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Explained: The best and worst paid jobs in Germany

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Explained: The best and worst paid jobs in Germany
Specialist doctors earn a high salary in Germany. Photo: DPA
13:16 CEST+02:00
Thinking about changing your career or wondering which states in Germany have the best salaries? Here's the lowdown.

Online careers portal Gehalt.de analyzed a huge amount of data on the salaries of workers in Germany over the course of last year to find out which jobs pay the most — and the least.

As part of the firm’s 2019 Gehaltsatlas (salary atlas), the firm also looked at how the different regions of the country play a role when it comes to an employee's income, and the pay gap between men and women.

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Here are the jobs that made it out on top in this year's study, listed in terms of median gross income per year.

Top 10 best paid jobs

1. Senior physician - €115,317

2. Mergers and acquisitions specialist - €99,635

3. Fund manager - €83,641

4. Medical specialist - €80,722

5. Account manager - €75,671

6. Regional sales manager - €74,528

7. Actuary - €71,042

8. Sales management - €67,699

9. Security trader - €64,784

10. Business developer - €62,551

As is the case in many other countries, some of the highest paid professions in Germany are in the medical and financial industries.

Traditionally, senior doctors have always been well paid in Germany and nowadays they earn about €115,300 a year, according to the research. That's compared to €116,900 last year.

To put this in perspective, kitchen workers in restaurants and hotels — which is the lowest paid job in Germany according to the study — earn over than €90,000 less than senior doctors.

Fund managers take the second spot with a median salary of €83,640, followed by medical specialists who earn a median salary of about €75,670.

The other professions on the list involve the financial, sales and business industries.

According to the study, most top jobs require some sort of a degree, while jobs filled by unskilled workers tend to be on the lower end of the pay scale.

Here are the jobs in Germany with the smallest salaries, listed according to median annual gross income.

Top 10 lowest paid jobs

1. Kitchen worker - €21,907

2. Hairdresser - €23,202

3. Waiter/waitress - €23,619

4. Call centre worker - €25,200

5. Receptionist - €25,372

6. Cashier - €26,572

7. Cook - €27,195

8. Dental assistant - €27,993

9. Carer - €28,002

10. Commercial driver - €28,436

Again, similarly to other countries, most of the lowest paid jobs in Germany belong to the service industry.

Kitchen workers receive a low pay on average in Germany. Photo: DPA

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Large differences in pay across Germany

How much workers earn doesn’t just come down to their profession — it also depends on the state they live in.

Employees in the south of Germany are paid significantly higher salaries than the rest of the country, according to the the Gehaltsatlas (Wage Atlas) which analyzed more than 490,000 pieces of data as part of its research.

This could be down to many factors, including the cost of living in particular regions. 

The highest salaries are paid in Hesse, according to researchers. On average, salaries in the central German state are at €51,435 — that's 14 percent higher than the national average salary of €45,000.

In fact, workers in Hesse can look forward to an average of more than 39 percent more income than an employee in the nor Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, where the average salary is €34,155.

It's mainly thanks to the banking metropolis of Frankfurt and strong pharmaceutical industry that Hesse is in the top position.

Baden-Württemberg is in second place with an average salary level of €48,870, 8.6 percent above the average, followed by Hamburg (€47,655, 5.9 percent above), and then Bavaria (€47,295 and 5.1 percent over).

North Rhine-Westphalia, which has a strong aviation and telecoms industry, is also around the national average, with €45,360. 

The remaining nine federal states are below the national average salary. At the bottom end of the scale are the eastern German states. 

Graphic courtesy of Gehalt.de.

With 94.5 percent, the capital Berlin achieves a high salary level compared to the other eastern federal states. Employees here receive an average income of €42,525. However, the cost of living is also higher here, Philip Bierbach, managing director of gehalt.de, said.

"Berlin's attractiveness is leading to ever higher rents and an increasing number of commuters in the capital," he added.

Hesse top state for young graduates

The study also compares the salaries of young professionals — and here, too, Hesse is the most attractive federal state, again followed by Baden-Württemberg, Hamburg and Bavaria. At the bottom of the table are the eastern states, with Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania lagging behind.

According to the study, university graduates in Hesse receive an average gross annual salary of €52,657 in the first three years of their career. Meanwhile, employees in the state who've completed an apprenticeship or trainee course earn an average of €35,117.

A graduate in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, on the other hand, receives an average salary of €35,057 in his or her first few years in the job, and employees who've completed an Ausbildung (training) earn on average  €23,380 per year.

Pay gap differences

The study took into account a range of factors, including the so-called unadjusted pay gap between men and women (this means that variables were not taken into account), which is currently around 22 percent in favour of men.

Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania scores particularly well in terms of gender equality. At 16.4 percent, the  pay gap is the lowest here – and 2.7 percent lower than in the previous year.

The highest gender pay gap is in Baden-Württemberg, where the salaries of women and men differ by 26.5 percent.

SEE ALSO: In eastern Germany, the gender pay gap favours women

The Bundesrepublik, which will celebrate 30 years of reunification in 2020, is well known for having salary differences between the east and west of the country.

The pay gap is however, shrinking. The gap between east and west is 23.9 percent — but has dropped by 1.3 percentage points compared to 2017.

The average salary in the east is €39,567 and in the west it's €47,320.

The median salaries for Germany. Graphic courtesy of Gehalts.de. 

The east-west divide is also evident within one occupational group: skilled workers. For example, an environmental engineer in the east earns around €39,400, the study shows, while his or her colleagues in the west receive around €54,000 a year.

Stuttgart is top-earning state capital

Compared to all the other state capitals across Germany, Stuttgart fares best when it comes to employee wage levels. The Baden-Württemberg capital's wage levels are around 124.8 percent, meaning salaries are 24.8 percent above the nationwide average.

Trailing closely behind is Munich in second place (124.4 percent). Düsseldorf in North Rhine-Westphalia comes further down in third place (117.7 percent), followed by Wiesbaden in Hesse (115.6 percent),  Mainz in Rhineland-Palatinate (105.1 percent) and Hanover with 103.7 percent.

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The rest of the state capitals were all under the national average.

At the bottom of the list were capitals in eastern Germany. In Schwerin in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, wage levels are 78.3 percent of the nationwide average. Potsdam is in 15th place (84.2 percent) and Erfurt in Thuringia in 14th position, had a similar percentage.

The leading sectors in Germany when it comes to income

If you're curious to know which industries in Germany lend themselves to the highest salaries in the country, among the most attractive nationwide are professions in the pharmaceutical, automotive and banking industries.

In Hesse, the top sectors when it comes to salary levels are jobs in banking, pharmaceuticals, financial services and aviation.

SEE ALSO: Where are the vacant jobs in Germany & which industries are most in demand?

In Bavaria and Baden-Württemberg, professions involving computers and office machines as well as the electronics, investments, aviation and automotive industries fare best when it comes to high income.

Sectors such as pharmaceuticals, telecommunications, process engineering and banking lend themselves well to high-paying jobs in the country's most densely populated state, North Rhine-Westphalia.

Meanwhile in Berlin, the biotechnology, pharmaceuticals, aviation, banking, and environmental sector, including energy and water, offer jobs that are typically well paid.

Across most federal states, on the other hand, the industries that tend to be the worst paid include jobs in retail, tourism, call centres, bars, hotels and restaurants, in the crafts and trades as well as in the social care sector.

Jobs in Germany
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