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© Armin Turudic / Eurodesk Germany
© Armin Turudic / Eurodesk Germany

Education in Germany

Elementary school, secondary school, vocational training, higher, further and adult education – the German education system caters for all ages. This is a brief overview of how the education system in Germany works.

Schools and higher education facilities in Germany are operated by the Federal States (Bundesländer), but the education system itself is uniform throughout the Federal Republic.


Starting off with so-called primary (or elementary) level education at Grundschule for the first four school years, this is followed by level I secondary education at the German equivalents of secondary/intermediate/comprehensive schools or grammar/high schools. Level I secondary education ends with the Certificate of Secondary Education (Hauptschulabschluss) or the Certificate of Level I Secondary Education (Mittlere Reife) depending on the type of school attended. The Mittlere Reife is the prerequisite for entering level II secondary education, either at the equivalent of advanced-level grammar/senior high school or within a vocational training programme. At this level, the options range from a dual vocational training system, a vocational preparation year, vocational and technical colleges to advanced level vocational or academic grammar/senior high schools.


Having gained a higher education entrance qualification, you enter the so-called tertiary level: universities, vocational and professional academies or – after the relevant vocational training and job experience – universities of applied science. Even after completing professional education, the concept of lifelong learning offers all kinds of opportunities for private or professional continuing education, either outside of educational facilities by informally pursuing an interest at home or with like-minded others or doing voluntary work, or formally by attending evening colleges, adult education centres or company-based programmes.