Degree in Pharmacy Earned Within Europe

If you have completed your pharmacy education in a member state of the European Union (EU), European Economic Area (EEA) or in Switzerland, the principles of automatic recognition will generally apply to your pharmacy degree. The automatic recognition process is regulated in, Directive 2005/36/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council on the recognition of professional qualifications (Professional Recognition Directive). In Germany, this directive is implemented in the form of the Federal Pharmacists Regulation (BApO).

Automatic Recognition

A degree in pharmacy is recognized automatically if it meets certain minimum requirements defined by the Professional Recognition Directive. One decisive factor is completion of a pharmaceutical training program which lasted at least five years and included both fulltime theoretical and practical education of at least four years at a university or equally-recognized institution as well as an internship of at least six months in a publicly available pharmacy or hospital. The educational program must meet, at a minimum, the requirements set forth in annex V.6.1 of the Professional Recognition Directive.

The certificates listed in the appendix to the Federal Pharmacists Regulation may serve as proof of completion of such an educational program (see § 4 Para. 1a Federal Pharmacists Regulation). The certificate must refer to an education begun following the applicable key date specified. If you have a degree of a different nature, you will be required to provide the competent authorities with proof that the educational program meets the requirements of Art. 44 of the Professional Recognition Directive and corresponds with the certificates as set forth in the annex (see § 4 Abs. 1c Federal Pharmacists Regulation).

Pharmacists who began their education before the Professional Recognition Directive took effect in their member country are not excluded from recognition. The applicable key date can be found in the annex to the Federal Pharmacists Regulation. § 4a Para. 1a of the Federal Pharmacists Regulation states that, automatic recognition occurs if competent authorities issue documentation that the educational program meets the requirements set forth in Art. 44 of the Professional Recognition Directive. If you cannot provide such documentation, automatic recognition is still possible, but you will require documentation that shows that you have legally practiced pharmacy for an uninterrupted period of at least three years within the last five years (see § 4 Para. 1b Federal Pharmacists Regulation). If you are unable to meet these requirements, automatic recognition will not be granted. Instead, an equivalency assessment, like that performed in cases of non-European educations, shall be conducted as set forth in § 4 Para. 2 Federal Pharmacists Regulation.

If you completed your education in a newly admitted EU State (2004 or later) and you originate from a country of another sovereign territory (the Baltic states of the former Soviet Union, the Czech Republic and Slovakia of former Czechoslovakia, Croatia and Slovenia of former Yugoslavia), you are not excluded from automatic recognition. In addition to showing that you have legally worked as a pharmacist for a period of three uninterrupted years within the last five years, you must also provide a nationally-recognized equivalency certificate and proof of occupational competency (see § 4 Para. 1d Federal Pharmacists Regulation). If you are unable to meet these requirements, automatic recognition will not be granted. Instead, an equivalency assessment, like that performed in cases of non-European educations, shall be conducted as set forth in § 4 Para. 2 Federal Pharmacists Regulation.

If you do not meet the requirements for automatic recognition, the competent authorities will check the equivalency of your educational qualifications (see § 4 Para. 2 Federal Pharmacists Regulation). Should the authorities determine substantial differences between your educational qualifications and German programs, and these cannot be compensated for with additionally obtained knowledge or training, a so-called qualifying exam will be conducted (see § 22c License Ordinance for Pharmacists). The qualifying exam allows you to prove that you have the skills and knowledge necessary to practice the pharmacist profession in Germany. The topics of the exam are limited only to the subjects determined to be educational deficits. Additional information is available from the competent authorities at the state level in Germany.

In cases of a temporary performance of services, such as a holiday substitution in a pharmacy, a pharmacist from the EU, the EEA or Switzerland, may work in Germany without applying for approbation beforehand. To do so, you must be legally established as a pharmacist in your country of origin. The temporary and occasional character - in particular, the duration, frequency, regularity and continuity - of the performance of services - shall be determined on a case-by-case basis. You must notify the competent authorities, in written form, prior to beginning professional activity in Germany (see § 11a Para. 2 Federal Pharmacists Regulation) and are subject to German labour law while performing professional services in Germany.

As a European pharmacist, you may apply for a "European Professional Card”. This is not a physical card, but an electronic process which can expedite recognition of your pharmacist education. You may electronically submit the application and necessary documentation to the authorities in your country of origin. They check and confirm the authenticity and validity of your documents before the competent authorities in Germany decide upon recognition of your pharmacist education. It is possible to track the status of your application online.

The SOLVIT network has been established to help people with any problems they have when getting their qualifications and degrees recognised within the European Union and to generally support working, studying and living abroad. All EU citizens experiencing difficulties with authorities because of their nationality are supported and SOLVIT offices have been established in all EU countries. In Germany, the Federal Ministry of Economic Affairs and Energy (Bundesministerium für Wirtschaft und Energie) is the SOLVIT representative. If recognition is denied, the applicant may have the judgment reviewed by the administrative court responsible.

Recognition Procedure

The competent authorities of the individual German states take decisions regarding the recognition of pharmacy degrees as well as the granting of approbation or the permit to temporarily practice the pharmacist profession. Which agency or authorities are responsible depends on where you intend to work within Germany. Accordingly, please refer to the authorities in the state in which you would like to work.

The Service Center for Professional Recognition / Zentrale Servicestelle für Berufsanerkennung (ZSBA) at the Federal Employment Agency also offers a specialist advisory service for skilled professionals living abroad who wish to apply for recognition of their qualifications.The ZSBA will support you throughout the entire recognition procedure including advice on employment opportunities and visa requirements until you receive your licence to practice pharmacy. The services of the ZSBA are free of charge and without obligation.

Here you can find more information about the ZSBA.

When applying for approbation, please begin by filling out the application form. This can normally be downloaded from the internet website of the competent authorities. Before approbation can be granted, additional documents and certification will be required to show that you fulfil all requirements (see § 4 Para. 6 Federal Federal Pharmacists Regulation, § 20 License Ordinance for Pharmacists).

The following documents and supporting items must be provided:

  • official proof of identity,
  • tabular summary of completed training, education and work experience,
  • educational certificates as well as any other certification of professional qualifications,
  • evidence of meaningful work experience and further education (if required),
  • evidence of the right to practice in your country of origin (if required),
  • current doctor's certificate attesting good health,
  • current official certificate of good conduct (Führungszeugnis),
  • declaration stating whether any legal criminal proceedings are open or pending,
  • proof of German language skills.

The competent authorities will inform you of which documents you require and which of these must be translated into German and/or notarized. Processing of your application can begin only after all necessary documents have been submitted.

Varying costs apply during the recognition process, such as:

  • costs for the acquisition of the necessary documents, copies, notarizations and translations,
  • fees charged by the competent authorities during the recognition process,
  • possible expenses for the preparation and/or taking of exams e.g. occupational language exams.

We recommended that you inform yourself concerning expected costs before you begin the actual application process. If you are already living in Germany, you may, in some circumstances, be eligible for financial support from the state. The Federal Employment Agency (Bundesagentur für Arbeit) or “Jobcenter” are generally the best contacts in this matter.

You may also initially apply for a permit allowing you to temporarily practice the pharmacist profession for a period of up to two years (see §§ 11 Federal Pharmacists Regulation, §§ 22a, § 22b License Ordinance for Pharmacists). This permit is granted to persons able to prove completion of pharmacy studies outside of the EU, EEA or Switzerland and may be limited to specific activities and types of occupational positions. This can, for instance, mean that you may limited to working in a specific pharmacy and/or only under the supervision of another pharmacist. The permit does not represent recognition of the degree or qualifications obtained in a foreign country but it also does not prevent you from receiving approbation. During the, generally speaking, two-year period in which you are allowed to practice limited pharmacy duties, you can gain first-hand practical experience while preparing for the language or other assessment exams required of you.

The following links contains general information regarding the recognition process as well as living and working in Germany:

German Language Skills

To receive approbation as a pharmacist, your general and occupational German language skills must be good enough to allow you to practice the pharmacist profession. This means that you can express yourself spontaneously and fluently, that you are able to inform and consult patients, colleagues and other types of medical practitioners and that potential miscommunication is eliminated. You must also be able to understand and process prescriptions without error.

Your occupational German skills can be shown, generally speaking, by completing examinations testing specific language terminology (so-called Fachsprachenprüfung). Prior to taking this test, you will normally need to show general knowledge of B2 level German and provide the corresponding certificate – see Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR or GER). Professional language skills are tested at the GER-C1 level in the occupational language exam which is to be taken in Germany.

This occupational German exam consists of three parts, including:

  • a simulated pharmacist-patient conversation (20 minutes),
  • creation of a typically-occurring, written document related to performance of pharmacy related duties (20 minutes) and
  • a simulated conversation with another pharmacist or a physician, dentist or veterinarian  (20 minutes).

You are not required to prove language skills when initially submitting the application for approbation. It is sufficient to prove these during the process. The occupational language exam has no effect on the process of having your degree and education recognized and pharmaceutical knowledge is not tested as part of this examination.

Further information concerning the occupational language exams can be obtained from the competent authorities, usually the regional chamber of pharmacists (Landesapothekerkammern) at the state level.

A community pharmacy is a good place to prepare for the occupational language exam. Observational work-shadowing is one possible way to improve your occupational German skills. This involves observing a pharmacy team at work, but not actively carrying out pharmaceutical activities. You can observe colleagues consulting patients, become familiar with pharmaceutical packaging, information for medicinal products and literature as well as the general processes and routines involved in working in a German pharmacy. As an observer, you do not belong to the pharmaceutical staff and are therefore not allowed to perform pharmaceutical activities but can use this opportunity to improve your German language skills and learn with colleagues.

Areas of Activity for Pharmacists in Germany

If your pharmacy education has been recognized in Germany and you have received your approbation as a pharmacist, you are allowed to work in various pharmacy-related areas of activity (see § 2 Para. 3 Federal Pharmacists Regulation). Alongside community and hospital pharmacies, you can, for instance, work in the pharmaceutical industry, independent inspection or public health administrative institutions. Other possibilities, such as university or private research facilities and many other areas, are also available. If the performance of certain pharmaceutical activities is tied to additional qualifications - in Germany, for instance, to the functions of a “qualified person” according to § 15 Medicinal Products Act (Arzneimittelgesetz) - you must prove the completion of appropriate additional training or relevant work experience.

The following job and recruitment portals are available and contain information about jobs and positions available to pharmacists. This list is not complete and contains, primarily, positions available in community pharmacies.

Entry into Germany

As a citizen of the EU or the EEA, you are allowed to enter Germany without a visa and have unlimited access to the German labour market. A valid passport or identity card is required for entry. As a citizen of Switzerland, you are also allowed to enter Germany and work without a visa but must, however, apply for a special residency permit (Aufenthaltserlaubnis-Schweiz).