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Becoming a Professor

In the past, writing a professorial thesis and successfully completing an oral thesis defense ('Habilitation') was the usual way to become a Professor in Germany, but nowadays there are more options:



Junior Research Group Leader

As a Junior Research Group Leader, you have the opportunity to carry out independent research at an early stage of your career. In order to become a Junior Research Group Leader, you must compile your application yourself. In this position, you are not directly responsible to a Professor but instead fully independently manage your research project and your assistants. As a Group Leader, you are able to make your own decisions and can benefit from a significant amount of financial support. Working in this position also often shortens the qualification period for professorship.

The KIT offers junior researchers a variety of internal funding options:

  • The Young Investigator Network (YIN)
    A network and special interest group of the Junior Research Group Leaders at the KIT, funded by the Excellence Initiative for German Universities.
  • Young Investigator Groups (YIGs)
    The Junior Research Group Leader of a YIG receives annual funding of € 80,000 to cover staff and material costs for a four-year period. YIGs may be recommended by junior researchers up to one year after completion of their doctoral thesis.
    Scholarships are available twice a year (generally in the spring and fall).
  • Shared Research Groups (SRGs)
    SRGs allow Junior Research Groups to cooperate directly with an industrial partner or an external research institution that is not linked to the university. Applications for an SRG may be submitted at any time.


For more information concerning current scholarship availabilities for internal and external funding opportunities, please visit the website of the Division for Research Funding (FOR), where you can also subscribe to the newsletter in order to receive information on current funding opportunities offered by the FOR.


Further programs for Junior Research Group Leaders:

  • The Emmy Noether Program of the German Research Foundation (DFG)
  • HGF Young Investigator Groups of the Helmholtz Association
  • ERC Starting Grants from the European Research Council

For more information concerning current scholarship availabilities and assistance with the application process, please contact Janine Maurer from the Division for Research Funding (FOR) team.

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Junior Professorship

During the Junior Professorship, you have the opportunity to research and teach independently at an early stage. Your rights and obligations are based on those of a 'regular' professor.


  • The Junior Professorship is initially limited to a three-year period.
  • After this period, an interim assessment will be carried out.
  • If this assessment produces a negative result, the Junior Professorship will not be extended. You may, however apply for an extension of 1 year to help you find work at a different university or in the labor market away from the university.
  • If the assessment produces a positive result, the Junior Professorship will be extended for a period of three further years.

The “Tenure Track” option:
If you changed universities before beginning the Junior Professorship, your contract may contain the "Tenure Track" option. Following the completion of the sixth year of your Junior Professorship, another assessment will be carried out. If this results in a positive evaluation, the university must offer you a lifetime professorship.


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Industry Career

If you can provide proof of achievements that are equivalent to an 'Habilitation', for example several years of work experience in the industry, you may be granted a professorship without having to complete 'Habilitation'. This way to a professorship is above all found in the field of engineering. Alongside work experience in the industry, specialist knowledge in the field of practice-oriented research, expert knowledge of the field of teaching and didactical skills all facilitate access to a professorship.


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