(This question may be off-topic, and better suited for Academia.SE. I think it is helpful to German language learners, but I'll understand if it's closed.)

I'm pursuing a move to Germany in the coming years. I am currently a music professor in the United States.

I see on the Goethe Certificate summary that a C2 level allows admission into every Hochschule in Germany. Many accept C1 students, and many music schools accept B2 students (see pp. 4, 5, and 7).

This is one of several documents showing the levels for potential students, but I can find no such information for potential job applicants.

Obviously the more fluent the better, and I'm sure different universities will have different requirements. (And, like with students, I'm sure a C2 level would be a universally acknowledged acceptable level.) But I'm asking if there is any universal standard that I haven't yet found.

I'm assuming that such a certification would be necessary to have a successful application, and that publishing in German and interviewing in German may not be enough from a legal standpoint.

  • 1
    That probably depends on what you're teaching. Back in the day when i studied, I remember a french guy lecturing over isotopes for environmental reconstructions (geoscience background here). He didn't speak a word German and even his English was ... Fench :-) He holds a chair today. Also, in technical/natural science subjects the standard language is English at German Universities, once out of the base level. Like geo-sciences, information sciences, engineering, ...
    – user41853
    Commented Mar 3, 2020 at 16:09
  • Sorry, I should have made that obvious: I intend to continue teaching music in the university, just now in Germany.
    – Richard
    Commented Mar 3, 2020 at 16:27
  • 1
    I second a_donda's impression. I got lectured by some professors whose English was questionable, not to mention their German. Then again, universities aren't really famous for their vast mass of didactic expertise. Commented Mar 3, 2020 at 18:09
  • For music it might be quite different. I read once the WDR Rundfunkchor asks singers to have German as native language (not C2).
    – c.p.
    Commented Mar 3, 2020 at 22:16
  • @c.p.: Of course, singing is just one of various musical discoplines, and arguably one of the most language-centric. Commented Mar 4, 2020 at 8:35

4 Answers 4


I think there are no formal requirements as a Goethe Certificate.

The following is a typical example. Quote:

Gute Sprachkenntnisse in Deutsch und Englisch werden vorausgesetzt.

Perhaps you should contact a Goethe-Institut, I am sure they have adequate information. You may also have a look at this website where you can find hints concerning German language. Quote:

Zum guten Leben gehört auch, sich verständigen zu können. Mit Englisch kommen Sie im Job gut zurecht. An vielen Forschungseinrichtungen und – insbesondere an den naturwissenschaftlichen – Instituten der Hochschulen ist Englisch die Team- und Wissenschaftssprache.


Note: This might not address the question as stated in the title, but it may help with the underlying problem, which I understand to be “What is an adequate level of German to teach at a German university?”

I have worked in Academia for two years, with the working language being German, and am currently involved in recruiting software developers for a company in which German is the main working language.

We had candidates boasting a C1 level competence that were able to converse without any severe problems but absolutely unable to communicate anything technical.

If you have to teach or otherwise interact with students in German, do the students a favor and be at least at C1, with adequate technical (or “musical”) language skills, and an intelligible accent.


There is usually no formal requirements for university staff on language proficiency other than what the job offer / job description says. Often, though, a full professor is required to give undergrad courses which very often are supposed to be taught in German (at least in the technical and science fields I work in or have contact with).

The language capabilities of the short-listed candidates will be assessed during their interview (with the selection comittee) and the test lecture you will have to give, including a Q&A on the topic of the lecture (in front of all interested party from university, including the comittee, of course). The comittee will for this part especially listen to what the student members of the comittee have to say on that. If teaching in German is a requirement for your position, then this lecture and Q&A will have to be given in German. I've seen otherwise perfectly-qualified people not get the job just because they really failed this part hard, either because of language or because of lack of properly explaining the topic didactically sound. That said, it's not required to have perfect German - but you have to be able to communicate in it and give the impression that you will manage doing so and convince them that you are willing to put an effort into it.

Long story short: there's usually no formal language requirement. You have to convince the selection comittee that you are fit for the job.


There is no generally administered required formal admittance level on language skills for teachers at German universities - This may vary from opening to opening and the requirements are typically stated by the specific university in the vacancy notice.

The higher legislation acts of most German states have fluffy statements like "teaching staff must be prepared expend reasonable efforts to acquire adequate fluency in German" (example quote from "Baden-Württembergisches Hochschulgesetz").

So, in short, it depends - It is basically the vocation panel that will decide, and requirements may vary from opening to opening. You might even find openings (depending on the exact subject) that require no German at all.

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