A guide to teaching English in Spain

A guide to teaching English in Spain

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If you want to teach in Spain, this guide explains everything you need to know to land the best teaching job in Spain.

If you want to teach English in Spain, type in 'Teach English Jobs' on a search engine and you will find tons of websites advising you to take the TESOL (Teach English to Speaker of Other Language) or TEFL (Teach English as a Foreign Language) or CELTA, as that is the key to a teaching English job not just in Spain but everywhere else in the world where English is hardly spoken.

Despite the economic downturn, the demand for Clase Particular de Ingles (private English class usually conducted at a student’s place) in Spain, did not seem to shrink as much. You can also search international schools, language schools and universities in Spain to see who is hiring, or check our listings of jobs in Spain.

When I arrived in Madrid in 2006 to join my Italian husband who was a PhD physics researcher at a public university, I found out too quickly that his monthly stipend of over EUR 1,000 was too little for us. As we had to spend about EUR 600 on rent and EUR 200 on utilities and groceries every month, his allowance was gone as soon as it arrived in his bank account. It was essential that I looked for a job.

My grasp of Spanish was so poor that I could hardly do anything but teach English. Yet, it was still not so easy to start with.

Choosing between small or big academias in Spain

Teaching in either a small or big academia does not make much difference, but I started out with a small academia as my working documents had yet to be sorted out back then.

No I wasn’t working illegally, but the truth is looking for a job in Spain without being invited by a local company can be quite a hassle.

I was told by the administrative officer at the police station where I presented my family unification visa in exchange for my legal residency status that I would need to wait a couple of months. It was exactly six months before I was told to collect my NIE (foreign residency card) which allows companies to employ me.

Before I turned to the smaller academias, I still bore the big-city-dweller’s mindset that working for big companies was always better. I tried to secure interviews with some big language schools only to realise they were unwilling to contract me – even though they seem pleased with my curriculum – as I do not have my NIE.

However, not all big companies are difficult. I came across one that was less strict in terms of bureaucracy matters.

Smaller vs big academias in Spain

Working for small academias is always easier. There’s less bureaucracy and people are more laid back. Working with smaller academias is also good as they value the teachers that come along. Teachers are made to feel important and good about themselves. Smaller academias also tend to pay you on-the-spot when you submit your attendance sheets.

On the other hand, some big academias prefer to offer staggering independent assignments instead of contracts. A one-year teaching contracts usually includes paying for your social security or any class cancellation (by student or by teacher provided the latter is able to prove that he or she is medically unfit) and classes that fall on public holidays such as the two-week Christmas holidays and one-week Easter week.

Teachers without contracts do not enjoy these benefits but do tend to enjoy a higher hourly rate.

Another advantage of being a teacher with bigger academias is that some of them offer in-house training and it is not necessary for you to spend time getting a certificate on teaching English even before you even get started.

Having been both a free-and-easy English teacher and a contract-bonded one throughout my life, I found little difference in terms of dues earned over the course of one academic year, as I earned less in terms of hourly rate when I was bounded by a contract.

TESOL, TEFL or CELTA

Take any of these courses if you are serious about setting your foot on this career path. It may affect your hourly pay or even employability if you do hold one of these certificates.

The courses tend to stretch over a couple of weeks and cost around EUR 2,500.

I have never taken such a course although I did take one private lesson to see if the course was suited for me.

In the end, I realised that even without the proper qualifications, I was already well-suited for teaching English; be it one-to-one private lessons for kids as young as six years old to a middle-aged politician, or even a class of five top executives in a big multinational company. I eventually dumped the idea of burning a hole in my pocket to attend a teach-English course.

How much will I earn monthly?

Normal hourly pay starts from around EUR 13 to as high as EUR 25, depending on your teaching experience, qualifications, the location of the class, the type of class you are required to teach and the academia you get your assignments from.

Not all big academias pay the top range; I came across some that pay less than those of the smaller academias.

Note that students do not pay you directly. Instead you need to submit all the attendance sheets to the academias at the end of the month and they will pay you either on-the-spot or in a couple of days time.

Most English teachers do not have a fixed pay because we are not paid for any class cancellation that are communicated at least one or two hours before the class, and any class that falls on public holiday is automatically cancelled unless it is pre-arranged with your student(s).

Students normally take a break during summer which usually starts as early as mid-June to mid-September, so you should also take this opportunity to pamper yourself and start travelling too.

In 2006, I managed to secure at least 30 hours per week which chalked up to a monthly pay of EUR 1,500 – a good fetch in my opinion.

After two years of teaching, I managed to maintain some good contacts and whenever I came back from my summer holidays, all I did was to give my usual academias a call to inform them I was back at work and they would start pouring me with assignments.

And one last tip, remember to hint to the academias that you are available to teach before you leave for your long summer holiday!


Jasmine Hong / Expatica
Jasmine Hong is from Singapore and has lived in Madrid for over three years.

Expatica Ask the Expert


For jobs in Spain, see Expatica jobs.


Published 2009; updated by Expatica 2016.


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5 Comments To This Article

  • Satish posted:

    on 4th August 2016, 08:20:27 - Reply

    Dear Mam,

    I'm a MBA professional and have 7 years experience in human resource and administration department. I am from india and want to go spain on tourist visa,please help how i get job in spain. Thanks
    Satish Kumar

    [Moderator's note: You can also post questions on our forums or Ask the Expert service.]

  • Leesa posted:

    on 31st May 2016, 11:30:01 - Reply

    Great post and nice resources for the one who needs to switch the career in English teaching. 

  • Nadia Pinheiro posted:

    on 23rd June 2012, 13:59:56 - Reply

    A WARNING to all potential candidates travelling to Madrid on purpose with the hope of finding work through this company. This headhunter is NOT SERIOUS. No indication of the company name at the advertised address - on the company door or elsewhere, inside or outside the building. Did not show up for scheduled interview, nor contact me on my mobile to reschedule or give explanation. Office presence erratic, so landline contacts advertised on company website not of much use. Turnaround time replying to e-mails poor.
  • Richard Harrison posted:

    on 1st September 2011, 17:39:45 - Reply

    If you are a qualified, native EFL teacxher and an EU citizen coming to Madrid, please feel free to contact me at EES Madrid. I have been running a Personnel Selection company, which is free to qualified native teachers, since 1986. For about one year now I have also been helping teachers and other EU citizens through all sorts of bureaucracy, including N.I.E., "Empadronamiento" "Seguridad Social" and obtaining recognition with teaching and academic qualifications at the Spanish Ministry of Education.
    If you are new to Madrid, please feel free to call me or contact me at any time: Tel. 34-91-531-4783.
    Kind regards,

    Richard Harrison. EES Madrid.
  • MOnkey Jockey posted:

    on 25th March 2009, 21:27:28 - Reply

    Interesting article, however: With academies, the cancellation policy is normally 24hrs. If a student/group cancels with more than 24hrs notice the academy doesn´t bill, therefore the student can't bill either. This is a pain with 1-2-1 classes, because if the student has a prearranged holiday, the teacher loses out on the money despite being available to work (and being unable to get other work to cover the class(es) due to being commited to that slot for the student. Normally with in company classes, the teacher is paid if the class is cancelled for the reason stated above - if I am meant to be at you office as x o ´clock, and you have a meeting etc, I can´t be elsewhere working, so the cancellation is your call and you company pays. These classes should be made up if possible, but this is oftne not the case (the student isn´t paying and/or timetables are not compatible). Also, to Jasimine - 30hrs per week for €1500 a month "a good fetch"?? 30hrs/wk is 120hrs/month (more or less) and the rate is therefore only €12.50/hr. There are many jobs paying much more than that with a little experience. I earnt that in my first job in a Barcelona academy with NO experience. Taking into account the Christmas, Easter and Summer breaks as well as festivos and puentes, €12.50/hr is breadline survival at best I hope you look into in company classes and find better luck than with academies Regards Monkley