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All About HiWi

Author: Farish Huned Kagalwala

Date: 17th January, 2016

Little or no tuition fees and availability of part time jobs along with studies is a reason many
students choose Germany for their further studies. Students are allowed to work 120 days
per year with a maximum of 20 hours per week during the semester and full time during
semester breaks (within this 120 day limit). It is also possible to take up more than one job.

But doing a part time job just to earn money is boring! One who works as HiWi
(Hilfswissenschaftler) at a university institute, a research center or at a company
experiences more and at the same time polishes his CV. Even if the tasks are not
completely related to a job you would later apply for, it is a way to show dedication and
motivation1.

What is a HiWi and what does a HiWi do?


A HiWi is someone who supports research and teaching and the administrative work
involved in it at a German university2. The tasks vary according to the area of the institute.
A student assistant may work as a tutor or in a lab. Often, they support scientists in their
research projects, review their articles or books etc. This way students stay in touch with
topics related to their studies and get a chance to learn and work on the tools and skills
required for jobs afterwards. Some basic skills are required to get a student assistant job
and these also depend on the area. For electrical engineering and computer science,
mostly programming skills are required. But one doesnt have to be an expert. A student
assistant position gives you chances to learn new things and to further develop existing
skills. For students in other departments, other skills might be required. If you intend to
work part time to support yourself during your studies in Germany, its a good idea to get in
touch with students studying in the same field and ask them about the skills required and
availability of such jobs at the university you intend to join.

Another related term is Werkstudent. The difference between HiWi and Werkstudent is
fuzzy but usually a student working at a company is referred to as a Werkstudent and one
working the university as HiWi.

Types of HiWi
At the university, there are three categories of HiWi positions and the pay rate also varies
for each category:

i) Studentische Hilfskrfte
This is for those students who are currently enrolled at a German university but
do not hold any degree
ii) Wissenschaftliche Hilfskrfte (Bachelor)
This is for students who have a Bachelors degree from a Universitt or
Fachhochschule3, 4 or an equivalent degree from abroad. From my personal
experience, not all Pakistani students who got a HiWi got this category. Some
were offered category (i) and some category (ii) depending on the
institute/department. The acceptance of your degree as equivalent to German
degree is the condition depending on which this decision is made.
iii) Wissenschaftliche Hilfskrfte (Master)
This category is for those who already hold a Masters degree from a Universitt
or Fachhochschule and is the highest paid of the three categories.

During studies, one can get a contract for categories (i) and (ii). Other than HiWi at a
university institute, one can get a Werkstudent contract with a company or research
institute. This is usually paid higher but offers less flexibility.

How does one find such positions?


HiWi positions are often advertised on university notice boards or on the websites of
university institutes and companies. Sometimes, professors get in touch with students who
have positively impressed them. Active participation in seminar, for example, can help you
get a job. Networking with other students may also help you get information about open
positions.

Advantages of HiWi
At the university, people usually give consideration if you have exams and more flexibility
in working hours (e.g. working in the evenings or on weekends). One other great
advantage of working at the university is that these days do not count towards the 120-day
yearly limit and one can work more than 120 days also. This is usually mentioned in the
conditions for your student residence permit. Working anywhere else, you are restricted by
the 120-day rule unless you manage to obtain a special permission from the foreigners
office (Auslnderbehrde).

People in HR often pay particular attention to the jobs and activities in which applicants
were involved in before or during studies. Hardly anyone at HR would take much interest
in a part time job as a waiter. Odd jobs are physically taxing and the experience is mostly
useless.

Another advantage is networking with other students and scientists working in that area
which is very important for a career in research later. But also those who do not intend to
take up research should definitely consider doing a HiWi. When one has worked as a tutor
and has taken up some responsibility, its always a plus point in the CV. This could make
the small difference in job hunt which gets one candidate the job offer. 1

Requirements for HiWi Contract


There are some documents required without which one cannot get a HiWi/Werkstudent
contract (in general for any kind of work). If you intend to work, you should get all the
required documents ready as soon as possible after your arrival in Germany. Following are
some (not all) of the required documents. A full list of requirements will be given to you by
the secretary of the institute.

i) Health insurance (Krankenversicherung)


ii) Enrollment certificate (Immatrikulationsbescheinigung)
iii) Residence permit as soon as you have enrolled yourself at the university,
apply for the residence permit. It might take more than a month to receive your
residence permit card (eletronische Aufenthaltstitel).
iv) Sozialversicherungsausweis usually one receives this card by post within the
first couple of months. If you havent received it or you want to get it quickly,
request your health insurance (Krankenversicherung). They will send a request
for it to be sent to you.
v) Tax identification number this you can get from the tax office (Finanzamt) in
your city.

How much can one earn as a HiWi?


Since January 2015, there has been a change in laws and the minimum per hour
salary (Mindestlohn) is 8.50. In case of HiWi, the per hour salary is already above this
minimum and ranges from 9.30 to 12. At companies, it may be as high as 15 or
more per hour. Working 20 hours per week (maximum allowed during the semester),
one can get around 750-950 per month. But this is the gross income! Continue
reading below to find out more.

Income Tax and Social Security Deductions


How much income tax (Lohnsteuer) you pay depends on your income and your tax
class (Steuerklasse). Tax class depends on your marital status and children. For a
single person without kids, tax class I (eins) is used for the first job. If you work two jobs
at a time, tax class VI (sechs) will be used for your other job. Income in this tax class
will be taxed heavily so you should use the class VI for the job where you earn lesser.
Whether you pay income tax at all depends on your yearly income. If your total gross
income is less than 8472 (for 2015 and for single persons) 5, then you dont pay any
income tax. This is true for most HiWi jobs. If in some months, you work full time, then
there might be income tax deductions but still if your annual gross income stays under
this limit, you can file a tax declaration (Lohnsteuererklrung) the next year at the
Finanzamt and you will get back the income tax deducted (but not the Sozialabgaben
explained below).

Germany is a welfare state. The funds for sustaining this system are taken from the
income of working people. All earning members of the society contribute to this system
and HiWis are no exception. So other than income tax, there are also social security
deductions from your income.
Social security contributions (Sozialabgaben) include pension (Rentenversicherung or
RV), unemployment insurance (Arbeitslsenversicherung or AV), nursing care
insurance (Pflegeversichrung or PV) and health insurance (Krankenversicherung or
KV). From these four, only Rentenversicherung (RV) is deducted from HiWi income.
Student health insurance you pay separately yourself. RV is 18.7% - half of which is
paid by the employer and half is deducted from the salary of the employee. So from
your gross income, you will have a deduction of close to 9.4%.

People working in the states which belonged to former West Germany, pay an
additional tax called Solidarittszuschlag which is used for the development of the
states belonging to former East Germany. This is currently 5.5% of the gross income.

In case you earn less than 450 per month (called Minijob), there is no income tax
deduction. RV is still compulsory but the part paid by employee is only 3.7% and the
rest 15% is paid by the employer6.

Notes: The information contained in this document is based on the knowledge


obtained by the author from the various sources linked in this document as well as the
authors own experiences. If in doubt, always refer to official sources e.g. university or
government websites. The document has been written in January 2016 and the values
mentioned also relate to this point in time and may change later.