Living in Spain

Tips #4: Teaching English in Spain

This is the latest in the highly irregular hints and tips series. I get a lot of questions about working in Spain, and let’s face it, the easiest job when you get out here is English teaching. So here are my top tips on where to start:

One. Do you need a diploma? The short answer is no. If you are heading for the big cities like Madrid or Barcelona you will find work by simply fitting the description of ‘English speaker’. It helps if you are smartly dressed and well spoken, but hell, even those that aren’t get work in Madrid.

Two. Ignore point One and get a diploma. The CELTA (previously TEFL) certificate is the one to go for, though I hear the TESOL course is fine too. You can even do courses here in Spain at prestigious academies like International House. The month intensive course is hell, the hardest work I’ve ever done, but well worth it. You are much much more employable with a course/diploma under your belt, and you’ll get better (pay, conditions) jobs than those without.

Three. Do I have to be British? No, any native or bi-lingual English speaker will get a job out here, even if you are not from the European Union. Read this post about working in Spain if you are from outside the EU.

Four. Can I get work anywhere in Spain? Yes, but you will often have more luck in Madrid and Barcelona. Even in larger towns like Seville you may have trouble if you turn up during the academic year. An ideal time to find work in any city/town, no matter the size, is in September, as the schools and academies start back at the beginning of October. Do try your luck in the smaller places though, just expect to have more trouble filling your timetable if you aren’t lucky enough to get a full-time contract straight off.

Four and a half. Do I need to speak Spanish? No, though it helps. Courses such as the CELTA teach you how to teach with no second language skills. They also teach you the basics of English grammar, which really helps!

Five. How do I find an academy job? Take a CV to all the Languages Academies in your chosen destination. Call them back. Be persistent if necessary. Find these in the Yellow Pages, via Google, in local English language papers (loads of jobs in the small ads in these too).

Six. How do I fill my time table? A typical academy timetable is 24 contact hours (teaching) – you’ll need more to prepare your classes too. If an academy only gives you half this amount, it’s common to supplement your income with private classes…

Seven. How does this ‘privates’ thing work? Private classes tend to be one-to-ones with businessmen, children, bored adults, etc. Usually you go to their office/house, if you’re really lucky they’ll come to yours. I’ve given private classes in cafés, a friend of mine even managed to swing classes with two bikini clad Spanish ladies at a city pool in summer! Privates pay much better than academy classes (see below for rates) and don’t usually involve any kind of contract. Some pay on the day, some in advance. Try hard to arrange that if they don’t show up, or cancel with less than 24 hours notice, they pay anyway. The only downside is that they can involve a lot more travel. Find privates via word of mouth from other teachers, students, advertise in local papers, etc.

Eight. What about ‘Company Classes’? Typically arranged by language schools/academies, these involve going to a company and teaching one or a group of suited business types. If you can get into a company directly and arrange and charge for all the classes yourself, then you can make a fortune… (30 Euros per hour? More?)

Nine. Kids classes? Only for the brave! Either arranged (or forced upon you) by language academies, or in posh bilingual private schools. The British Council also has a programme for placing teachers in Spanish Secondary/High Schools.

Ten. Will I earn enough to survive? First jobs in language academies do pay badly. I have heard of people earning as little as 700 Euros a month in the first year, and that’s hard in Madrid. With luck you may earn nearer, or over 1,000 in the first year. As time goes by you start finding the better jobs, with better money and better timetables. Company classes may pay around 18 Euros an hour or more. Multiply that by 24 per week and do the maths. Privates do supplement income nicely, and are widely taken on by most teachers sooner or later. These can pay anything from 20 to 40 euros an hour. Finally, the Holy Grail is the University language teaching job, that can earn you up to 50 Euros an hour. For work in Companies and Universities, you may need to become ‘Autonomo’, self-employed – a bureaucratic nightmare but worth it for the better pay.

Bonus! Will I be an English teacher forever? That is down to you. With persistance you can do anything here that you wanted to do where you came from. Good Spanish often helps. Good luck!

Anything to add, feedback or ideas? Please use the comments below.

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