How to find work in Berlin, including information on Berlin’s current job market and vacancies, German work permits, and where to find jobs in Berlin for English speakers and foreigners.
If you’re looking to work in Germany’s capital, you’ll find jobs in Berlin for highly skilled workers alongside jobs in startups, services and creative industries. Berlin has a young, highly educated and creative international workforce, turning the city into a mecca for young creatives and tech start-ups. Even though the city draws people from around the world to work in Berlin, if you speak German you will stand a much better chance of employment.
Berlin is one of the hippest cities in Europe; its vibrant nightlife, vivid art scene and affordable cost of living are contributing factors that attract expats to work in Berlin. However, you will also need perseverance, enough money to tide you over and the willingness to learn German.
Here’s what you need to get started on your job search in Berlin: Berlin-specific job market information, vacancies for jobs in Berlin and where to look to find them. You can also read our guide to finding a job in Germany, where we list nation-wide job sites and job vacancies.
This guide provides everything you need to find jobs in Berlin:
An overview of jobs in Berlin
Berlin’s unemployment rate in 2016 sat around 11 percent, just over double the German national average (around 5 percent) – but Berlin’s economy is growing fast. While it can be harder to find jobs in Berlin than other German cities, with perseverance finding a job in Berlin is possible.
After the reunification of Germany in 1989, many East German companies went bust and the city’s economy floundered. Today, with a new focus on R&D, research, biotech and IT, there’s been a resurgence in the growth of the city’s industry. In 2015, Ernst & Young ranked Berlin as Europe’s third most attractive city for investors after London and Paris.
There may not be many large industrial companies in Berlin (only about 8 percent of the workforce is employed in manufacturing) or many large multinationals but the city is a global competitor in modern service companies and innovative high tech businesses, and there’s a boom in tourism. Plus with a strong SME (small and medium sized businesses) sector, it’s the German startup capital. Things are looking up in Berlin.
With Berlin establishing itself as Germany’s thriving hub for start-ups and creatives, job opportunities for English-speaking expats in Berlin can be found. Startups in Berlin typically offer modern and relaxed working environments and present exciting opportunities to join in growing the company from the ground up. As the cost of living in Berlin is cheaper than other capital cities in Europe, freelancers and educated creatives are increasingly attracted to the German capital.
For the purpose of job security, it is advisable to research start-up companies and do some background checks. Look for companies that have been in business for at least three years, can show signs of growth, and maybe even have some financial backing.
When looking for full or part-time jobs in Berlin, you also have to be realistic. Don’t expect to land your dream job immediately. It could take weeks or even months before you find work in Berlin. Even after signing an employment contract in Berlin, you may still have to wait several weeks to start the job and another month before receiving your first pay packet. Before you come to Berlin in search of work, you should have enough money to live on in the interim period.
Some multinational companies in Berlin are also keen to hire English-speaking expats. In 2015, the top companies in Berlin increased their workforce by almost 2 percent. If you already work for a company that has offices in Berlin, sometimes a transfer is possible. You can also check this list of the top 200 employers in Berlin.
If you do find work in Berlin, you should check your employment rights in Germany. You may also choose to get a German lawyer to read over your contract to ensure the terms meet German laws, even if the clauses in German have been translated into English.
Work in Berlin
The job market in Berlin
There is a great diversity of available jobs in Berlin and more than 350,000 companies, organisations, associations, universities and higher education and institutes in the city. There is a large number of small and medium-sized businesses in Berlin – there are some 280,000 companies employing less than 250 people – and many of them are global market leaders in their field.
The main sectors in Berlin are healthcare industries, ICT, media and creative industries, transport, mobility and logistics, energy technology, photonics, and services. The German manufacturing sector is growing but such companies are almost all small with 10 or less employees.
The main sources of employment in Berlin are real estate and professional, scientific and technical services, alongside wholesale and retail trade, mechanics, social work, hotel and catering and education. The 10 largest employers in Berlin are corporate giants Deutsche Bahn, Charité-Universitätsmedizin Berlin, Vivantes Netzwerk für Gesundheit, Berliner Verkehrsbetriebe (BVG), Siemens, Kaiser’s Tengelmann, Deutsche Telekom, EDEKA Minden-Hannover Stiftung, Deutsche Post DHL, and the WISAG group of service companies. See the Berliner Morgenpost’s survey of Berlin’s top 200 employers, and Berlin’s Great Place to Work in Berlin-Brandenburg in 2016.
Job vacancies in Berlin
According to EURES (the European Job Market Portal), unemployment in Berlin in August 2016 sat around 9.7 percent, above the national rate of 6.1 percent. This provides a relatively poor outlook for Berlin, where there were around 7.1 unemployment applicants per job vacancy in Berlin, compared to the national average of 3.9 people.
However, with the right qualifications, you would have a good chance of finding work in public administration, mechatronics and automation, energy engineering, train driving, monitoring/maintenance of transport infrastructure, and plumbing, sanitation, heating and air-conditioning activities. Semi-skilled positions are already largely oversupplied in certain sectors, and Berlin comprises a number of academically qualified workers, so competition can be strong.
There are lots of jobs in tech startups. The European Digital City Index (2016) ranked Berlin 6th in Europe for startups and 7th for scaleups, while the Deustche Start up Monitor survey found that around 40 percent of staff in Berlin startups in 2016 was foreign. You don’t necessarily have to be a techie either – there are opportunities in startups in commercial roles such as marketing. Startups are an area where speaking German is not so essential, especially if you are a highly skilled tech specialist; for the more commercial side, however, the ability to speak German is more important when companies’ markets are Germany-based.
There are also opportunities in education and research with 11 universities, 21 colleges and polytechnics and 250 research institutes in Berlin (see a list of German universities). Plus, there are jobs in the tourism and hospitality service industries, as well as teaching English.
Jobs in Berlin for foreigners
If you don’t speak German, it is possible to find English-speaking jobs in Berlin. However, without speaking the national language, you will have difficulty progressing your career path into the upper echelons of an organisation.
In-demand jobs in Berlin for foreigners or English-speakers include content writing for digital marketing firms, business intelligence, product management, travel and tourism, English-speaking au pairs, hoteliers and English teachers.
English teachers in Berlin generally need professional English teaching qualification, such as TEFL. Schools in Germany rarely hire expats to teach English, although you can also check international schools in Germany. Most English teachers in Berlin are freelancers, so you will also require a freelance visa.
Although most firms in Berlin will give preference to foreign nationals that are bilingual, there are several companies where the working language is English and native speakers are welcomed. Berlin-based companies using English include SoundCloud, Wooga and Ableton.
Work visas and residence permits in Berlin
If you’re from the European Union (EU) or European Economic Area (EEA – EU plus Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway) or Switzerland and have a valid passport or ID card, you don’t need a work permit to work in Berlin.
Citizens from countries with agreements with Germany – Australia, Canada, Hong Kong, Israel, Japan, New Zealand, South Korea, Taiwan and the US – can come to Germany without a visa and apply for a residence and work permit from their local Alien’s Authority in Berlin. Foreign university graduates may be able to get a six-month permit to come and look for work.
Everyone else will typically need to get a visa and residence permit in order to work in Berlin (see the Berlin at the Labour Office – Arbeitsamt), starting their application before they come to Berlin. Unless you have a job, however, it will be difficult to get a work and residence application approved. To guarantee a work permit, you must have found a job in Berlin and present the contract to the Labour Office. In your application you will need to state your purpose and motivation for finding work in Berlin and your intended length of stay.
For more information on immigration and German work permits, see Expatica’s guides to German visas and permits and getting a German work permit. The application process for a work visa in Berlin can be complicated, although it is possible to seek professional help with your visa application.
You cannot start work in Berlin until you have the appropriate visa. Everyone also has to register at the nearest town hall (Bürgeramt) in Berlin.
Languages required for jobs in Berlin
There are jobs in Berlin that don’t require you to speak German – for example, Berlin start-ups looking for English speakers to conduct international business for them – but you’ll give yourself a better chance of getting a job in Berlin if you have a basic understanding of German.
Even jobs that are advertised for English speakers have some aspect to them that needs a basic grasp of German, for example, communication with colleagues, clients or managers. It’s unlikely that you would get a professional level job without good language skills.
Qualifications and references
Certain professions are regulated in Germany, including teachers, doctors and opticians. Check out your occupation on Recognition in Germany and find out how to get it recognised. Contact the Central Office for Foreign Education (ZAB) to get a foreign university degree verified. Countries signed up to the Bologna Process will have their qualifications recognised in Germany.
Finding a job in Berlin
Use Expatica’s job search to find job posts in English aimed at foreign internationals.
The Federal Employment Agency (Bundesagentur für Arbeit, BA), the largest provider of labour market services in Germany, has a network of more than 700 agencies and offices around the country and an online job search. You can find the contact details for the Berlin offices here. Talent-Berlin is the city’s job portal.
Job websites in Berlin
Look at the major online job websites such as Monster, StepStone and Indeed – just type in the work you’re looking for and the place name ‘Berlin’ and hundreds of jobs from a range of different companies will pop up.
Startups jobs in Berlin
English-speaking jobs in Berlin
Recruitment agencies in Berlin
Look in the German Yellow Pages (Gelbe Seiten) under Arbeitsvermittlung to find recruitment agencies in Berlin. They’ll be reputable if they are members of the Federal Employer’s Association of Personnel Service Providers (Bundesarbeitgeberverband der Personaldienstleister, BAP).
One useful avenue to finding jobs in Berlin is to register with a recruitment agency. There are many agencies that offer generalised jobs, but there are also opportunities in specialist job agencies:
Teaching English in Berlin
There are opportunities to teach English in language schools in Berlin, as well as teach English to employees in large businesses and to private clients – but competition is fierce as there are a lot of expats in the city. You’ll stand a better chance of employment with a recognised TEFL qualification and, if you want to work as an in-house English trainer with a company, previous experience of working in a business environment. See the English Language Teachers’ Association Berlin-Brandenburg.
You can also check Expatica’s lists of universities in Germany, international schools in Germany and language schools in Germany.
Au pairs and nanny jobs in Berlin
Au pair and nanny agencies with Berlin positions include Au-pair-Berlin, Great Au pair and Au pair to Germany.
Newspaper and classified jobs in Berlin
For highly qualified or academic jobs at national levels, buy copies of the Saturday editions of national newspapers or look online at Berliner Zeitung.
You can find jobs in the classified sections of newspapers as well as some magazines in Berlin. Entwickler.de is a German digital magazine with part-time and full-time job listings. Most jobs are for the tech industry or start-up companies, but you can filter your job search to see if there is anything in your field.
Woloho also covers job opportunities for English speakers and distributes a newsletter three times a week to keep readers updated with the latest vacancies. The advertised jobs in Woloho cover various industries and have some prestigious clients including art galleries and PR firms.
Jobs in Berlin on company websites
Click here to read a profiles on the top Berlin companies and view available jobs. You can also find information on biotechnology and pharmaceutical research and companies in Berlin.
Embassies and consulates
Look out for vacancies at your home country’s embassy or consulate in Berlin.
Networking in Berlin
Networking is really important in Berlin – the Germans have even got an expression for it: they say a dose of Vitamin B (for Beziehung or ‘relationship’) can help get your foot inside the door. Sign up to Xing, one of the most popular business networks in Germany, or check out LinkedIn jobs in Berlin.
Link up with like-minded expats through Meetups in Berlin groups or form your own. Other networking opportunities include Spätschicht, Art Connect and the Facebook groups Berlin Freelancers, Berlin start up jobs and Berlin Startups.
Techies can check out BerlinWebWeek, an annual festival with around 30 events – conventions, trade shows, forums and meet-ups – to do with the internet and digital technologies.
Creative workers can find a list of design, art and architecture networks, initiatives and associations in Berlin
As Berlin is a commercial hub and an attractive city for start-ups and creatives, there is a strong networking community. You will find hundreds of networking events, many of which are free to attend. Some of the more active companies are:
Preparing your job application in Berlin
Preparing a CV in Berlin is similar to elsewhere, with the main difference being that including a photo headshot can sometimes give your CV a better opportunity of being read. The cover letter should be brief and tailored to the job you are applying for. You should politely address the person you are writing to by name: Dear Frau or Herr plus their surname. For tips on putting together a German application portfolio and cover letter, see Expatica’s guide to preparing a German CV and interview tips.
If you are invited to attend an interview wear appropriate attire: suit, shirt and tie for men; skirt and blouse for women. Greet the interviewer in German: Guten Morgen before noon or Guten Tag between noon and 5pm.
Some more tips for applying for jobs in Berlin include:
- If the job was advertised in English, you may apply in English (unless specified not) – otherwise apply in German.
- You’ll need to put together an application portfolio (die Mappe) – include a covering letter, CV, copies of educational certificates, testimonials/references, and passport-sized photos – in a folder, or if the employer is happy to receive online applications, scanned documents in a PDF file.
- You may need to get educational certificates authenticated or translated into German.
- Provide information on the level of any language skills.
- Cover letters should be clear and concise and no more than one side of A4. There’s no need to include a lot of information about personal motivation in the cover letter.
- Prepare your CV in the German style, which is a two-columned table – see Expatica’s guide to job applications in Germany for more details.
- At the interview, unless you’re going for an interview at a techie startup, dress formally. Check the company websites to see how employees dress if in doubt.
Find a job in Germany using Expatica’s job search.
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