An essential guide to finding work in Spain, including information on the current job market, Spanish work permits, and where to find jobs in Spain.
If you’re looking for jobs in Spain, it may seem that there are only a handful of suitable jobs and an awful lot of job-seekers, especially if you’re limited to jobs in Spain for English-speakers. But it is possible to find a job in Spain if you know where to look for work. In particular, there are numerous jobs in Spain for foreigners with specialist skills.
This guide to finding work in Spain includes sections on:
- Work in Spain
- How to find jobs in Spain
- Self-employment and freelancing in Spain
- Traineeships, internships and volunteering in Spain
- Applying for a job in Spain
- Support while looking for jobs in Spain
- Requirements to work in Spain
- Starting a job in Spain
- Useful resources
Work in Spain
In Spain, lots of people find work through informal routes such as word-of-mouth, networking, and speculative applications. This is especially the case for small- to medium-sized companies. As such, don’t restrict your job search to agencies and adverts: be proactive, seek opportunities, and network.
Job market in Spain
Spain’s unemployment rate is one of the highest in Europe and the highest among EU countries as of May 2020, measuring at 14.5%. This is over double the EU average of 6.7% in percentage terms.
Spain also has the worst youth unemployment in the EU, standing at 40.8% in June 2020. The Spanish government has implemented a specific plan to try and address the youth unemployment issue. The highest levels of unemployment are among unskilled workers.
Despite high unemployment, you can still find jobs in Spain in a number of sectors including IT, automotive, pharmaceuticals, chemicals, food and beverages, and tourism. Large global companies in Spain include:
- Banco Santander (finance)
- Telefonica (telecommunications)
- Repsol (energy)
- ACS (construction)
- Iberdrola (energy)
- BBVA (finance)
- Inditex (clothing retail)
- IAG (air travel)
Job vacancies in Spain
Spain, along with Greece and Portugal, is one of the countries with the lowest rates of available jobs. However, sectors where you are most likely to find opportunities include the services sector, IT, engineering, finance and healthcare. Job openings in the fields may depend on specialist knowledge, for example, tax experts needed in the finance sector.
Vacancies also vary greatly across the different Spanish regions. You can find details of what’s available for each region on the EURES job mobility portal.
For English-speaking jobs in Spain, seasonal work in the tourist trade and teaching English in Spain are both popular sources of employment for foreigners, as are services catering to the large expat populations along Spain’s coastal regions and in major cities, such as Madrid, Barcelona, and Seville. Otherwise, Spanish is typically a job requirement.
Job salaries in Spain
The minimum wage in Spain is reviewed each year and at the start of 2020 it was uplifted to €1,108 a month (gross). Salaries in Spain contracted across almost all sectors during the 2007-08 economic crisis, with public sector jobs particularly affected.
However, in recent years average salaries have started to grow once again. According to Spain’s national statistical institute (Instituto Nacional de Estadistica – INE), the average salary in 2017 (the latest year for which statistics are listed) was €25,416. This varies by gender, region and sector.
For more information, see our guide to Spanish salaries.
Work culture in Spain
Spanish business culture leans towards companies having hierarchical structures, with strategic and other decisions being taken at the top. Meetings are held to exchange information or give instructions, not to come to a consensus.
Expect business colleagues to spend time getting to know you at a first meeting; it’s all about establishing trust between you with a high value placed on personal qualities. As a result, negotiations can be lengthy. Individualism is preferable over teamwork, although modesty is crucial for employees.
Labor laws and labor rights in Spain
The average full-time working week is just over 40 hours, from 9am until as late as 8pm, with long lunch breaks between 2pm and 4–5pm still practiced in some companies. However, in recent years the Spanish government has made moves to phase out the long lunch siesta for which the Spanish working day is famous for.
In many larger companies and multinationals, you will likely find the usual working hours and one-hour lunch break.
Workers are relatively well protected by Spanish employment contracts, which are common even for temporary roles. Probation periods are typically between 2-6 months. The minimum notice period for termination of contract is 15 days, although it can be as much as three months for those who have been employed for many years.
Spanish workers have a minimum paid holiday entitlement of 22 working days a year in addition to Spanish public holidays.
Find out more in our guide to Spanish labor law.
How to find jobs in Spain
First check out Expatica jobs. You’ll find a constantly changing selection of jobs in Spain for foreigners in a range of different sectors, both English-speaking and multilingual.
If you’re from the EU/EFTA, you can search for jobs in Spain on the EURES (European Employment Services) website. EURES is a job portal network maintained by the European Commission which is designed to facilitate free movement within the European Economic Area. As well as searching for work, you can post CVs and get advice on the legal and administrative issues involved in working in Spain, or any other country in the EU/EFTA.
Public Employment Services
The Public State Employment Service (Servicio Público de Empleo Estatal) or SEPE has information on vacancies, training courses and advice on job seeking. You can also search jobs at Empleate, a government job portal.
The Autonomous Communities also have employment offices nationwide; look in the phone directory or on SEPE website for local addresses. You can also check Sistema Nacional de Empleo for local employment offices and job vacancies.
Job websites in Spain
There are many job websites for finding work in Spain, including specialised sites for certain professions.
Jobs in Spain for graduates
- Bolsade Trabajo
- Expansión y Empleo: employment news as well as jobs
- Oficina Empleo
- Busco Jobs
Jobs in Spain for English speakers
- Ambient recruitment: multilingual professionals
- Approach People Recruitment: multi-lingual professionals
- Talent Search People: finance, sales, IT, e-commerce and native speakers
- Tecnoempleo: IT and telecommunications jobs
- Xpatjobs: multilingual
Teaching jobs in Spain
There are lots of opportunities for teaching English in Spain but just being a native speaker probably won’t be enough to secure a job – you stand a much better chance if you hold a TEFL qualification. Consider taking a course in your home country or one based in Spain. TtMadrid and TEFL Iberia are schools that can help you find TEFL jobs in Spain, otherwise you can also look for teaching jobs at Spainwise and Lingobongo.
Part-time English-language assistant positions, via the British Council, for undergraduates with two years’ higher education only require a minimum of AS level Spanish.
You might also be able to give private lessons and seek out your own English-speaking jobs in Spain – place an ad in a newspaper or expat publication, or use your networks and word-of-mouth.
Recruitment agencies tend to deal with temporary jobs in Spain. You can check which agencies are registered on the Sistema Nacional de Empleo website. Besides some agencies listed above for specialist professions, another private employment agency offering temporary and permanent work is Adecco.
Spanish jobs in newspapers
Although Spanish national, regional and provincial newspapers advertise job vacancies daily, most jobs are in the Sunday editions. You can also check out the jobs pages in the printed newspapers International New York Times, Wall Street Journal and the Overseas Jobs Express.
There are several expat print publications, some with online versions, that list jobs. Post or respond to recruitment ads in publications such as Metropolitan (Barcelona).
Networking in Spain
Lots of jobs aren’t advertised openly in Spain and many positions are filled through word-of-mouth or personal contacts. So spread the word that you’re looking for work in Spain, network with others in similar fields, and join professional groups, forums, and networking sites such as LinkedIn.
Some business networks include:
- Spanish Chamber of Commerce (Camara de Comercio): Spain’s largest business network with local chambers across the country, networking events and business support.
- Guiri Business
- Professional Women’s Network Spain
- Costa Women
Make contact with Spaniards and other expats with similar work or personal interests through a meet up group near you – if there isn’t one, you can start your own.
Make the first move
Submitting a speculative application with a cover letter and CV in Spain can be very effective. Make sure you address your letter to the right person. Follow up with a phone call (if your Spanish is up to it) or e-mail. You can search the company’s website for contact details, or check Kompass Spain’s large database of company details.
Self-employment and freelancing in Spain
Starting a business or self-employment and freelancing is also an option, and Spain has seen considerable growth in autónomo workers since the onset of its economic crisis. Just over 15% of the Spanish workforce is self-employed, which is above the EU average.
If you go down this route in Spain, you have the choice between working as a freelance professional/sole trader (profesionales autonomos) where your personal and business income are taxed together, or setting up a limited company (sociedad limitada) where the business exists separately. This means that you will have to file separate business taxes.
Traineeships, internships and volunteering in Spain
The EU offers traineeships for university graduates via the European Commission Traineeships Office (Bureau de Stages), otherwise internships or summer placements can be arranged by AIESEC (for students and recent graduates in the UK) or IAESTE (for students in science, engineering, and applied arts). Internships can also be found at Europlacement and Go Abroad.
For those aged between 17 and 30, volunteer programs are arranged by the European Voluntary Service (EVS), where you work abroad for up to 12 months in exchange for board, food, insurance and a small allowance. Concordia is another organization for volunteer opportunities. For volunteering while traveling or during college holidays, try WorkAway.
Applying for a job in Spain
Once you’ve found a suitable job, you will then need to prepare your application. You should adapt your CV and cover letter to the Spanish job market, and learn how to conduct yourself in a job interview to avoid any cultural blunders.
Some Spanish jobs require you to fill in an application form and write a personal statement rather than send a CV/cover letter. However, the content and tone of what you need to write is largely the same.
Unless you are applying for an English-speaking position or the job advert states otherwise, you will need to make your application in Spanish.
Job interviews in Spain are fairly similar to elsewhere. Expect the interview to last around 30-60 minutes, dress smartly and research the company before the interview so that you can give good answers and ask appropriate questions. Some interviews may be accompanied by short tests or tasks to measure skills and aptitude.
For more information, read our article on writing a Spanish CV.
Support while looking for jobs in Spain
You can claim unemployment benefit in Spain while you are looking for work as long as you have worked at least 360 days in the last 6 years and are registered for social security payments. The amount you receive and the duration depends on your level of contributions.
You can apply for unemployment benefit in Spain and check your entitlement on the SEPE website.
You can also find details of Spain’s Vocational Training System for Employment on the SEPE website. This is an extensive program of skills training to improve the employability and professional development of the Spanish workforce.
Requirements to work in Spain
Spanish work visas
Citizens of EU and European Free Trade Association (EFTA – EU plus Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, and Switzerland) member states can come to Spain and work freely, without the need for a work permit. Everyone outside the EU/EFTA will need a residence visa, as well as a valid Spanish work permit.
If you are going to freelance in Spain, then you must apply for a work permit yourself at a Spanish consulate.
Language requirements to work in Spain
If you don’t speak Spanish, besides working for a multinational company, jobs in Spain for English speakers include tourism, real estate, teaching English, and services aimed at expats.
For other types of employment, you will generally need to speak Spanish. There are numerous language schools in Spain where you can brush up your skills.
Qualifications to work in Spain
Make sure your professional qualifications are recognized in Spain by the Ministry of Education. Spain is part of the Bologna Process and is thus part of the European Higher Education Area, which means that higher education qualifications from other member countries are valid there.
If your country is not signed up to the Bologna Process, you can find out information about getting qualifications recognized from abroad on the NARIC website.
You can find out whether your profession is regulated in Spain, in other words needing a minimum level of qualifications, by checking the European Commission’s database.
You’ll also need to get any professional references translated into Spanish; don’t forget to bring them with you when you move. Consider getting a Europass, which puts your personal details, qualifications and skills into a standard format.
Read more in our guide to getting qualifications recognized in Spain.
Tax and social security numbers in Spain
You will need to apply for your Spanish NIE number from a police station or relevant embassy in Spain. This is a tax number for foreign residents and is needed to carry out most official or legal activities in Spain.
Once you have your NIE number, you can apply for your Spanish social security number which is used for all of your dealings with the social security system in Spain.
Starting a job in Spain
Once you start your job in Spain, make sure that you are enrolled for Spanish health insurance and social security in Spain. This covers you for public healthcare in Spain, Spanish state pensions, workplace insurance, and a range of other benefits. This is often arranged by your employer but you should check with them just in case you have to do anything yourself.
Many Spanish employers, particularly bigger companies, also offer various company benefits such as company pension, travel insurance, investment opportunities, and more.
- Spanish Public State Employment Service (Servicio Público de Empleo Estatal – SEPE) – government website containing information about vacancies, training, benefits and more
- EURES – EU job portal