In principle, there is no such thing as a simple university degree. In Germany, it can be even more difficult. An unfamiliar country and studying in a language that is not your mother tongue will make it even more difficult. Let me say at the beginning that undergraduate programs in Germany are much more difficult than graduate programs. While getting accepted to any undergraduate program already requires a great deal of effort (depending on the program), successfully completing the program comes with an additional challenge. Even though these rates have decreased by a few percentage points nowadays, 58% of Turkish students who go to Germany for undergraduate programs drop out and return (according to 2012 statistics). In master’s programs, the rate is much lower (11%).
However, some programs also have a reputation for being particularly difficult. Although evaluations are often subjective, dropout rates can be used to filter out some programs that stand out visibly among others. You can see the ranking of these programs differently on many websites, but usually the programs on the list do not change. In general, I would say the following: “Technical majors” are much more difficult in Germany, as expected. So what are the most difficult degree programs in Germany and is it worth the effort?
The 6 most difficult programs in Germany
Of course, the degree program you choose will form the basis of your professional future. Not only interest and earning potential, but also the degree of difficulty and duration of the desired program should be important when choosing a program. Some programs are longer in duration rather than difficulty, while others are quite difficult to complete in the usual time. This will not only increase the cost of living and housing, but also delay your entry into the world of work. The result is high dropout rates. Therefore, before making a decision, in addition to finding a program that suits you, you should also take into account the long-term work requirements and how you will be able to cover your housing and living costs while you study.
Below is a graph showing the average starting salaries of bachelor’s graduates. Keep in mind that generally, programs with high salary expectations are popular among students, but also challenging.
Medicine in Germany :
Given the difficulty of studying medicine in Germany, getting accepted to a medical program is almost a piece of cake. Studying medicine in Germany, as in any other country, is difficult and can only be achieved with a high degree of discipline. In addition to having the time and ambition to succeed, students must have a solid financial base. They do not receive any remuneration for the many compulsory internships they are required to do, and without scholarships, subsidies or family support, it will be difficult to study without time for a part-time job. I would also like to mention that you will have to take 1 or 2 state exams depending on the program (Model or Regelstuiengang) of the school you will be studying at (see here for Model courses and their differences).
The workload is huge: if you are not ambitious and disciplined from the start, you will not make progress and you will fail. Medical departments are characterized by a wide variety of learning areas such as anatomy, biochemistry, physics and pharmaceutical sciences. Therefore, instead of focusing on a single field of study, you need to specialize in several subject areas at the same time. You should also expect time-consuming practical periods in medical studies (except for compulsory internships, you spend the last year of your studies in the hospital). You are also expected to write a doctoral thesis at the end of your training. I know many people who, after completing their studies, are only waiting for their doctoral thesis. I recommend you to read my article on “Is it difficult to study medicine in Germany?”.
Law in Germany :
Law is one of the most difficult (some would say by far the most difficult) subject areas in the world, not least because of the high volume of subject learning. The expectations that students consistently apply the “expert opinion style”, internalize precedents and judgments, memorize legal concepts without interpretation and know subject-specific terminology well are challenges that support this. For example, you have to apply the memorized terms and theories to the relevant case in the reports you will write in term papers and theses as well as in exams. Failure rates in the exams are correspondingly high. Not to mention the fact that you have to complete a total of 19 five-hour exams for the state exams for the German law degree.
Mechanical and Electrical Engineering :
Germany is known as an engineering country and engineers trained in Germany are cherished all over the world. Electrical and mechanical engineering are the pinnacle of this phenomenon. If you successfully complete these engineering degrees in Germany, you can be sure that an excellent career and high earnings await you. You may say that this is an exaggeration, but it is the truth. There is a reason for this, of course: In Germany, these two engineering degrees in particular are known for their high quality of education and the associated high failure rate, with more than 40% of students dropping out. Much of the challenge for students is the theoretical foundations, which are taught and tested in the first semesters. In addition to very intensive mathematics, many subjects from the natural sciences such as physics, chemistry, electricity and thermodynamics are also included in the curriculum and many students are overwhelmed by the sheer volume of subjects, especially in the first semesters. I know that even students who excelled in mathematics in high school find it difficult to understand the subjects in the first semester.
In Germany, the basic sciences are Mathematics, Physics and Chemistry:
Mathematics, Physics and Chemistry are among the most difficult subjects. The failure rate and dropout rate in these programs are very high. Especially the subjects of Mathematics and Physics programs are very challenging and you need analytical and abstract thinking skills to keep up with it. If you do not have this ability, you have little chance of success even with a lot of hard work. The courses in these departments are usually theoretically intensive and also involve intensive mathematics (e.g. differential and vector calculations). Most universities have no admission restriction (NC) in basic sciences departments. This is because most students do not dare to choose these subjects. The biggest obstacle is the basic sciences content you took in high school. It is very important that you get along well with the first semester courses and understand them from the very beginning. Otherwise, you will not have the chance to succeed later on in courses that involve a high level of abstraction. If your ideal is to study in one of these departments, you will have to work very hard and be resilient, because the courses will become more and more difficult later on. Unfortunately, I know many students who were disappointed and had to change their major.
Pharmacy in Germany :
Pharmacy in Germany is almost as difficult as Medicine (some say even more difficult). Even my doctor friends admit that pharmacology is one of the most difficult subjects to study. The workload in such departments is particularly high and even those who have had prior training such as “Pharmazeutisch-technischer Assistent” in Germany or 2 years of “Pharmacy Services” in Turkey have a lot of difficulties and even fail. Since there is a long practical phase in pharmacy education in Germany, graduation within the standard training period is very rare. In addition, students spend most of their time in laboratories. In pharmacy you need not only discipline and perseverance, but also patience and skills for laboratory work. You must also be enthusiastic about the natural sciences, such as biology, physics and chemistry, which form the basis of the program. Despite all this, as in medicine, the dropout rate in Pharmacy is low: just take into account that your study period will probably be longer than planned.
Informatics in Germany :
An informatics degree in Germany is almost a guarantee of a secure and well-paid job. Computer science is a sought-after profession not only in Germany but all over the world, with above-average salaries. However, to study computer science in Germany, students are expected to excel in many subjects. In addition to basic and advanced math skills, they also have to prove their skills in practical lessons and exercises. Programming assignments are often time-consuming, so a full-time job is unlikely to be possible. Informatics departments usually have no admission restrictions, so the initial number of students is quite high. In order to select the best students, schools tend to use highly mathematical courses such as mathematics or statistics or theoretical computer science as a selection tool. This results in high dropout rates. In other words, your success in informatics in Germany depends on how much “math” you know, not on which programming languages you are good at. You can find my article on “Studying Informatics in Germany” here.
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