing your doctorate. Talk to your supervisors and other people in your field, both academic and non-academic. Take advantage of the university's advice services. This will enable you to make useful contacts while you are still researching and weigh up options which will benefit you later on.

If you plan to stay in research, it is important to know that once you have successfully completed your doctorate you are entitled to submit proposals to the DFG and can submit proposals for your own projects. To encourage early independence on the part of their graduates, some DFG-funded Research Training Groups and Graduate Schools and also many other DFG joint projects offer what is known as 'start-up funding'. This enables outstanding graduates to receive financial support immediately after completing their doctorates to allow them to develop their own research topics with a view to then submitting independent project proposals. If you are interested in this type of funding, you should contact the leader of the Research Training Group, Graduate School or DFG project to discuss the possibilities. Some universities now offer start-up funding too.

For an idea of what funding opportunities the DFG can offer you at each stage of your career, please visit the information pages on research careers.

Additional Information

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