Professorship as a Civil Servant in Germany

The majority of professorships in Germany is still categorized as civil servant positions and hence provides the privileges associated with the status of a civil servant. The most important of these are life tenure, the maintenance principle, and the employer’s duty of care:

  • Appointment for life: It ensures that civil servants fulfil their constitutional task and guarantees the neutrality of public administration and the legal and economic independence of civil servants. Only under exceptional circumstances explicitly defined by law is it possible to leave public service, for example: upon reaching the statutory retirement age, when the civil servant him- or herself requests removal from public service, or dismissal from service as a disciplinary measure. A few appointments as civil servants are made for a fixed term, usually in the expectation that the position will be followed by another civil servant appointment (such as W1 Professorships). 

  • Maintenance principle: Civil servants are entitled to salaries and pensions appropriate to their office. Salaries must ensure an appropriate standard of living, taking into account the grade, significance and responsibility of the office so that civil servants may fully commit themselves to public service as a life profession. 

  • Principle of care and protection: Civil servants and their families are entitled to care and protection from their employer, even after their active career has ended. The scope of care and protection is based on the individual case and may include assistance and advice, financial benefits and protection against attacks from third parties. 

The duties related to civil servant status correspond directly to the relationship of service and loyalty to the state and thus demand absolute lawfulness at all times and ban strikes.   

Anyone who has served a prison sentence in the past five years is not eligible for civil service. Previous convictions can also be an obstacle.

Social Security

As a rule, civil servants are not obliged to be insured with the social security (public pension) system, nor with mandatory accident, unemployment or health insurance systems. Instead of these statutory social insurance schemes, civil servants are covered by an independent social security system specifically for civil servants based on their special employment relationship. Pensions are paid by the employer and are one of the basic principles of professional civil service. The employer is also required to pay occupational accident benefits. Civil servants do not need to pay into the system of unemployment benefits since they are generally employed for life after completing a probationary period.

Health Care

Health insurance for civil servants is comprised of two elements: In German public service, 50% of the medical costs incurred by active civil servants is covered by the employer (if he/she is the parent of dependent children: 50% of costs); for retired civil servants, 50% is covered. The civil servants’ employer also covers 50% of dependent spouses’ and 80% of dependent children’s health care costs. The remaining costs must be covered by private health insurance. However, premiums for this rest are significantly lower than regular health insurance premiums and thus provides a definite financial benefit when compared to both statutory health insurance (which is rather costly in Germany) and private insurance (which is only open to those earning at least EUR 64,350.00 p.a.).

In case of illness, civil servants continue to receive a salary for an unlimited period of time. In case of long-term illness, the early retirement procedure should be initiated. This is in line with the special nature of employment as a civil servant with life tenure and the duty of the employer to ensure the maintenance of such civil servants.

Secondary Employment

Any activities undertaken for pay outside of the main employment in the civil services is considered secondary employment. In fact, there is an act that governs such secondary employment of academic staff at higher education institutions in Baden-Württemberg. As a general rule, civil servants require approval prior to taking up any form of secondary employment. HR can provide further information as well as the right documents to file for approval. When you are hired, be sure to mention any plans for specific secondary employment such as teaching, consulting or freelance activities at other universities or research tasks at other universities during the negotiations.


Civil servants are entitled to a pension upon retirement, and may retire

  • when they reach the regular retirement age of 67 years (the regular retirement age is gradually increasing from currently 65 years to 67 years by 2029); 

  • on request after their 63rd birthday (benefits will be reduced up to 14.4 %); 

  • on request when they reach 60 years of age if they have a disability (this age limit is gradually increasing to 62 years), with benefits reduced by up to 10.8 %;  

  • if they have been found unfit to work, with benefits reduced by up to 10.8 %; or 

  • if they are temporarily suspended. 

In principle, old-age pensions for civil servants (“Ruhestandsbezüge”) are tax-funded. It would violate the principle of maintenance for civil servants to be dependent on the social insurance systems. According to the maintenance principle, the government itself and its administration must ensure long-term funding for civil servants and appropriate subsistence in line with overall economic conditions. As a rule, old-age pensions for civil servants are significantly higher than for regular employees. 

Pension benefits for civil servants include a pension, survivors’ benefits and accident insurance. To be entitled to a pension, a civil servant must have served a minimum of five years or must have become disabled due to an accident at work.  

The amount of pension benefits is based on the total pensionable remuneration and pensionable length of service; it amounts to 1.79375 % of pensionable remuneration for every year of pensionable service up to a maximum of 71.75 % for 40 years of pensionable service.