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EACEA National Policies Platform


3. Employment & Entrepreneurship

3.4 Career guidance and counselling

Last update: 28 November 2023
On this page
  1. Career guidance and counselling services
  2. Funding
  3. Quality assurance

Career guidance and counselling services

Germany has a wide range of labour market policy instruments that offer young people career guidance and counselling. They also serve the recommendations of the EU Youth Guarantee, which is well advanced in Germany. All young people can and should make use of career guidance and counselling services. Special counselling and career guidance services are available for especially disadvantaged persons who neither attend school, nor have a training place or are in an employment measure, as well as young refugees and young people with disabilities and special educational needs.}

Main providers and partnerships

The employment agencies play a central role in advising young people on career directions and choices. Career guidance and counselling activities are legal services anchored in Book 3 of the Social Code (SGB III). Careers advisers at employment agencies advise children from all school types as well as trainees, students and university graduates. Career counselling already takes place at schools as a group service for entire school classes and on a one-to-one basis.

Young people can seek out information themselves at the job information centres (Berufsinformationszentren, BIZ) run by the employment agencies. They offer personal counselling for under-25-year-olds. Some centres also offer an online chat service. The agencies also organise events (talks, fairs, information events), where young people can find out about career opportunities

Online counselling services

The Federal Employment Agency (Bundesagentur für Arbeit, BA) and Federal Ministry of Education and Research (Bundesministerium für Bildung und Forschung, BMBF) provide online career counselling services:

  • Schule, Ausbildung und Studium (school, apprenticeship and studies) – a BA website that posts a wide range of information on vocational training and university study with links to additional advisory services.
  • – A BA website on topics relating to career choice, applications and training. For lower-level secondary school pupils aged 13 to 17 years.
  • – A BA website on university study, vocational training and careers after gaining an Abitur university entrance qualification.
  • – A video portal provided by BA with over 300 short films on apprenticed professions and study careers.
  • Studienabbruch – und dann? (Dropped out – what now?) – A website offered by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research with information for students who are questioning their choices on training options both within and outside universities as well as information and support services for students who want to change their course of study, drop out of university and enter vocational training.

Federal government initiatives and campaigns

The Educational Chains Initiative (Initiative Bildungsketten) is a joint project by the Federal Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs (Bundesministerium für Arbeit und Soziales, BMAS) and the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (Bundesministerium für Bildung und Forschung, BMBF). Young people are supported on their journey to employment. The aim is to guide all young people who are ready and old enough to start an apprenticeship, ideally through to the successful completion of their training. Various promotional tools are available across Germany: analysis of potential, career guidance, mentoring the transition into work, voluntary coaching (the VerA initiative to reduce the apprenticeship drop-out risk) and schemes for the transition from school to work. Agreements were signed with the federal states and renewed in January 2021. The Vocational Orientation Programme (Berufsorientierungsprogramm) has been part of the Educational Chains Initiative (Bildungsketten Initiative) since 2008. This programme is mainly for pupils in years 7 and 8. They can test their strengths using a potential analysis tool and then try out different occupational fields on workshop days. Between 2008 and summer 2022, the programme had reached over 1.7 million school children.

Girls' Day (girls-day) and Boys' Day (boys-day) are nationwide career orientation days for girls and boys in year 5 and above. Since the project was launched in 2001, over 2.1 million girls have taken part in around 160,000 Girls' Day activities. Since 2011, over 334,500 boys have participated in almost 58,000 Boys' Day activities. The Girls' and Boys' Days had to be cancelled in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and in 2021, the Girls' Day took place mainly in an online format.

Career guidance initiatives in the federal states (Länder)

On federal state level, various initiatives are in place to coordinate career guidance activities and school-to-work transitions by improving cooperation between schools, employment agencies, job centres and youth service providers. They are supported by the federal government and the Federal Employment Agency (Bundesagentur für Arbeit). Here are some examples:

  • North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW) has run an initiative called no school-leaving certificate without future prospects (Kein Abschluss ohne Anschluss, KAoA) since 2012, specifically supporting young people transitioning from school to work. From year 8, school pupils in NRW receive a systematic range of services that include analyses of their potential, introductions to occupational fields and traineeships, which are documented in a portfolio and supported by a counselling process. This integrated system of career guidance is in place in schools throughout NRW.
  • In Hamburg, a career and study guidance programme (Berufs- und Studienorientierung, BOSO) takes place from year 8 and is carried out in cooperation with vocational schools and non-school partners.
  • The federal state of Hesse developed OLOV as a strategy to optimise local placement efforts during the school-to-work transition phase. Its aim is to guarantee the quality of processes during this period so that young people transition into work without making detours, dropping out of programmes or waiting for long periods. At federal state level, all institutions responsible for the school-to-work transition work together.
  • Choosing the right career at an early stage (BRAFO – Berufswahl richtig angehen frühzeitig orientieren) is a joint initiative in Saxony-Anhalt and the regional directorate for Saxony-Anhalt/Thuringia of the Federal Employment Agency (Regionaldirektion Sachsen-Anhalt/Thüringen der Bundesagentur für Arbeit). It promotes early career choices among year 7 and 8 students at secondary schools, comprehensives and schools for children with learning difficulties in Saxony-Anhalt.
  • "SCHAU REIN! – Die Woche der offenen Unternehmen" is Saxony's largest initiative for hands-on career orientation. It encourages pupils in year 7 and above to choose their preferred occupation and is an opportunity for them to meet face to face with apprentices and employees.
  • The career orientation project BOGEN in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania develops and designs models for gender-reflected career and university degree guidance that go beyond the Girls' Day and Boys' Day events in the state.


The responsible ministries at federal and regional level provide funding for career guidance and counselling. Funds from the European Social Fund (ESF) are also used. The amounts spent by the federal ministries and federal states (Länder) vary. For example, between 2008 and December 2021, BMBF approved grants totalling around 700 million euros.

BMBF's Report on Vocational Education and Training 2022 contains an overview of funding provided by the federal government in Chapter 3 "Overview of federal government training and labour market policy activities and programmes".

A useful overview of funding initiatives at federal (national), Länder (state) and EU level for career guidance, career preparation, vocational training, transitions and additional training is available in the database of the Office for Transitions to Training and Employment (Fachstelle Übergänge in Ausbildung und Beruf (überaus). It currently contains data records on more than 300 funding programmes. Additional information is available in the following sections of the Youth Wiki chapter on Employment & Entrepreneurship:

Quality assurance

There is no universally valid quality assurance system in place for career guidance and counselling services in Germany. Instead, the respective funding agencies have set up specific quality assurance systems for their programmes with independent evaluation and monitoring systems.

The Federal Employment Agency (Bundesagentur für Arbeit, BA) sets binding targets for its work and the support programmes it finances, and it monitors programmes. Section 29 ff of Book 3 of the Social Code on employment promotion (SGB III) describes the basic principles of counselling, including career guidance and labour market counselling, which apply to the employment agencies. The Federal Employment Agency also guarantees uniform quality standards and processes in its instructions, which are published in the customer portal. The BA has set a series of standards for career counselling for young people under 25, for example in the form of specialised concepts and guidelines.

The BA careers service guides young people throughout the process of choosing a career. It helps them to identify their strengths, provides information on careers and apprenticeship opportunities, and assists them in getting access to the career they want. The service is low-threshold, neutral, unbiased, gender-sensitive, appropriate to the target groups and their needs, accounts for each case individually, and is results-oriented. The methods applied are based on the BA's counselling concept.

Twice a year, the BA centre for customer and employee surveys (Zentrum für Kunden- und Mitarbeiterbefragungen der Bundesagentur für Arbeit) carries out surveys among under-25 year-olds who have used the counselling services provided by employment agencies. The results are analysed and given to employment agencies to help them improve their services.

BA also supports external quality assurance systems, such as the career choice seal of approval (Berufswahlsiegel). The scheme helps to ensure that quality in schools is improved continually. It is awarded to schools with excellent career and study guidance programmes.

For the vocational orientation programme of the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (Bundesministerium für Bildung und Forschung), quality standards have been defined for carrying out analyses of potential among pupils in years 7 and 8.

Section 14 of the Framework Act for Higher Education (Hochschulrahmengesetz) requires higher education establishments to inform students and prospective students about the study courses available and the content, structure and demands of a degree. The Act also stipulates that higher education establishments must support students throughout their entire studies by offering professional advisory services. Universities are required to cooperate with the bodies responsible for career counselling when providing student advisory services.