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Paths to a doctorate

Funding: Financing your doctorate

The financing of living expenses is formally independent of the doctorate and you can finance your living during your doctorate from various sources.

The types of financing differ not only in terms of the amount of monthly income: there are differences, for example, in terms of the involvement in research and teaching of the professorship, or in terms of contact opportunities with non-university employers. Depending on how much time you can spend on your doctorate, the choice of financing can also affect the overall duration of the doctorate.

Eine Frau geht auf eine Kreuzzung zu © Pixource ​/​ Pixabay

Depending on the type of funding, doctoral researchers gain different professional experience and build different professional networks. Financing your doctorate thus has a direct influence on your further career path.

TU Dortmund University does not charge tuition fees for a doctorate. You will only have to pay a semester fee of about 315 EUR (for services such as library access, public transport, etc.).

Research associate

Employment as a research associate is the norm. The employment is based on fixed-term contracts, at the TU Dortmund University with a term of at least 3 years at the first employment. As a rule, participation in teaching is mandatory.

You can apply for a job either through job advertisements or through unsolicited applications (also by an informal inquiry with a potential supervisor). You can find all advertised scientific positions on the central platform for job advertisements (in German only).

Depending on your professional culture, you may be expected to submit an exposé of your own research project.

The salary of research associates is based on the collective wage agreement of the federal states (TV-L). As a rule, doctoral researchers are classified in salary group E 13.

The volume of the position must also be taken into account: If employee positions are advertised as 65% positions, for example, this means that the weekly working hours formally correspond to 65% of a full-time position (but doctoral researchers usually work significantly more). The salary is then also 65% of the annual gross salary of a full-time position.

You can determine your approximate expected income with the TV-L calculator (in German only).

The doctorate is a temporary project. Therefore, doctoral positions are usually based on fixed-term contracts. At the TU Dortmund University, positions for doctoral researchers are usually limited to 3 years. An extension is possible in principle (unlike, for example, a scholarship), but depends on many factors and is decided at the professorship level.

The fixed-term contracts are based on the Wissenschaftszeitvertragsgesetz (WissZeitVG; in German only), a federal law regulating employment contracts in academia. It provides that research associates can be employed at the university for a maximum of 6 years for the purpose of their doctorate. Under certain circumstances, this period can be extended, for example for doctoral researchers who have children, or for people with disabilities.


A scholarship ensures the livelihood of doctoral researchers and provides them with special independence in their research activities. In addition, the scholarship is also to be considered a personal award. A large number of foundations and organizations provide financial and non-material support for doctoral researchers. Nevertheless, a scholarship also has disadvantages.

Since a scholarship is not an employment, and therefore not subject to social insurance contributions, doctoral researchers must take out their own health insurance and cannot receive regular unemployment benefits (ALG I) after the scholarship expires. Should you wish to take up additional employment, you must observe the limits on working hours and additional income of the respective scholarship provider.

Mehrere Keramikschalen gefüllt mit Kleingeld © Dean Moriarty​/​Pixabay

Due to large differences in the scope of funding, application procedures, and deadlines, it is helpful to gain an initial overview and structure your search for a scholarship. The Graduate Center will be happy to advise you on doctoral scholarships and support you in your application.

The 13 Scholarship Funding organizations for outstanding students (Begabtenförderungswerke) are the largest scholarship providers for students and doctoral researchers in Germany. They include the Studienstiftung des Deutschen Volkes (German Academic Scholarship Foundation) as well as sponsorship organizations with ties to political parties, employers, unions, and religious denominations.

The support of the scholarship programs for outstanding students is open to a wide range of topics, both financially and ideologically. As a rule, the scholarship rate is 1,350 euros per month (plus lump sums and family allowances) for a maximum period of 36 months. In addition, training and networking activities provide further non-material support.

Sponsorship organizations are looking for applicants who distinguish themselves through excellent research and social commitment. An overview of the scholarship programs for outstanding students you can find on the joint website Stipendium Plus.

A large number of foundations award scholarships either in individual subject areas or on specific cross-sectional topics. Since there are hundreds of different doctoral scholarships, we recommend to use a scholarship database.

  • You can quickly search for scholarships via the website Stipendienlotse (in German only) of the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF).
  • With the database for Electronic Research Funding Information (ELFI) you can perform a detailed search and sort by application deadlines. Log in with your e-mail address of the TU Dortmund University to get access to all functions.
  • At the TU Dortmund University, for example, the Graduate School of Logistics regularly awards scholarships financed by companies.

The TU Dortmund University, in cooperation with the DAAD (German Academic Exchange Service), awards graduation, matching funds, and one-year scholarships to international doctoral researchers.

You can find information on requirements and the application procedure on the website of the International Office.

External employment

In principle, you can also work outside of the university during the doctorate, for example at a non-university research institute or in a non-scientific occupation. External doctorates are subject to the same rules as doctorates conducted at the TU Dortmund University.

The most common types of external doctorates are:

Doctoral researchers are employees of a non-university research institution, for example at an institute of the Max Planck Society, the Leibniz Association or the Fraunhofer Society. They research at the institute, but a professor of the TU Dortmund University is their supervisor and they do their doctorate according to the doctoral regulations of the TU Dortmund University. The offers of the Graduate Center are open to them.


Doctoral researchers are employed in the private sector and conduct research explicitly for their company. As a rule, companies advertise such jobs as doctoral positions (even though the right to award a doctorate are the sole responsibility of the universities). However, a professor of the TU Dortmund University is their supervisor and they do their doctorate according to the TU Dortmund University's doctoral regulations. The offers of the Graduate Center are open to them.


Doctoral researchers work outside the research environment and pursue their research in their free time. This form of doctoral studies places particularly high demands on time- and self-management and motivation.

However, a professor of the TU Dortmund University is their supervisor and they do their doctorate according to the TU Dortmund University's doctoral regulations. The offers of the Graduate Center are open to them.

Further information for prospective doctoral researchers