How many doctorates are there

Biology has the highest graduation rate of all subjects


Most doctoral theses in Germany are written in medicine and the natural sciences. In biology, around 90 percent of all master’s graduates also complete a doctorate. This is the result of a current analysis by the CHE Center for University Development.

19.06.2019 Nationwide press release CHE Center for University Development
  • ©

Estimates by the Federal Statistical Office assume around 196,000 people who are currently writing a doctoral thesis in Germany. In 2017, 29,000 people successfully completed their doctorate.

Most doctorates are in medicine and the natural sciences. The front runner in 2015-2017 was medicine with an average of 6,274 dissertations per year, followed by biology (2,498), chemistry (2,000) and physics (1,765).

For an analysis of the doctoral situation in Germany, the CHE calculated how the situation in the individual subjects is concretely presented. For this purpose, both the intensity of the doctorate and the supervision rate for each subject were evaluated.

This showed that the highest rate of doctorates is currently in biology at 86.2 percent. If you put the doctoral degrees in relation to the master’s graduates, almost nine out of ten master’s graduates also achieve a doctorate. Likewise high rates can be found in the subjects chemistry (78.9%), physics (64%) and medicine (63.3%).

The additional title in the subjects of law, business administration or architecture is much less sought after. Despite the high number of doctorates, law can only boast a comparatively low rate of 13.4 percent.

“The results show the different importance of the doctorate in the individual subjects,” says Cort-Denis Hachmeister, explaining the clear differences. "In the classical natural sciences and human medicine in particular, a doctorate still seems to be the unofficial standard qualification," says the data analysis expert at the CHE. In the veterinary and dentistry sectors, on the other hand, the doctorate rate is less than 50 percent.

This is also reflected in the attendance rates in the subjects. Professors in the fields of pharmacy, biology, medicine and chemistry supervise an average of around two doctoral degrees per year. In subjects such as German, English or Romance studies with a high proportion of teacher training students, the professors lead significantly fewer doctoral students each year to a successful degree.

© CHE Center for University Development Click on the graphic for a larger view.

About the publication:
The evaluation deals with the number of successful doctorates in Germany in relation to the number of professors and master's graduates. The data is based on the CHE university ranking and information from the Federal Statistical Office. The author of the CHE publication “In focus: doctorates as an indicator of university performance” is Cort-Denis Hachmeister.

more on the subject