What is the procedure for applying to a Max Planck institute?
1. I would like to apply as a trainee at a Max Planck institute. What requirements must I fulfil?
The requirements vary widely, dependent on the institute and the position you are applying for. Generally, however, a high-standard school-leaving certificate is expected with good grades in German, mathematics and English. It is also important that you be able to express yourself well both verbally and in writing, and demonstrate motivation, commitment, flexibility and personal as well as team skills. Current job offers.
2. What documents do I need to make a successful application as a trainee?
Please send your application documents including a covering letter, CV, certificates and references to the human resources department at the institute in question. If you are a suitable candidate, you will usually be invited to an introductory interview. In addition, many Max Planck institutes hold orientation days for groups of applicants. The aptitude tests that you will be required to take are designed to demonstrate your general knowledge, logical thinking and concentration skills, as well as your knowledge of mathematics and English.
3. What requirements must I fulfil in order to apply to an International Max Planck Research School (IMPRS)?
If you apply to an International Max Planck Research School, you should have a first-class or above-average Master’s degree or equivalent national qualification. An outstanding written thesis is also an integral requirement for admission. Since most graduate schools are interdisciplinary by nature, almost all IMPRS accept students with a broad scientific background. However, this requirement differs from one Research School to another.
4. What is the procedure for applying to an International Max Planck Research School? What documents do I need?
At the larger Research Schools the application procedure generally begins with online registration. Please take your time: the questionnaire will usually require you to provide detailed information. After you have registered, you will automatically receive an application form. Complete this and return it by e-mail to your IMPRS together with the application documents that are requested. Please note that all electronic documents must be submitted as PDF, .JPG or MS Office files. The application will not be complete until the IMPRS coordinators have received all of your documents plus two standardised letters of recommendation from your tutors/supervisors.
5. Do I need to prove my knowledge of English?
It is not always obligatory to prove your knowledge of English. However, it can be helpful if you include specific proofs together with your application. Ideally you will have passed an official English test such as the
- TOEFL-Test (Test of English as a Foreign Language),
- the Cambridge Proficiency Certificate or the
- IELTS-Test (International English Language Testing System)
Alternatively you may submit confirmation from your university that you have spent a prolonged period in an English-speaking country or that your knowledge of English is adequate to enable you to follow educational events without difficulty. What’s more, your letter explaining your reasons for applying to an IMPRS must be written in English. The application interviews are also conducted in English. Given that all teaching takes place in English, you will be expected to read, write and speak English fluently.
6. What can I do if my certificates are not issued in good time by my university?
It is not usually a major problem if you are unable to submit your certificates before the application closing date. Just send them in at a later time. You might perhaps ask your university to send us a brief note confirming that you are currently enrolled as a student. Alternatively, you may enclose certified copies of previous examinations with your application. Please indicate in your covering letter when you expect to receive your official documents.
7. In which language must the letters of recommendation be written?
All letters of recommendation must be in English.
8. Are there specific application deadlines for the International Max Planck Research Schools?
The application deadlines vary from one IMPRS to another. For details, please check the website of the Research School you wish to apply to: this is the deadline by which all your documents must be complete and in our possession. If you miss the application deadline, you will unfortunately not be considered for the coming program.
9. What happens after I apply to an International Max Planck Research School?
All complete applications are submitted to a selection committee that examines and assesses them and invites the best candidates to an interview. Candidates who live abroad will generally be interviewed by telephone. You will normally learn whether or not you have been successful a week after the interview.
10. How do I apply for a post-doc position at a Max Planck institute?
Many Max Planck institutes regularly offer post-doc positions, whether in connection with Max Planck Research Groups or outside of – centrally funded – programmes. Vacancies are published in specialist journals, on the institute websites and on the Max Planck Society (current job offers).
Applications are generally made online. You will usually be asked to provide a covering letter, CV, certificates, a brief description of your research interests and references from up to three scientific supervisors. Selected candidates will then be invited to a personal or telephone interview, or may be given the chance to present themselves and their research projects at a symposium. The final decision is made by a selection committee at the Max Planck institute in question.
11. How do I apply for a post as Leader of a Max Planck Research Group?
Applicants who have completed their doctorate and have already held one or two post-doc positions and who would now like to concentrate on scientific topics of their own can apply to lead a Max Planck Research Group. Priority is given to junior scientists who have innovative ideas with the potential for development.
Since the positions are always advertised publicly, you may only apply for the advertised posts. There are two different modalities:
- Institute-specific calls for applications: Invitations are issued throughout the year to apply for institute-specific positions. These posts are geared to an area of research in which the institute is primarily engaged, and are advertised in the relevant journals and generally also on the website of the Max Planck institute in question.
- Central calls for applications: Central calls for applications are normally published once per year in the autumn on the following web page: https://www.mprg.mpg.de. They are also advertised in scientific journals and the associated Internet platforms. These positions are not tied to predetermined scientific subjects. Applicants can specify their own interests and their preferred Max Planck Institute. You will find detailed information on the selection procedure in the following FAQ page.
12. Is there an age limit for applicants?
No, although the calls for applications are clearly aimed at junior scientists. Preference is given to those who have received their doctorates a maximum of seven years previously, or in the case of medicine, not more than nine years previously. If you exceed these limits, you should include a detailed description of why you nevertheless consider yourself suitable for the program.
13. How are the Max Planck Research Groups resourced?
That is dependent on the area of research. However, since the Research Group Leaders are competing with other research institutions worldwide, the programs offered are internationally competitive with resources available for personnel, start-up capital and annual operating costs.
The salaries are comparable with those of junior and assistant professors, or associate professors in the USA. The overall funding equates to the level of first-class international start-up or career development programs. Research Groups Leaders also enjoy a high degree of individual flexibility and can allocate their approved funds at their own discretion as required.
14. What are the career prospects for Leaders of Max Planck Research Groups?
The posts for leading a Max Planck Research Group are typically limited to a five-year term, though there is often an option to extend this period. The prospect of permanent employment can be offered in selected cases only, either during the selection procedure or at a later date. In the past, however, when their term of office comes to an end, the overwhelming majority of scientists have gone on to become professors at a German or international university. Many Research Group Leaders have also subsequently been appointed as Directors at a Max Planck institute.
15. Is a (completed) qualification as a professor regarded as sufficient grounds for not considering an application?
No, a professorial qualification is not essential in order to lead a MPRG, nor is it a disadvantage. Max Planck Research Group Leaders often qualify as professors at a university in the vicinity. Please bear in mind that the Max Planck Society itself is not entitled to award such qualifications.
16. Can I apply to other research organisations at the same time as applying to the Max Planck Society?
Yes, although we would be grateful if you would inform us of such applications.
17. Is it possible to apply for an MPRGL post at a Max Planck institute where one is already employed?
While this procedure is not recommended – on career development grounds – it is permissible. There can be good reasons to choose a specific Max Planck institute as the optimum location for future research projects. Such cases are assessed carefully and individually.
18. Can an application or letter of recommendation be submitted on paper?
No, this is unfortunately not possible. Only those applications that are entered in electronic form in the MPS database can be considered and evaluated. This rule also applies to letters of recommendation.
19. Why are certain Max Planck institutes excluded from central calls for application for Max Planck Research Group Leaders?
Not all Max Planck institutes have sufficient space to adequately accommodate a Max Planck Research Group. Many institutes have already accepted one or more Groups, and are therefore unable for the foreseeable future to make further premises available. Nevertheless, if you would prefer one of these institutes, please contact the responsible MPI Directors. Sometimes solutions can still be found.
20. Must the application and the letter of recommendation be submitted in English?
Yes, because the selection committees that decide on the applications are composed of an international membership, applications and letters of recommendation can only be accepted in English.
21. What publication status can or must I have achieved in order to apply to lead a Max Planck Research Group?
As a matter of principle, publications will only be considered provided that they have already appeared or are in press. Manuscripts that have thus far not been submitted for publication must be clearly identified as such.
22. Do you recommend that applicants should contact their preferred Max Planck Institutes in person before making an official application?
Yes, most certainly. This will enable both the institute and you to identify areas of common interest. It is also a good way to find out whether an institute would generally be interested in providing you with accommodation and resources, in the event that you should be chosen by the selection committee.
23. May my former PhD supervisor – or a Director at a Max Planck institute to which I would like to apply – write a letter of recommendation?
24. How is the selection committee for Max Planck Research Group Leaders composed?
The Max Planck Society is divided into three Sections: The Biology and Medicine Section, the Chemistry, Physics and Technology Section and the Human Sciences Section. Each Section has its own selection committee which is composed of Max Planck Directors and external, generally international experts. As a matter of principle the committee is chaired by the Vice President of the Section. This body is responsible both for selecting the preliminary choice of applicants and for the final decision which is taken after a selection symposium in which all of the shortlisted applicants take part.