Updated January 19th, 2016
If you’ve decided that you want to teach English in Europe you need to begin the next stage of your planning: deciding where in Europe you want to teach. That’s right! Europe is home to a number of countries and their differences range hugely -- it is important to know which country is right for you before making the move, after all, this country is about to become your home!
One of the greatest things about Europe is that it is ideal for managing the perfect work and play balance. In many areas of Europe it isn’t all about work, work, work -- which means you’ll get plenty of time off to explore your chosen destination. And, being in Europe, this means that travel to other countries is easy and cheap. Spend a year teaching in Europe and you’ll be surprised at just how much you can fit in. Now go on, decide which of these popular countries for teaching in Europe is right for you.
Tips for Preparing Before You Go
- Get TEFL certified - While this isn't a requirement in some European destinations, most countries prefer their teachers to have one. Either way, it'll always make you better qualified and prepared for the job.
- Know what you need to do to get a work visa - Before deciding where you’d like to go, do some visa research. Some countries, like Germany, are fairly easy to find work in and obtain the correct documentation. Others, like Italy and Greece, very rarely hire Americans as English teachers and getting a work visa there is more difficult.
- Get a college degree - If you have a college degree (in any subject) this will definitely help your resume to race to the top of the pile.
Consider Which European Region You Want to Work In
Europe is a wide and varied continent offering lots of different opportunities to all types of English teachers. Whether you want to live in a country you fell in love with during study abroad, get a taste for teaching as a language assistant, or challenge yourself to live somewhere totally new, there's a destination in Europe for you.
Teaching English in Eastern Europe is popular with the more adventurous travelers; those who really want to dig deep and explore the world. Hover, the number of people seeking teaching jobs here is growing -- which means more competition. That said, there are still lots of teaching vacancies and you're almost certain to find a teaching post here if you really want it.
One of the main things that draws people to teaching in Eastern Europe is the low cost of living and the slightly easier to obtain work visas. Your salary in Eastern Europe will be reasonable, allowing you to live comfortably as a local while still being able to put money away in your bank each month.
Western Europe offers such a mix of wonderful countries that choosing where to teach can be extremely hard. There’s a downside to Western Europe though (a pretty big one!): it’s really, really pricey.
The upside is that your wages will reflect this. You can certainly expect a higher salary than any you’d get in Eastern Europe, but your money will need to stretch a lot further and it's not likely that you'll put away too much in the bank. You might not earn enough to save as much as you could in Eastern Europe but you’ll certainly earn enough to live comfortably.
Hint: The more experience you have the higher your pay will be, so stick around for a bit and you could find yourself earning a very decent salary indeed.
Scandinavia / Northern Europe
If you're up for spending a little bit more money (but living in some of the most beautiful and comfortable cities in the world), then your job search may take you to Europe's more northern parts. Though often overlooked, these colder countries have a great standard of living, beautiful landscapes, and a good environment to teach in.
Not to mention, Sweden and Norway in particular have work visas specifically for young people who want to be an au pair. It's not quite your typical classroom teaching job, but it will very likely include teaching your kids some English.
The Best Countries in Europe for Teaching Abroad
Even though you're bound to have a remarkable experience teaching abroad just about anywhere you go, some European countries are more attractive to ESL teachers. Whether it's their high pay, low cost of living, great benefits, or more, check out the top 5 countries for teaching English abroad in Europe.
1. Czech Republic
The most popular city in the Czech Republic for English Teachers to hail is Prague. With its cool pedestrian only squares, cobbled streets, historic buildings, and ever growing reputation as a top travel destination, Prague is always buzzing with things to do. Want some peace and quiet too? That’s easily offered even amongst all the partying and eager tourists.
Prague is split into the New Town and the Old Town, one side offering party lovers the chance to let off steam, the other offering the more relaxed a chance to get out of the way and enjoy some downtime.
Despite Prague's cosmopolitan feel, it's still a very affordable city to live in as a teacher compared to the rest of Europe. Work visas are also relatively easy to get, so long as you have a job lined up. Many teachers -- especially new teachers -- opt to to get TEFL certified in Prague so as to build a local professional network while getting qualified. Some schools that offer TEFL certification will also hire on exceptional students after completing the course to teach at their center.
Brno is another up and coming destination within the Czech Republic to consider for teaching abroad. The second largest city after Prague, it may not offer as much in terms of nightlife or the same variety of language schools, but worth considering nonetheless.
Poland is a beautiful country and one that everybody should see. Popular cities are its capital, Warsaw, and also Krakow, Gdansk, and Katowice. Of all these cities, I would recommend Krakow simply for its magical, fairytale feel. As you enter the square it is like stepping back in time -- you can even watch horse-drawn carts trotting in and out. During the summer, you can sit at one of the many outdoor café bars, watching the world go by. In the winter, the snow falls and turns the square into the perfect picture postcard.
One thing to be aware of when teaching in Poland is the popularity of the Callan teaching method, which encourages students to speak without translating the language first by running lessons at a slightly faster pace. Make sure you are comfortable with the procedure before signing any contracts because it certainly isn’t for everyone. If you prefer to teach using your own methods, the Callan way of doing things could come as a shock.
The capital city, Budapest, is an astonishing place to walk around due to its Gothic architecture and old worldly feel. Summer definitely suits this country best -- when the outdoor cafés are buzzing with business but winter brings its own appeal.
After a long day in the classroom, relax in one of the city’s many thermal baths and enjoy a steaming hot sauna or exploring the city with friends.
But don’t think that Budapest is all that Hungary has to offer; accepting a job outside of this large city will lead to a more in-depth Hungarian visit. If you are interested in not only teaching abroad in Hungary but also learning the Hungarian language, it is best to immerse yourself in the less tourist ridden areas.
The French may love their mother tongue, but it's estimated that nearly 39% of the population speak English and it's a required course for all students. Meaning, the demand for English language lessons is pretty high throughout the country -- from iconic Paris to the Mediterranean south, and everywhere in between.
France is a very diverse country, with many great big cities, quaint small towns, and exciting regions. If you like sightseeing then France is a great place to come-they love it here. Teachers are given good vacation time and, due to the Ministry of Education's careful planning, "tourist season" doesn't exit and your travel times will rarely be overcrowded.
Most English teachers, especially those from the United States, will enter France to teach via the French government's TAPIF program, which places teachers as assistants in public schools throughout the country (note: this isn't a good route if you have your heart set on Paris; teachers are rarely placed there.)
Otherwise, France also has a huge demand for Business English teachers, though they prefer to take people who know business over people who know teaching, working under the belief that you can learn on the job.
Danes tend to speak English really well, as the start learning it from a very early age. Danish students are eager learners and though there is plenty of work for English teachers in these countries, it is getting harder and harder to come by.
That being said, there remain a lot of opportunity for independently organized tutoring jobs in Denmark. The best way of finding work is to already be in the country as freelance gigs are pretty common and very well paid here. For first time teachers abroad, this could be an area best avoided.
The cost of living is at the higher end of the scale in Europe but so are the wages, as an established teacher here you could be earning up to $50 USD an hour. Pretty sweet right? But remember that prices in Scandinavia are astronomically high (upwards of $14 USD for a pint of beer!).
There aren't too many classic European destinations on this list, but Spain, like France, stands out for its government sponsored teaching program for North Americans. Given that one of the hardest hurdles to clear when teaching in Europe is the visa, these programs eliminate that problem entirely -- though you will have to have a working level of Spanish in order to qualify.
Furthermore, cost of living is very affordable, making the initially low seeming English teaching salary in Spain not so bad. (Not to mention, you can always make a little extra by tutoring on the side!)
For more details, we suggest reading writer and former teacher, Lauren Salisbury's blog post on what it's like teaching in Spain through the program.
Where in Europe Will You Teach?
This list is by no means exhaustive and there are many other countries in Europe that you can choose from. The selection I have chosen are just some of the most popular destinations designed to aid you in your search.