Madrid, the capital of Spain, is a city immersed in history, filled with stunning architecture and lovely parks tucked away in the various barrios. It is also bursting with English teaching job possibilities. There are plenty of schools and language academies looking to hire native English speakers, not to mention people seeking language tutors for private classes.
Due to the current economic crisis in Spain, the unemployment rate is at an all-time high. Many Spaniards who have been unable to find a job have turned to English classes, in the hopes that learning English will give them an advantage in the job market and possibly to securing a job abroad because prospects in Spain are very grim. Therefore, English teachers are in high demand and there are an abundance of English teacher positions available in Madrid and throughout Spain. It may be a bit trickier for Americans to find a job teaching English because legally you need a visa to work and live in Spain, unlike EU citizens. While it may be more challenging to seek employment that offers a work-sponsored visa, fear not, there are a couple of options for you to pursue.Photo credits: federicojorda.
Government Sponsored Programs:
The North American Language and Culture Assistants grant program sponsored by Spain’s Ministry of Education is one of the most popular ways Americans find a job teaching English in Spain, and will sponsor your visa during your stay in the country. The program provides medical insurance and a monthly stipend of about 700 euros, depending on the region applicants are placed in. No teaching experience is necessary—the only two requirements are that you must be a native speaker of English and that you have a Bachelor’s from an accredited university.
While you cannot request to be specifically placed in Madrid since the program chooses your placement, you may put down the Community of Madrid as your top choice. The earlier you apply, the better your chances are for receiving the regional placement you put down as your top choice. All positions are in public schools and you will be assigned a 12 to 16 hour schedule per week in either a primary or a secondary school, depending on the preferences you provided during the application process. If you are placed in Madrid, you may find yourself at a school within the city limits or somewhere out in the suburbs of the Community.
Regional visa-sponsored programs in Madrid:
Unlike the North American Language and Culture Assistants which does not guarantee you a placement in Madrid, the UCETAM program is based in Madrid and only places their language assistants in schools within Madrid and the surrounding area.
colegios concertados, semi-private schools that are similar to US charter schools. You have a choice of working 17 hours or 25 hours a week (for 25 hours you get paid around 1450 euros a month, 17 hours between 700 and 900 euros) and the program also provides its participants with medical insurance through the public health care system in Spain.
For the BEDA program, language assistants attend a class at the University of Comillas outside of teaching hours to help them prepare for their roles in the classroom and are placed in Catholic schools. You have a choice of working 18 (900 euros a month), 20 (1000 euros), 22 (1100 euros), or 24 (1200 euros) hours a week.
BEDA offers its language assistants private medical insurance with UMAS and CASER. Both programs require you to have completed your Bachelor’s and recommend applicants to have prior teaching experience (though none is necessary) and to be comfortable around children. Depending on the school you are placed in, you may find yourself leading classes by yourself (with a Spanish teacher present in the classroom) and planning lessons.
Language academies are constantly looking for native English teachers since there is such a high turnover in the English teaching field in Madrid. However, it may be trickier to find a job at a language academy because most require you to have a work permit—very few, if any, will sponsor your visa. On the other hand, many language academies will hire native English speakers and pay them under the table. It is not legal and there is very little job security since employment can be terminated at any given moment. It won’t help your visa-less situation (if that happens to be the case) but it will definitely help fill your wallet.
If you are an adventurous sort and not too worried about all that legal mumbo jumbo, you may want to tempt fate and look into teaching at an academy. Academies also give you an opportunity to teach adults, if teaching children isn’t really your thing. Many academies require you to be TEFL or TESOL certified. If you aren’t, you will want to look into taking a course and getting certified. Not having a work permit may be a hindrance, but not being TEFL certified will make it almost impossible to get a job at an academy. One good place to look at for language academies job openings is Loquo (Spanish Craigslist).
Many English teachers give private classes to supplement their teaching income. Many people find jobs simply through word of mouth. If you are working as a language assistant at a school, chances are some of the Spanish teachers will approach you and ask if you are interested in giving them private classes or that they know so-and-so who is looking for a private tutor. Don’t be afraid to ask around yourself if nobody mentions anything—90% of the time teachers know someone who wants to take private English classes.
You can also advertise your services on Loquo, In Madrid, and Lingo Bongo and put up ads at local Internet cafés and on university campuses. Another great resource is contacting the American universities that have a campus in Madrid such as NYU in Madrid, Middlebury, and Saint Louis University in Madrid. The staff there may be able to put you in touch with people looking for private classes. And of course, it is up to you to decide on how much to charge, but most English tutors charge between 15 to 40 euros an hour depending on their experience.
When and Where to Look for Jobs:
For the Ministerio de Educación program, BEDA, and UCETAM, you usually apply for a teaching job for the following school year, so you start the application process between January and April. However, some language assistants do drop out of BEDA and UCETAM during the year, so there is always a possibility there are openings. In order to find out, you need to directly contact BEDA and UCETAM. Language academies hire year round but peak times are August-September and January and there is no shortage of people looking for private English classes throughout the year. There are many English teacher jobs posted online on TEFL websites and expat forums, along with some of the resources already mentioned above. It is easier to already be physically in Madrid when you are applying because some employers may not even consider you if you are out of the country, since they usually want someone who can start right away.
The minimum requirements for the Ministerio de Educación, BEDA, and UCETAM are to be a native English speaker and to have a college diploma. Language academies and international schools usually look for people who are TEFL certified and who have previous teaching experience. It also does not hurt to have an intermediate level of Spanish. While speaking Spanish isn’t necessary for the job, it is necessary if you plan on living in Spain for an extended period of time.
Salary & Cost of Living:
Depending on where you are teaching English, you may make anywhere from 600 euros to 1300 euros a month (or slightly more if you are one of the lucky few working as a certified teacher at a private or public school). For the visa-sponsored programs, you are paid a flat rate a month. If you are working at a language academy, you are usually paid by the hour so it depends how many days a week you are teaching. Many English teachers give private classes to make extra money on the side.
Finding housing in Madrid is relatively easy. While none of the English teaching programs in Madrid provide housing for its teachers, you can always ask your employer for recommendations. Many apartments come already furnished—just be wary of moving into an apartment without signing a lease first. It is common in Madrid for tenants to move into apartments without signing a contract, although this is technically illegal. As a foreigner, try looking for a landlord with a lease contract already in place. One of the best ways to browse listings for apartment rentals are websites like Idealista, Vibbo, and En Alquiler. There really are no “bad neighborhoods” in Madrid, though Lavapiés is where a lot of immigrants live. While the place may seem a bit sketchy at night, the worse thing I ever saw going on was some drug deals and some guys calling out to passersby asking if they wanted to buy marijuana.
For rent, you will probably be paying between 300-500 euros a month if you are living with roommates. Add an extra 30 to 60 euros for utilities. Groceries usually cost about 25-40 euros and if you buy the monthly abono (monthly metro and bus pass), that is another 55 euros a month. It may seem like a lot, but if you are savvy with your spending, you will have money left over to go out at night and to travel around Europe during school breaks.
Classroom & Work Culture:
The classroom culture in Spain is very different from the United States. Students call their teachers by their first name, including the principal of the school. Teachers also touch their students more (no, not in that way), by hugging them, rubbing them on the back, and even on occasion by lifting them into the air (yes, I did see this happen!)—unlike American teachers who follow a strict protocol when it comes to physical contact with their students. On the whole, the Spanish work environment is more relaxed, which is evident through the two hour lunch break students and teachers get at midday. There is also no formal dress code. Teachers can wear jeans and almost whatever they want (at my school the male teachers came to school wearing sweatpants and sweatshirts and I once saw a teacher wearing a strapless top).
Education in Spain is based mostly on memorization and test results, so students usually take notes as teachers lecture or read aloud from the textbook. Students aren’t used to classroom discussion, which is commonly used in American schools. Don’t be surprised if you ask open ended questions and nobody raises their hand at first. Be patient and keep at it—the students will eventually warm up and want to practice their English aloud.