VET at higher levels – an attractive option for professional careers?

Verena Schneider, Gunther Spillner, Henrik Schwarz

The amendment of the Vocational Training Act (Berufsbildungsgesetz, BBiG) and of the Crafts and Trades Regulation Code (Handwerksordnung, HwO) in 2020 included the integration of the three level approach for advanced training occupations leading to higher level vocational education and training (VET) qualifications. For each level new standard denominations were introduced, designated as Certified Professional Specialist, Bachelor Professional and Master Professional, also in order to facilitate international connectivity. This article sheds light on the background of the amendment, presents the implementation measures that have taken place so far, and indicates some open issues.


Figure: Advanced training levels for higher level VET pursuant to the BBiG and HwO

Inspired by the “Bologna Process”, the IT continuing training system was created in 2002 as a career concept comprising three cumulative levels. During the development of the German Qualifications Framework (DQR), which gained validity across educational areas in 2013 via a joint declaration by all stakeholders, an intense debate took place with regard to the categorisation of advanced training occupations in relation to higher education. The outcome was that the advanced training occupations were accorded equal alignment with higher education qualifications at DQR reference levels 5 to 7. The IT continuing training system was aligned to the DQR accordingly. An initial formalisation of the three advanced training levels occurred by dint of Recommendation 159 of the BIBB Board1, which specifically sets out the requirements on those three levels including with regard to the alignment to the DQR (cf. Bibb Board 2014).

The provisions contained in § 53 of the Vocational Training Act (BBiG) and § 42 of the Crafts and Trades Regulation Code (HwO), which entered into force with the BBiG amendment in 2020 essentially have their foundations in this Board Recommendation. The amendment enshrined the three levels of higher level VET in law and stipulated separate and standardised titles – Certified Professional Specialist for the first level, Bachelor Professional for the second level and Master Professional for the third level – as well as a minimum number of learning hours for each level (cf. Figure). The uniform and internationally connective qualification titles have been introduced in order to strengthen higher level VET as a brand and to enhance their public perception as an attractive form of provision. The three advanced training levels are mapped against reference levels 5 to 7 of the DQR.

Higher level VET in Germany

The BBiG and the HwO set out three possible ways of governing higher level VET in Germany.

  • The national advanced training regulations (§ 53 BBiG and § 42 HwO)
  • The advanced training examination regulations of the competent bodies (§ 54 BBiG and § 42 f HwO)
  • The master craftsman examination regulations set out as legal ordinances pursuant to § 45 Paragraph 1 and § 51 a Paragraph 2 HwO relating to master craftsman examination requirements in an occupation in Annex A or Annex B to the crafts and Trades Regulation Code

Application of the new qualification titles differs depending on the legal foundation. In the case of advanced training regulations governed by federal law, the new qualification titles will need to be re-enacted. By way of contrast, they may be used automatically – and retrospectively – by master craftsmen in the craft trade sector upon passing the master craftsman examination. With regard to the advanced training examination regulations of the competent bodies, confirmation is required from the supreme federal state authority that the prerequisites for one of the new qualification titles have been fulfilled before it can be awarded. Trade and technical school qualifications governed by federal state law, such as technician and children and youth educators, are also being aligned to higher level VET. The federal states have the option of using the new titles for their qualifications.

Revised and updated national advanced training regulations

Revised to include the new title

  • Bachelor Professional in Accountancy
  • Bachelor Professional in Procurement
  • Master Professional in Business Management pursuant to the BBiG
  • Bachelor Professional in Commercial Management pursuant to the HwO
  • Bachelor Professional in Print
  • Bachelor Professional in Media
  • Master Professional in Restoration in the Craft Trades Sector
  • Bachelor Professional in Event Technology
  • Bachelor Professional in Foreign Trade
  • Bachelor Professional in Energy Industry Management
  • Bachelor Professional in Transport, Management and Logistics
  • Bachelor Professional in Logistics Systems
  • Bachelor Professional in Marketing
  • Bachelor Professional in Audiovisual Media Production


  • Certified Professional Specialist for Foreign Language Communication
  • Certified Professional Specialist for Sales

Implementation measures

In the case of 14 existing national advanced training regulations, it has thus far proved possible to transfer the new qualification titles within the scope of a “minimally invasive” revision (cf. Information Box). “Minimally invasive” means that the technical contents of the ordinances remain largely untouched and that these advanced training qualifications are merely adjusted to the new provisions of the BBiG.

Two advanced training occupations at the first level were also updated via appropriate expert procedures. Further developments include the creation of a “structural model for advanced training regulations” containing sample provisions for future regulations at the second level. In the near future, more advanced training occupations will be revised on the basis of this model, which has not been finally agreed.

Discussion and forecast

It remains to be seen what effects the legal enshrinement of advanced training levels and their qualification titles will have in practice. A number of points and questions should be briefly highlighted within this context.

  • How will the first level of advanced training develop quantitatively and qualitatively?
  • What impact will the new levels of advanced training exert on the number and quality of regulations of the competent bodies pursuant to § 54 BBiG or § 42 f HwO?
  • What effect will the new qualifications have on the recruitment behaviour of companies and on the VET decisions of skilled workers?
  • Will there be an increase in attractiveness compared to academic qualifications?

A number of points remain to be clarified in respect of implementing regulations relating to higher level VET, and one example illustrating this is the question of interlinking the individual stages of advanced training. Although the three levels of advanced training are cumulative, the ways in which they are interlinked are different. Whereas the standard entry requirement for the third level of advanced training leading to the “Master Professional” qualification is completion of a qualification at the second advanced vocational training level, admission to the second level of advanced training usually requires a qualification in a state-recognised training occupation or completion of a qualification at the first advanced training level. The intention is that qualifications at the first level should lead to a qualification at the second level (§ 53 a Paragraph 2 BBiG), but the former are not mandatory for admission to the second level. This results in a crucial loss of attractiveness for the first level of advanced training, which also represents a phase of vocational orientation and trialling for those who complete it rather than merely serving the purpose of “extending and supplementing vocational education and training” and which companies can also use as part of their HR development measures. This could be avoided if the qualification at the first level were to be linked with the second level via the credit transfer of contents. Admittedly the competent bodies are accorded administrative discretion pursuant to § 56 Paragraph 2 BBiG when exempting a candidate from completion of individual components of the examination (at the first level) if these are comparable with examination requirements at the second level. Aside from this option for exemption, the fundamental credit transfer of contents from the first level to the second would be useful and necessary in terms of being able to attractively structure higher level VET within the scope of integrated career concepts. Relevant considerations are currently ongoing with regard to the update of the IT continuing training system (cf. Schneider/Schwarz 2020) and in the case of the preliminary work being undertaken to redesign advanced training qualifications in the metalworking and electrical sector and in industry-related commercial advanced training regulations. There has not yet been any final clarification as to whether interlinking is feasibly both legally and in terms of content.

Another issue of interest is whether the Federal Government can achieve its goal of continuing to develop advanced training into attractive and transparent higher level VET with standardised qualification titles. Within this context, clarification is needed as to whether the new qualification titles both express the autonomy of VET whilst also directly reflecting the equivalence with qualifications on other training pathways (cf. BMBF 2019, p. 45). These questions are part of an evaluation governed by § 105 BBiG, with which BIBB has been commissioned.*

  • 1

    The BIBB Board is the executive body of the Federal Institute for Vocational Education and Training and also the German government's statutory advisory body in fundamental matters regarding vocational education and training. Representatives of employers, trade unions, Germany's federal states and the federal government work together on the Board, with each group having an equal share of votes.

  • *

    www.bibb.de/dienst/dapro/daprodocs/pdf/ at_78226.pdf


Hauptausschuss des BIBB: Eckpunkte zur Struktur und Qualitätssicherung der beruflichen Fortbildung nach Berufsbildungsgesetz (BBiG) und Handwerksordnung (HwO). Empfehlung 159 vom 12. März 2014. URL: www.bibb.de/dokumente/pdf/HA159.pdf

Bundesministerium für Bildung und Forschung (BMBF): Gesetzentwurf der Bundesregierung zur Modernisierung und Stärkung der beruflichen Bildung. o.O. 2019. URL: www.bmbf.de/bmbf/shareddocs/downloads/files/ gesetzentwuf_bundesregierung_bbig_novelle_final.pdf

Schneider, V.; Schwarz, H.: Neuordnung des IT-Weiterbildungssystems: Optionen auf unterschiedlichen Ebenen. In: BWP 49 (2020)1, pp. 52–53. URL: www.bwp-zeitschrift.de/dienst/publikationen/de/16185


Further links

The figure is available for download at www.bwp-zeitschrift.de/dienst/publikationen/en/material/11932.


(All links: status 13/3/2023)

Verena Schneider
Academic researcher at BIBB

Gunther Spillner
Head of Division at BIBB

Henrik Schwarz
Head of Division at BIBB


Translation from the German original (published in BWP 1/2023): Martin Kelsey, GlobalSprachTeam, Berlin