Following a few years of school in Hanover, Berliner was sent to nearby Wolfenbüttel to attend the Samsonschule from which he graduated in 1865 at the age of fourteen. According to his own later statement, this marked the end of his formal schooling. Berliner then spent several years at odd jobs in Hanover helping to support the large Berliner family. Enticed by the offer of a clerkship in a store partly owned by a man named Behrend, a Hanoverian who had emigrated to the United States some time earlier, and perhaps by a desire to escape the military duty that faced most young men in the year of the Franco-Prussian War, Berliner persuaded his parents to allow him to accept the job offer and to emigrate to America. In late March 1870 he left Hanover.
The dry-goods store for which he was destined was located in Washington, D.C. For three years Berliner clerked for Gotthelf, Behrend and Co. until in 1873 he decided a better opportunity awaited him in New York City. There Berliner again took up onerous jobs during the day while trying to improve himself by studying privately at night at the Cooper Institute. After a brief career as a "drummer" (traveling salesman) for a "gents' furnishings" (men's clothing and accessories) establishment in Milwaukee, Berliner again went back to New York where this time he was most fortunate in obtaining a position as general cleanup man in the laboratory of Constantine Fahlberg, the discoverer of saccharine. This experience in a research laboratory fired Berliner's ambition, and he decided that science, research, and invention were to be his destiny.