Teach Abroad

8 Insider Tips for Teaching English in Spain

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Raneem Taleb-Agha
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Raneem is a Syrian-American editor, writer, teacher, and occasional singer. After graduating from UC Berkeley, she taught English in Spain for two years, from which her solo travel adventures began.

7 Insider Tips for Teaching English in Spain
Photo by Christina, Teach English in Spain Alum

When living in your home country, the job search is a relatively straightforward process -- polish your resume, apply to jobs, and wait for an interview. You already speak the language, and you are probably familiar with which websites to look for job listings and you have a network of people who can refer you to open positions or otherwise help you in your job search.

But maybe you don’t want something straightforward. Maybe you’re looking to learn a new language, experience a different culture, and seeking the kind of adventure you can only find when teaching English abroad -- and what better country to do just that than in Spain?

Looking for a teaching job in Spain, however, is a whole different story. Unlike at home, you probably don’t have a network of people to help you land a job, and it can be overwhelming just thinking about picking up and moving to another country that you’ve never lived in before. So, before you take the leap, here are a few things you should know before going to teach English in Spain.

1. Know When & Where to Find Jobs

When it comes to looking for a teaching job in Spain, the internet is your friend. Because English teachers are in high demand in Spain, there are plenty of programs that help set up aspiring English teachers with teaching positions all around the country.

These programs range from the free and basic, such as the popular North American Language and Cultural Assistants Program, to CIEE, which provides additional help with visas and housing in exchange for a small fee. Having everything set up before you even step foot in Spain can make your life easier, because the last thing you want to do is figure out a job, find an apartment, and make new friends all at the same time.

Spain’s school year extends from October to June, so the best time to find jobs is January through March of the year you’d like to start. However, some schools hire in January, so it’s worth keeping your eyes peeled for open positions in the fall too. And, if you want to spend your summer in Spain, you might want to peruse the job boards in April or May for positions at immersive English summer camps. Keep in mind, however, that August is a slow month in Spain -- most Europeans (including Spaniards) take their vacation at this time, and job pickings will be slim.

Pro Tip: Don’t rely on the internet for everything! While it’s helpful to find a position ahead of time, sometimes plans change and split-second decisions have to be made. You can always go to your city of choice -- be it Madrid, Sevilla, or Barcelona -- and search for a job on the ground.

2. Research the Types of Teaching Jobs

English teaching jobs mostly fall into two categories: public schools, and private schools and academies. Each has its pros and cons, as well as different requirements. For example, unless you go through a government program, such as the North American Language and Culture Assistants program, it’s nearly impossible to find a job at a public school in Spain, particularly if you’re not a resident of the E.U.

Some private schools and academies are willing to pay under the table, so this works if you don’t already have a visa. You can apply to these jobs in person or online, depending on the school. Locate the schools or academies you want to apply to on a job board, and email, call, or visit them in person to ask about available positions. Some private schools might require that you have teaching experience or a TEFL certificate, so be sure to have the requirements that they’re looking for.

Pro Tip: Teaching English is not the most lucrative career choice, but you can supplement your income with private classes, or clases particulares. Depending on where in Spain you live, you can charge anywhere between €15 to €25 per hour per class, more if you have additional qualifications such as a TEFL certificate or teaching experience. You’ll have the best luck finding these opportunities by word-of-mouth, but you can also post an ad on a classifieds website like tusclasesparticulares or put up fliers to find additional students. This type of income is not as reliable as working for a school, but it makes a great side-gig!

3. Know the Requirements to Teach English in Spain

7 Insider Tips for Teaching English in Spain: Know the Requirements
Photo by Mihir, SAE Barcelona Alum

Like with any other job, you can’t expect to land in Spain and be offered a position without a resume of sorts -- there are certain qualifications you must meet before you can find a position.

The most basic requirement is to be a native English speaker. Besides that, however, qualifications may vary depending on what kind of job you are looking for. For most paid positions, you need a four-year degree, and you’ll definitely have a leg up if you have a TEFL certification before starting your job search (you can earn your TEFL in Spain too, if that works better for your schedule/plans) . However, there are some exceptions: Notably, the Meddeas program has an option for candidates on their teaching programs who don’t yet have a degree.

4. Consider Volunteer Teaching in Spain

If you have a limited time frame, volunteer teaching might be your best option. These positions usually last for no more than three months and do not pay -- however, accommodation is provided through a homestay, giving you the opportunity to get an inside look at a Spanish family’s life and really improve your Spanish!

Companies like CIEE and Greenheart Travel provide these opportunities, but don’t be afraid to widen your internet search to find a volunteer program that suits your interests.

Pro Tip: If you only want to go to Spain for a week or two, you might just want to take a vacation instead. Students have a hard time learning when teachers come and build a relationship with them, only to leave after a week.

5. Understand the Types of Visas

Unless you’re a citizen of the E.U., most English teachers enter Spain on a 90-day tourist visa, working under the table. Though you’ll be paid in cash, you won’t be able to cash in on certain benefits such as job security and health insurance. E.U. citizens, on the other hand, will have no trouble securing a position legally.

For us non-E.U. folks, working legally means finding an employer to petition for a work permit. This is harder and more time-consuming than it sounds -- your employer will have to prove that there are no E.U. citizens who qualify to perform your job, a difficult feat when there are native English-speaking candidates from Ireland who can work without the need for so much paperwork.

Luckily, however, Spain has one other option for aspiring English teachers: the student visa. If you’re studying abroad in Spain, you can have a part-time job as long as you apply for a work permit at the Foreigner’s Office. Other long-term teaching programs, such as the aforementioned CIEE and Auxiliares programs, qualify you for a student visa that allows you to stay and teach for 6 to 9 months -- even though you won’t be studying.

6. Compare Salaries & Costs of Living

7 Insider Tips for Teaching English in Spain: Compare Salaries
Photo by Joel, CIS Abroad Barcelona Alum

Salaries for teaching English in Spain vary widely, depending on what kind of school you work for and where you live. By working through a program, you’ll earn between €700 and €1,000 ($800-$1,100) per month for 12-16 hours of work a week, while working at a private school will earn you from €1,500 to €2,000 ($1,700-$2,250) per month for 25 hours of work. Though this isn’t necessarily enough to save for a new car upon your return home, these salaries are livable wages if you live frugally.

For some extra cash, try giving some private lessons after school. You can charge anywhere between €15 to €20 ($17-$22.50) per hour -- more if you have teaching experience or a TEFL certificate. Just make sure to ask your fellow English teachers to find out the average cost for private classes in your city. You wouldn’t want to sell yourself short!

Pro Tip: Remember, though salaries are higher in big cities such as Barcelona and Madrid, the cost of living is also higher. After paying for rent, food, and transportation, the amount of money you have at the end of the month won’t vary too much between living in a city or a small pueblo.

7. Speaking Spanish Helps Everywhere

Though speaking Spanish is not a requirement for teaching English in Spain, it certainly will be helpful for your life outside of the classroom! Only about 27% of Spaniards speak English, and being able to communicate in Spanish will be a huge advantage when you’re looking for an apartment, going grocery shopping, or asking for directions.

This is especially true if you choose to live in a smaller town or city that doesn't receive many tourists. Learning even just the basics of Spanish before you arrive or taking a Spanish language course upon arrival will make your transition easier, and the people you meet will appreciate it when you try to speak their language -- no matter what your accent sounds like.

Pro Tip: Though Spanish is spoken throughout the country, some regions in Spain have their own languages. The most obvious example is the region of Catalonia, of which Barcelona is the capital -- though virtually everyone understands and speaks Spanish, Catalán is the language that locals use to speak to each other. Learning a few words of the local language will welcome you into new social circles and show your new friends that you’re truly interested in their culture. Bona sort!

8. Keep an Open Mind

Sunshine, sangria, siestas -- that’s what Spain’s all about, right? Though these elements can be found in some parts of the country, you shouldn’t rely on these stereotypes while teaching classes or making new friends.

For example, the majority of Spaniards don’t actually sleep during their midday break, and some of Spain’s northern provinces, such as Asturias, have year-round rainy weather more akin to the U.S.'s Pacific Northwest than to the sunny Mediterranean scenes you see on travel brochures. Spain is an economically, culturally, and linguistically diverse country, so do your research before you go and keep an open mind about the people you meet and the scenes you’ll see.

Though the idea of moving abroad to teach English can be daunting, it’s perfectly doable as long as you do your research and keep an adventurous spirit! No matter what path you take to start teaching in Spain -- whether you volunteer, work at a private academy, or go through a program -- your experience teaching English in Spain is sure to be one-of-a-kind.

This post was originally published in July 2013, and was updated in February 2019.

New English Teaching Jobs in Spain