A guide to teaching English in Spain
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.
For jobs in Spain, see Expatica jobs.
Published 2009; updated by Expatica 2016.
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