Salary of PhD student and Postdoc in Germany

The salary of PhD student and Postdoc scholars in Germany are based on the Collective Agreement for the Public Service of the Länder (Tarifvertrag für den Öffentlichen Dienst der Länder (TV-L)). So as a PhD student or Postdoc or even professor in Germany, your salary will be defined in various Remuneration (Engelt (E)) of TVL. PhD students and postdoc are generally placed on Entgelt 13 (e.g. TVL-E13). In exceptional cases, a postdoc can be placed in TVL-E14.

What is Engelt (remuneration)?

The level of the remuneration is generally determined by the pay group, which reflects the formal duties of the job as well as the level of competences that the pay group have. For instance, level 13 to 15 is for employees with academic higher education while remuneration of 9 to 12 are for those employees with completed technical college education and corresponding activities. E-5 to 8 are for those workers who has vocational training.

How much is the net salary of PhD or postdoc in Germany?

This is the hardest question that you can ask the HR of a German university. Indeed, the answer of this question depends on various parameters that we try to clarify here.


The most important factor is the Arbeitszeit (working hours). For PhD students this value generally is either 50%, 67%, 75% or in exceptional cases 100%. This number corresponds to the percentage of the working hours of the employees in comparison to the required working hour of a full time employee in Germany. So, a PhD students with 50% working hours contract are being paid half of the salary of a full employee in the same Engelt group. Postdoc are mainly being fully employed (100%). Note that irrespective of the working hours of your contract, you are expected to work full time in either as PhD or postdoc.

Lohnsteuerklasse (Wage Tax Class)

The second factor is “Lohnsteuerklasse” means level or grade of your tax in English. Lohnsteuerklasse is indeed the category of salary tax which is a number from “I” to “VI”. You can not by yourself select the Lohnsteuerklasse and it is determined based on your personal marital status. If you are married and your partner is working, you will be allocated in Lohnsteuerklasse IV or V. However if you are married and your partner is not working, then you can enjoy Lohnsteuerklasse III.

What is “Stufe” in salary calculation?

Stufe is a German words mean level or grade. In salary calculation, it reflects the experience of the employees. As a fresh PhD student, you will be in Stufe 1, after finishing the first year, you will be promoted to Stufe 2. If your PhD takes more than 3 years, from the fourth year, your Stufe will be 3. The Stufe 4 is for person who has been employed under TVL for more than 6 years. In short, a Postdoc who has lived and worked in German Universities as PhD student generally placed on Stufe 3 at the start. However, Postdoc who are coming from outside of Germany are mainly placed on Stufe 1 or 2 irrespective of their earlier experiences. This is indeed the only thing that you can negotiate and argue with HR of your department to place you (as a foreign postdoc) to be placed on level 3 or even 4.

Having known the above mentioned terms and factors, you can precisely calculate your net salary. Just try to fill out the form available in following link and insert the relevant number to your case in the boxes. When you click “brechnen” (calculate) at the bottom of the page, your salary details will be revealed. In the page which appears, at the very bottom there is a table in which you can find “Grundgehalt” (Basic salary), “Brutto gesamt” (total gross) as well as “Netto gesamt” (total net). Your monthly net salary would be the number appears in front of “netto gesamt” in green (highlighted). At the same time you can see how much would be your salary if you promoted to Stufe 2, 3 and so on in the next columns of the tables.

Lets go through one calculation. First you go to the following link and then follow the step-by-step calculation. You can also watch the following Video to see how to use the website for calculation:

Then enter the value related to your case according to the guidelines provided above. For instance, assume your a PhD students who starts woking in a German University in May 2017. Your contract is 75% (Arbeitszeit) and you are single. So, you have to fill the Arbeitszeit section with 75 and select Lohnsteurklasse I and choose Stufe 1 (see below):

After clicking “brechnen” (calculate), the following page appears. At the top of the page, the details of your insurance payment, social fees, tax etc. which are deducted from your gross salary will be shown (since you cannot change them, no need to be further explored here). As explained above, the botom of the page contains the most important information for you (your gross and net salary):

In this particular case, the monthly gross salary is 2690.78 Euro/months while the net salary is 1696.96 Euro/month.

You can follow the same procedure for other cases. Here the summary of some possible cases (PhD and Postdoc) are summarized. In case that you have any doubt about your calculation, just leave us a comment (in the box below the page).

Net salaryStufe 1Stufe 2Stufe 3Stufe 4
PhD TVL-E13 (50%)
(Lohsteurklasse I)
1228.10 € 1332.94 €1388.82 €1496.04 €
PhD TVL-E13 (50%)
(Lohsteurklasse III)
1382.82 €1523.30 € 1590.56 € 1714.80 €
PhD TVL-E13 (75%)
(Lohsteurklasse I)
1692.52 € 1838.67 € 1915.86 € 2057.83 €
PhD TVL-E13 (75%)
(Lohsteurklasse III)
1936.67 € 2097.60 € 2179.40 € 2342.24 €
Postdoc TVL-E13 (100%)
(Lohsteurklasse I)
2116.68 € 2287.61 € 2382.04 € 2578.34 €
Postdoc TVL-E13 (100%)
(Lohsteurklasse III)
2411.02 € 2613.34 € 2726.23 € 2965.10 €

In addition to the mentioned deduction, you can apply for some other deductions such as transport, food, and union membership (for details see the link).

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