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Before you e-mail us with an enquiry about the online application system, please check that the answer to your question is not covered below.

Am I eligible to apply for the PhD Program at the DKFZ?

If you would like to know whether you are eligible to apply for the PhD Program at the DKFZ, please check the admission requirements for more information. This section includes information on the university degrees, English language skills and letters of recommendation.

Am I eligible to apply if I have not finished my master's studies yet?

Applicants still studying for their master's degree should anticipate to receive it not later than 6 months after they have been accepted to the PhD program. An exception is the Summer Selection 2024: applicants should complete their studies latest in April 2025. A transcript or provisional certificate from the university, stating the examination marks already obtained, should be provided. During completion of the online application form you will be required to upload a scanned copy of your certificates a PDF file of not more than 5MB.

When should I apply for the PhD Program at the DKFZ?

There are usually two application rounds each year, one in winter and one in summer. The deadlines to apply online are 15 May for the Summer Selection and 15 December for the Winter Selection.

An exception is the year 2025: there will not be a Winter Selection offered in 2024/25 and the application deadline of the Summer Selection will be earlier than usual, on 24 April 2025. We expect to resume the previous application schedule with two selections each year.

You are eligible to apply if you will finish your master's degree and be able to start your PhD within 6 months after you have been accepted to the PhD program. An exception is the Summer Selection 2024: applicants should complete their studies and start their PhD latest in April 2025. It will be fine if you submit your transcript and provide us with your master's certificate after your graduation. In the master's certificate section you should upload a transcript or your master's exams that you have taken to date.

When can I start my PhD?

Candidates who are selected through the Winter Selection should plan to start their PhD between mid-March and the end of October. Those who apply through the Summer Selection should plan to start between the end of August and the end of February (of the next year).

An exception is the Summer Selection 2024: applicants should complete their studies and start their PhD latest in April 2025.

Is there a tuition fee?

There is no tuition fee at the DKFZ and all our PhD students are financed throughout their PhD studies. You will be required to pay university fees of approx. 150 Euro per semester.

Do I have to register with a university?

If you are accepted as a PhD student at the DKFZ, you have to register with a university faculty within the first 6 weeks of starting your PhD. This is essential as your PhD is awarded by the university you registered with, not the DKFZ. Most PhD students at the DKFZ register with the renowned University of Heidelberg. However, you are free to register with any faculty of your choice, including faculties of other universities. The degree you are awarded depends on your area of research and university faculty you registered with.

Can I apply with a medical degree?

With a professional medical degree (M.D.) you are eligible to apply to obtain an academic medical doctoral title (Dr. med). If you already hold an academic doctoral title, then you are overqualified for the PhD program and not eligible to receive a second doctoral title in Germany without completing a further basic study (Bachelor plus Master or equivalent). An application for a postdoc position would then be more appropriate.

What is the language of the PhD program?

The working language of the PhD program and the PhD Program Office is English, as is the language in the laboratories of the DKFZ. As part of the PhD program, PhD students at the DKFZ have the opportunity to attend a wide range of courses and seminars, including German courses, for free.

Do I need proof of my English language skills?

A language test for English is requested for all applicants except those coming from German-speaking countries (Germany, Austria, Switzerland), as well as native English speakers from Australia, Canada, Ireland, UK and USA. If your studies were in English, then please upload a PDF document from your University (or Director of Studies) in which this is stated and select "Degree in English" in the section "Proof of English" in the online application system.

The following proof of English is accepted:

  • TOEFL test with a score of 95+ (internet-based), 240+ (computer-based) or 587+ (paper-based)
  • IELTS certificate with a band score 7.0+
  • Cambridge Certificate in Advanced English (CAE)

If you do not have the official report yet, you can upload a screenshot of your results as a PDF document of not more than 5MB. If you are invited for the interviews taking place in Heidelberg, we expect you to provide us with the official report.

What if I do not have a certificate proving my English ability?

If you are not able to obtain a TOEFL, IELTS or CAE certificate, but have another similar qualification, please upload this instead. If you have no formal proof of your English ability, but your education was in English, then please upload a PDF document from your University (or Director of Studies) in which this is stated.

What information is needed in the section "University courses" in the Online Application System?

In the section "University courses", please list the main topics of the university courses (e.g. "Principles of Molecular Biology") and coursework (e.g. "Lab rotation in the group of XY at University Z") you have already completed. Please do not list every lecture, but rather provide a brief overview. The university courses during your master studies are more important, but if you think your bachelor courses are also of importance for this application, you can list those as well.

Do I need to take a Graduate Record Examination (GRE)?

A Graduate Record Examination (GRE) is considered advantageous for your application but it is not mandatory. If you have a GRE certificate, please scan and upload this to your online application, under the "Documents" section. If you do not have the official report yet, you can upload a screenshot of your results as a PDF document of not more than 5MB.

Do I need a translation of my high school certificate?

You can submit the original high school certificate. Possibly later, if you are offered a position after the selection process, an English translation of the certificate is required to register with a faculty.

Do I have to contact group leaders before sending my application?

Not all group leaders recruit through every selection - those who do recruit upload project proposals to the online application system, which become available to candidates invited for the personal interviews. So it might be an idea to e-mail those you are interested in working with to ask whether they will submit a project proposal for the next selection or not.

When you complete your application it is not necessary to mention which groups you would like to work in, but you could do so in the motivation letter. We recommend that you do not structure this section so that it is only fixed on one group though (in case they do not wish to take a student) but rather keep your options open.

What if I cannot upload my documents to the online system?

Please check that you have saved your file in the correct format. This should be a PDF file. Then you should check that the size of your PDF file does not exceed 5MB.

If your file is in the wrong format or too large, you will have to modify it and then try to upload it again in the new size/format.

What if my referees have not received the e-mail asking them to submit a letter of recommendation?

Please ask your referee to check their spam folder, as the e-mail may have been inadvertently filtered by the receiving server.

If they still do not have the e-mail, please ask them to send their letter of recommendation as a PDF document to the PhD Program Office by e-mail.

Please remember that you DO NOT have to wait for both of your referees to submit their letters of recommendation before you submit your application. Please submit your application early to facilitate a fast review process.

What if I have made a mistake in my online application?

This applies to referee information or if you have already submitted your application.

Please send us an e-mail with the following information:
- Your first name
- Your surname
- Your login e-mail address
- A description of the problem (if the referee address is wrong, be sure to tell us which referee etc.)

If the mistake is not in the referee information OR you have not yet submitted your application, then you should be able to correct the mistake yourself using the "edit" function.

How will my application be evaluated?

Applications are evaluated within five weeks after the deadline. All applicants are informed about the outcome of the evaluation via email at the same time and shortlisted candidates are invited to the panel interviews. Each candidate is asked to participate in two independent online panel interviews, which are reviewed by 3-4 senior scientists of the DKFZ. During these interviews, aspects such as intellectual brightness, creativity, perseverance, independent thinking and the ability to work in a team will be evaluated.

Based on the results of the panel interviews, up to 35 candidates are then invited to the personal interviews and an on-site visit to the DKFZ in Heidelberg, after which the 18 highest ranking candidates who successfully identified a match are offered a PhD Program funded position.

Can I apply for a second time?

If you have previously submitted an online application for the PhD Program and were NOT invited for interviews, then you are eligible to re-apply. You will need to create a new account in the online system and re-submit all your documents, including the letters of recommendation. It is not possible for you to "re-use" a previous application.

If you have previously submitted an online application for the PhD Program and WERE invited for interviews, but were unable to obtain a position, then you are NOT eligible to re-apply through the online application system. Instead, we encourage you to contact PhD supervisors directly. Potential supervisors can receive further information about your previous application by contacting the PhD Program Office.

Can I apply for a PhD position outside the biannual selection rounds?

If you would like to apply for a PhD position outside the selection rounds, we recommend that you get in contact with department heads directly. You can find further information about Research Groups at the DKFZ and contact persons on our website or you can search for specific research topics using the TopicFinder.

If you did not find an answer to your question after checking the list above, please send us an e-mail.

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