Graduates of a dual apprenticeship have various options to continue their professional career. Especially for their advancement there are state recognized further training occupations leading to accepted and valued qualifications like the master craftsperson. Subject-related access to higher education is also possible under certain conditions. Through various initiatives the German government fosters the improvement of permeability in both directions, also addressing drop-outs from universities.

Further Training Occupations

Graduates of the apprenticeship system can choose to take an examination leading to further training occupations like e.g. the master craftsperson. Further training is also regulated through the Vocational Training Act and for the skilled crafts the Trade and Crafts Code. According to those laws the ministries in charge can issue national regulations on the examinations. In some cases the social partners initiate the process of elaboration and participate actively in it. Then the procedure is similar to the elaboration of training regulations for initial VET, involving also professional experts nominated by the social partners. For the e.g. the master craftsperson in certain crafts the procedure differs. There are a total of 223 federal regulations for further vocational training and retraining in 2018.

The regulations only cover the examination, which is taken at the competent body in charge, usually the chamber. The framework curricula for preparation courses are elaborated by the umbrella organisation of the chambers or the professional association in charge.

Preparation courses are not mandatory but are usually attended prior to the examination. They are offered by various private institutions and are subject to market conditions. Important players in this field are training providers linked to the chambers. The further training occupations are mapped on the EQF from level 5 up to level 7.

National regulations are only elaborated if a certain set of criteria is fulfilled, e.g. regarding the expected numbers of graduates. On regional level the chambers can issue rules for further training examinations in fields or specialisations that are not covered by national regulations. Alternative career advancement pathways for graduates of the dual apprenticeship system are the recognized qualifications at the trade and technical schools of the Federal States like technicians.

Access to higher education

Graduates of the dual apprenticeship system with several years of work experience in their occupational field can get subject-related access to courses at higher education institutions. The requirements are regulated in the federal state laws and the decision on admission is taken by the higher education institution. The higher education institution can also ask for additional entrance tests or an interview assessing the aptitude of an applicant. Most of the further vocational training occupations and the certificates of trade and technical schools are accepted as university entrance qualifications.

Dual courses of study

In Germany the Dual University, universities of applied sciences and universities of cooperative education offer dual courses of study at EQF level 6 and partly also level 7. Dual courses of study include learning in a higher education institution and in a company. They are targeted at school leavers with a (subject-restricted) university entrance qualification. The students have to find a company to contract them in order to be accepted at the higher education institution.

There are two models of dual courses, one integrating practical phases into a degree and the other combining training in a recognized training occupation with a degree course. In the second model the students have a normal training contract with the company and are subject to all legal regulations and provisions in collective wage agreements relating to training. Upon successful completion of the course, they acquire both a higher education qualification and a VET qualification. The practice-integrated format accounts for 805 of the 1,592 programmes of study currently available in the field of initial training. The number of dual students is currently esti­mated to be around 100,000. This represents an increase of about 5,000 students compared to 2015. The institutes of higher education stated that there were over 47,000 cooperating companies (2016). The next statistical review on dual courses is foreseen for 2020. 

Initiatives and programmes to foster permeability

The national pact for vocational education and training foresees permeability as one of its priorities along three main strands: guidance and orientation, transparency of qualification titles and easier access to further training. Various initiatives and pilot programmes have been designed to foster permeability and recognition of parts of the dual apprenticeship training or of advanced training occupations, e.g. through recognition tools or joint curriculum development. Examples of initiatives run by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) are the ANKOM initiative for transition between vocational and academic education, the open university contest, and the current campaign to recruit higher education drop- outs for the dual apprenticeship system. Courses attended in higher education institutions can be credited towards a shortening of the duration of the apprenticeship programme. The Federal-States open university context runs until 2020. It will be supplemented in 2019 with an initiative developing qualification offers targeted at university drop-outs and further VET qualifications holders towards universities. In both cases, hybrid training formats are to be developed and tested which combine practical and theoretical contents of training, further training and higher education.  


Getting Ahead through Advanced Vocational Training. German Background Report on the OECD Study „Skills beyond school“: