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With its epic Greek temples and incredible cities, Europe is stunning destination for a first-time TEFL teacher.
It’s also jam-packed full of world-class art, beautiful beaches, gorgeous scenery and a melting pot of nationalities and cultures. With so many countries to choose from, you’re pretty much guaranteed to find your perfect TEFL destination.
The close proximity of so many countries coupled with great transport links means that it’s also super easy to explore this continent. In fact, in 2014, a group of Norwegians managed to visit 17 European countries within one day! There are a lot of English teaching opportunities across Europe, particularly in private language schools and summer camps. While salaries can appear good, they aren’t fantastic when set against fairly high living costs. However, you’ll earn enough for a decent standard of living, particularly if you top up school wages with private tuition.
In western Europe competition for TEFL jobs is fierce, so you’ll generally need a good TEFL certificate, bachelor’s degree and previous teaching experience to find a reasonable job. If you’re a newly qualified TEFL teacher, you’ve got a better chance of finding work in eastern European countries including Russia, Turkey and the Czech Republic. The fast-growing thirst for English in this part of the continent means that teachers are in high demand and requirements are less stringent.
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You will need a bachelor’s degree to teach English in many parts of Europe. While this is not always an official requirement, the level of competition for TEFL jobs in western Europe is so high that you’re highly unlikely to find a job without one.
Regulations are more relaxed in eastern parts of the continent due to the growing need for English teachers. In Turkey, for instance, you’re technically required to have a bachelor’s degree to teach English. However, the strong demand for TEFL teachers mean that you may be able to find a job with just a TEFL certificate.
The cost of living in Europe is high, particularly in western countries. Rent is expensive and accommodation is not normally provided as part of a teaching package, other than in some of the state-sponsored programmes. This means that you need to budget around 60 to 70 percent of your wages for accommodation with most of the remainder going on basics, such as food and drink. You can cut down your costs by sharing accommodation, using public transport and cooking your own meals.
If you’re counting the pennies, Eastern Europe is considerably cheaper to live in than western Europe – although wages are lower here too, meaning you’re unlikely to save much in this part of the continent either.
Having said that, English teachers do generally earn enough for a decent standard of living in all European countries, particularly if you take on private tutoring work on top of a school job. As travel is easy in Europe, one way to cut down your costs is by living outside of the main cities and making trips to explore during your time off.
English is taught as a second language across most of Europe, meaning that there are widespread opportunities for TEFL teachers.
Every country in Europe has private language schools, which is where the majority of TEFL teachers find work. Language schools cater for both children and adults, with peak teaching hours outside of the normal school and office day. This means that you may well have a timetable that includes evenings, weekends and, in some instances, early morning.
Most teachers also work part-time as private tutors. Non-EU citizens in particular pick up most of their work in this way, as it’s often more straightforward than finding a school willing to sponsor them through the visa process. However, do remember that visa restrictions will still apply, so make sure you’ve checked your legal situation before you take up a job.
A number of countries run state-sponsored programmes that let TEFL teachers work in public schools. This is particularly useful for non-EU citizens as they offer a route into teaching in western Europe however they can also be good for newly qualified EU citizens looking to gain extra experience. In these roles, you’ll normally work as a teaching assistant alongside a qualified local teacher.
There are also some opportunities to teach English in both public schools and private international schools and even, occasionally, in universities. To successfully apply for one of these jobs you’ll normally need to be fluent in the country’s language, have a formal teaching qualification and previous teaching experience.
To teach English in most western Europe countries you’ll need to be a native English speaker with a bachelor’s degree and TEFL qualification. Given the high level of competition in western Europe, you’ll often also need to have at least two years of experience and may well be asked for CELTA or CertTESOL rather than a standard TEFL qualification. In Eastern Europe, requirements are less stringent and a TEFL qualification alone can be sufficient to find you a job.
EU citizens can work in any other member state without visa restrictions. If you’re from outside of the EU, you’ll generally need to apply for a work permit in order to teach English legally. This involves a lot of red tape and can be time-consuming, meaning that employers are often reluctant to take on non-EU citizens. Many TEFL teachers find it simpler to look for work outside of the EU and then explore the rest of the continent during days off.
If you’re desperate to work in the EU, it’s worth looking at state-sponsored teaching assistant and intern programmes, as these can provide a legal route into teaching in Europe.
You can find TEFL jobs all over Europe. In western Europe, Spain is one of the biggest TEFL markets at present, with less stringent requirements than some other parts of the continent and a vibrant and welcoming approach to life. Despite its strong protective attitude to its own language, France also offers good English teaching opportunities as its citizens increasingly recognise the value of learning English as the international language of business.
Italy has traditionally been a strong TEFL destination and there are certainly still jobs to be had. However, the fierce competition means that you will need top qualifications to land a job here. If you want to work in western Europe, it’s worth looking beyond the more obvious destinations. For example, Portugal is often overlooked in favour of its bigger neighbour but can make for a great TEFL location.
Demand for English teachers is growing fast in eastern European countries, such as the Czech Republic, Poland and Turkey and this is where you’ll find some of the best TEFL job opportunities on the continent. Russia in particular is a fascinating destination and its rapidly growing need of English speakers – not to mention its location outside of the EU – means that you can find work here more easily than in other parts of the continent.
Unsurprisingly, the toughest TEFL jobs market is the UK where the majority of people speak English as a first language. However, even here it is possible to find TEFL work – particularly over the summer months when many language schools run language trips and summer camps aimed at secondary school children from other European countries.
You should be able to afford to have a decent standard of living on your TEFL wage throughout the continent, particularly if you top up a school salary with private tuition. However, this isn’t the place to come if you want to save substantial sums of money.
Salaries in western Europe tend to be higher than eastern Europe – for example, you might earn around £1,500 per month in Italy but only £750 per month in the Czech Republic. However, this is balanced out by the higher cost of living in the west and by and large, salaries match living costs across the continent.
The other main factor for finding TEFL work in Europe is the European Union (EU). More than half of European countries are within the EU bloc, which allows EU citizens to work in any other EU country without the need for a visa. If you’re an EU passport holder, this is a strong advantage, making it straightforward to start work once you’ve found a job. On the flip side, non-EU citizens are largely shut out of the paid TEFL market in the EU as employers tend not to want to wade through the restrictive red tape when they’ve got a ready-made pool of native English speakers to draw on within the bloc. Whether this changes once the UK leaves the EU remains to be seen.
One way in for non-EU citizens is through state-sponsored programmes, which are usually targeted at specific age groups and nationalities. For example, in France there are opportunities for US citizens to find work as teaching assistants or interns through programmes such as TAPIF and the French American Chamber of Commerce’s (FACC) trainee programme.
Alternatively, there are great options for both EU and non-EU citizens to teach English in countries such as Russia and Turkey. These are outside the EU and bursting with opportunities for TEFL teachers – not to mention fascinating destinations in their own right.
Most contracts start in September and last for either ten or twelve months, although there is a second wave of teachers who start work in January. This means that the peak hiring period is late spring / early summer for jobs in advance – or September, October and January if you’re ready to jump in at a moment’s notice.
If you want to work in a summer camp, look for jobs between December and March, as this is when they tend to recruit.