KIT offers a wide range of opportunities for doing a doctorate. In principle, you can do research at one of the eleven ▶ KIT departments in all offered disciplines from natural and engineering sciences to economics, social sciences, and humanities.
In general, one can say that the duration of the doctorate is between three and five years – depending on the form of the doctorate and the subject. Depending on the respective KIT Department and the topic of your doctorate you can obtain the academic degree Dr. rer. nat., Dr.-Ing., Dr. phil. or Dr. rer. pol.
In Germany, a basic distinction is made between the individual doctorate and the doctorate in a structured doctoral program.
The so-called individual doctorate is the classic form of pursuing a doctorate in Germany. It is characterized in particular by the one-to-one supervision of doctoral researchers by a university member who can serve as supervisor. As a rule, the doctoral researchers themselves find a supervisor and agree with this person on the research topic. The doctoral researchers at KIT are usually involved in a working group and / or research groups and industrial projects. Funding is often provided via third-party funded projects from industry and research or ▶ individual scholarships.
Structured doctoral programs
KIT’s more than 20 ▶ doctoral programs (graduate schools, research training groups etc.) offer the opportunity for doing a doctorate as part of a research program and within the framework of a structured training and supervision concept. The focus of the doctoral programs is to train doctoral researchers in promising research topics and to support their personal career development and scientific independence.
Regardless of the type of doctorate (individual or a doctoral program), doctoral candidates can also research in non-university research institutions and private enterprise companies. In these cases, the doctoral researchers are usually directly employed by the research institution or the company. Depending on the arrangement, the dissertation will be written during or outside of working hours.
In an external doctorate in a company – the so-called industrial doctorate – you usually work and research directly at the company. Advantages are that doctoral researcher acquire practical and professional experience during the doctorate. Disadvantages can arise as a result of the distance to the university, which can restrict the contact with the supervisors at the KIT Department, the integration into the working group, and the access to the scientific network compared to those doctoral researchers who research and work directly at the institute.
Binational doctoral degrees
Another option are binational doctoral degrees (the so-called cotutelle de thèse). In this form, you receive your doctorate from two universities in different countries, which means that you obtain a doctorate awarded by two universities. In principle, doing a binational doctorate is possible at all KIT Departments and with all foreign universities worldwide, provided that the legal framework of the countries and universities involved permit it. Further information can also be found ▶ here.
Finding a supervisor
For the individual doctorate there is no central office where you can apply as a doctoral candidate. This means on the one hand that there is no specific application deadline. On the other hand, you will have to take matters into your own hands. Usually you will have to find a KIT professor who agrees to supervise your PhD (in general, lecturers with the title Professor, Juniorprofessor or private lecturer (Priv.-Doz./PD) can function as supervisors of the doctorate; please refer to the ▶ doctoral ordinance of the respective KIT Department for more information). If you have not approached a KIT professor yet, please have a look at the relevant KIT Department website and contact an appropriate supervisor via e-mail. Remember to attach your CV and a research proposal. It is important that you make clear in your e-mail that you have actually looked into the research the professor is doing. Do not send general e-mails. Instead, please make sure that the e-mail is specifically tailored to the one professor you are addressing. Please note that in most cases it is a prerequisite that you have graduated in the same field or a related field in which you plan to do your PhD.
Due to a busy schedule professors sometimes do not answer your query immediately. If you have not heard from them within two weeks, do not hesitate to get in contact again. It may also be useful to contact the corresponding secretary/administrative assistant or the group leader for the topic you are interested in (if applicable).
Alternatively, you can have a look at open PhD positions that may have been posted on the ▶ KIT job websites (under "Academic staff" and/or "PhD students (m/f/d)").
Alternatively, you can pursue your PhD within the framework of a PhD program. The KIT PhD programs offer the opportunity to acquire a doctoral degree within a research program and a structured qualification concept. The PhD programs focus on the training of PhD students in seminal research topics and on the support of their individual career development and scientific self-reliance. Furthermore, the programs assist early networking, internationalization and interdisciplinary cooperation of postgraduates. KIT offers young scientists a variety of ▶ PhD programs in several disciplines: Graduate Schools, Research Training Groups and other programs.
The different programs have distinct application deadlines and prerequisites to participate. Please check out the corresponding website or contact the respective person in charge (you can find the contact details on the respective website).
It is important that you check early on whether your academic degree complies with the admission requirements to pursue a PhD in Germany. These are usually:
- Completed German Diploma, Magister, Master’s or Staatsexamen ('German State Examination')
- Foreign Diplomas or Master’s Degrees have to be equivalent to German Diplomas or Master’s. To obtain the approval of foreign diplomas or master’s degrees your future supervisor can contact the ▶ International Students Office (IStO) of KIT and ask for assistance in this matter.
In addition, you may want to check which regulations are listed in the so-called ▶ “Promotionsordnung” (‘doctoral ordinance’) of your KIT Department. This document provides the legal framework for pursuing a PhD at the respective department. For legal reasons, these documents are available in German only.
Please note that, the doctoral research committee of the respective KIT Department will also check your documents when you apply for acceptance as a doctoral researcher later on (see Step 5). The committee may decide that you are obliged to take some additional classes during the doctorate.
Please note that you will have to clarify language requirements with your supervising professor, because sometimes it is necessary to prove a good proficiency of English. However, it will usually not be necessary to provide proof of a specific language test score.
Financing your doctorate
Usually a PhD is financed with a job as a scientific researcher/research assistant at KIT or a scholarship. There are no tuition fees for pursuing your PhD at KIT.
- Open positions for doctoral candidates at KIT are posted ▶ here (under "Academic staff" and/or "PhD students (m/f/d)"). However, please note that not many positions are listed there. If there is no suitable job ad, please contact a potential supervisor directly (s. step 1).
- KIT supports PhD projects under the “▶ Landesgraduiertenförderungsgesetz” (Graduate Funding from the German States) with full scholarships. However, you will have to be accepted as a doctoral researcher at the respective KIT Department to be eligible to apply.
- ▶ Here you will find a list of scholarships by external sponsors. If you have any questions about a particular scholarship or the application process, please contact the respective sponsor directly.
- The main institution for scholarships for foreign young researchers is the DAAD (German Academic Exchange Service). Please use the ▶ DAAD database to look for a suitable scholarship. If you have any questions about the DAAD services please contact the DAAD directly. However, please note that for some countries of origin (such as China) DAAD does not offer scholarship programs for the full PhD.
Visa (if applicable)
Doctoral researchers from abroad might need help with alien law and related topics – such as visa, residence permit, residents' registration, health insurance, taxation, opening a bank account, accompanying spouses and so forth.
With all of this, the ▶ International Scholars & Welcome Office (IScO) will be able to support you further. Please contact us by ▶ e-mail as soon as it is certain that you will come to KIT.
At KIT, the ▶ conclusion of a doctoral agreement and the subsequent ▶ central registration of the doctoral researchers with the Karlsruhe House of Young Scientists (KHYS) are mandatory for acceptance by a KIT department. After the acceptance as a doctoral researcher, you can enroll as a researcher.
Step 1: Conclusion of doctoral agreement
Directly after the promise of acceptance, the first advisor and the doctoral candidate conclude a doctoral agreement. The first advisor usually is the first supervisor of the doctoral thesis and the oral examination. [▶ more]
Step 2: Central registration with KHYS
According to § 38, par. 5 of the State Higher Education Act of Baden-Württemberg (Landeshochschulgesetz; LHG) all doctoral researchers pursuing their doctorate at a KIT Department need to register with KHYS. [▶ more]
Step 3: Application for acceptance as doctoral researcher at the KIT department
Step 4: Enrollment as a doctoral researcher
After you have found a supervisor and received your letter of acceptance, you can have to enroll as a doctoral student at KIT. Enrollment is mandatory for all doctoral candidates accepted by a KIT department, unless they are employed full-time by KIT and have declared that they do not want to enroll. If no such declaration is submitted, doctoral candidates are obliged to enroll. [▶ more]
Information on the further formal steps on the way to a doctorate can be found ▶ here.