Universities of applied sciences (Fachhochschulen) are responsible for providing practice-oriented training to prepare students for occupations which require the application of academic knowledge and methods or practical artistic creativity. They mainly offer degree programmes in engineering and fields of business, health and social studies, agricultural and forestry management, media and information studies as well as in design.
In most cases, studies at universities of applied sciences are much more tightly organised than at universities and include a basic study stage and a main study stage. Under the Bologna Process, the universities of applied sciences are currently converting their Diplom degree courses into programmes leading to Bachelor's and Master's degrees. Depending on the degree in question, studies last 3 to 4 years, including practical phases and examinations. Practical phases are completed in companies or institutions and strengthen the "applied" side of the studies. These practical phases are variously governed in the individual states. Most Diplom courses, for example, involve one or two practical semesters. Vocational qualifications in a relevant field can be fully or partly credited to the practical periods that students are required to complete. Bachelor's programmes also require students to complete practical phases. These may involve internships lasting several weeks, project phases or even a whole practical semester. Numerous universities of applied sciences offer training-integrated or dual degree programmes. These enable students to combine in-company training (e.g. an apprenticeship) or employment with studies at a university of applied sciences and so allow them to gain two separate career qualifications; the Industrie- und Handelskammer-Prüfung (certificate awarded by the Chamber of Trade and Industry – IHK) and a Fachhochschul-Diplom (degree awarded by the university of applied sciences).
Universities of applied administrative sciences are maintained by the federation (Bund) and the states (Länder) and train students for higher intermediate or executive career paths in the public administration. There is no direct admission path to these universities.