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When somebody writes “Ich bin ein studierter Physiker”, does it at least clearly and unequivocally mean that this person has some sort of degree (Universität, TH, ...) in physics?

It's not consistently translated when I look at examples.

I'm not asking a legal question here (afaik in Germany you can legally call yourself simply “Physiker” even if you've never seen a university from the inside. Only using an academic title like M.Sc. or certain special job titles like “Arzt” is illegal if you lack the relevant formal qualification), that would be off-topic, of course.

The question is rather: would it be regarded as a clear-cut lie for the average German if somebody calls himself “studierter Physiker” and did not finish even a Bachelor's degree in physics (just maybe studying physics for some time). Or is “studierter” more like a weasel-word?

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  • I believe that it is not a lie to claim "studierte Physiker" if one has studied physics, even self-studied, but has no formal qualification.
    – Tom Au
    Jul 13 '17 at 6:08
  • For me, "studierter" means one has finished his studies with some sort of degree. But as Tom said, it also would be no lie, if one only studied it and has no degree.
    – IQV
    Jul 13 '17 at 6:14
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    Note that using the term "studierter Physiker" is a little arrogant. You would normally say something like "Ich habe Physik studiert." You only use "studierter ..." if you want to impress or intimidate people, or if you simply are a plain, arrogant you know what. To not be seen as the last one, you should use this expression with caution.
    – Dirk
    Jul 13 '17 at 7:53
  • @DirkLiebhold it has a arrogant vibe to me, too. But I assume this may be wrong, I've seen it used by people who really aren't.
    – viuser
    Jul 13 '17 at 13:46
  • It can also sometimes be a sign of someone being very proud about being a "studierter Physiker". Maybe your mom goes around telling everyone the success story of her son? The line between pride and arrogance is often very thin, so it is hard to tell where the person stands, maybe he doesn't even know himself that he might seem arrogant.
    – Dirk
    Jul 13 '17 at 13:54
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Contradicting other answers here I say: in common German usage the issue here is not if the person speaking has really finished his or her physics studies, or if he or she at all has seen a university from the inside.

Rather, the expression "Ich bin ein studierter Physiker" is commonly used in order to express something like

I studied physics at university, but I am not currently working as a physicist.

Nota bene "Ich habe Physik studiert" usually implies that a degree has been achieved. Although technically one could also say "Ich habe Physik studiert" without having completed this with a certificate. But this would be understood as almost cheating. If you spent some time studying physics but did not take (successfully) the final exam, you honestly would say something like

Ich habe Physik studiert, aber ich hab's nicht fertiggemacht.

Ich hab' Physik studiert, aber ohne Abschluss.

Ich habe ein paar Semester lang Physik studiert.

Accordingly

Ich bin studierter Philosoph

means: I studied philosophy at university [and I have a degree], but I am not actually working as a philosopher.

Ich bin studierter Astronom

means: I studied astronomy [and got a degree], but I am not working as an astronomer at the moment.

Imagine a company's website where they introduce their staff. There you may find something like:

Fritz ist unser Chef-Buchhalter. Er ist studierter Molekularbiologe, hat sich aber auch schon früh mit Software-Entwicklung befasst und nebenher Buchhaltungsprogramme für Raumfahrtunternehmen entwickelt. Er lebt mit seiner Katze Frieda in Berlin.*


*) Note that in Germany nowadays in order to be cool you need to live in Berlin and have a cat.

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  • I don't know if I can agree with you, but I've also noticed this usage. Probably you're right. For example in the German Wikipedia page for Matthieu Ricard you read “ist ein buddhistischer Mönch und studierter Molekularbiologe”* – and he has a Ph.D. in molecular genetics, but obviously didn't work in this field for a very long time.
    – viuser
    Jul 13 '17 at 13:53
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    Nota bene "Ich habe Physik studiert" usually implies that a degree has been achieved. – I agree, in a normal conversation, but I've become cautious about it. People on dating profiles really weasel around like this, okay, at least they have the decency to add a “mal” or something similar => “Ich habe mal Physik studiert” = didn't graduate. It's worse with author bios on blurbs, there it's very common to write “... hat Physik an der TU Berlin studiert...” and guess what, if one researches the author it turns out he didn't graduate.
    – viuser
    Jul 13 '17 at 14:01
  • @wolf-revo-cats Oh, right, I did not consider language usage in dating profiles. Admittedly, my dating habits are rather old-fashioned, and I have no real insight in how people behave there linguistically. I should add an "except perhaps in dating profiles" to my future usage-related contributions on this website. Jul 13 '17 at 21:20
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The answer to your question is really opinion based. As the comments already state it can mean both. However we are here in Germany, so in Germany I would say that the majority of people hearing this are expecting someone really got a degree or went to the University. Self studies are really seldom seen and are not respected at all. So a person saying this usually wants to express he is a physics with a degree.

However such a person could say also he is a Diplomphysiker but this was related to diploma studies only which are obsolete nearly. So a teacher probably would rather say he is a studied teacher than he has a master degree for teaching.

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  • Note "Lehrer" is, other than "Physiker" a protected "Amtsbezeichnung" in Germany.
    – tofro
    Jul 13 '17 at 6:33
  • @tofro Thanks for the hint however there is also the "Berufsbezeichnung" which is not protected. ;-)
    – Thomas
    Jul 13 '17 at 6:49
  • "Ich habe mich nicht als 'Lehrer im Amt' ausgegeben, sondern als 'berufener Lehrer', daher war das keine Anmaßung"? ;)
    – tofro
    Jul 13 '17 at 17:30
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Physiker as such is not a protected profession or even an academic title, at least not in Germany (See list of protected job titles in Germany here)

Diplom-Physiker is an academic grade that you can only obtain by finishing at least a Master study. In addition there are Bachelor titles in Physics you can obtain from several universities.

If someone does not use one of those titles officially, he may do this for a reason - "Studierter Physiker" could, in the worst case, mean the person has studied Physics and never managed to achieve a grade by finishing - Which most people, would, however, consider maybe not an outright lie, but definitely an extreme stressing of truth. (But it could also mean he did, and just doesn't want to go into more details)

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    The master degree replaced the diploma but strictly speaking these are two different degrees.
    – RHa
    Jul 13 '17 at 9:39
  • @RHa Thanks for the comment, but strictly speaking that doesn't matter for this question at all. The difference is "degree or not", not "what degree"
    – tofro
    Jul 13 '17 at 10:02
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Look at me as an example:

I studied chemistry for eleven semesters (1984 - 1990) and then physics for four semesters (1990 - 1992), but I did not finish any of those studies. I have no degree in chemistry or physics. But I have a degree in computer science (2006 - 2009, I'm a Bachelor) and now I am a freelancing software engineer who has his own one-man software company.

I can say truly, and without lying:

Ich habe Physik studiert. (I studied physics.)
Ich habe Informatik studiert. (I studied computer science.)

But it would be lying to say:

Ich bin Physiker. (I am a physicist)

This is not my profession. I am not a physicist. This is not what I'm doing to earn my money. And a »studierter Physiker« is technically just a special kind of »Physiker«. It is a physicist who did study physics, but studying is a compelling requirement to become physicist, so a »studierter Physiker« is in fact the same as a »Physiker«.

I even wouldn't dare to say:

Ich bin Informatiker. (I am a computer scientist)

As I already said before: I studied computer science, and at the end of my study I gained the degree "Bachelor of science and engineering". But creating websites and apps and maintaining a web server and a mailserver is not exactly science. I'm not working as a scientist, so I wouldn't say that I am one. And again: a »studierter Informatiker« is nothing else but an »Informatiker«.

But this is not clearly defined. Some other people might call me a »studierter Informatiker« because in their mind this is a synonym for »jemand, der ein Informatikstudium abgeschlossen hat« (someone who has completed a computer science degree). I think, that this point of view is acceptable.

Some even might say, that I am a »studierter Physiker«, because they use this term as a synonym for »jemand, der Physik studiert hat« (someone who has studied physics). I think, that using the term »studierter ...« in this manner is not acceptable. It is missleading.


A word about laws (addendum):

This board here is about the language German. This is an official language in the European Union (EU), in Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Belgium, Luxemburg and Südtirol (a part of Italy). So when you talk about laws in this language board, you have to discuss the laws in all of those nations. (This here is not a board about Germany or any other nation).

I'm living in Austria (and therefore of course also in the EU). I have only little knowledge about German laws. Very often they are very similar to Austrian laws, but sometimes they are also completely different.

I just know that academic degrees in Austria are different from the degrees you can gain in Germany. (For example: In Germany there is a degree "Lizenziat" that doesn't exist in Austria). In Austria academic degrees and some job titles are protected by laws. This means, you can be punished by Austrian authorities if you call yourself a »Ziviltechniker«, because »Ziviltechniker« is one of the protected job titles. I think this is very similar in Germany too (although there is no »Ziviltechniker« in Germany).

In Austria neither »Physiker« nor »Informatiker« are protected job titles, so everybody can call himself legally a »Physiker«, and I think this is true for Germany too.

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A "studierter" Physiker is someone who has studied physics, even self-studied. The implication is that s/he has no degree, because if s/he has one, that degree would have been cited. So it would not be a lie.

But it would be seen as a "pretentious" way of citing knowledge that one is not officially recognized for. The best context is if you had a degree in a related field, and wanted to cite, say Physics as a "minor." So you actually have a degree in chemistry, engineering or computer science, but you want to mention your strong (but incomplete) background in Physics to set yourself apart from others in your own field.

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