Vocational training

Reisstest © SusTech

Germany’s dual system of vocational education

In many European countries and most other states, vocational education is partly arranged along school or university lines. Germany has traditionally adopted a dual system of vocational education – i.e. a combination of practical training within a business on the one hand and theoretical education at school on the other.

The duration of training varies between the professions requiring vocational education. It usually takes between 3 and 3½ years and is stipulated in the relevant training regulations. Under certain circumstances, for example if the trainee holds particular school qualifications or has performed particularly well during training, the duration may be shortened. The quality of the training often corresponds to that of technical university courses in other countries.

About two thirds of all young people in a given year group in Germany will decide to enter training under the dual system. A total of about 1.5 million young people are currently involved in vocational training.

After the final examination and the work experience which follows, qualification as a master craftsman can be sought.  Completion of the craftsman’s examination and receipt of the master craftsman’s certificate represent the highest qualification available in the trades and crafts, and confer the right to train apprentices in turn.

The dual system of vocational education is distinguished by the following advantages:

For the economy:

  • Satisfying the demand for skilled labour
  • Reduction of training costs upon employment
  • Increasing motivation and company loyalty
  • Qualifications to suit the jobs intended
  • Productive outputs from trainees


For young people:

  • A strong position in the job market
  • A recognised certificate
  • Practical experience
  • Vocational training pay
  • Professional career prospects
  • Early integration into the business




Elements of the dual system’s structure:

  1. Practical experience and theoretically grounded training

    Parallel training within a business and at a vocational college is the main characteristic of the dual system of vocational education. The business takes on the practical part of the trainee’s course for 3-4 days every week, and the vocational college imparts theoretical knowledge on 1-2 days.

  2. Federally centralised course content and examinations

    A single federal standard and a publicly recognised qualification act as a guarantee of quality for employers taking on new personnel. This means that workers can find new employment more quickly.

  3. Constant updating of training with reference to technical and economic developments

    Training regulations are constantly being adapted to technical progress, changing professional practices, or economic and social change. Existing regulations are modernised or new ones introduced according to economic requirements.

  4. Alignment of practical and theoretical syllabuses

    Within the framework of so-called ‘learning venue cooperation’, businesses on the ground work with the vocational colleges responsible for their trainees, in order to coordinate the best possible training for the purposes of individual businesses and the wider region alike. This represents an important element of quality assurance.

  5. Qualification of training personnel

    Technical and personal suitability is required by law when it comes to training young people. Not only professional competence, but competence in vocational education is required, the latter being examined in a separate test.

  6. Assurance of businesses’ competence to train by self-regulatory organisations

    Self-regulatory organisations in the relevant trades advise the businesses engaged in training, supervise vocational training, determine the suitability of businesses and instructors, and conduct the uniform federal examinations. A high level of quality is thereby assured.