Have doctoral students been valued more in the past

This is how it works for a doctorate

Max Planck Institutes build on a wealth of experience when it comes to supervising and training doctoral students. They cooperate closely with universities that officially award the doctorate.

Almost 4,000 young people are constantly doing research at the Max Planck Institutes for their dissertations; a third of them as members of an International Max Planck Research School (IMPRS). Together with partners at universities and other research institutions that are usually regionally neighboring, these offer the possibility of structured graduate training with a fixed curriculum. With the Max Planck Graduate Centers and especially the Max Planck Schools as larger units, the funding concept was expanded again in 2018.

What you need to know:

  • There is no central application process. PhD positions for individual doctorates are advertised all year round.
  • At the Max Planck Graduate Centers, the application phase starts in autumn each year (usually on September 1st).
  • At the Max Planck Schools, the application phase also starts in the autumn of each year (usually on September 1st) via a central applicant portal.
  • Doctoral students receive a funding contract (see below) that combines the scientific freedom of a scholarship with the security of an employment contract.
  • Every year, the Max Planck Society awards around 35 doctoral candidates with the Otto Hahn Medal for outstanding scientific achievements.

 How do I apply?

 ... at a Max Planck Institute:

  • As a university graduate with a master’s degree, you can contact a Max Planck Institute whose research areas match your interests at any time. Visit their website or view the bundled vacancies in our job exchange.
  • Topics for dissertations are developed in consultation with scientists at the institutes, who also select the candidates.
  • Each Max Planck Institute decides itself on the admission of doctoral candidates.

... at an International Max Planck Research School:

Contact the coordinator of an IMPRS of your choice. The IMPRS cover a wide range of different scientific disciplines and each have their own admission procedures with different deadlines. In an IMPRS, doctoral students usually prepare for their dissertation in joint, interdisciplinary projects.

In addition, the Max Planck Institutes offer positions and grants that are open to all applicants outside of the career paths outlined above. If you want to apply for such doctoral positions, you will find the current job advertisements in our job exchange. In addition, we regularly provide information about new job offers and advertisements on our Facebook page and Twitter.

... at one of the three Max Planck Graduate Centers:

The Max Planck Graduate Centers bring together leading lecturers from several Max Planck Institutes and their partner institutions to offer outstanding doctoral programs in a range of current research areas. Through innovative, cross-location, research-oriented doctoral training, you realize synergies beyond conventional forms of graduate training.

... at one of the three Max Planck Schools - a joint initiative of German universities and German research institutions

The Max Planck Schools, founded in 2018, are geographically distributed, national associations in which we bring together excellent researchers in an innovative research field in Germany. The cooperating associations of Max Planck Institutes, universities and other non-university institutions are therefore larger and more visible. University graduates from all over the world can do their doctorate, if possible also in a "fast track", thus including the master's degree. The evaluation of the pilot phase until 2023 will provide information on whether it has been possible to develop a promising architecture for the Max Planck Schools. The declared aim is to stabilize the program.


Doctoral funding contracts with Max Planck

The doctoral funding contracts combine scientifically free research with social security. They allow doctoral students to devote themselves to scientific work independently and without restriction. The agreed working time is currently 39 hours per week. The remuneration is based on the collective agreement for the public service (TVöD) and is currently at least almost 2,700 euros gross. Depending on the subject or on the basis of an individually granted recruitment allowance, the doctoral remuneration can be higher. An annual special payment rounds off the offer.

The funding agreements are concluded for a period of three years, with the option to extend for a further year. Research stays as part of the doctorate - also abroad - are also supported.

The supervision at a glance

  • As a rule, researchers do not supervise more than eight doctoral candidates at the same time.
  • The scope of the doctoral thesis is chosen in such a way that it can be completed in a period customary for the subject: usually three years (plus one year extension option).
  • In a funding agreement, the rights and obligations for both sides are set out from the start. The doctoral candidates regularly discuss the schedule for the dissertation with the supervisor who is primarily responsible.
  • With the funding contract, the doctoral candidates are guaranteed funding for the entire doctoral period if they achieve the expected academic performance.
  • In addition to the main supervisor, all doctoral candidates are provided with a second independent scientist. They are also accompanied by a Thesis Advisory Committee.
  • The supervisors encourage the doctoral candidates to publish research results already during the doctoral thesis.
  • Doctoral candidates have the opportunity to turn to an independent body on site if they have any questions or disagreements during their training.
  • The advisory board checks the quality of the doctoral training and compliance with the regular evaluations of the institutes.
  • The doctoral candidates are supported in their professional development, to acquire soft skills and to gain experience in teaching. Events such as peer coaching and self-organized retreats are also financially supported.