Teaching English in Europe
Prospects by Country
|View of the Alhambra in Granada,
Spain. A great city for students. Photo courtesy of ITTT.
As the European Union has expanded, albeit more slowly in recent years, and reciprocal links between European nations have strengthened, non-Europeans' employment opportunities have declined. The pandemic of 2000-200x did not help matters regarding in-person job opportunities in Europe due to the safer option of remote learning and teaching. Yet thousands of Americans live and work in Europe as the world returns to previous norms with new variations. Americans are returning to Europe, searching for a niche. Teaching English absorbs a portion of these temporary European residents.
Government-run teaching assistant programs are the biggest employers in Western Europe and operate in countries such as France and Spain. Private organizations also offer teaching programs, often involving living with a family and child care. Many countries provide language exchange programs in one form or another. There are summer camps where native-speaking teachers are needed in Italy and a few other European countries. In addition, since 2020, more and more teaching jobs are available remotely in a growing group of countries. Italy, Spain, Portugal, the Czech Republic, Germany, Iceland, Norway, Romania, Croatia, and Estonia all allow digital nomad visas with various income requirements. Such visas enable individuals to have longer-term employment as remote English teachers or to combine such work with a wide range of higher-paying, location-independent assignments in Europe, such as travel writing and tech jobs.
North Americans with a professional background in language teaching — e.g., a degree in applied linguistics and some relevant experience — might find an employer willing to sponsor them for a work visa. Just as desirable in many cases is a solid background in the business world since much language teaching in Europe is to businesspeople who want practical language tools for the workplace and prefer to be taught by someone with experience in this world than by a fresh-faced college graduate. Opportunities for non-Europeans are more plentiful in some countries than others. The alternatives are to teach voluntarily or on an informal freelance basis. Some teachers work for an employer willing to turn a blind eye to official requirements (which often implies a similarly casual approach to pay and working conditions). In European cities of any size, the pool of native-speaking teachers on the spot is so large that language school proprietors almost always have a choice of hopeful applicants to interview. In most cases, a speculative application and resumé sent from the U.S. will not meet with a favorable response.
Freelancing as a Teacher
The majority of North American language teachers and trainers in Europe work on a freelance basis. This can take the form of private tutoring whereby a native speaker goes it alone, finding private clients independently by advertising, etc. However, the more common way of freelancing is through an agency that provides language teaching primarily to businesses. Freelancers work on short-term contracts or on an hourly basis. They are paid by the course or the hour but are not eligible for paid holidays or other benefits of long-term employment. They must also worry about paying their taxes and compulsory contributions to a pension scheme (as in Germany) or covering social security.
Independent freelance tutors will find it easier to start teaching with contacts and an excellent working knowledge of the language. When they do get started, it may be challenging to earn a stable income because of the frequency with which pupils cancel. It is unrealistic for a newly arrived freelancer to expect to earn enough to live on for at least the first six months.
Getting clients for private lessons is a marketing exercise. All the avenues that seem appropriate to your circumstances have to be explored, for example, putting up notices in schools and universities, supermarkets and corner shops, running an advertisement on local free community noticeboard sites like Craigslist, targeting likely businesses such as exporters, distribution companies, travel agencies, hotels, etc. With luck and perseverance, these methods should put you in touch with a few hopeful language learners. If you are good at what you do, word will spread, and more paying pupils will come your way, though the process can be slow and gradual.
Working solo has disadvantages. Italian teenagers to Frankfurt business people may cancel or postpone one-on-one lessons. Since your clients are paying for flexibility, you can only afford to take a little harsh a line. Unless your accommodation is suitable for teaching, you must spend time traveling to your clients unless your client agrees to be taught remotely--which many will do in this era of remote learning.
If you are more interested in integrating with the local culture than making money, exchanging conversation for board and lodging may be appealing. This can be arranged by answering (or placing) small ads in appropriate places or online via websites or social media. The American Church in Paris notice board is famous for this.
Teaching Jobs at Language Schools
When you arrive in a likely place, your initial steps might include some of the following: copy a list of schools from the Yellow Pages (many are now available online such as the Pages Jaunes in France or the Gelbe Seiten in Germany); check local papers, websites and notice boards in likely locations such as universities, TEFL training centers, English language bookshops (where you should also notice which EFL materials are stocked), or places frequented by expatriate teachers.
After compiling a list of potential employers, get a detailed map and guide to the public transport network to locate the schools. Phone the schools and arrange a meeting with the director or academic director of studies. Even if an initial chat does not result in a job offer, you may learn something about the local TEFL scene that will help you at the following interview, especially if you ask many questions.
In some circles, it is fashionable to learn American English, which means that, despite the visa difficulties for non-EU nationals, North Americans can find work. Many institutes claim to have no preference for the country of origin of their native-speaker teachers. However, most expect to hire foreigners who are already residents in the area and have appropriate working papers. Most students are happy with a friendly, competent, and enthusiastic teacher, whatever their nationality, who can adapt to their needs and supply them with materials and learning situations relevant to their situation.
The big chains are a good bet for the novice teacher because of the stability of hours they can offer, though wages tend to be entry-level. Berlitz is one of the largest language training organizations in the world, with franchised locations throughout Europe and the world. The company's core business is language and cultural training, and teacher vacancies often occur in Germany and Spain. All Berlitz teachers are native, fluent speakers and university graduates, and all must undergo training (unpaid) in the "Berlitz Method," a direct "see-hear-speak" teaching approach that does not rely on translation. Usually, Berlitz schools employ teachers directly, usually on a part-time basis initially and progressively more for online instruction; the relevant web pages are linked from Berlitz. Another
international organization is Inlingua,
which has language centers worldwide that operate autonomously. Schools that call themselves names like the American Center or American Teachers may be more favorably disposed to North American applicants.
Throughout Europe, summer camps for children and teenagers often offer English immersion alongside sports and activities, creating a demand for native speakers to act as teachers-cum-counselors. Relevant companies are included below.
TEFL Training in Europe
Anyone with a recognized Certificate in Teaching English as a Foreign Language is in a much stronger position to get a job in any country where English is widely taught. Certificate courses provide a rigorous introduction to teaching English in just one month, full-time or part-time over months. So anyone interested in spending some time teaching abroad should consider enrolling in such a course. The Cambridge Certificate (CELTA) and the Trinity Certificate in TESOL are highly regarded. If you are serious about teaching English in a particular country, a training course in that country is worth considering, as many will help with job placement and navigation of the beaurocracy. Most intensive courses last four weeks and lead to a Certificate qualification. One of the major providers is International House, which offers the CELTA course in several European cities. Another international school that offers TEFL certificates in countries throughout Europe and helps with job placement is International
TEFL and TESOL Training. Some other suggestions and leads are given below.
To work legally in Europe, having a residence permit, social security number (which entitles you to use the healthcare system), and tax registration is almost always necessary. These official documents are essential to work legally. Unlike marrying an E.U. national, these are usually not granted to non-European people. You could investigate whether you might be eligible to apply for a European Union passport on the grounds of ancestry, for example, if you have a grandparent born in Italy or Ireland. Most employers are unwilling to consider candidates on a student visa since it will restrict their work hours.
The other main option is to find an employer willing to tackle the lengthy procedures involved in obtaining a work permit on your behalf. They must obtain official certification that the job on offer has been advertised locally and in Europe and that no suitable European candidate has applied. Then, an appointment must be made with the relevant Consulate in your country of origin to process a dizzying array of documents, which can take months.
All non-EU nationals must obtain a Schengen visa to enter the Schengen zone, which consists of most of the countries of continental Europe; the visa is valid for 90 days within six months, and the fee is €80. In the past, long-stay residents of European countries would cross the border to leave the Schengen area to renew their tourist visas. However, when the regulations changed to limit stays to 90 days in six months, many non-EU semi-residents had to depart.
French Majors Encouraged to Apply
Advanced TEFL qualifications
seem to be less in demand in France than business qualifications
and experience or even just commercial flair. Anyone who
has a BA and is comfortable in a business setting has a
chance of finding work as a formateur or trainer,
particularly if he or she has a working knowledge of French. The
main impediment is visas.
Taking a TEFL training course in France
will provide inside access to the local job market. For
Paris offers a four-week certificate course with start
dates throughout the year, which attracts a considerable
number of Americans, some of whom go on to find teaching
work in France. ILC
France is affiliated to the worldwide organization International
House and offers full-time and part-time training courses
leading to the CELTA (Certificate in English Language Teaching
to Adults) which is recognized around the world.
As throughout the European Union, non-EU
nationals are not allowed to work without the appropriate
working papers. Apart from marrying a French national, one
option is to enroll in a French course or university course
and apply for a student visa which allows the holder to
engage in up to 20 hours of paid work a week in term-time
and full-time in the vacations. If you are accepted onto
a university course (including at the Anglophone American
University in Paris), you will be sent a letter of enrollment
which can be used to apply for a student visa in your home
country. In the US, you are required to go through CampusFrance for
which you will need an official translation of your diploma, and information on long-stay student visas for France as well as numerous other documents.
Otherwise, you will have to find a French
employer not only willing to hire you and but also to wait
while you obtain the work visa through the French Embassy
in your home country, which takes about three months. When
job-hunting bring your birth certificate and CV in both
French and English, handwritten cover letters in both languages,
passport photos, and college transcripts.
At a more casual level, language exchanges
for room and board are commonplace in Paris; these are usually
arranged through online advertisements or word of mouth.
You can offer English lessons privately in people’s
homes starting at €15-€20 for a one-hour session.
Teaching Assistantship Program (TAPIF) offers the opportunity to work teaching French in a 7-month program, teaching English to French elementary and secondary school students. Each year, well over 1,000 American citizens
and permanent residents teach in public schools across all regions of metropolitan France and in the overseas
departments of French Guiana, Guadeloupe, Martinique and Réunion. The program offers a monthly stipend of
€810 stipend per month net.
Candidates may be between the ages of 20 to 35.
Applications are available in mid-October every year and after all paperwork has been completed, and your visa is completed, you will start the following October and complete the contract April 30.
Possibilities exist for Americans who
want to act as counselors and activity leaders (animateurs) at
English immersion summer camps in France, for example with
companies such as American Village Camps.
In some cases, to be a camp counselor in France, you have
to go through training, get certified, etc. so it is not
as casual a form of employment as it is in the U.S.
Other meccas for job-hunters and places
in which to access the English-speaking expat community
include the American Church at 65 Quai d’Orsay (Métro
Invalides), the American
Cathedral in Paris (23 av. George
and the American Library at 10 rue du Général
Camou, all of which have community bulletin boards posting
job notices as well as course and housing listings. English
language bookshops like the eccentric Shakespeare & Company
at 37 rue de la Bûcherie opposite Notre-Dame, as well
as cafés, restaurants, and bars popular with the
English-speaking community distribute the free bilingual
which comes out the first Tuesday of the month. It comprises
mainly classified adverts which are best followed up on
the day the paper appears. An advert under the heading Work
Wanted in France is an idea.
Highly qualified TEFL teachers from
the U.S. might approach a Paris company
such as Le Comptoir
who employs teachers on a short- or
Prospective teachers should not automatically
head for Paris but bear in mind that provincial cities have
many language schools too. Due to the many French companies
that have decided it is more cost-effective to relocate
in the provinces, many regional centers such as Orléans,
Lyon, Marseilles, Toulouse, Lille, and Rouen are good hunting
grounds. Not only is it harder to find work in Paris because
of the competition, but the cost of living is higher in
the capital. In Paris, you can expect at least half your
paycheck to go on rent.
Teaching by Skype or telephone has become
well established in France, popular with client learners
who appreciate its convenience and anonymity. It is not
necessary to be able to speak French, though you will need
to have access to a computer and telephone. One company
which specializes in this is Telab
Cours de Langues par Telephone which accepts non-EU
nationals but only if they have working papers.
Experience Can Help
Although Germany is a Eurocentric country,
it is generally more tolerant than its neighbors of U.S.
nationals working in certain sectors, including English
teaching. People with a strong business or IT background
and a knowledge of German might find their applications
acceptable to the scores of language training companies
in every German city.
American and Canadian students or recent
graduates with a knowledge of German, who find an employer
while still in North America, might seek advice on documentation
from Cultural Vistas.
Among several programs in Germany, they can facilitate the
red tape for individuals to work in Germany for up to a
with Kids is the Best Bet
The demand for teachers of children
and young people is very strong in Austria. Summer programs
provide scope for EFL teachers, for example with the company English Language Day Camp in Vienna.
As in Germany, the market for EFL in Austrian cities is
primarily for business English, particularly in-company.
Most language training companies such as MHC Business Language
based in Vienna, depend on freelance part-time teachers
drawn from the sizable resident international community.
well represented with multiple separate premises in around Vienna and Austria.
All centers recruit new English trainers of British, Irish,
American or Australian nationality; however, candidates must
already have permission to work in the EU. Unfortunately,
Austria is one of the hardest places in which to gain permission
to live and work. Everyone must complete a Meldezettel or
residence registration form for which they will need the
signature of a landlord and a 12-digit number. Employers
are unlikely to consider applicants without this documentation.
Italy: Work Permits
Difficult to Obtain
The red tape is just as daunting in
Italy, and so there is a pronounced bias towards hiring
Britons as indicated by the names of the main language school
chains, the British Schools Group, British Institutes, Oxford
Schools and so on. Yet there are also those willing to hire
Enrollment in English language schools
continues steadily among ordinary Italian families, and there
will always be schools that choose not to comply with the
strict labor regulations. Milan is considered a promising
destination, even for unqualified non-Europeans. Yet it
is not just the sophisticated urbanites of Rome, Florence,
and Milan who long to learn English. Small towns in Sicily
and Sardinia, in the Dolomites, and along the Adriatic all
have more than their fair share of private language schools
and institutes. Check under the heading "Scuole di
Lingue" in the Pagine Gialle (Yellow Pages) which can
Paid work is available at a number of
summer camps offering English instruction, a good opportunity
for young people to spend a summer in Italy and learn more
about teaching English to young learners. Some programs
involve teaching through the medium of theatre, so anyone
interested in drama will be attracted by this idea. This
opportunity is open to non-European nationalities since
the work period is so short. Some teacher training is often
provided by the schools and companies that run these camp
programs. A longstanding company, ACLE, takes on summer
staff for camps in locations throughout Italy.
Spain: Market for
Thousands of Academia de Ingles (private language
institutes) are in business and continue to hire native
speaker teachers. Supplementing the private sector, Escuelas
Oficial de Idiomas are enormous state-sponsored official
language schools with up to 10,000 students in the major
Once again work permits for non-Europeans
pose a major problem. Work permit applications must be lodged
in the applicant’s country of residence and collected
there as well, sometimes months later. Although teachers
from outside the E.U. are occasionally hired on the spot
by back street schools and paid in cash, the wage will normally
be below the going rate. A knowledge of Spanish is virtually
essential if you are going to teach young children (with
whom the total immersion method is not really suitable).
For aspiring teachers who decide to
look for work after arrival, the probable scenario is that
he or she will elicit mild interest from one or two schools
and will be told to contact the school again at the beginning
of term when a few hours of teaching may be offered. Spanish
students sign up for English classes during September and
into early October; consequently, the academies do not know
how many classes they will offer and how many teachers they
will need until quite late. It can become a war of nerves;
if you can afford to stay you have an increasingly good
chance of picking up some hours.
Local magazines may advertise the possibility
of intercambio which means an exchange of English
for Spanish or Catalan conversation practice — a great
way to meet locals. Some Irish pubs not only offer the opportunity
to meet other expats but often organize weekly intercambio nights,
which will be listed in the English-speaking press.
People from outside the EU who want
to experience Spanish culture might like to consider a live-in
position with a family who wants an English tutor for their
children or a voluntary position as an English assistant
on summer language/sports camps. Further details may be
sought from club rci ("Tutoring" and "Teach and Play in Spain"), a youth exchange organization which places
native English speakers with Spanish families who want to
practice their English in exchange for providing room and
It is also possible to arrange an informal
exchange of English conversation for a free week in Spain. Pueblo Ingles offers an excellent program whereby holiday
resorts in Spain are "stocked" with native
English speakers and Spanish clients who want to improve
their English. English native-speaking volunteers participate
alongside about the same number of Spanish adults in an
intensive six-day "talk-a-thon" on a one-to-one
basis. In exchange for making English conversation, participants
receive free room and board, and transport from Madrid. Reserve ahead, as they are often booked months ahead due to demand.
Several independent TEFL training organizations
train large numbers of North Americans. Acquiring an English
language teaching certificate through one of these would
be a good way of getting to know the local scene in Madrid
or Barcelona (though the work permit problem persists).
Investigate for example EBC
International in Madrid. Because schools run the whole
gamut from prestigious to cowboy, every method of job-hunting
works at some level.
for Teachers Mostly in North
Unlike in Spain, some schools in Portugal
claim to be willing to hire non-European nationals, although
any job-seeker already in possession of an Autorizacao
de Residencia will be at a huge advantage. Non-Europeans
who do obtain a contract of employment should take
it to the local aliens office (Serviço de Estrangeiros
e Fronteiras) or to the local town council (Câmara
Municipal). The permit obtained here is sent off together
with the contract of employment to the Ministry of Labor.
The final stage is to take a letter of good conduct provided
by the teacher’s own embassy to the police for the
work and resident permit.
Outside the cities, where there have
traditionally been large expatriate communities, schools
cannot depend on English speakers just showing up and so
must recruit well in advance of the academic year. The demand
for English teachers is mostly in the north. Apart from
in the main cities of Lisbon and Oporto, jobs crop up in
historic provincial centers such as Coimbra and Braga and
in small seaside towns like Aveiro and Póvoa do Varzim.
Small towns can be a welcome destination for teachers burned
out from teaching in big cities or first-time teachers who
want to avoid the rat race. schools that may prefer American
speakers: any school with "American" in the title
is probably a good bet.
Most newly arrived teachers work on
a freelance basis using recibos verdes ("green
receipts"), which are intended for use by temporary
workers in the country. Freelancers are responsible for
paying their own taxes and contributions.
So Many Already Seem to Speak Fluent English
Many Danes, Norwegians, Swedes, Finns
and Icelanders are so fluent in English that the demand
for native speakers is not very great. As elsewhere in Europe
the greatest demand is for mature professionals to serve
a sophisticated business community. One short-term possibility
is at summer language camps held in various scenic locations
American university students and recent
graduates over 21 can apply to the American-Scandinavian
Foundation for work permits to cover a self-arranged
job or internship. At one time there was a well-developed
program of teaching placements in Finland which has been
reduced of late, but it might still be worth asking ASF
about TEFOL positions in Finland for the academic year,
from the end of August until the end of May.
Summer Camp Openings in the Shadow of the Alps
The prospects are gloomy for people
who fancy the idea of teaching in Switzerland, unless
they are ultra-qualified. It is compulsory for non-EU citizens
to possess a prior guaranteed job offer from a Swiss employer
before contemplating long-term work in Switzerland.
More possibilities for teaching English
exist at summer camps than in city language institutes.
The Swiss Federation of Private Schools produces a list
of summer schools in Switzerland held at its member schools,
indicating which ones teach English. The list is available at the Federation of Swiss Private Schools.
Organizations that may need teachers or monitors (or some
combination of the two) for summer
language courses include TASIS (The American School
in Switzerland), in Montagnola-Lugano. Hiring takes place
between January and March.
GRIFFITH is author of the book Teaching
English Abroad, now in its 16th edition. See Susan's bio for
more information about her extensive bibliography
and to purchase her book.