What is a Hiwi in Germany

Student assistant: tips on salary and responsibilities

A job as a student assistant is very popular with many students. Not everyone receives student loans, their own room has to be paid for and there should be something left to live on. After all, every second student has a job alongside their studies. Not all studio jobs are the same: Payment, content and flexibility are important criteria for many. What are the tasks of a student assistant, what are the advantages of the job and what you have to pay attention to ...

➠ Content: This is what awaits you

➠ Content: This is what awaits you

What is a student assistant?

Often it is not very clear what is meant by student assistant. The term student assistant (SHK) is sometimes used synonymously with academic assistant. Both are often abbreviated as "Hiwi", auxiliary scientist. In addition, jobs in the private sector are also advertised under the term “student assistant”. Even recruitment agencies have now specialized in the placement of students and graduates.

Anyone who works as a student there is, strictly speaking, a working student or has a doctorate job. Even if you work in a company, the content of the job is mostly related to your studies. Nevertheless, the work there is different from a job as a student assistant at a university.

Differences between SHK and Hiwi

There are mainly differences in the official status. These affect pay and social security contributions.

  • SHK
    Anyone who works as a student assistant is a properly enrolled student, but has not yet completed a university degree. However, he already has enough study experience and the most important basic knowledge to be able to support other students in tutorials, for example.
  • HiWi
    Scientific assistants, on the other hand, already have a university degree and essentially take on the same tasks as student assistants.

Students who work as supervisors in the library, administration or technology are referred to as student employees.

The job offers you these advantages

  • You will become more financially independent. The most obvious benefit is the payment. Student life is sometimes not that cheap, especially if you are unlucky enough to live at a coveted university in a big city. The additional income can guarantee a little something extra if the student loan is not enough.
  • You gain practical experience. The university is a place for (sometimes theoretical) teaching, as it mostly prepares students for an academic career. With a job as a student assistant, you can get a taste of the real university world of work outside of the area that is often mocked as an ivory tower. In addition, unlike many other student jobs, this work has a clear relation to studies.
  • You can combine study and job. Your workplace is also your place of study - very practical, because it saves you long journeys. Ideally, you can also do your job as a student assistant in the breaks between two events or vice versa: between two work units you attend a fixed lecture.
  • You gain an insight into the university. From a student's point of view, you already know some areas; now you will become part of your university yourself. In this way, you not only get to know organizational and administrative areas, but also learn what makes lecturers and other university employees tick.
  • You have pleasant working hours. Anyone who takes on a part-time job at the checkout of a supermarket or as a service employee in the catering trade must be prepared for shift work. As a student assistant, you usually have nights and weekends off.
  • You learn about research projects. The course primarily conveys basic knowledge; more detailed specialist knowledge is usually only encountered in the context of larger work. As a student assistant, you will be the first to learn about current research topics. This will help you to develop a more concrete idea of ​​the course content in your subject. You may already have ideas for a thesis.

The most important questions about the job

Below we answer the most important questions for those looking for a job as a student assistant. Due to the scope of the work, the activity amounts to a so-called mini-job. Here you can earn up to 450 euros a month.

Anyone who gets a particularly lucrative paid job must, however, be careful with the exemption limits if he or she receives student loans: If the studies are financed by themselves, there is no subsidy from the state. The basic tax allowance is currently 290 euros. In addition, there are costs for social security and advertising costs that the state grants you, so that you come to 450 euros per month, which you can earn in addition to the student loan - a maximum of 5,400 euros per year. That brings us to the question:

What do student assistants earn?

The salary of a student assistant depends on both the federal state and the respective university. The minimum wage has to be paid anyway. Sometimes the universities are based on the collective bargaining association of German states (TdL). In general, the remuneration is between 10 and 14 euros per hour.

The payment also depends on the previous training. For example, the University of Cologne pays student assistants who have already successfully passed the intermediate examination and are giving a tutorial at 11 euros gross per hour. Anyone who has already completed a degree (for example a bachelor's degree) is considered a research assistant and earns more than student assistants who are still studying. The hourly wage can be around 15 euros.

Employment as a student assistant is not possible after completing the doctorate.

How much can a student assistant work?

Students are not allowed to work more than 20 hours a week. Otherwise the student status will be questioned and the tax levies will be different. These regulations also apply to student assistants. The working hours can vary individually depending on the federal state and the university. The Higher Education Act of the State of North Rhine-Westphalia, Section 46, provides that working hours must be less than half of the regular working hours of a state employee.

Often, however, this upper limit is not reached because a lower weekly working time is agreed in the contract. Six to 19 hours per week are usual for student assistants. There is currently no separate collective agreement for students in employment, as there is no central representation of interests. Exception: Berlin has the TV Stud II for student assistants.

What taxes do you have to pay?

Whether and to what extent taxes are due for student assistants is primarily a question of hourly wages and the scope of work. Many will be in marginal employment. Here are two examples:

Example 1: Up to 450 euros salary

Assuming that the employer - the university - is stingy and pays the minimum wage of currently 9.50 euros for a student assistant in the third semester without a previous degree. Then this comes to an average of 24 hours a month with six working hours a week. Multiplied by the hourly wage, she receives around 224.40 euros and is therefore clearly within the scope of a 450-euro job. In this case, student assistants are exempt from social security contributions; the employer pays a flat rate of 13 percent for health insurance, 15 percent for pension insurance and 2 percent for wage tax, church tax and solidarity surcharge. You can also get exemption from pension insurance.

Example 2: Salary over 450 euros

It looks different, however, if your activity is consistently over 450 euros. Student assistant who receives a higher hourly wage and / or works more than the hours in the example above can easily get over 450 euros a month or 5,400 euros a year. This limit must not be exceeded in order to enjoy the advantages of the 450 euro job. Another limit is the basic tax allowance. For the current year it has been increased from 9,168 euros to 9,408 euros, which means that anything that remains below 9,408 euros per year does not have to be taxed. However, you will have to pay social security contributions - for example, you will then have to take out health insurance as a student as family insurance is no longer sufficient. The exemption from pension insurance is also no longer applicable.

For you this means: the higher your hourly wage, the less you have to (or may) work if you want to remain exempt from social security contributions.

What tasks does a student assistant have?

As a student assistant, you usually work at the chair of a professor. Even if the work sometimes includes undemanding tasks, student assistants work in many ways to support other employees. This can include the following activities:

➠ Copying exams
➠ General office work
➠ Data entry / maintenance of databases
➠ Evaluation of data and research work
➠ Creation of questionnaires
➠ Research support
➠ Proofreading of scientific papers
➠ Help with the preparation and organization of courses

Reference libraries, i.e. the libraries that belong to the respective department, are also staffed with student assistants. This is about registering, lending and returning books. In many areas, the work is directly related to one's own studies, prepares for graduation and a scientific career. It gives students important insights into the practical application of the knowledge they have learned.

How to find a job as a student assistant

There are several ways to get a job as a student assistant:

  1. The simplest is to convince the professor so much that he asks you to collaborate. Unfortunately, this is the exception, which is why you should take matters into your own hands.
  2. For example, speak to your lecturer directly: This shows your interest and commitment. You are more likely to stay in the memory - this can be an advantage later when you already know your lecturer better, for example when discussing exam topics.
  3. You can find out whether vacancies are currently being advertised at your university from information posted in the university, on the Internet, in job exchanges or at the chairs themselves. Here you can also find out what requirements you have to meet, what tasks you have to do and how you feel apply.
  4. If you have a specific request and there is currently no open search for a student assistant, you can of course also send an unsolicited application to the chair where you would like to work. It increases your chances if you have already attended and successfully completed lectures at the chair. This also forms a good basis for a written application to clarify and justify your interest in working as a student assistant.

You need that as SHK

As bitter as it may sound for beginners: You will also need experience to work “only” as a student assistant (as opposed to a research assistant). Some lecturers prefer to use students from the third or fourth semester. The reason: A certain aptitude can be recognized here based on grades. In the case of significantly older semesters, there is, on the other hand, the risk that they cannot be used long enough, even though these are mostly fixed-term contracts anyway.

What else do you need for the job? That depends on the framework conditions of the respective university - for example, whether student assistants can already be used as tutors. In this case, you should have the following skills:

Experience helps in choosing a career

The job as a student assistant can have a positive impact on your professional career. Take the time in advance to find out about the various departments and lecturers. If you are actively involved in the right position, your chances are good to establish contact with employers. You can develop a good reputation for yourself and, after working as a student assistant, gain a foothold in the labor market and realize your professional goals more quickly.

In order to make the right contacts, identify suitable opportunities and seize the right opportunities, you need to clarify for yourself where you want to go. It is not so much about the specific professional orientation - although this naturally plays a role - but rather about the decision between three basic career options:

  • Career in higher education
    This career path is the typical one. If you choose to do so, your focus should be on networking at the educational institution itself and you should actively engage with teachers and lecturers. Positions as student assistants with a certain amount of teaching or tutoring, where you can test and develop your didactic skills, are ideal. Be aware, however, that the positions are often limited to a maximum of two years and / or are dependent on project funds.
  • Career in the scientific field
    If you are flirting with it, then you should seek positions that have to do with specific research projects. In your contacts, focus on active researchers or educators connected to your intended research area. Here, too, graduates often have to reckon with fixed-term employment contracts.
  • Career in the private sector
    A lot of money is especially attractive in the private sector compared to universities. If you are interested, positions with lecturers and professors with good contacts to companies and potential employers are particularly suitable for you. The actual activity as a student assistant will usually have little to do with your later job, but good performance can attract the attention of the project manager and use him to establish contact with companies.

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