Dual Education in Germany

What does "dual education" mean?

Dual education, previously also known as apprenticeships, is available in Germany for hundreds of professions. They range from crafts like Auto Mechanics, Bakers, Chimney Sweepers, Masons, Electricians and Opticians to Tax Accountants, Bankers, Insurance Agents and Hoteliers. This type of education is also available for careers in countless other fields including information technology, telecommunication, farming, marketing, public relations and medicine.

The initial professional education and training occurs in Germany predominantly through this so called "dual" system. The system is called "dual", because the know-how and skills for each specific profession are conveyed to the apprentice at two different learning-locations. Those two locations are

  • A company, business or work place of the employer for the practical education.
  • A related professional trade school for the theoretical education.

Dual education lasts between two and three years. During this period the apprentice will work three or four days every week for the employer and attend a professional trade school in his field for one or two days.

In the formal education contract between an apprentice and an employer, the employer agrees to provide practical experience for the apprentice, and rotate him / her through all important areas and subjects in this particular professional field. At the end of each such 2 to 3 months assignment, the apprentice writes a report explaining and describing in detail the jobs or tasks performed, and what has been learned.

German companies, which employ large numbers of apprentices, like Deutsche Bank, BMW or Siemens, have an organizational structure of apprentice coordinators to assure that the process works as described. However, on the other side a Butcher might have only two assistants of which one is an apprentice.

The professional trade schools complement the practical learning with a profession-specific comprehensive theoretical education. Those schools also convey all around general know-how. For example bakers learn the chemical composition of flour, bankers learn the difference between a mortgage and a loan secured by real estate, and all apprentices learn how the federal, state and local government is organized and how elections work.

There is close cooperation between employers and schools, in that both see the periodic reports written by the apprentice and the report cards received in school. As a result, there is shared responsibility between employers covering the practical aspects, and schools covering the theoretical side for the initial professional education of young people.

In addition, apprentices are exposed at their employer’s business or work place to mature skilled and professional adults, from whom they learn many other character-building qualities such as team work, respect for others, honesty, integrity, social skills and punctuality.