After completing your doctorate, you will begin an exciting new phase as a postdoc. You will gain greater independence as a researcher and decide on your career path: this could be a professorship, a research position in academia, or an industry job.
The first two to four years after your PhD are the ideal time to gain professional experience. You will be able to build a research portfolio that demonstrates your potential, as well as mastery over your academic discipline. Many researchers use this time to publish their research, develop their teaching repertoire, submit grant proposals, and expand their academic network.
If you are interested in becoming a professor, your postdoc is the time to decide on which path you will take to achieve this. If you are just getting to know about Bavaria’s research opportunities, consider coming for a research stay at one of our universities. Our Research Panorama presents an overview of researchers working here and their exciting projects at Bavarian universities. For an overview of where to do research in Bavaria, explore our Research Institutions. Or, if you're already looking for open positions, visit the Jobs page.
A short-term research stay provides the perfect opportunity to find out if you might want to join a university or research institution long term. A short-term stay will not only give you a feel for the institution, but it will introduce you to Bavaria’s scientific landscape and research infrastructure, as well as the career options available here. You will also be able to develop new contacts, which could open the way to future publications. Read our Visiting Researchers section for more information on funding for short-term research stays.
If your goal is to become a professor at a research university in Bavaria, you must first become eligible to be a professor. Completing your habilitation or becoming a junior professor are the most common options. You can also qualify for W2 or W3 professorships based on your academic record, which includes publications, teaching experience, and other academic or scientific achievements. In the next few years, it will be made easier to become a professor through a group leader position.
In the past, the most typical way to become a professor in Germany has involved completing a second thesis after your doctorate, called a habilitation. Habilitation is still common in Bavaria. In the arts, law, and medicine for example, it remains an important part of becoming a professor.
The outcome of the habilitation can be a monograph, which is evaluated by internal and external referees. A cumulative habilitation is becoming more common in many disciplines, meaning you can publish a series of papers in prominent journals. You will also be required to give a lecture on your topic to demonstrate your suitability to teach. Successfully passing your habilitation proves your competence and expertise in a research field. You are therefore eligible to apply for professor positions at research universities.
Junior professor (W1) positions can put you on the fast track to become eligible for W2 or W3 professorships. As a junior professor, you have all rights and responsibilities of a senior professor: supervising doctoral candidates, giving lectures and seminars, and carrying out administrative work.
Junior professorships have a fixed duration of six years, with an evaluation after the first three years. If your evaluation is successful, you will be eligible for a W2 or W3 position. Some junior professor positions have the additional option of tenure.
Junior professor positions usually offer a more direct route to eligibility and, in the case of tenure-track positions, greater job security. As junior professors, researchers gain teaching experience and other valuable practical experience. They also earn competitive salaries.
Outside of junior professorships and habilitation, there is a further option that is particularly attractive to international researchers. Your academic record can be assessed to determine your eligibility for professorship. A strong academic record includes publications and teaching experience. Depending on the discipline, elements such as successful third-party fundraising, expertise, and research experience in a company might also be taken into consideration. The requirements for the professorship in question are specified in the job advertisement. The appointment committee will decide on a case-by-case basis if your previous academic record is equivalent to habilitation.
It is possible to become eligible for a professorship by taking up a group leader position in parallel with your habilitation or junior professorship. From 2021, however, becoming a group leader without a parallel habilitation or junior professorship will be a valid way to qualify for professorship in its own right. Group leader positions are quite prestigious and are often taken up by more experienced researchers. Appointments can last five years or longer.
Group leader positions allow for a great deal of autonomy and often come with a generous budget, including funds to hire your own team. As a result, junior research groups are sometimes better staffed than university professors’ research groups. Junior group leaders also earn better salaries than in most other postdoc positions. Group leader positions are often funded by third-party institutions, which means you will need to apply directly to the institution in question for funding, and not to the university. Find out more about funding opportunities for group leader positions.
As a group leader, you will be able to demonstrate your management skills by developing and carrying out a complex project at your institution. You can also highlight your experience in writing grant proposals—another important quality of successful professors. Teaching is not compulsory but can be arranged with the appropriate faculty or chair.
If you are drawn more to the practical aspects of your research but also wish ultimately to become a professor, pursuing an industry job after your doctorate could be the way to go. Universities of applied sciences are recruiting top researchers who can demonstrate at least five years’ professional experience—this includes three years’ experience working outside of the university setting. If you have a doctoral degree and experience working in private-sector companies under your belt, you can consider applying for a professorship at a university of applied sciences.