Fresh out of university, I bought a one-way ticket to Spain and began teaching English at public schools in Madrid. Despite all my research, I had no idea what to expect -- I had no teaching experience and had never lived in another country before. I stepped on that plane excited, yes, but also nervous about my next adventure.
After I arrived, I soon realized that Spain certainly is not all bullfights and siestas like it’s made out to be. It does, however, have everything a budding teacher could want -- a decent salary, a comfortable work-life balance, and, best of all, a kind and welcoming culture. During my two years there, I was able to gain valuable work experience, travel around Spain and Europe, improve my Spanish, and meet tons of incredible people.
Teaching English in Spain is a fantastic experience, but picking up and moving to a different country can be daunting. Here are a couple of tips to help you get started.
Why is Teaching in Spain so Popular?
Though salaries in Spain aren’t as high as other regions of the world, it still remains a popular destination for teaching English abroad. Spain is a compelling destination for teaching and living abroad, well-placed for you to explore the dynamic Spanish countryside, and with easy access to the European continent.
Spain has an incredibly high demand for English teachers, so jobs are easy to come by, whether in a small town in Andalucia or in a big city such as Madrid. Spain also doesn’t have the strict requirements of many of its neighbors -- there are programs that don’t require a TEFL certification, and some don’t even require a Bachelor’s degree.
The cost of living in Spain is more affordable than that in most Western European countries, even if in the big cities. There is universal health care, easy-to-use public transportation, and it is one of the safest countries for travelers.
But beyond the practical, Spain is fun! Whether it’s the snow-capped mountains and rolling green hills of Asturias to the north or the sunny Mediterranean beaches, Spain has a climate and landscape for everyone. Additionally, travel both within and from Spain is incredibly affordable, so teachers on a budget will be able to enjoy the local landscapes during their time off.
Qualifications to Teach in Spain
The requirements for teaching in Spain are significantly laxer than those of its neighbors. Requirements vary depending on the position -- whether it’s through the government, a private academy, or for private lessons -- but there are a few basic expectations.
- Be a native English speaker -- This is what employers are paying you for, and any job at a school or academy will require this. However, it is not necessarily important to be a resident of an English-speaking country. Check with each individual program to be sure of that.
- Bachelor’s Degree -- A 4-year college degree will open up a lot more doors and will give you higher pay. For some programs, this is a requirement.
- Teaching Certification -- A TEFL, TESOL, or CELTA certificate will make you more attractive to employers, and can entitle you to a higher salary. You can even do a TEFL course in Spain that will guarantee you a job after completion.
- Start Up Cash -- Teaching jobs in Spain do not cover the costs of getting a visa or buying a plane ticket, so make sure to have some money saved for that. Once you start working, you still won’t get paid until the end of the month, so have an additional $1200 saved to cover the first month’s living expenses.
- Basic Spanish Skills — While you certainly do not need to know Spanish to teach English, less than a third of Spaniards speak English. Knowing some basic Spanish will be helpful to get around town, especially in smaller towns.
When to Apply for a Teaching Job in Spain
Peak hiring begins in September, as most teaching positions in Spain start in October. However, if applying through a program, the application periods are open from January to March.
Over the summer there are a variety summer camps looking for English speakers to work, which begin hiring in the winter and spring. Private lessons, on the other hand, are in demand year-round -- just know that August is a quiet month in Spain, as it is when most people go on vacation.
Where to Find Jobs in Spain
Because English is in such high demand in Spain, there are countless academies and schools looking for native English speakers to teach. The Go Overseas Teaching Job Board lists several popular programs for teaching English.
There are also a variety of other websites that advertise teaching jobs in schools and academies, such as Indeed or Infojobs. For private classes, Tus Clases Particulares is a great place to advertise your lessons.
Common Types of English Teaching Jobs in Spain
There are many different types of English teaching jobs in the public and private education sectors, working with both adults and children. Depending on what kind of experience you’re looking for, there’s probably a job for you.
Working as a Language Assistant is the easiest and most popular way to teach in Spain. These positions involve working as a language assistant in a public school rather than as a full-time teacher, but they are a great way to gain classroom experience without getting a TEFL certificate first.Language assistant jobs can be found almost anywhere in the country, and involve between 12 - 20 hours of work per week for €700-€1,200 ($850-$1,500) a month and health insurance.
The most popular program is the Language and Cultural Assistant program run by the Spanish Ministry of Education, but there are also positions with UCETAM and Meddeas, some of which even include basic teacher training. Read about what it’s like to be a Language and Culture Assistant from a fellow teacher.
Though teaching in a public school is impossible without going through a program or being an EU resident, private language schools and academies are always looking for native English speakers to teach classes for both children and adults. These schools can be found all over the country, and most have websites that can be found with a little internet research.
Keep in mind that if you are not an EU resident, you will be paid under-the-table for these jobs, which means there are no benefits such as insurance or sick leave.
If you would like to stay in Spain for a shorter period of time or would like more cultural immersion, consider participating in a volunteer teaching program. Organizations such as CIEE or Greenheart Travel provide the opportunity teach English to a host family. While there is no compensation, accommodation is free and you will get a chance to see what life is like at home for Spanish families.
Whether you want to simply work a couple of hours on the side or try making it your full-time gig, private tutoring is a popular choice for many English teachers in Spain. Tus Clases Particulares is a great website to help you find private lessons.
Private English classes can pay €14€25 ($17-$27) per hour, depending on where in the country you’re working -- classes in big cities like Madrid and Barcelona pay more -- and how much experience you have. Having a TEFL certification will certainly help you in this case, as it will allow you to charge more per hour.
If the classroom isn’t for you, you can always work as an au pair or babysitter. More and more Spanish parents are realizing the importance of early childhood language acquisition and will pay you €200€400 ($250-$500) per month and provide you with accommodation in order for you to take care of their child. On the Go Overseas guide to being an au pair in Spain, there are several programs that will help you find a family and arrange for a position before heading to Spain.
Additional Information about Teaching in Spain
No matter what path you take to teach English in Spain, make sure you are aware of all the expectations and requirements involved including:
- Start and end date
- Accommodation (if included or if not)
- Working hours
- Health insurance
There is no better way to get to know a culture than to live in it; it will challenge your preconceived notions and help you learn exactly what it's like to live and teach abroad in Spain. Despite the stereotypes, Spain is not the land of eternal sunshine and daily siestas. What it is, however, is a socially and geographically diverse country with a beautifully welcoming culture.
Living and teaching in Spain gave me so much more than better Spanish -- it taught me about the culture, about the people, and above all, about myself. Whether you’ve been living abroad for the past five years or have just graduated and are looking for work experience, Spain is a great place to begin your next journey.