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Rich in history, culture and tradition, it is no coincidence that Italy is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world. From the magnificent art and architecture of Florence and Rome, to the lush landscapes and panoramas of the countryside, one could easily spend a lifetime in Italy.
While many people visit and vacation in Italy every year, teaching English gives you the opportunity to immerse yourself in this tantalizing region the way that most tourists can only dream about. Despite a sluggish European economy, teachers remain in demand in Italy, and living and working in this fascinating destination can easily become a reality.
Where you want to live can affect your job search. Being flexible with your location will help a lot, as will a willingness to teach a wide variety of age ranges.
While many people are attracted to the big cities such as Florence and Rome, Southern Italy can present some great opportunities for English teachers as well. The cost of living in the South is generally lower too, while teaching salaries are usually comparable to the North.
Italy is a competitive job market, but those who take their job search seriously and present themselves well are still able to find work without too much difficulty.
Most teaching job in Italy are in private language institutes. Language schools typically start in September or October and finish up in June, with the average teaching contract lasting 9-10 months. From February to March on is usually a good time to start looking for work, as schools will have a better idea of who is returning for the following year, but plenty of jobs open up closer to the start of the school year, and there are always emergency openings throughout the year as well. Public schools typically look to hire EU citizens and fluent Italian speakers, so private institutes are generally the best bet.
Summer camps provide ample opportunity to pick up work over the summer. These are typically short term opportunities in Private institutes in July and August, teaching older students who are looking to diversify their skill-set in the Italian job market.
Many teachers choose to supplement their income by teaching private lessons as well. Private lessons can earn a teacher anywhere from 15-30 Euros an hour (many choose to offer discount to groups of university students if they refer their friends.) Because the job market in Italy can be pretty tight, and the cost of living fairly high (especially in cities), teaching private lessons on the side can be a great way to cover the gap in your monthly expenses.
Having a TESOL/TEFL certificate is a must in order to Teach English in Italy. A bachelor's degree helps as well, though it is not absolutely necessary. While schools in Italy will typically recognize online or in person certificates, an on site TESOL course in Italy such as LanguageCorps might give you the best chance of establishing yourself in locally, and finding desirable work in a timely manner.
It is difficult for non-EU citizens to obtain a work visa in Italy. Many people wind up just over staying a tourist visa and working on a cash-in-hand basis, while others obtain a student visa that allows one to stay in Italy legally for six months. It is a complicated situation, but most people are able to navigate around the visa issue and still live and work in Italy successfully. The teacher is usually responsible for navigating the visa process themselves, and while some schools may be hesitant to hire non-EU citizens, many are willing to negotiate and make arrangements to accommodate foreigners.
While Teaching English in Italy probably won't make your rich, living in Italy for an extended period of time is reward enough for most travelers. From five course meals in some of the best restaurants in the world, to a quick between-class espresso, Italians know how to enjoy life like no other culture in the world. Business English students that make up the majority of ESL classes in Italy are eager to learn and take their lessons seriously, as a poor Italian job market is making English an increasingly valuable skill for locals. Western standard business casual attire is a safe bet for the classroom, and Italian language is knowledge is typically not a requirement for the teacher in private language schools.
Most ESL teachers in Italy live in shared apartments with fellow teachers, local residents, and/or students from other schools. A bedroom in Italy typically costs 300-600 Euros per month, with big cities being much more expensive than rural areas.
Italy is not the place to teach English abroad if saving money is your primary concern. With a fairly competitive job market and high cost of living, you will probably make enough money teaching to cover your monthly expenses without a whole lot leftover. If a lucrative situation is important to you, you might be better off looking at teaching English in Asia. But for those more interested in a rich cultural experience, you really can't beat Italy. Teaching English can be a great way to make living in this magnificent cultural hotspot a reality, so don't be afraid to give it a shot!
Steve is 26 year old travel enthusiast. He calls Boston home, though he spends as much time on the road as he does in any one place these days. He's a marketing consultant and writer with a focus on the ESL field, in between playing drums in a touring rock band and trying to become a better photographer. Japan is next on his travel wish list!