ALL ABOUT ENGLISH SPEAKING JOBS IN GERMANY
When I first moved to Berlin in 2011, I asked myself this very question. I wondered how easy it would be for me as a Canadian to find work in Berlin without knowing any German at all. It took a few months, but it eventually worked out when I scored a few freelancing gigs that provided a modest monthly income.
I never realized how lucky I was at that time, as back then it was even harder to find work in Berlin than it is now. Years later, when I ventured back into the world of full-time work, I lost my job a few times due to company downsizing. And each time, I was able to successfully find a new job where only English was required. Impressively, I even found and started a new job during the pandemic.
So yes, there are English-speaking jobs in Germany and I can personally attest to this. You might be thinking, “Well if you found an English-speaking job in Germany so many times, then I can find one too.” In reality, it’s not that straightforward and very dependent on many different factors.
ARE THERE ENGLISH SPEAKING JOBS IN GERMANY?
While there are English speaking jobs in Germany, there are a lot of things that aspiring newbies need to consider before moving here. How important is it to speak German? How many English jobs are actually out there? Do certain types of companies or professions deem German language skills as less important? Is speaking German required more in certain cities than in others? Do higher-ranking positions allow for non-German speakers?
It’s a lot to think about, isn’t it? Let’s go deep and examine what it’s really like.
Do You Need To Speak German To Find A Job In Germany?
The obvious answer is yes. The official language of Germany is German, so of course, knowing German is a must if you want to have a decent chance of finding a job here. About 96% of all jobs available on the market require fluency. For this reason alone, knowing German is not only important but essential.
Even if you’re at a C level of German (which is amazing btw!), you may still struggle to understand the nuances of regional dialects, slang, idioms, and other cultural references. Of course, you’ll naturally learn these things with time and effort. Not only that, your potential employers and future colleagues will really appreciate and respect your efforts to learn their language as well.
The best part is that if you possess a C level of German or above, you’re in a very enviable position. This level of German will set you apart from most other foreign candidates in the job market who haven’t mastered the language yet. The few English jobs on the market will way more applicants – not just foreigners, but Germans too. Being fluent in German will give you access to a wider pool of employment opportunities and give you an edge over the competition.
Do you have a chance to find work in Germany if you don’t speak German?
The not-so-obvious answer is also … yes. I still highly recommend learning German, as it’s only in your best interest. Not only will it increase your chance of finding a job, but it will also enrich your overall living experience when you can communicate with locals in their own language.
That said, globalization has changed things for the better in Germany. More companies are speaking English (and other languages) in the workplace. They need highly qualified immigrants more than ever before and in recent years, rules about language requirements and related qualifications are being increasingly relaxed. Organizations are eager to hire native English speakers and people who are fluent in several languages.
Fortunately, there are a lot of English speaking jobs in cities like Berlin, as we’re a more international city than others in Germany. In other German cities, your job pool could be even more limited. English is especially prevalent in the Berlin job market. You see this within Berlin’s startup scene, which attracts candidates from around the world. Language schools are always looking for teachers. Many families are looking for au pairs who speak English. Even cleaning agencies catering to the English speaking community in Berlin, need employees who fit this bill.
1) For some professions and in some companies, German is absolutely 100% required. While they are more open within startups and in international, some older and more traditional German companies will not hire non-Germans and some professions, like in the science or academic worlds, may demand German. While this is somewhat unfortunate, change won’t happen everywhere, or in the very least, it will take more time for the demand to come into effect.
2) Depending on the company and profession, you may reach a certain level where you can’t advance up the career ladder any further because of language limitations. Keep this in mind when you take on a job as it may mean you’ll need to fight harder to get a higher position in the future or you may have to take your career elsewhere at some point.
3) Even if you studied at a German university, taking an English program, does not necessarily mean you’ll find a related job in English. While this doesn’t make sense at all, it’s in your best interest to find out if there is a demand for non-German speakers in your profession once you finish your post-secondary education.
Read our post about highly demanded jobs in Germany for more information.
What are some tips and tricks when looking for English speaking jobs in Berlin?
Consider these tips and tricks when it specifically comes specifically to language requirements and applying for a job in Berlin:
1) List the languages you know on your CV and be sure to display them prominently. Then be honest with your self-assessment. I’ve talked with candidates who said they were fluent in English and once we had a conversation, it became apparent they were more mid-level. The best is if you can objectively qualify your fluency and say your German is at A1 example.
2) When you see job postings, read through the requirements, as many companies will explicitly say if English is accepted or if German fluency is required.
3) If language requirements are not explicitly written in the job description, you can usually infer that if the job is advertised in English that the working language will be the same. If it’s advertised in German, the job will likely require German fluency.
4) If the language requirements aren’t explicitly written, go ahead and apply anyway. If the company likes your profile, they’ll get in touch, and you can clarify language expectations in the first interview.
5) This is controversial, but some people advise having your CVs and cover letters translated to German, even if you don’t speak German at all. They say that not having your CV in German is a disadvantage, as you may then never get noticed by the algorithms that do initial scans on company’s internal recruiting platforms or on websites liked LinkedIn.
This is a fair point – as if your CV gets in front of a pair of human eyes, the recruiter or hiring manager can then make an informed decision about whether or not to get in touch with you.
However, this tactic may also backfire. You may get asked for an interview and then when the recruiter or hiring manager discovers you can’t speak German, they may feel you were dishonest and that you wasted their time. This could limit future opportunities with that employer.
It’s up to you how to approach this, but if you do decide to translate your CV, at least indicate your level of German in a way that it can’t be missed.
6) Learn German as soon as possible and make it a priority. Do this even before you get to Germany. Take a class, use the apps, do whatever it takes. If you get a job here eventually, you may find your company even offers free language classes.
7) Look for jobs on English language job sites. Definitely create a profile on LinkedIn. Check out websites like Berlin startup jobs, The Local, or English Jobs. Or refer to our extensive list of places to apply for jobs in Berlin, as well as the rest of Germany.
8) Focus on industries that are more open and want to attract English speakers. Almost any tech-related position, be it a software developer, engineering manager, quality assurance engineer, agile coach, and more is highly needed. People who work in marketing and sales are in demand. Take a look at the tourism industry (once corona passes us by), customer care, gastronomy, teaching English, and/or working as a nanny.
Your key takeaway here? Your chance to find a job in Germany is much higher if you have some level of German fluency. There are opportunities for those who speak English, but your pool of options will be way more limited. Just learn German and things will be way better.
What has your experience been like as you’ve applied for jobs in Berlin? Are we missing anything? Drop us a comment below and we’ll be sure to add your suggestions in future updates of this article.
Because Berlin is an official and free public service offering advice in English for anyone looking to move to Berlin and find work.
Are you looking for a job in Berlin? Then check out this ever-growing list of companies in Berlin that are hiring right now.
Written by an experienced hiring manager & career coach, follow our expert guide on how to write a German cover and secure a job in Germany.