In German-speaking countries and regions, the habilitation is the highest university qualification and confers on the candidate (called Habilitand or Habilitandin) the venia legendi, or « permission to give a course », or the ius docendi, conferring a « right to teach » a specific valid university subject throughout their career.

Those who have obtained their venia legendi can bear the title of Privatdozent or Privatdozentin (e.g. PD Dr. Susanne Muller).

In German-speaking Switzerland, as in Germany or Austria, the habilitation or its equivalent is usually still a prerequisite for appointment to a professorship, whereas it plays hardly any role in French-speaking Switzerland, except at the University of Fribourg, and in the rest of the non-German-speaking world.

Obtaining the habilitation
Habilitation candidates must hold a doctorate. In German-speaking universities, the habilitation is moreover often considered equivalent to a « second thesis », defended before a jury of professors - future peers. The habilitation is increasingly submitted in « cumulative » form (grouping various research activities). The rules concerning the awarding of the habilitation vary from one institution or faculty to another.
Equivalence in other systems
The following are for example considered equivalent for those educated in systems where the habilitation does not exist : a second monograph, particularly in the human sciences, or a positive evaluation in a tenure-track professorship, and more generally, a very good research dossier.