Spain is a favorite destination for expats and tourists alike. From the vast vineyards in the north, to colourful barcelona, the beach scene in Valencia and the quaint charm of Seville, Spain is country that has something to offer for every personality.
If exquisite architecture, historic art, delicious tapas, and beautiful beaches aren’t enough to tempt you to teach English in Spain, there are some other major draw cards to consider.
For one, Spain is conveniently located to help you explore the rest of Europe, and even parts of Africa. On top of that, it, it couldn’t hurt to learn a little Spanish - it is, after all, the second most spoken language in the world. And most importantly? Getting a visa to live in Spain can be really hard unless you can find a job. And you know what job market is bustling? Teaching.
So, if you’re ready to start your life as an English teacher in one of Europe’s most sought after destinations, this guide will help you get started.
To teach English in Spain, being a native speaker will help you to get your foot in the door. If you’re hoping to land a position easily or be at the front of the pack, however, there are a couple of other things you’ll need.
- A bachelor’s degree or above
- A CELTA or TEFL certification
CELTA and TEFL are basic English-teaching certifications, and both can be obtained in a little over a month. There are a couple of differences between the two:
CELTA (Certificate in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) is only issued by the University of Cambridge, and therefore it's a highly standardized course. The five week, full-time program is known to be pretty intensive, and will require a lot of hard work. It’s also notably pricier than its equivalent, TEFL. That being said, the CELTA certification is much more widely known, respected, and accepted in Europe than the TEFL, and holding a CELTA might put you a step ahead of other candidates.
TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) differs from CELTA in that it's offered by a range of universities and organizations. Because of this, the course isn’t really standardized - you’ll see variation in duration and difficulty based on where you take it. While the TEFL is widely accepted in Asia and Europe, it’s seen as a somewhat lesser qualification for European teaching jobs.
If you’d like to work towards your CELTA, you can do so via online or through an approved teaching centre. It’s worth noting that not everyone is accepted into the program - you can be rejected, just like with any other school.
Unlike some other countries, there are no major programs in Spain designed to place English teachers in schools.
That being said, there are some organizations that work independently to help place job seekers in English teaching positions. Two of the most reputable are:
CIEE is a non-profit geared towards fostering idea exchange, promoting understanding of cultures, and creating global citizens. CIEE offers one of the largest lists of exchange services, and works to put the best possible resources in some of the most desired destinations - like Spain.
Teach Away works more like an agency - it places program participants in jobs in a variety of countries and regions, including Spain. The organization not only helps with placement, but also provides assistance with visas, housing, and assimilation, along with other resources.
Whether you’ll have success in finding a job will also vary depending on your locale. In high-demand cities like Madrid and Barcelona, saturation of job seekers means positions can be difficult to find and obtain. If you’re happy to live in a more rural or suburban area, you’re much more likely to find job openings, and you’ll be more highly considered despite having weaker qualifications.
As is the case anywhere, your salary in Spain is going to reflect the region you live in, your teaching experience, and what type of school or university you work for. On average, however, you can expect to earn anywhere from $750-$2000/ £595-£1600 per month.
Private tutors working on an hourly rate might make between $18-25/ £14-20 per hour. Because salaries are so variable, it can be helpful to work with an organization like the ones listed above to help ensure you’re getting paid as much as possible for your work.
Unlike some countries, Spanish schools do not typically offer free accommodation for their instructors.
While rent varies a lot around the country, generally speaking rent will be the highest in the city centres and along the coast. For the purpose of this guide we’ll focus on estimated prices in Madrid - it’s safe to assume that more suburban or rural areas will cost less.
In Madrid, a 1-bedroom apartment in city center will cost on average €790 per month. Due to the fact that Inditex and its subsidiaries are located in Spain, you may also be pleasantly surprised by the cost of clothing - chain stores like Zara and Mango are absurdly cheap, and the rest of the market has been forced to lower prices to compete.
Some prices for common items and services include:
- Gym membership: €40
- Gas: €1.20 per litre
- Toyota Corolla or equivalent: €18,218
- Milk: €0.81 per litre
- Meal at an inexpensive restaurant: €10
These figures are estimates based on cost of living in Madrid. To understand how this amounts to in your home currency, you can use an online currency converter.
If you’ll be funding your bank account in Spain from your account back home, consider using an international transfer service like TransferWise to save money. This will not only help cut out expensive international transfer fees (money is sent by local bank transfers in both your home country and Spain), but will also give you the actual mid-market exchange rate. This leaves you with extra money for enjoying your time in Spain.
Unfortunately, if you’re a non-EU citizen, getting a visa to work in Spain can be nearly impossible. Due to some strict regulations, it’s much harder for businesses to prove the need to hire a non-EU resident, and with plenty of English and Irish teachers looking for work, it’s pretty tough for Americans.
Remember, we said nearly; if you’re extremely well-qualified and particularly suited to the school or district, you still stand a chance.
Many teachers opt to enter the country on tourist visas, which they then overstay in order to be paid under the table. This is highly illegal and definitely not recommended: if you’re caught you’ll be deported, fined, and banned from the country (at least temporarily).
One of the most common workarounds is to become a student. By taking classes at university, you’ll be able to acquire a student visa, which typically allows you to work. Plus, going to school is a great way to brush up on your Spanish.
If you’re from England, Ireland, or anywhere in the EU, you’ll find the visa process much easier to handle.
All you’ll need to do is head to Spain, and then apply for a residency card at your nearest Oficina de Extranjeros. You may be asked to submit documentation that you’re making a sufficient salary to support your life in Spain, but otherwise you’ll just need basic information like your passport number.
UK citizens beware, however: as the UK prepares to leave the European Union, the rules for getting a visa are likely to change. This process could be complete as soon as the end of 2017, but may take as long as the end of 2019. It’s important to keep an eye on your country’s official EU status before making the move.
If you’d like to double check on your status, the documents you’ll need, or what the process is, Gov.UK has more information on residency requirements in Spain.
If you’re ready to make the big move, congratulations! Nomadic Matt’s blog includes a great guide to teaching English in Spain if you’re interested in learning a little more on the subject. You can also check out Go Overseas, which lists and reviews a ton of programs and teaching opportunities. If you can’t find a job you like on there, you can always check out TES for a range of teaching jobs in Spain.
With that, you’re all set. Good luck in the job hunt, and enjoy your new life in Spain!