In order to graduate from your bachelor or master studies in Germany, you will probably need to write a thesis in your last semester. Having a thesis semester was not something that I was familiar with. I did my bachelor degree in Hong Kong, where we did not have a thesis semester. When I did my master degree in Germany, I had many questions relating to the thesis semester. In this post, I will explain to you what a thesis semester is and provide some tips about writing your thesis at a company.
What is thesis semester?
Thesis semester is very typical in German universities. It is normally the last semester before your graduation. By the end of your last semester, you need to submit an academic thesis called Abschlussarbeit in German. You need to find a topic that is approved by your professor, write a thesis and present it in the end. The length of your thesis depends on your department’s requirement. To give you an idea, my master thesis was around 60 pages long. A thesis is a formal document. You need to write with formal wording, and quote your sources for whatever you state in the content.
There are three ways to do your thesis. The first way is to write a thesis by yourself. An advantage is that you are quite flexible with your location. You can write it at home, or even in another country, as long as you can submit your thesis in the end. The second way is to write at the university with a topic from a professor. If you are in a technical field, your professor may have some topics on hand that you are free to choose from. In that case, you need to work with your professor to understand his expectations and requirements for the specific thesis topics.
The third way to do your thesis is to write it with a company. Some companies are looking for thesis students to help them to investigate certain topics that are of their business interest. In this case, you need to write your thesis at the company. It is like you work for this company. You get a contract for a fixed period of time and you write your thesis in the office. In the end, you have to hand in your thesis to both the company and your professor.
Why do companies hire students to write theses?
There are different reasons for that:
To research on a topic
Sometimes, companies want to get more knowledge on a certain topic. A hypothetical example: the government is planning to change the law relating to foreign investment in 2 years. The company wants to know how this law will affect their investment strategy.
Since the regular employees may not have time to do this research, the company may want to hire a student who is fully dedicated to this task. The student needs to collect all information on this new law, and investigates how this law would affect the company and what the company can do about it. It is like a consultation that the company can use for their decision making in the future.
To develop a tool
Companies want to achieve some process improvement. An example: the employees have a tedious task that they need to do daily. They need to pull all the data from system A and put into system B and do some daily analysis with this data. It is a manual process that requires a lot of copy and paste. The company wants to automate this process so that it can save time for the employees.
In this case, the company may want to hire a student to look at how this process can be improved. A tool can be developed by the students which automates this process. This can be a creation of a Macro tool or using one of the existing systems tools in the company. The student needs to develop the tool, explains in the thesis what the tool does and how it helps the company. The company can benefit from the thesis as they get a tool now which helps to improve their process.
To find potential employees
Similar to hiring interns, hiring thesis students is a way to find potential good employees. It is kind of like a probation period. The thesis students work for a few months in the company. This gives a chance for the company to see how the students perform and if they are suitable to work permanently in the company. See also this post about tips to boost your chances of getting hired.
Why should you write your thesis with a company?
For me personally, I prefer to write a thesis with a company. There are some advantages relating to it:
You may get some money for it
As a student, I was living on a very tight budget. If you write your thesis for a company, you may be able to get some compensation (though not all companies will pay). For example, I got about 2000 EUR for writing my thesis. I spent around 6 months to write it. So, it was really not a lot of money. But it helped already and it was better than nothing. Check out this post as well for other ways to earn money in Germany as a student.
Writing for a company is more practical
When you write your thesis with a company, it is like you are working in this company. You work on your thesis in the office, you need to work with different people in the company, and your thesis has a business context. In my opinion, it is more practical as it relates to real life business, rather than just a student work with theory.
Interaction with other people
Writing thesis with a company is like having a full-time job in the company. You have a supervisor in the company who guides you on the topic and you need to work with other employees to collect the necessary information. In my opinion, this is more interesting than if I have to write my thesis at home on my own.
Exposure to the company’s management
After finishing your thesis, it is likely that you need to present the result to the company’s management. This is a good chance for you to practice your presentation skills in a real business setting. And it is your show time on all the hard work you put in for this thesis semester.
Future job opportunities
As mentioned before, some companies hire thesis students in order to find potential good employees. If you write a good thesis, you will have a chance to get hired after your graduation. You have an advantage since you already work in the company for a while and make some connections there. See this post about how I got my job offer after my thesis.
Besides, your thesis experience in a company will also make your CV looks good. You can request the company to give you a reference letter for future job search.
How to find thesis opportunities with companies?
Basically, it is the same process as when you are looking for a permanent job. Here are some of the ways:
You can find thesis offers in different job portals or directly on the career page of the companies’ websites. If you are curious about the compensation that you may get, check out my post about salary in Germany. Below are some of the portals that I used:
It is quite common that some companies participate in job fairs to advertise their companies and find potential employees. These job fairs sometimes take place in universities. Each company has its own booth and it is a great chance for students to ask any questions relating to the companies and job positions. You can also ask around in the job fairs for any thesis opportunities.
Through an internship
I had an internship semester right before my thesis semester. During my internship, I made connection with different people in the company and asked about any thesis opportunities. I had an advantage since I knew the people and had some understanding of the business already through my internship. And this was how I got my thesis contract afterward.
How to generate a thesis topic by yourself in a company?
Let’s say you are doing an internship in a company now and you would like to write a thesis for this company afterward. How easy it is to get a thesis topic in the company depends a lot on your field. For example, if you study in a technical field like engineering, the company may have some thesis topics available already that you can just pick from.
However, if you are in a general business field like me, there may not be as many topics available in the company. What if you really want to write a thesis in the company, but they tell you that they have no thesis topic available?
Instead of waiting for the company to give you a topic, it is better to be proactive and suggest a topic by yourself. Think of a topic and suggest this to the company to see if they are interested. At least this was what I did. Below are some tips on how you can generate a topic for the company:
Research online or ask your classmates
Let’s say you study supply chain management. To get some ideas, you can research online to see what kind of thesis topics are out there. Besides, if your classmates are writing theses for other companies, you can also ask them what topics they are writing about and see if this topic applies to your company as well. The point here is not to pick a topic you find online or from your classmates. But it is more to give you an idea of what a potential thesis topic in your field is. This can help you to generate ideas for yourself which are also potentially interesting for your company.
Networking in your company
During your internship, you should try to network as much as possible. Networking should not be limited to the team you are working for, but also to other teams in the company. Tell the people that you are searching for a thesis opportunity and ask if they need help on any topic. The more connection you have, the better your chance is to get a thesis contract.
Think about what is your company’s interest
Companies like proactive students. You should be there to help the employees to solve problems, rather than to create more work for the employees. So, instead of begging people for a topic, you should be proactive and tell the people why you think writing on a certain topic is beneficial for the company. During your internship, you should already have some understanding of the business. Do you see a gap somewhere? Should any processes be improved?
For example, let’s say you are working in a local real estate company that is growing rapidly. Do you know if the company has a plan to expand internationally as well? If yes, which countries make sense for them to expand? What about expanding in Austria? How is the real estate market in Austria? What factors should the company consider for this expansion?
Another example: your company has recently acquired another company. Can you write a thesis regarding the acquisition? How does it affect the work and the employees? What should the company consider to have a smooth transition? What has the company done and how effective is the process?
These are just some hypothetical examples. You should think from your company’s perspective on what kind of topics can be interesting for them. If you don’t have an idea, start with networking and talk to as many people as possible in your company. Ask them what they do in their daily jobs and what kind of improvement they would like to see in their tasks/company. It may help you to think of a topic which is helpful for the people.
Improve your technical knowledge
Companies like practical and useful tools. The best is that you can create a tool that can improve their daily process. If you study in general business like me, you will probably think that “developing a tool” is too complicated and it is something for the technicians.
This is not completely true. For example, a tool can be as simple as an excel macro. I did not know anything about macro before. During my internship, I bought a book to learn about it because I know this can be beneficial for my thesis or future jobs. It never hurts to learn one more technical skill.
Some companies use enterprise resource planning systems for their operation. During your internship, you should try to learn the system as good as you can. This knowledge will be very helpful in case you want to do data analysis or develop a tool for your thesis.
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Have you written your thesis in a company? Leave a comment below to share your experience!
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