The master craftsman's examinations is the most recognised and valuable title within the skilled crafts sector in Germany. In 2000 more than 32,000 people signed up for this vocational training.
The skilled crafts sector comprises a wide-ranging field of economic activities in Germany. Unlike in many other countries, a skilled craft company is not defined by the number of employees or by turnover, but by its belonging to one of the skilled craft trades as laid out in the Skilled Crafts Act ("Handwerksordnung").
Vocational training in the skilled craft sector consists of initial and further vocational training and retraining. Initial vocational training in the individual trade is based on a national training regulation. After a training period of 3 to 3.5 years, which is provided by both the skilled craft company and the vocational training school in the so-called "Dual System" (part-time vocational school and in-company training), the young apprentice passes an exam to become a skilled worker.
To set up one's own craft business in any or the 41 trades, candidates have to pass the master craftsman's examination or have an equivalent qualification. To participate in those advanced training, the applicant has to be a skilled worker with work experience. The examination covers practical and theoretical skills, legal and business administration as well as skills and knowledge in vocational training. Only those who have achieved master craftsman status or an equivalent status are entitled to set up their own business, take over a business from somebody else, and provide vocational training as an instructor for trainees in the company. People who have acquired the title master craftsman are entitled to study at higher education institutions such as skilled crafts academies, university or universities for applied sciences.