German for Beginners: Occupations (Beruf)

Job and Career Conversation in German

Woman having coffee with friends in cafe
Friendly conversation. Luis Alvarez/Getty Images

Discussing your profession in German requires a new list of vocabulary. Whether your job is as an architect, a doctor, a taxi driver, or if you're still a student, there are many occupational words to learn in German.

You can begin with the simple question, "Was sind Sie von Beruf?" This means, "What’s your occupation?" There's so much more to learn and this lesson will give you plenty of new study words and phrases pertaining to your career.

A Cultural Note on Asking About Other's Work

It's very common for English-speakers to ask a new acquaintance about their profession. It's small talk and a nice way to introduce yourself. However, Germans are less likely to do this.

While some Germans may not mind, others may consider it an invasion of their personal sphere. This is something you'll just have to play by ear as you meet new people, but it's always good to keep in mind.

A Note About German Grammar

When you say "I'm a student" or "he's an architect" in German, you normally leave out the "a" or "an". You will say instead "ich bin Student(in)" or "er ist Architekt" (no "ein" or "eine").

Only if an adjective is added do you use the "ein/eine." For instance, "er ist ein guter Student" (he is a good student) and "sie ist eine neue Architektin" (she is a new architect).

Common Professions (Berufe)

In the following chart, you will find a list of common occupations. It's important to note that all professions in German have both a feminine and a masculine form

We have listed the feminine form only in cases when it is not simply the standard -in ending (as in der Arzt and die Ärztin) or when there is also a difference in English (as in waiter and waitress). You will find the feminine for jobs that are more likely to be feminine (such as a nurse or secretary) and in cases when the German feminine form is very common (as in student).

English Deutsch
architect der Architekt
auto mechanic der Automechaniker
baker der Bäcker
bank teller der Bankangestellte, die Bankangestellte
bricklayer, stone mason der Maurer
broker
stock broker
real estate agent/broker
der Makler
der Börsenmakler
der Immobilienmakler
bus driver der Busfahrer
computer programer der Programmierer, die Programmiererin
cook, chef der Koch, der Chefkoch
die Köchin, die Chefköchin
doctor, physician der Arzt, die Ärztin
employee, white-collar worker der Angestellte, die Angestellte
employee, blue-collar worker der Arbeiter, die Arbeiterin
IT worker Angestellte/Angestellter in der Informatik
joiner, cabinetmaker der Tischler
journalist der Journalist
musician der Musiker
nurse der Krankenpfleger, die Krankenschwester
photographer der Fotograf, die Fotografin
secretary der Sekretär, die Sekretärin
student, pupil (K-12)* der Schüler, die Schülerin
student (college, univ.)* der Student, die Studentin
taxi driver der Taxifahrer
teacher der Lehrer, die Lehrerin
truck/lorry driver der Lkw-Fahrer
der Fernfahrer/Brummifahrer
waiter - waitress der Kellner - die Kellnerin
worker, laborer der Arbeiter

*Note that German makes a distinction between a school student/pupil and a college-level student.

Questions and Answers (Fragen und Antworten)

Having a conversation about work often involves a number of questions and answers. Studying these common job-related inquiries is a good way to ensure you understand what's being asked and know how to respond.

Q: What's your occupation?
Q: What do you do for a living?
A: I'm a...
F: Was sind Sie von Beruf?
F: Was machen Sie beruflich?
A: Ich bin...
Q: What's your occupation?
A: I'm in insurance.
A: I work at a bank.
A: I work at a bookstore.
F: Was machen Sie beruflich?
A: Ich bin in der Versicherungbranche.
A: Ich arbeite bei einer Bank.
A: Ich arbeite bei einer Buchhandlung.
Q: What does he/she do for a living?
A: He/She runs a small business.
F: Was macht er/sie beruflich?
A: Er/Sie führt einen kleinen Betrieb.
Q: What does an auto mechanic do?
A: He repairs cars.
F: Was macht ein Automechaniker?
A: Er repariert Autos.
Q: Where do you work?
A: At McDonald's.
F: Wo arbeiten Sie?
A: Bei McDonald's.
Q: Where does a nurse work?
A: In a hospital.
F: Wo arbeitet eine Krankenschwester?
A: Im Krankenhaus/im Spital.
Q: At which company does he work?
A: He's with DaimlerChrysler.
F: Bei welcher Firma arbeitet er?
A: Er ist bei DaimlerChrysler.

Where Do You Work?

The question, "Wo arbeiten Sie?" means "Where do you work?" Your reply may be one of the following.

at Deutsche Bank bei der Deutschen Bank
at home zu Hause
at McDonald's bei McDonald's
at the office im Büro
in a garage, auto repair shop in einer/in der Autowerkstatt
in a hospital in einem/im Krankenhaus/Spital
with a big/small company bei einem großen/kleinen Unternehmen

Applying for a Position

"Applying for a position" in German is the phrase "sich um eine Stelle bewerben." You will find the following words helpful in that particular process.

English Deutsch
company, firm die Firma
employer der Arbeitgeber
employment office das Arbeitsamt (Web link)
interview das Interview
job application die Bewerbung
I'm applying for a job. Ich bewerbe mich um eine Stelle/einen Job.
resume, CV der Lebenslauf