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American architect working in Germany

Mar 9 '12 16 Last Comment
Mike WakefieldMike Wakefield
Mar 9, 12 5:24 pm

TGIF fellow 'nects!

I will be moving to Germany with my wife on April 10th (4 weeks) for approximately 3 years.  My wife will be employed as a civilian contractor at a US Army base in Grafenwohr (Bavaria, 45 minutes east of Nuremberg).  I am a NCARB licensed architect currently practicing in Arizona.   Due to bureaucratic realities, I will not be seeking to set up an office as employer, but rather will be seeking work as an employee.  I am seeking insight for being able to practice architecture in Germany.

So far, I have found a link via NCARB's website for Germany, but would sincerely appreciate feedback from any fellow expats that have had experience with this process.

Best,

wakeNbuild

 

James PettyJames Petty
Mar 9, 12 6:35 pm

ncarb. forget it. thats just a profit making scheme in america. 

what kind of degree do you have?

if you have a b.arch or m.arch, congratulations, you are an architect! 

 

im an american architect in munich. i havent taken any exams. but im not an intern. interns are those still in university. 

wakeNbuild
Mar 9, 12 8:14 pm

Wow!  I've got an m.arch.  Good to hear that it is accepted abroad.

I look forward to beginning the search.  

THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR YOU FEEDBACK, JAMES!!!

James PettyJames Petty
Mar 10, 12 3:06 am

yeah with your m.arch you are good to go. there are several ways for people to become "architects" in germany. Many of them study in a Hochschule which is more like a technical community college. Therefore, we are already overly educated and qualify in their system. You can join the Architektenkammer (AIA) but I wouldnt since you only plan to be here 3 years. 

Heres a pretty accurate guide for what you can expect to earn. use google translate to convert the pdf if you dont speak german.

http://www.bak.de/userfiles/bak/daten-fakten/arbeitsmarkt/Gehaltsempfehlung%20ASIA.pdf

Do you know German? I did a few job interviews here over a year ago and got real low-ball offers since I wouldnt be able to communicate with consultants, engineers or clients. I took a class and learned a lot, applied round again a few months ago and got some real offers this time. The language is an issue. Everyone speaks english, but firms outside of Berlin tend to work in German. All the computers will be in German. Just something to think about. 

Also, this forum will answer all of your logistical questions about an american in germany...

toytowngermany.com/

 

wakeNbuild
Mar 11, 12 8:17 pm

I assumed that I needed to learn the language to really 'hit the ground running.'   Thanks for reinforcing this; I'll be focusing more energy on this from here on out.  Thanks!

gabizero
Nov 28, 12 3:56 pm

I have allways been encouraged  reading so many jobs for architects in Germany; I have been  sending my applications (as a UE arch., no international experience, beginner in German language) for 1& 1/2 week and I'll continue; but waiting their possible answers and reading diffrent  discutions on internet (not so many) I'm rather sure now that I won't find a job in Germany. Reading what James wrote, that things in Munich goes well, brings me some hope. Could it really be not so hard to find a job as a foreign architect in Germany now? I'll see this myself oneday, but some of your experience could help me right now. Thanks!

James PettyJames Petty
Nov 28, 12 6:23 pm

Keep in mind that German companies tend to take several weeks to respond once you have sent them a CV or portfolio. My experience is that Germans take their time in hiring new staff to ensure they make the right fit. So don't worry if you don't hear anything after a week or two. Give it some time and good luck.

IamGray
Nov 29, 12 6:38 am

Just to add: What James says is basically true. In the eyes of your employer, with a M.Arch (or a 5 year B.Arch like a former colleague of mine), you will be considered an architect. Interns (Praktikant) are students. This will also suffice for visa purposes, working as a selbständige Arbeiter (free-lancer) etc. but realize that you are really only an architect if you're a member of a Bundesland's (state) Architektenkammer (chamber of architects).  Unless you want to take on projects / enter competitions on your own though, I wouldn't recommend pursuing membership.

Also as James mentioned, there are many ways to get an architecture degree in Germany. You can get attend an art school, a university, or a technical university. These are all pretty much equivalent. Then there's the Fachhochschule. These are more like vocational/trade schools and while many consider the Fachhochschule degree (Msc. FH or Dip.Ing FH) to be inferior to a university degree, be aware that these schools are practice oriented, and many graduating students are actually more employable than their university counterparts. 

Also, your success will vary greatly by location. Bavaria or BW seem to be doing very well, but Berlin is a bit different. There's a steady stream of young international architects and recent grads arriving in the city, which is reflected in the salary. Expect to be low-balled, offered a position as an intern (even if you're finished studying), or to work as a free-lancer (i.e.. you pay all your benefits) but still be expected to work 40+ hours/week on their schedule. 

Jadzia
Nov 29, 12 9:15 am

gabizero, one more addition, although James and Gray  informed you perfectly (except the opinion about Fachhochschule, Gray,  I so do not second that ;-))

Consider to apply somewhere in the middle of Germany. Where nobody wants to go - obviously ...  It seems to me all those cool international students go to Berlin, Munich and Hamburg.

My company used to hire a few month ago and we really had a crappy outcome regarding applications, though we mostly do okay, halfway-decent projects.

Good luck!

gabizero
Nov 29, 12 1:53 pm

All of you are really Great! Thank you very-very much! 

 

I have a 6 year B.Arch at  'Ion Mincu' University of Architecture and Urbanism in Bucharest,  Romania (accredited by the RIBA and the French Ministry of Culture and Communication) and I started working as architect in Bucharest in 2002; bad times for this profession right now here, so I decided to go away (somewhere not so far away from home) rather than trying to survive here.

And you are right, some of those stories about unemployed architects in Germany were from Berlin and frightened me last days; so yesterday I decided (and started) to apply also as an intern or 'Architektin im Praktikum - AIP' (as I understand they are different things) and as 'Bauzeichnerin' (I'm not sure yet if you need some special experience or only using AutoCAD as an architect - as in my case) too. I am sure that not knowing German language well or building codes and legislation well can't help me get a better position at the beginning. And I was also thinking of trying to find a job in Belgium too, but your words make me continue and focus my energy on finding a job in Germany.

 

Maybe you can't imagine, but you made me have a sunny day today, even if for a short time!

sweta sinha
Nov 29, 12 2:37 pm

I am 4th yr student of architecture from India, i want to do my 6 months internship from Germany. I apply in lot many firms but didn't get  any positive response.
Is it very difficult to get internship in Germany?

kr0ll
Aug 30, 13 12:21 am

Sorry to be the downer, but why are you applying to get a job in Germany if you have degree from the states? You cannot apply for a job as 'an architect' unless you pass the German Architectural Standards test.  Unless you are looking to  work for an internship position or entry evel position, I do not suggest to seek work oppertunities in Germany.

archinet
Aug 30, 13 1:19 pm

I have a degree from Canada and am working in Berlin as an 'architect' and that is my title in my contract that was given to me from my office. As for getting licensed in Germany I looked into the topic and emailed the German Chamber of architects and was told that after two years I need to fill out some forms to prove I did stages all the phases of a project, get this signed from my boss and that is it. So kr0ll I am not sure what the big problem is. 

Mike WakefieldMike Wakefield
Sep 2, 13 4:29 am

I started the 'process' of applying to be listed on the ByAK (Bavarian Chamber of Architects) as an architect back in March of this year. I have made more than 4 additional submittals beyond the initial application's required documents. I am now asked to attend an interview meeting in a few weeks for review of my project experience and 'how well I can speak German' before the review committee. For anyone who has actually gone through this application procedure or is considering, this is NOT a walk in the park.

jen harmon
Jun 22, 16 9:44 am

I realize this conversation is a few years old, but I'm currently going through this process. I am looking for work in Germany because my husband (who is a German citizen) was offered a position last year and we are now living in BW. 

Here are some current observations about what I've discovered:

1. Language & Work Visa : HUGELY important issue here. To obtain a work visa you must have a minimum of a B1 Telc Certificate (Zeugnis) or qualified equivalent (DTZ). Or you must demonstrate some level of fluency to your Landesamt representative.The government does provide financial assistance to those who qualify, which is determined by your situation and your case worker. Courses run about 400 euros per month and you'll need to take 6-8 to get to the B1 level. The exams cost roughly 80-130 euros. There's no single clear path to how each person obtains their "blue card"/work allowance. But it is a million times easier than what people go through in the US to obtain their green cards/work permits.

In terms of getting work with your language ability, it completely depends on the firm. Some firms don't really care if you ever speak a word of german. Others who work locally will expect you to be able to communicate verbally and in written form with Craftsmen, Clients and Contractors auf Deutsch. Jadzia had mentioned that your best chances to find a job are in the middle of the country. These are exactly the same areas where people do not speak English well enough to converse or understand. 

I'm lucky to have a native German speaking citizen helping me navigate this process, and its still tricky. I'm currently at month 6.

2. Architektenkammer Mitgleidschaft : Mike Wakefield is absolutely correct, this is NOT a walk in the park. The application is extensive. Be prepared to have signed letters from former supervisors who must be registered architects in good standing (with a date no older than 3 months at the time of your application - this is true for nearly every document you submit to a german agency) that outline your specific responsibilities for every project you touched - think NCARB definitions/categories. I wrote the letters and asked my former supervisors to independently write one paragraph that summarized my performance and personal traits. Describe your specific roles in each project in narrative form. Be aware that you must PROVE that your former supervisors are registered architects in good standing with NCARB and the AIA (if they belong).

You must also obtain a background check that indicates no former convictions or legal violations, no bankruptcies, lawsuits, etc. You need to be squeaky clean. This was difficult for me to obtain and cost quite a lot of money. Don't bother with the internet sites that say they can deliver this document to you in 24 hours. They're all scams and will provide a plethora of inaccurate information. The only legit companies work with firms. I had to ask a former employer if they could order a background check on me. It took a solid month to vet out the inaccurate information. Be warned, this is not easy. 

Expect hostility from the Architektenkammer's lawyers. Their job is to make sure you can 1000% prove that everything you say is legit. They will not accept anything at face value and ask questions that you thought you had already answered or provided evidence/proof of your claims. (this was the same for my driver's license application)

Also, they have not asked me or even mentioned a German Architectural Standards test - so I can't vouch for the validity of that claim by kr0ll.

3. Interviews : German firms (as stated previously) are VERY slow to respond in comparison to an American firm. They like to take their time and are extremely conservative with decision making. The German work culture is risk adverse. With a good interview in the US, you might expect to leave with a signed job offer immediately after your interview, the very same day. That doesn't happen here, they must take a week to think about it, another to meet and discuss with other people, they'll interview other candidates and take another week to discuss, and if they're still truly interested then they'll wait for the right project to emerge that matches your skill sets. Even then they'll most likely start off with a freelance arrangement. 

The reason is German Law requires a 6 month probation time that protects both worker and employer. If you are hired, the firm must guarantee 6 months of gainful employment. And the new employee must in good faith prove their worth to the firm in those 6 months to receive a permanent job offer. They will not make any quick decisions because bad decisions are simply not optional here. They're in no rush to make a decision and that's difficult for Americans who are accustomed to the culture of immediacy. 

- - -

Ich wünche Sie viel Gluck!

AdrianFGA
Jun 23, 16 11:52 am

@gabizero

I'm not sure yet if you need some special experience or only using AutoCAD as an architect - as in my case)

My 2 cents:

From what I know, in Germany they are big on BIM, namely Nemetschek, but also Archicad and Revit. Autocad alone won't take you very far.

Your degree should be accredited in Germany as you come from another EU country, therefore whatever hurdles you might come across should be mostly bureaucratic in nature.

You must learn German very thoroughly. That will be a big bonus, as they tend to appreciate the effort . Goethe Institut is one of the best resources for that purpose.

Ich wuensche Ihnen alles Gute fuer die Zukunft.

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