, plural: Beamte
) means civil servant
, and is pronounced bəˈʔamtɐ with a glottal stop
between the 'e' and the 'a'. This English translation may be ambiguous, as German law
puts public employees into two classes, namely ordinary employees (Angestellte
) and Beamte.
The original idea was that whoever represents the state by doing official duties (hoheitliche Aufgaben), such as issuing official documents or making official decisions, should have a special kind of employment with the state.
Today, such functions are often executed by non-Beamte, which means that the position of Beamte is distinguished by the supposed advantages that it confers, such the salary, a special health plan (the Beihilfe
, which covers half of many of the expenses, the other part being the responsibility of the Beamter himself), an index-linked pension of (at most) 71.5% of the last salary, paid directly by the state instead of the usual public (also state-run) pension insurance, and most importantly, the virtual impossibility of losing one's job (basically, the state may only terminate employment in cases of very serious misdemeanours). Compared to other employees, civil servants 'only' have to pay taxes (even, when they are retired, up to their death, and afterwards their widows and orphans too, as long as they receive state-provision) and regularly 50% of their private health insurance for life (after retirement at the age of 65 - in the future it will be 67 - they get 70%). Every child has to be insured individually up to a maximum age of 25 (e.g. if at university). If not. this provision ends earlier, since regular job training lasts only 2 1/2 - 3 years after leaving school.
One notable disadvantage is that Beamte, unlike all other public or private employees, lack the right to strike
. Furthermore, the salary and working week are defined by law and not by negotiations between employers and unions
. As a result, the usual working week for public employees is 38.5 hours whereas for Beamte it is 40 to 42 hours. In 2004, holiday pay was cut to zero and the Christmas bonus by 40%. In some federal states the so-called Christmas bonus was abolished in 2002, for example Saxony-Anhalt.
Becoming a Beamter
One does not become a Beamter by signing a contract, but rather by receiving a diploma of appointment ("Ernennungsurkunde"); the new Beamter's first task is to swear an oath to uphold the federal constitution (Grundgesetz
) and that of the federal state in case he or she is employed by it and not by federal agencies.
The three steps in becoming a German Beamter:
- 1. For each applicant, regardless of which career they choose (cf. below: Lower, Middle, Upper and Higher Service), there is a rule that they cannot officially be instated or installed Beamter unless they have completed their preparing time/"Vorbereitungsdienst" lasting one to three years and which is completed by several oral and written exams and a written work. These trainees usually have the title "Anwärter" which is preceded by the official term of their position (in due course called PT; NOT their academic title) they are probably going to hold after completing their preparation service, e.g. Regierungssekretärsanwärter (RSA) or Kriminalkommissaranwärter (KKA). The trainee officials of the Higher Service are called "Referendare", e.g. Studienreferendar for a trainee teacher. They get a special salary for preparees. The length of this first step depends on the respective career. Usually, the preparation service lasts one to three years.
- 2. The preparation or training time is followed by a probation phasis during which the newly installed government official is on probation (Beamter auf Probe/zur Anstellung). This period usually lasts three to five years. Their salaries are already based on the Salary Grade according to which they are going to be paid when having achieved a lifelong employment (tenure). They usually have their respective terms of office preceding the abbreviation "z.A." which means "to be employed", e.g. Regierungsinspektor z. A. Again there is an exception with regard to the Higher Service, since these may be called Räte z. A. (e.g. Studienrat z. A., Regierungsrat z. A.), the last ones of which seem to be, nonetheless, an antique expression dating back as far as the early origins of Prussian administration and is therefore rarely seen nowadays.
- 3. The official becomes a Beamter auf Lebenszeit and thus has the status of an official civil servant of the respective employer/Dienstherr.
Mind that whether an applicant undergoes Step 1, 2, or 3, they are nevertheless always Beamte, although first in preparation, then on probation and then fully employed.
Areas in which Beamte work
The status of Beamter is enjoyed by the staff of public authorities and civil services, but also by policemen, soldiers and officers, most teachers and other professionals, and by holders of political offices such as mayors, ministers, etc. However, for holders of political offices the status of Beamter is not permanent and is only applicable for their period in office. Also, German teachers are regularly "Beamte", but not in the former East Germany (with a few exceptions).
Formerly, this status used to be bestowed more liberally, and as it cannot be taken away there are still many Beamte amongst older people working at post offices (Deutsche Post), the railway (Deutsche Bundesbahn), the Deutsche Telekom and the public utility companies, etc. The staff of an average local authority in Germany is split into one-third who are Beamte, mostly in higher administrative positions, and two-thirds who are ordinary employees working as service people or elsewhere. The police are virtually 99.9% Beamte.
Privatizations and reductions of established posts reduced the number of civil servants: Since 1991 the number of civil servants in the public service in Germany has been reduced by 1.4 million to c. 3.9 million. This means, that the reunited Germany has today less civil servants than the old Federal Republic of Germany before (January 2007 is up to speed).
All Beamte are paid according to the Bundesbesoldungsgesetz (Federal Pay Act), regardless of where they are employed (Federal Government, 16 federal states, communities or even Churches). This has now changed. The 16 federal countries now have the option to vary salaries, depending on whether they are "rich" or "poor" ("Rich" states are Bavaria, Baden-Wuerttemberg or Hesse, and "poor" ones include most of the eastern states, such as Saxony-Anhalt, Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania and Berlin). This is the so-called "North-South divide" in Germany. However, the Federal Government still keeps a close eye on the respective "Landesbesoldungsgesetze", as they may only differ up to 5% compared to the Federal Salary Scheme. Furthermore, it must be noted that no Land has so far taken up the offer to make any serious alternations with regard to the payment of their civil servants. Exception: Beamte in the new Länder just will get 100% of the Western salaries in 2008.
The term "Beamtentum" (~officialdom) is known even in the English-speaking world. In Germany, state employees have permanent tenure, i.e. they cannot normally be dismissed, receive some so-called social security privileges and usually get more money than others - besides, they are exempt from all other expenses such as pensionary insurances or unemployment insurance schemes. Dismissal is possible for lengthy illness, i.e. three months within half a year. Then it is possible to dismiss the Beamter during the probation period. After the probation period he can be retired and given a pension on the basis of the years of service., e.g. for 25 years of service the figure is 44.84 per cent minus 3.6 per cent for each year remaining until the normal retiring age. The maximum for these deductions is 10.8 per cent of the last salary. If it is advantageous, he or she receives a minimum pension, which is 65 percent of Besoldungsgruppe A 4 BBesG (On 01/01/2003 : 1,174.81 EUR pre-tax, less deductions for taxation and contributions to private medical insurance). Mind that another "privilege" is the fact that the employer is required to care for the health and wealthiness of each of its civil servants, be they retired or not.
In former East Germany, most teachers are not Beamte, except for headmasters and some specialists (lecturer teaching career at schools providing vocational education and at grammar schools).
Compared to other employees, civil servants 'only' have to pay taxes (even, when they are retired, up to his or her death and afterwards her or his widow and orphans too, so long as they get state-provision) and regularly 50 (after retirement at the age of 65 - in future at the age of 67 - 70%) per cent of their private health insurance up to his or her death. Every child must be insured indiviually maximally up to their 25th year (e.g. if studying, if not, then earlier, regularly apprenticeship will take 2 1/2 - 3 years).
"Normal" employees, workers etc. also have to pay money to the retirement office, the full health insurance and get a subsidy for this over c. 50 percent from the state, out-of-work insurance schemes etc. They currently have to pay quite moderate amounts of taxes after their retirement, before 2003 no taxes. This has now changed and will have to be endured for the upcoming twenty-six years. After the retirement the employee does not have to pay health insurance and taxes.
In total it is not possible to compare the retirement benefits and the salaries of Beamte and employees since they are completely different systems. There are certain "parameters" one has to consider.
Pay Rise has been thorroughly discussed in politics. There have been no further augmentations of basic salaries since the last increase of approx. 5%, taken on via three steps from 2003-04, which, in German history, is quite unusual. The Federal Ministry of the Interior, who is responsible now by only for federal civil servants and their salaries, has so far not gone into negotiation with representatives, although he claimed that the first aim of the current government is to consolidate the budget of the state. The ministers of the 16 feral states decides now when and about the raise of theit Beamte and the retired ones. The 16 federal countries now have the option to vary salaries, depending on whether they are "rich" or "poor" ("Rich" states are Bavaria, Baden-Wuerttemberg, North Rhine Westphalia or Hesse, and "poor" ones include most of the eastern states, such as Saxony-Anhalt, Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania and Berlin). This is the so-called "North-South divide" in Germany.
Professional names/terms of office
Lower service (rare)
- A2: Oberamtsgehilfe
- A3: Hauptamtsgehilfe
- A4: Amtsmeister
- A5: Oberamtsmeister
- A6: Oberamtsmeister
- A6: Sekretär
- A7: Meister, Obersekretär
- A8: Obermeister, Hauptsekretär, e.g. Brandobermeister (fire fighter), Polizeiobermeister (policeman)
- A9: Hauptmeister, Amtsinspektor
- A9+AZ:Amtsinspektor mit Amtszulage
- A9: Inspektor, f.e. Regierungsinspektor
- A10: Oberinspektor
- A11: Amtmann, Amtfrau, formerly Amtmännin (in one board still possible)
- A12: Amtsrat
- A13: Oberamtsrat
Upper service at the police (police officer)
- A9: Kommissar, f.e. Kriminalkommissar or Polizeikommissar
- A10: Oberkommissar
- A11: Hauptkommissar
- A12: Hauptkommissar
- A13: Erster Hauptkommissar, f.e. Erster Kriminal- or Polizeihauptkommissar
- A13: Rat, e.g.: Studienrat, Medizinalrat, Baurat, Bibliotheksrat, Verwaltungsrat, Regierungsrat
- A14: Oberrat, e.g. Akademischer Oberrat, Chemieoberrat, Biologieoberrat, Oberregierungsrat
- A15: Direktor, e.g. Polizeidirektor, Kriminaldirektor, Psychologiedirektor, Pharmaziedirektor,
- A16: Leitender Direktor, e.g. Leitender Finanzdirektor, Leitender Medizinaldirektor, Ministerialrat, Oberstudiendirektor
Annotation: The asterisk* signals that there are two possible ways of PTs, i.e. either Oberregierungsrat or Regierungsoberrat, which do not differ from one another, although the latter is now preferred in some regions, whereas the former remains a more "classical" option.
- B1: Direktor
- B2: Ministerialrat (Ministerial ~ counsellor/Counsellor [councillorBE, councilorAE] to the Ministry)
- B3: Botschafter
- B4: Leitender Ministerialrat (~ Senior C. M.)
- B5: Ministerialdirigent
- B6: Botschafter Erster Klasse
- B7: Präsident größerer Bundesämter
- B8: Regierungspräsident
- B9: Ministerialdirektor (~Senior Undersecretary of State), Bürgermeister (Lord Mayor)
- B10: Direktor des Deutschen Bundestages (president of 1st parliamentary chamber)
- B11: Staatssekretär (state secretary; as Beamter*)
Annotation: The asterisk* signals that each Ministry have at least a Beamter-Staatssekretär and a parliamentary secretary of state, the last one is not a Beamter, in their employ, the last one of which gets slightly lower wages and has different duties. A regularly installed state secretary is the senior representative of a Minister.
- Bundesminister: 1 1/3 x B11 (federal ministers)
- Bundeskanzler: 1 2/3 x B11 (federal chancellor)
- Bundespräsident: 1 5/6 x B11 (federal president)
Annotation:The last three "groups" are not Beamte, according to the definition one refers to.
- W1: Juniorprofessor
- W2: Professor
- W3: Professor (as a director of an institute or holder of a Chair)
- C1: Wissenschaftlicher/Künstlerischer Assistant
- C2: Wissenschaftlicher/Künstlerischer Oberassistent
- C3: Professor (Extraordinarius)
- C4: Professor (Ordinarius; Lehrstuhlinhaber -rare-)
(concerning schemes C and W, please see below)
- R1: Amtsrichter, Staatsanwalt - Amtsrichter not a Beamter -
- R2: Oberamtsrichter, Oberstaatsanwalt - Oberamtsrichter not a Beamter -
- R3: Leitender Oberstaatsanwalt R3
- R4: Leitender Oberstaatsanwalt R4
- R5: Generalstaatsanwalt
- R6: Bundesanwalt
- R7: Abteilungsleiter bei der Bundesanwaltschaft
- R8: Vorsitzender Richter - not a Beamter -
- R9: Generalbundesanwalt
- R10: Präsident(en) der Bundesgerichte - not (a) Beamte(r) -
Annotation: Salary Orders B,C,W and R all belong to the Higher Service; the B-offices follow the ones of order A. Salary Order B is somewhat complicated due to the following principle:
- B2, B3, B4, B5 (B5->Ministerialdirigent/MDg at state ministries), B7 (MDg at federal ministries), B8, B11 are used at ministries and comparable institutions in chronological order
- The remaining classes are used in other institutions (Bundesämter).
Some titles can roughly be compared to offices held by British or other civil servants.
|| Office name/term
|| Examples (Abbr. only for internal usage)
|| Civil service career law
|| Lower service
|| Oberamtsmeister Erster Klasse
|| Regierungssekretär (RS)
|| Middle Service
|| Meister, Obersekretär
|| Polizeimeister (PM) |
|| Obermeister, Hauptsekretär
|| Regierungshauptsekretär (RHS) |
|| Hauptmeister, Amtsinspektor
|| Brandhauptmeister (BHM) |
|| Amtsinspektor mit Amtszulage
|| Regierungsamtsinpektor (RAI) |
|| Inspektor, Kommissar
|| Upper service
|| Oberinspektor, Oberkommissar
|| Zolloberinspektor (ZOI) |
|| Amtmann, Hauptkommissar
|| Regierungsamtsmann (RA) |
|| Amtsrat, Hauptkommissar A12
|| Kriminalhauptkommissar (KHK) |
|| Oberamtsrat, Erster Hauptkommissar
|| Regierungsoberamtsrat (ROAR) |
|| Regierungsrat (RR)
|| Higher Service
|| Regierungsoberrat (ROR) |
|| Kriminaldirektor (KD) |
|| Leitender Direktor, Oberdirektor, Ministerialrat)
|| Leitender Regierungsdirektor (LRD/LtdRD) |
Federal Office Oath on the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Germany
- German original, only valid for Beamte of federal and federal state agencies:
Ich schwöre, das Grundgesetz für die Bundesrepublik Deutschland und alle in der Bundesrepublik geltenden Gesetze zu wahren und meine Amtspflichten gewissenhaft zu erfüllen.The oath can be sworn both with or without the religious annotation: So wahr mir Gott helfe at the end.
I promise herewith to uphold and stick to the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Germany and all other laws valid within its territory and to fulfil my duties with all my might.
The oath can be sworn both with or without the religious annotation: So wahr mir Gott helfe:'so help me God!' at the end.
Beamte, Richter und Soldaten
Although officially not having the status of Beamte, Richter (judges
) and Soldaten (soldiers
) have similar rights and duties as "ordinary" Beamte. For one thing, they are also paid according to the Bundesbesoldungsgesetz
(soldiers according to Orders A and B and judges according to Order R, like public prosecutors (The last ones are, nevertheless, Beamte, the soldiers and judges not). Furthermore, they practically cannot be dismissed and have the same financial income. Soldiers and judges are also expected to swear an oath on the Constitution (cf. below).
A question often arising is why judges are not Beamte, which used to be the case until the mid-50's. Until then, judges were paid according to Order A as well and usually had the titles "Justiz-" or "Gerichtsrat". One ought not to forget that officials represent the executive branch of government - and judges are independent from the state, they only depend on the law. - Another problem continually arising while judges were still Beamte were not only the repeated interruptions made by federal offices; Beamte have a duty to obey direct orders from a superior - fatal with regard to an independent justice system, which can only be maintained as long as its workers are independent. Judges nowadays are given the freedom they need, guaranteeing a just and respectful justice system.
A popular and notorious example of officialdom: teachers
Keep in mind that the teachers are only a very little part of the 'Beamte' and is not of representative value
The teachers' salaries always depend on the country they are working for. Typical prejudices heard all over the world are that US-teachers are quite badly-paid, at least primary school teachers with an average of 20 000 $.
Britain and a lot of other Commonwealth States pay their teachers a bit better (approx. 30 000 $).
However, the countries where teachers get most are Germany, Switzerland and South Korea.
- South Korea: Salaries go from 25 000 $ up to 60 000 $ (mind: GDP/person: 12 000 $)
- Switzerland: Salaries go from 42 000 $ up to 74 000 $ (mind: GDP/person: 50 000 $)
- Germany: Salaries range from a minimum of 46 000 $ to 135 000 $ (before taxation and contributions to private medical insurance) and according to the office, career and age of service held by the respective official. Only headmasters of grammar schools can attain such a wealthy amount of money. German teachers are usually "Beamte" of the Upper or Higher Service. Teachers are Beamte of the 16 federal states that require a university graduation comparable to a BA, BSc. or other. Grammar school teachers need an MA, MSc. or comparable university diploma.
There are three different types of secondary schools:
- Germany: Salaries range from a minimum of 46 000 $ to 135 000 $ (before taxation and contributions to private medical insurance) and according to the office, career and age of service held by the respective official. Only headmasters of grammar schools can attain such an amount of money. German teachers are usually "Beamte" of the Upper or Higher Service. Teachers are Beamte of the 16 federal states that require a university graduation comparable to a BA, BSc. or other. Grammar school teachers need a (at least two) MA, MSc. or comparable university diploma.
- Realschule or Sekundarschule (This is different in the 16 federal states) - is of course not the same as the Grund- and Hauptschule and has a higher level indeed, although depending on the responsible state serving as employer, teachers start according to BBesGr. A12 BBesO (e.g. NRW) or A13 (e.g. Bavaria, a "rich" federal state). The teachers of the Grund- and Hauptschule (1st up to the 4th class) start according to A 11 BBesO.
- Gymnasium - Gymnasien (not English gymnasium, but rather lyceum or grammar school, respectively) prepare the students for the Abitur, after which they can attend a university.
Gymnasium-teachers as Beamte of the Higher Service seem to be the best paid. They usually have a degree called "Staatsexamen", which must be compared to an MA in two subjects (e.g. Maths and Biology) this means that they have a Master degree in at least two subjects, more are possible.
After the first "Staatsexamen", the trainee teachers have to do some practical training for two years, which they are going to finish with their second "Staatsexamen".
Then, they are "Beamte zur Anstellung", i.e. they are not permanently employed yet. Until their real Verbeamtung, they have to wait another three years.
Then, they become permanent Beamte. The teachers of the Gymnnasium insofar don't reach the highest supply-percentage abouth 71.75 because they need 40 years of service.
- The first step (A 13, BBesO) is Studienrat (abbrev.: StR) or Studienrätin (StRin).
- The second step (A 14, BBesO) is Oberstudienrat (OStR) or Oberstudienrätin (OStRin)
- The third step (A 15, BBesO) is Studiendirektor (StD) or Studiendirektorin (StDin), they can be headmaster or -mistress of smaller schools (dependent on the number of students),
- The fourth and last step (A 16, BBesO) is Oberstudiendirektor (OStD), i.e. headmaster or -mistress of great schools (dependent on the number of students).
Higher posts can be attained at the resp. ministries (thus, there are very rare positions), where the Beamte are paid according to Salary Order B (also BBesO).
[A reasonable translation for Oberstudienrat could be: Higher/Superior Educational Counsellor (Counsellor for Studies/of Education); all officials of the Higher Service have these titles, e.g. Verwaltungsrat (Administrative Council, Kriminalrat, ...; cf. below and above).
The description about reductions of established posts concerns the number of teachers (Beamte) too, so that in Germany the average age of the teachers is very high, originating from the high denatality in Germany. Many teachers have to enter earlier retirement ten to five years before their actual pension age of now 67 years. Recent figures, however, show a reverse trend, especially in North Rhine Westphalia (see above).
The diplomatic Service
The diplomatic service/Auswärtiger Dienst
is naturally also based on "officialdom", including most privileges like permanent employment. Furthermore, diplomats do not have to pay taxes or other debts to the state, they get a foreign bonus (c. 2000 to 5000 $; further bonuses for the families are not yet included in this assumption) and they are jurisdictionally immune in foreign countries.
Internationally, titles have been introduced in order to compare the offices several different members of the respective embassies and other institutions hold. These titles are not considered PTs/Amtsbezeichnungen
since they are only used outside one's home country and do not offer a complete comparability with regard to diplomats from other countries. In internal documents, these diplomates use their terms of office.
The following table depicts salary grades, titles and PTs of German diplomats and an internationally acknowledged translation. Please note that the below PTs differ from the "normal" ones since they are older expressions introduced in Germany several centuries previously to the introduction of the later Prussian PTs.
- (Lower Diplomatic Service)
- Middle Diplomatic Service
- Upper Diplomatic Service
- Higher Diplomatic Service
- A13: Zweiter Sekretär / Legationsrat. Second Secretary.
- A14: Erster Sekretär / Legationsrat Erster Klasse. First Secretary
- A15: Botschaftsrat / Vortragender Legationsrat.
- A16: Botschaftsrat Erster Klasse / Vortragender Legationsrat Erster Klasse (VLRI)
- B3: Botschafter / Ambassador.
- B6: Botschafter / Ambassador.
- B6: Ministerialdirigent.
- B9: Ministerialdirektor.
- B11: Staatssekretär.
- B11x1/1/2: Minister für Auswärtige Angelegenheiten (Not a Beamter, see above).
B6(2) - B11 are not used except in the Foreign Office or Auswärtiges Amt, respectively. Whether an Ambassador is paid according to salary class B3 or B6 depends on how many employees work for the respective embassy (cf. "big" institutions in Washington D.C. or Tokyo to smaller ones in Ulan bataar or elsewhere).
There are several different Besoldungsordnungen: A (for most Beamte and soldiers), B (for ministry officials), C (for university professors and lecturers; has been replaced by W), R (for public prosecuters and all judges) and W for university lecturers and professors.
The salaries in order A are organized in steps, i.e. the longer a Beamter has worked, the better he or she is paid. The different groups reach from A2 to A 16 (A1 was outlawed in the 1970s). A2 to A5/6 belong to the Lower Service
, A 6 to A 9 to the Middle Service
, A 9 to A 13 to the Upper Service
and A 13 to A 16 to the Higher Service
. The other orders, B, C, R and W, also belong to the Higher Service. The German law (civil service career law) speaks abouth Laufbahnprinzip
, an adequate translation of which might be career principle
, i.e. the concept of being placed into a certain service (lower, middle, upper, higher) according to one's academic education:
- Beamte of the Middle Service are required to have passed their Realschulabschluss, which can roughly be compared to an GCSE O-level examination or the American high school diploma, preferably with further experiences.
- To be made a Beamter of the Upper Service, all applicants need their Abitur (comparable to British A-levels or American undergraduate studies, respectively) and after their finishing school had to go a college owned by the different offices and institutions. Since 1974 they have been sent to study at an University of applied sciences in administration for six semesters, leading to a graduation (comparable BA hon. (diploma)). Since 2001 it has been possible to all Beamte and applicants to/of the Upper Service (do not confuse with the Higher Service, which requires still more experiences etc.) to study 4 semesters more at an official University and finish with the "Master of Public Administration" (MPA) or "Master of Laws" (LL.M)and to begin in the Higher Service. Which seems to makes this "Laufbahn" or career so 'attractive' to young A-level-possessors that they are already preparing Beamte and are thus paid a beginner's salary. Regularly they begin their "career" not before arriving the 30th - 35th age of life, some receive a doctor's degree for example.
- Applicants for the Higher Service regurlarly need a MA, MSc. or a comparable university degree (at least two).
Although formally distinguished, the technical careers and non-technical careers no not actually differ from one another.
Beamte in other countries and in the European Union public authorities
Despite the similarity with HM Civil Service of the UK, it differs hugely.
Another country whose entire administrative structure is based on an officialdom comparable to that of Germany is Austria
, where Beamte even often have the same titles (cf. "Rat"/~councillor). Most cantons and the federal government of Switzerland have abolished their officialdom. France and the Netherlands are also countries traditionally administered by Beamte.
According to the respective salary schemes, the European officials (European Union public authorities in Bruessel, Strassburg, Wien etc.) are the best-paid ones, not the German.