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).

architectder Architekt
auto mechanicder Automechaniker
bakerder Bäcker
bank tellerder Bankangestellte, die Bankangestellte
bricklayer, stone masonder Maurer
  stock broker
  real estate agent/broker
der Makler
  der Börsenmakler
  der Immobilienmakler
bus driverder Busfahrer
computer programerder Programmierer, die Programmiererin
cook, chefder Koch, der Chefkoch
die Köchin, die Chefköchin
doctor, physiciander Arzt, die Ärztin
employee, white-collar workerder Angestellte, die Angestellte
employee, blue-collar workerder Arbeiter, die Arbeiterin
IT workerAngestellte/Angestellter in der Informatik
joiner, cabinetmakerder Tischler
journalistder Journalist
musiciander Musiker
nurseder Krankenpfleger, die Krankenschwester
photographerder Fotograf, die Fotografin
secretaryder Sekretär, die Sekretärin
student, pupil (K-12)*der Schüler, die Schülerin
student (college, univ.)*der Student, die Studentin
taxi driverder Taxifahrer
teacherder Lehrer, die Lehrerin
truck/lorry driverder Lkw-Fahrer
der Fernfahrer/Brummifahrer
waiter - waitressder Kellner - die Kellnerin
worker, laborerder 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 Bankbei der Deutschen Bank
at homezu Hause
at McDonald'sbei McDonald's
at the officeim Büro
in a garage, auto repair shopin einer/in der Autowerkstatt
in a hospitalin einem/im Krankenhaus/Spital
with a big/small companybei 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.

company, firmdie Firma
employerder Arbeitgeber
employment officedas Arbeitsamt (Web link)
interviewdas Interview
job applicationdie Bewerbung
I'm applying for a job.Ich bewerbe mich um eine Stelle/einen Job.
resume, CVder Lebenslauf