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For anyone who has spent any time on some of the popular expat forums or on Q&A sites such as Quora, I’m sure you have seen a version of this question.
And more often than not, the person asking the question often gets less than helpful answers.
Because it’s obvious, to anyone who stops to think, that such a question is very dependent on many different factors.
What the person really needs to be asking is something much more specific, such as:
“What is a good salary in Germany for an engineer with a masters degree and 5 years’ experience, who wants to live in a major city, have a good-sized 1-bedroom apartment in a decent neighbourhood and be able to afford a couple of holidays a year?”
What should you expect from a good salary in Germany?
For all of these examples, we have assumed that you are not liable to pay church tax, just to keep things simple.
Of course, these numbers are approximate: It depends to a large extent on how well you manage your finances and how extravagant / frugal your lifestyle is!
€30,000 per year
You will need to live in shared accommodation if you’re in a more expensive area, or a small studio apartment otherwise.
You will need to cycle or take public transport, unless you compromise elsewhere.
You will be able to afford:
- Going out once or twice a week, as long as it is not expensive cocktail bars or restaurants or exclusive clubs.
- Membership of a gym, sports club or other similar hobby
- One decent holiday a year or a couple of extended city breaks
- Regular groceries with a few treats now and then
- Regular, i.e. non-designer, clothes shopping
- A sandwich or simple canteen meal for lunch at work
Very little unless you are really frugal
€50,000 per year
You will be able to afford a decent 1-bedroom apartment in major cities but may need to compromise on location. Perhaps a 2-bedroom or larger apartment if you’re outside of the more expensive metropolitan areas.
You could afford to run a car if you need one, but this may be considered a luxury in the bigger cities because the public transport network is so extensive
- Everything as mentioned for €30,000, plus:
- Not really needing to pay much attention to costs for your weekly grocery shop
- You will be able to splash out more on holidays, or enjoy a couple more weekends away
- Eating out for lunch most days.
- More varied entertainment options such as concerts, theatre, more exclusive nightlife venues etc.
You should be able to put away a couple of hundred € each month into a private pension plan or investment fund.
€70,000 per year
You will be able to afford a nice 2-bedroom apartment in a good location in all the major cities. Perhaps something bigger or more luxurious if you’re looking in a less popular part of town. You’ll also be able to afford to buy an apartment if you can save a decent sized deposit (except in Munich, Hamburg, Stuttgart & Frankfurt)
You could afford to buy and run a car if you need one
- Everything as mentioned for €50,000, plus:
- Not really needing to pay much attention to costs for your weekly grocery shop and being able to easily afford luxuries such as organic products, good wine, imported foodstuffs.
- You will be able to splash out more on holidays, or enjoy weekends away, without worrying too much about the cost
- Eating out for lunch most days at work and having dinner out with friends 2 or 3 times a week.
- More varied entertainment options such as concerts, theatre, more exclusive nightlife venues etc.
You should be able to put away €1,000 each month into a private pension plan or investment fund.
We also want you to be aware of the different points which you must consider when considering whether a figure you’ve been quoted is a “good salary in Germany”.
We can then hopefully provide you with enough information and tools to help you to answer this question for yourself.
If you’re still stuck and need some extra 1:1 support to discuss salary negotiations and relocation considerations, please contact us for a consultation and we would be glad to assist!
It depends on the city / region
Salaries tend to be higher and there are more jobs to choose from in the most prosperous major metropolitan areas.
So, on the one hand, you will most likely find it easier to get job offers in these areas, but on the other hand your biggest expense will be rent, and this is going to be considerably higher than in other parts of the country.
We recently looked at this conundrum and evaluated whether the higher cost of rent negates the salary benefits. Definitely worth doing the sums and considering rent as a percentage of your net income rather than just looking at the actual figure you’ll be paying.
It depends on your level of education
Lower end jobs and entry level positions tend not to pay the salary premium that makes it worthwhile to live in what is, by international standards, a relatively expensive country. Even more so when we factor in the high rates of taxation and employee contributions for health insurance and social security.
We already covered the typical salary deductions you’ll see on your payslip, to give you a flavour of what is taken from your gross salary.
Graduates have better opportunities, especially those with a degree or especially a postgraduate qualification in a science, technology, engineering or mathematics (STEM) field.
Germans love academic qualifications and place a premium on this. If you have a lot of letters after your name, take advantage of this in salary negotiations.
It depends on your net income
Tax is a complex topic in Germany. There are 6 different tax classifications, which are primarily dependent upon your marital status and whether or not you have children.
Someone who is single and paying top rate tax is going to have a lot less net from their gross (percentage-wise) when compared to a married couple who have children.
Therefore, before going any further, do yourself a favour and watch this video, or bookmark it for later. I walk you through how to calculate net salary from your gross monthly or annual salary quoted in your job offer or employment contract. It’s well worth the 10 minutes or so of your time to get this one figured out!
It depends on how much professional experience you have
Germany has an acute skills shortage in many positions, and not all of these are senior or highly technical roles which require university degrees or postgraduate qualifications.
The German Federal Agency For Employment publishes what they call the white list each year of skilled trades and professions where there are worker shortages. If your profession is on there, then your chances of both finding a job and earning a decent salary are very good. This is especially true if you have the right qualifications, several years of relevant work experience and can speak some German (or are able to learn up to B1/B2 standard before you apply for jobs).
If you have a more generic arts or social sciences degree, and little or no relevant work experience in the field you wish to work in, then your chances of finding a well paid job are going to be significantly lower.
Take this quiz for free if you’d like to get some quick feedback on how attractive you are to potential German employers.
It depends on your goals for moving to Germany
Anyone considering moving to another country to live and work must have a “why” for wanting to do it.
If your primary goal of relocating is for better economic prospects, then your perception of what constitutes a good salary in Germany is going to be a lot different than somebody who has moved here for romance and just needs to find a job quickly to be able to help pay the rent and the bills with their German partner.
Likewise, if the driving factor behind the move is to gain relevant work experience to help accelerate your journey up the career ladder back home, salary is likely to be less relevant than a challenging and rewarding work environment which facilitates a steep learning curve.
It depends on your lifestyle expectation (after taxes and rent)
Clearly the definition of a good salary in Germany is highly dependent upon your lifestyle and what your anticipation is in terms of disposable income when you live here.
Someone who is less picky regarding the size and location of their apartment, rarely goes out and does not spend much money on discretionary items such as clothes and holidays can survive on a lot less than someone who expects to have a nicer place to live, frequently eat out and socialise, and regularly take foreign holidays.
Think what your lifestyle at home is like. Will the salary you are likely to earn in Germany facilitate a better lifestyle than what you have back home? If not, then what are the other push or pull factors which are making you consider the move? We already covered the cost of living in Germany in an earlier article.
It depends on whether you have children
This one may sound obvious, but if you’re single (or married without kids) then you can have a good life on a lot less money than what would be considered sufficient if you have the extra expenses associated with having a family.
€50,000 is plenty for a single professional. On the other hand, it’s not much to tempt you to move half way across the world if it has to support a family of 4.
So, what’s a good salary for YOUR job or profession!
Great, so now we have covered the basics of what you need to consider when asking what may have seemed to be a simple question to you.
Now, let’s get to answer the question of what constitutes a good salary in Germany for YOU, in YOUR current situation and with the lifestyle and standard of living which you expect to be able to enjoy?
To get an idea of what you are likely to earn, the website Gehalt.de gives a very good basic overview of salary ranges in specific occupations. Leo Dict is your friend to help you translate the occupations. While it may not provide absolute exact information for your case, it certainly gives some figures to play around with.
The only way you’re going to get a more accurate picture of the current pulse is by talking to recruitment consultants who hire for positions in your industry or area of expertise. To find them, the search function of LinkedIn is your friend.