Types of Volunteer Opportunities in Germany

If you have looked into volunteer opportunities in Germany, you have probably heard about FSJ, FÖJ, IJFD, BFD and the like, but what are they and what are the differences or similarities between them?Definitions:

The Freiwilliges Soziales Jahr known to many as FSJ is a volunteer year that takes place in social institutions e.g. schools, nursing homes, sports organisations, museums etc.

The Freiwilliges Ökologisches Jahr (FÖJ) also takes a year and is structured very much like the FSJ, the only difference here are the institutions. For the FÖJ, you mostly work on environmental institutions e.g. the Forestry department or Environmental protection organizations.

The Bundesfreiwilligendienst (BFD) is a program offered by the federal government to all citizens and not just the young people. This is more diverse in participation and activities. There is no limit to which organisations or individuals, who can participate.

The European Voluntary Service known in Germany as the Europäischer Freiwilligendienst (EFD) is sponsored by the EU and supporting organisations like the UN. It offers opportunities around the globe in a myriad of fields.

For those planning to come to Germany, this last type might not be as interesting but I’ll mention it anyway. The Internationale Jugendfreiwilligendienst (IJFD) is another form of volunteering just like BFD and FSJ/FÖJ, also run by the Ministry of Families, Seniors, Women and Youth, but  aimed at young people willing to volunteer outside of Germany.



  • Take between 6 and 18 months (in exceptional cases up to 2yrs)
  • For both men and women
  • Are volunteer activities with pocket money of only up to €336 per month
  • They might offer accommodation (this depends on where you’re stationed)
  • Can be applied from Kenya
Meaning Bundesfreiwilligendienst Freiwilligen Sozialen Jahr European Voluntary Service
Age Limit Between 16 and 99 yrs old Between 15 and 26 yrs Between 18 and 30 years
Recurrence Can only be done once Can be repeated every 5yrs Open
Working Hours Fulltime Fulltime, Part-time for those over 27 Fulltime
Sponsor Bundesrepublik Deutschland Charitable Institutions “Wohlfahrtsträger” e.g. AWO, Diakonie The EU and participating organizations
Offered in Only in offered in Germany Also offered outside Germany Offered around the world and since Corona, also online
Fields offered Kinder- und Jugendhilfe, Wohlfahrts-, Gesundheits- und Altenpflege, Behindertenhilfe, Kultur und Denkmalpflege, Sport, Integration, Zivil- und Katastrophenschutz, Natur und – Umweltschutz Kinder- und Jugendhilfe, Jugendarbeit, Wohlfahrtspflege, Gesundheitspflege, Kultur und Denkmalpflege, Sport, Natur- und Umweltschutz Work with refugees and migrants, work on environmental issues, activities for children or the elderly, support for non-governmental organizations, work for cultural events or a number of other topics
Benefits Very few Universities recognize the BFD nor give any benefits to students who had done it before they start their studies Most universities do have a bonus system for Students who want to undertake a social course and had done the FSJ before they start their studies at the Uni. Great for the CV and can also contribute to bonus points depending on the degree if you go to Uni.
Seminars Up to 25 days for applicants aged below 26; for applicants older than 27, seminars are only offered on request 25 days of trainings or seminars Depends on the organization you volunteer with.
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