American architect working in Germany

Mar 9 '12 14 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.




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. 

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.  


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.

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...


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!

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.

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. 

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!

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?

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.

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.

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