Except where otherwise stated, the information below relates to the role of EFL/ESOL TEACHER in a private language school/academy. Qualifications, hours of work and salaries will be different for those looking to work as Senior Teacher, Young Learner Coordinator, Exams Coordinator, ADoS or DoS, and also for primary/secondary teachers.
|My favourite class ever – G Tigers, Poland (Oct 2011 – June 2012)|
Generally speaking, to find legal work in Europe you must be (a) the holder of a passport from an EU member state, either through birth or ancestry, or (b) married to an EU citizen, or (c) in possession of a valid work or study visa. Employers in the EU cannot just hire a non-EU citizen – they first have to prove that there were no suitably qualified EU citizens who could do the job, which is not a very likely proposition. Notable exceptions, however, are candidates with specialist qualifications or niche areas of expertise.
What this means for non-EU citizens
For the reason given above, Western Europe (with the exception of Germany*) is pretty much a no-go for non-EU citizens. Eastern Europe, however, is a whole other ball game, and it is still possible to find legal work without too much difficulty. Demand for teachers is quite high in Poland, the Czech Republic and the Ukraine among others.
As a non-EU citizen you would enter mainland Europe with either (a) a Schengen short-stay visa (type C), which must be applied for in your country of residence BEFORE arriving in Europe, or (b) a visa waiver, which involves having your passport stamped on arrival with your entry date. North Americans, Australians and New Zealanders can all enter under the visa waiver scheme.
The visa waiver is for tourism purposes ONLY and it gives you 90 days in the Schengen zone (http://ec.europa.eu/dgs/home-affairs/what-we-do/policies/borders-and-visas/schengen/index_en.htm) – that's 90 days across all the countries (divided as you like), not 90 days per country! Failure to get sponsorship for a work visa through an employer within that time means having to leave not just the country you entered but the entire zone for a further 90 days. Note that border runs to 'restart' the clock are no longer possible. Overstaying your visa is not advisable. In a bid to crack down on illegal immigration, border security has been tightened. If caught you will be deported and may be subjected to an exclusion from the entire zone for five or more years.
Options for qualified school teachers
North Americans who are qualified primary (elementary) or secondary (high) school teachers in their own state/country and who have at least two years' experience, ideally in their home country, might consider applying for jobs at International Schools. These are schools that teach the British or American national curriculum. Familiarity with the American curriculum would give you the edge over EU citizens and make it easier for your employer to justify getting a visa for you. To find a list of International Schools, go to http://www.state.gov/m/a/os/c1699.htm.
*For now at least, Germany is the one country in Western Europe where it is still possible for non-EU citizens to live and work legally. This is because the majority of the work requires you to be freelance. On paper this sounds good; in practice, it’s simply not a viable option for an inexperienced newbie with a questionable grasp of German. Compulsory deductions would see you losing almost 60% of your wage and that’s before you’ve paid any rent.
|The beautiful Plaza Mayor in Madrid|
The jobs market in Western Europe, and in particular in France, Spain and Italy, is extremely competitive. Most TEFLers have a degree, which can be in anything, a CELTA or Trinity CertTESOL (as opposed to an online TEFL certificate) and at least a year’s full-time experience teaching European learners. Experience in preparing students for Cambridge exams – Starters, Movers, Flyers, KET, PET, FCE, CAE, CPE and BEC – or, to a lesser extent, Trinity exams is especially desirable. Nonetheless, it is possible to find work with a degree and an online TEFL certificate or even just an online TEFL certificate – be prepared to look outside the main cities.
Unless you are exceptionally highly-qualified, i.e., think a Master's (which can be in any discipline) and able to lecture at university level, you can pretty much forget about teaching in The Netherlands or Scandinavia. The education systems in these countries mean that Dutch and Scandinavian nationals usually have a very high level of English, so there is little need for private language schools. There may be some opportunities for teaching English to immigrants but these posts are few and far between.
Despite the recession, there is currently no shortage of TEFL jobs in Europe. The biggest markets appear to be in Spain, Italy, Portugal, Poland, the Czech Republic, Turkey and Russia.
The best site for jobs in Europe as a whole is undoubtedly http://www.tefl.com. If you have a recognised qualification such as CELTA, Trinity CertTESOL, EDI CertTEFL, Cert IV in TESOL or SIT TESOL, you can apply for jobs with International House (http://ihworld.com/jobs), and once you have two years' full-time experience, you can apply for jobs with the British Council (https://jobs.britishcouncil.org/).
Note that, with the exception of Russia, jobs tend NOT to be found from abroad – you really need to be on the ground at the right time handing out your CV (résumé).
The peak hiring time for academic year jobs is September. If you miss this window, there will be a smaller hiring peak in very early January to replace teachers who jumped ship at Christmas. For these jobs you will need to hit the ground running so they might not be the best call for teachers with no prior experience. After that, there is precious little around until March/April when hiring begins for the summer camps. Note that summer camp jobs don’t start till mid-June at the earliest. Schools tend to shut down completely in August so bear that in mind when planning a CV drop.
A typical academic year contract starts in September or October and runs for 8-10 months. If you get a January start, your contract will last for 6 months. While some summer work may be available, it's almost never guaranteed, and longer-standing teachers get first dibs. Consequently, you either need to put some money aside all year to cover the summer period, or you need to look for summer work elsewhere (see Short-Term Summer Contracts below).
Wages in Europe tend to be quite low in comparison to the cost of living, especially for inexperienced newbies. Rent will be your biggest expense, particularly in the larger cities where you could be spending 33-50% of your salary on a room in a shared apartment. Employers in Europe do not tend to reimburse flights or pay for relocation. Free housing is not necessarily a good thing as it’s generally only provided where the salary is far too low to live on.
In Portugal you can expect to take home €700-1,000pm; in Spain you're looking at €800-1,300pm; taxes in Italy are high and net salaries start at around the €900pm mark; in France you can expect to earn €1,100-1,600pm (I haven't looked into this properly to determine whether these are gross or net figures). Eastern European salaries tend to be lower – the worst I've seen, which was nowhere near a living wage, was around €350pm with free accommodation thrown in. Generally though you'll be looking at €500-1,000pm.
The ideal contract would see you teaching around 21hrs pw. However, in Spain it's common to teach 24hrs pw or more. In Italy you may be expected to teach up to 30hrs pw. For an experienced teacher that is tough going, never mind for an inexperienced newbie.
When applying for jobs check how many contact (teaching) hours you'll have each week. Remember that you'll have to factor in planning time on top of the teaching hours and, depending on where you live and the type of job you have, travel time.
If teaching Very Young Learners (VYLs) is your dream, Western Europe is unlikely to be the answer as the bulk of the teaching is with older learners. In France, Germany and Northern Italy there's an emphasis on Business English classes. Elsewhere in Italy, and in Spain and Portugal, you can expect to teach mainly teens with a few adults thrown in for good measure. Cambridge exams are VERY popular so any prior experience with them will work in your favour.
The further East you go, the younger the learners get, with English-language Kindergartens being quite common in Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and the Ukraine. Some of these take kids as young as two, which makes for some pretty challenging classes!
|No matter how difficult the day, students can always make you smile!|
SHORT-TERM SUMMER CONTRACTS
English-speaking summer camps are very popular throughout Europe, and may be a good way of testing the TEFL waters. As with all European jobs, you will need to have a passport from an EU member state or a valid work/study visa. Summer camps DO NOT organise visas for people. Note that it is illegal to work with the visa waiver or on a Schengen short-stay visa.
Be advised that summer camps are NOT for the faint-hearted. You have to work long hours (including weekends), split-shifts are common, you will probably only get one day a week off, and your duties will usually involve far more than just teaching. Nonetheless, if you are prepared to work hard, you should be able to find work for 2-8 weeks during the summer.
The pay varies greatly. In the UK you can expect to earn £250-£460pw (you are legally entitled to holiday pay of 12.07%, which may be included in the base rate or added on top – check before you sign!). In mainland Europe wages are lower so you can expect to earn €500-€750ish per fortnight. Many of the camps are residential so food and accommodation is provided. Some employers deduct a small amount of money for these services – I'd avoid those ones like the plague! I'd also avoid any of the voluntary jobs, unless you are super keen to gain experience.
So where are these camps? Well, there are hundreds of them in the UK, though you may find that you need a CELTA, Trinity CertTESOL or EDI CertTEFL (as opposed to an online TEFL certificate) to work at one. PGCEs are usually accepted too. If you don't meet the criteria, or the UK doesn't sound very appealing, how about working in Spain or Italy? There are numerous summer camps in both countries. One of the more well-known and reputable ones in the south of Spain is TECS (http://recruit.tecs.es/). They also run year-round language schools so you may be able to secure work for the academic year by doing a summer camp. Another camp that seems quite popular is Forenex (http://www.forenex.com/teachers-zone). Both of these camps are currently hiring for Summer 2014.
To see what other jobs are available, either Google 'English summer camps in [country]' and apply directly via their websites or visit http://www.tefl.com/jobs/search.html and choose 'Europe' and 'short-term summer post' from the drop downs. The hiring period usually commences in early January, although this year schools have been advertising since November. By late April most of the 'best' jobs will have gone.
PROGRAMMES FOR BRITONS
Having recently come across a number of questionable internships and teaching programmes, I decided to add a section to this page where I can list any reputable programmes for Britons. I'll add to it as I discover more.
British Council's English Language Assistant Programme
This programme is open to native English speakers who have completed all their secondary education (11-18) in the UK and who have completed and passed at least two years of a Higher Education (university-level) course. Positions are available in Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Switzerland and Spain. Language proficiency may be required. To find out more, go to http://www.britishcouncil.org/languageassistants-ela.htm.
PROGRAMMES FOR NORTH AMERICANS
If you are American or Canadian there are a few programmes that, if you meet the criteria, will enable you to legally work as a teaching assistant in Western Europe for a fixed amount of time. NB: As an EU citizen I am merely aware of these programmes – I cannot vouch for any of them, so please DO YOUR OWN RESEARCH before applying.
North American Language and Culture Assistants Programme (NALCAP)
A very popular programme offering teaching assistant placements in Spain through the Ministry of Education. The application period for the 2014/15 academic year runs from 9 January to 1 April 2014. The earlier you apply, the greater your chances of being placed. See: http://www.educacion.gob.es/eeuu/convocatorias-programas/convocatorias-eeuu/auxiliares-conversacion-eeuu.html.
Bilingual English Development and Assessment (BEDA)
A private organisation that places language assistants in Catholic schools primarily in Madrid, but also in a few other places in Spain. Note that this programme is also open to Australians and New Zealanders. Applications for the 2014/15 academic year closed on 31 January 2014. See: http://www.ecmadrid.org/en/programs/beda-program
Unión de Cooperativas de Enseñanza de Trabajo Asociado de Madrid (UCETAM)
Programme placing US citizens as English Teaching Assistants in schools in Madrid. Applications for the 2014/15 academic year closed on 27 February 2014. See: http://www.ucetampbu.es/index.php/programa-de-auxiliares/auxiliares/el-comienzo
Council on International Educational Exchange (CIEE)
Like the NALCAP (see above), this programme offers teaching assistant placements in Spain through the Ministry of Education. Unlike the NALCAP, successful applicants are subject to steep fees of up to US$2,000. Still interested? Applications for the 2014/15 academic year closed on 1 March 2014. See: http://www.ciee.org/teach/spain/
Centre International d'Études Pédagogiques (CIEP)
This programme offers teaching assistant placements in France and is open to citizens of the US, Canada, South Africa, Australia and NZ among others. You MUST be aged 20-30 and attending university at the time of application and have a reasonable knowledge of French (B1 level). Recruitment is open from mid-October to early January/late February. See: http://www.ciep.fr/en/assistantetr/index.php
US Teaching Assistantships (USTA)
Similar to but separate from Fulbright, this programme offers US citizens the chance to be teaching assistants in Austrian secondary (high) schools. Applications for the 2014/15 academic year closed on 14 January 2014. See: https://www.usta-austria.at/site/home
Study, Intercultural Training and Experience Programme (SITE)
This programme places US citizens who are university students or recent graduates as teaching assistants in schools in the Lombardy area of Italy. Placements last from 3 months to a full academic year. Applications for the 2014/15 academic year close on 15 March 2014. See: http://siteprogram.pacioli.net/home
ALL OVER EUROPE
Programme placing US citizens as English Teaching Assistants (ETAs) all over Europe. Language proficiency may be required. See: http://us.fulbrightonline.org/eta-program-charts (click on 'Europe' to see placements, grants and language requirements).
Last updated: 03/03/2014 | Disclaimer