The differences between a grant and a contract

Ph.D. students conducting research at a Max Planck Institute will receive either a grant or a contract for funding that is based on the Collective Wage Agreement for Government Service Workers (TVÖD).

The funding options differ in the following points:

(1) Doctoral grant

The Max Planck Society gives grants to talented junior scientists. They are considered awards for their scientific studies to date. A doctoral grant allows the doctoral student to carry out independent research for his or her thesis at a Max Planck Institute. The doctoral students are not employed by the institute, which means that there are no requirements for attendance, and vacation and travel need not be approved. Furthermore, participation in institute activities is not compulsory. The grant is an “allowance for living costs” and, as such, is not subject to taxes or social security deductions. Students receiving the grant must therefore take out their own health insurance. We also recommend purchasing personal liability insurance. The Max Planck Society group accident insurance covers all grant holders.

Since July 2012 the monthly grant rates consist of a basic amount of 1,365 Euros.

(2) Funding contract

The funding contract for doctoral students is signed directly with the institute. Besides the research conducted as part of the individual doctoral studies, it is also expected that the student devote some of his/her time to work for the institute. Moreover, the student is bound by the directives of the institute: he or she must be present at the institute during certain core hours. Vacation and work trips must be approved by institute management. Half of the average weekly work time is considered “paid work”, which is remunerated at half the wage rate stipulated for category 13 in the Collective Wage Agreement for Government Service Workers (TVÖD). Since doctoral students with funding contracts are considered employees, their remuneration is subject to taxes and social insurance deductions. The institute will pay the employer’s part of health, nursing care and unemployment insurance and pensions; the employee’s part to be paid by the student is deducted automatically from wages. In addition, the student is insured by the institute against work-related accidents and occupational illnesses.

The current wage tables can be found at

(only available in German)


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