An empty wallet

What does a PhD cost in Germany?


So I was wondering what does a PhD actually cost in Germany. When googling the question, you only find offers for ghost-writing, something I would not recommend. No, I wanted to know what my PhD has cost me personally, so let’s do some calculations just for fun! I was actively writing my PhD from November 2018 until December 2021, so that is a time-span of roughly three years.

Study fees

So every semester, I need to pay student fees to be enrolled at my uni. That is 114 Euro for each semester, so 228 Euro every year. For the time of writing my PhD, I paid therefore 684 Euro in student fees. As I do live in another city than where I wrote my PhD, I did not need any public transport. Otherwise these costs would be included in the student fees.


Materials are basically free. I used the library or online resources and never paid for any extra access to specialised magazines or journals. I bought some books though, because not everything was available at my local library. I do not have the receipts anymore, but I estimate, that I spent around 300 Euro a year for books, which amounts to 900 Euro in total.

I also wrote everything digital to not use any paper or ink. I did write on a computer though, which means that for the time of writing, I was using electricity. A quick search on the internet reveals that using a computer 4 hours a day costs about 144 Euro per year, so 432 Euro in total. I used Microsoft Word for writing the dissertation, but I own that software anyway, so this does not count.

Working time

This is something to think about. I treated the PhD as a side job, as I was also employed for half of the week at the University of Cologne. So basically, I used the other half of the week for writing my PhD, a time that I could have used to actually work and make money. I also know, that if you get a scholarship in Germany to write your PhD, this can actually range between 1.100 and 1.600 Euro per month as a full-time job. As working half a week could have earned me roughly the same amount of money, I can estimate, that I missed out on roughly 1.200 Euro a month (taking also taxes in consideration). For a three year period, this would have amounted to 43.200 Euro. Wow!

Printouts and Defence

After finishing to write my PhD, I had to create printouts for the reviewers. The printouts costed me 129 Euro. I also had to travel to Berlin to go to my defence, the only travel cost I have to calculate. The train and the hotel for a night was about 160 Euro. I also invited everyone to a beer after my defence of course, because I was quiet happy about people showing up and giving support. Well, archaeologists like to drink a lot, so this was 185 Euro and actually totally worth the price!


If I count everything together, the PhD cost me something like 45.690 Euro in total or 15.230 Euro a year. I have to admit, that I did not expect that, as the costs naturally did not reflect on my bank account, as most of the money is money I missed out, not money that I paid. Potentially, the PhD will enable me to earn more money in the future, given that I’ll find a job.

I guess compared to other countries where universities are not free, this isn’t even much. Usually, you also have to calculate living costs and everything, but this was not the case with me. What do you think? Would you have expected this result? Did I forgot something important? Let me know in the comments down below!



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Sebastian Hageneuer

Hi! My name is Sebastian. I am an archaeologist, a university lecturer, freelancer, guitarist, karateka and father. You could say I am quiet busy, so I learned to manage my time and energy to build good habits and still have space for myself and my family. Sounds difficult? Read here how I do it. Every Friday.

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