It's no surprise that Spain is a popular destination for foreigners to teach English abroad. It's a country with so much to offer: a slow pace of life with the well-known siesta, a rich culture centered around flamenco dance and other forms of the arts, and delicious food and drink.
If you are interested in gaining experience in education, spending some time teaching English in Spain is a great way to do that, with the added bonus of experiencing a new culture -- and an abundance of tapas and sangria.
Whether you are experienced in teaching or not, or have a TEFL certification or not, you'll be able to find a teaching experience that's just right for you, while also immersing yourself in the Spanish lifestyle. With Spain's growing demand for English teachers, you will find a range of positions available all over the country, from private tutor to classroom assistant or head teacher.
Language and Cultural Assistant
A perfect opportunity for young professionals looking to gain teaching experience and spend time abroad, the Spanish Ministry of Education runs the North American Language and Culture Assistants in Spain, through which they place Language and Cultural Assistants in public schools across the country.
Language and Cultural Assistants are native English speakers who assist English teachers in primary and secondary schools. Assignments last from the beginning of October until May 31. In Madrid, the duration of the program is from October 1 to June 30.
Private Schools/Language Academies
If you're TEFL/CELTA certified, it's definitely possible to get a contractual teaching job at a private school or language academy. These are full-time positions that include a monthly salary, benefits, and vacation time. You will be the primary teacher in your classroom and will need to have some prior teaching experience.
If you're already in Spain, you have a better chance at getting one of these jobs as you can interview in person. Although it's a bit risky, it may be worth it to take the leap and move to Spain and then pursue one of these roles, especially if you have the requisite experience.
There is a high demand for private English tutors among Spanish families, and this is a great option for those who are looking for a really culturally immersive experience and may not have much experience teaching. The most common option for private tutoring is in-home private lessons, where you will live with a host family and teach English private lessons to the children, and sometimes adults as well, several times a week.
As you'll be living with the family you work for, you will really get to know your students and become a part of the family yourself. This will allow you to connect with the culture and people of Spain on a more intimate level, while also gaining valuable English-teaching experience. You will receive your housing free of charge, along with a modest living stipend.
The difficulty in finding a job depends on what type of position you are applying for. If you are applying for the Language and Cultural Assistant program, the application process is quite competitive but also very straightforward. Also, if you are accepted, you will be placed at a school by the Ministry of Education, so you won't need to worry about choosing a location.
If you're looking for a private school or tutoring job, you may face a slightly more daunting application process as you'll need to do independent research to choose what location you're interested in and what job opportunities are available there.
When to Apply for Jobs in Spain
Applications for the government-run Language and Cultural Assistant program are due in early spring, but you can apply in advance beginning in August/September. Acceptances for the program are announced in April, and this is also when you'll be given your location assignment. When applying to jobs at private schools, there are two main peak hiring seasons: Mid-September to Early October and January.
How to Apply for Job in Spain
Applying to the Assistant program is somewhat similar applying to a university or graduate school program. The applicant will be expected to provide information on their academic background, Spanish language level, experience working with or teaching children and young adults, and experience living abroad. You will be required to submit academic transcripts and write a short essay stating your interest in the program.
If you are applying to jobs at private schools, you'll need to spend a good amount of time researching and networking to find the best opportunities available. If you can save up enough money to move to Spain before finding a job, that's a highly recommended approach as it can help tremendously to be able to interview in person.
Average Salary of Teaching Jobs in Spain
The Language and Cultural Assistants are given a stipend of €700 a month, or up €1,000 in Madrid, for about 15-20 hours of work per week. Since the work hours are minimal and the stipend is modest, it's common for Assistants to take up some side tutoring or babysitting to help support themselves.
Teachers at private schools typically earn €1,200-€1,800 per month, which is a comfortable salary given the relatively low cost of living in Spain.
The qualifications needed to teach in Spain vary by role and school type. Assistant and tutoring positions typically do not require any certification for native English speakers, just a college degree. However, as these positions are becoming more competitive, it can definitely help if you have a TEFL certification or are at least enrolled in a certification course. If you are applying to teach at a private school or language academy, a TEFL certification will be required.
For all positions, it's preferable that you demonstrate some proficiency in Spanish.
Popular Destinations to Teach in Spain
It's possible to find teaching jobs all over the country, in urban, suburban, and rural areas. If you are applying for a Laanguage and Cultural Assistant position, then you will be placed in a school by the Ministry of Education, so you won't actually have a choice of where you teach. If you are looking for a job at a private school or a tutoring position, however, you will have plenty of options.
The two most common teaching locations are the large cities of Madrid, the capital in the center of Spain, and Barcelona, the coastal city on the Mediterranean in the Catalonia region of Spain. Valencia and Sevilla are other common cities for English teachers, and are great options if you're looking for a cosmopolitan location with plenty to do.
If you want to experience Spanish culture in a more intimate setting, consider looking at smaller academies or language schools in regions such as Andalucia or País Vasco, which are dotted with quaint, small towns.
Visas & Sponsorship
One of the major benefits of the Assistant program is that it provides U.S. citizens with a viable (and legal) way to teach English in Spain on a long-stay student visa. The process of getting your visa can take months, though, so it is important to begin the process as soon as you accept your assignment to the program.
For a teaching job at a private institution, you will need to obtain a work visa. Most schools will be able to sponsor you to get a work visa, but you'll need to confirm this before committing to a job.
Teacher Work Culture in Spain
One of the greatest perks about teaching in Spain is the work-life balance. It's common for schools in Spain to have a two-hour long lunch break, when children play outside and teachers spend time eating lunch leisurely and going over lesson plans.
If you are an Assistant, you won't be working full time and will have plenty of time to explore the country outside of the classroom. But even if you are working full time, there is still a greater emphasis on work-life balance than in the U.S., as Spaniards strongly value spending time with family, eating slow, freshly cooked meals, and spending time in the outdoors.
Classroom Etiquette in Spain
As a teacher or teaching assistant, you'll be responsible to some degree for classroom management. This is actually fairly similar to how it is in the U.S., where students are expected to be well-behaved in the classroom, not talk over others, raise hands, and treat each other with respect.
It's important to know that teaching styles tends to differ a bit in Spain from the U.S. In Spain, teachers take a more interactive, hands-on-approach with teaching and there are fewer standardized tests involved. This may be an adjustment for those who have prior experience teaching in the U.S.
Health & Safety
Health and safety-wise, there isn't much to worry about in Spain. It's a highly developed and safe country for tourists. You will want to be careful of pick-pocketers as this is common in Spain's larger cities, particularly Madrid and Barcelona. You will be an easy target if you look very obviously like a tourist and are not holding your personal items close to your body.
Participants in the Assistant program receive basic health insurance through the Spanish national health insurance system. If you're teaching at a private school or tutoring, you should make sure your health insurance plan provides coverage overseas.
If you take any medications, bring them with you as you will not be able to have any medications shipped from the U.S. to Spain.