Although Europe is one of the most popular destinations with TEFL qualified teachers, it is not generally the best region for earning big salaries. However, if you dream of living and working in a country such as France, Italy, Spain, or Greece, you should still be able to earn enough to live a comfortable lifestyle.
Table of Contents
The amount you can earn will vary considerably depending on your previous classroom experience, level of qualifications, the location you choose, and the type of employer. Salaries start at around 700 euro per month, rising to 1,800 for higher end positions. Teachers who are paid by the hour can expect a rate of around 18 to 20 euro. The majority of teaching jobs in Spain do not include extra benefits that are common in many other popular destinations, such as paid airfare and accommodation. While the pay and benefits are less than you will find elsewhere, most teachers should be able to live a comfortable lifestyle during their stay in sunny Spain.
Every year around 2,000 positions are available for Americans and Canadians to work as assistant language teachers within the public school system. The North American Language and Cultural Assistants Program is a government sponsored scheme that offers a great way to experience living and working in a foreign country. Salaries range from 700 to 1,000 euro per month depending on location. As the pay is quite modest by European standards, many teachers choose to top up their income by working as private language tutors in their spare time.
Although placement programs are very popular, they only offer a relatively small number of positions each year. For a large percentage of teachers, the country's huge number of private language schools provides the most likely source of employment. Most private language schools prefer to hire from within the country and pay an hourly rate that ranges from 13 to 18 euro per hour. This equates to around 1,300 to 1,800 euro per month for a typical full-time position. Once again, it is common practice for teachers working in language schools to top up their income by taking on private students in their spare time. Working full-time as a private tutor is also common as you are free to set your own hours and are able to charge around 20 euro per hour.
The cost of living does vary considerably in different parts of the country. In many small towns and rural areas it is possible to live comfortably for as little as 700 euro per month, while in Madrid you would need as much as double that figure. In large cities and top tourist destinations rent is generally the biggest expense, so it is common for teachers to share an apartment or rent a room in the home of a local family to reduce their costs. As salaries are not particularly high you are unlikely to be able to save much of your earnings while teaching English in Spain. However, you should still earn enough to live comfortably and to enjoy all the attractions that Spain has to offer.
The typical salary for ESL teachers in Italy varies considerably depending on the employer and the location, but you can reasonably expect to earn in the region of 1,000 to 1,500 euro per month. In general, salaries in the northern cities such as Rome and Milan pay the most, while you may earn less in the south of the country. However, as the cost of living can often be significantly less in the south, the lower income is often not an issue. TEFL qualified teachers with plenty of experience have a good chance of earning the higher end of the scale or even more, while those without a TEFL certification are likely to earn substantially less. It is also common practice for teachers to supplement their income by teaching private students in their free time. Rates for private tutoring range from 15 to 30 euro per hour.
Teaching jobs in state schools are very popular with foreign teachers in Italy as they tend to pay well and require fewer working hours than other employers. However, these positions are not widely available and are only open to teachers who have a high level of Italian language skills. For most teachers a more realistic option for employment is the network of private language academies that can be found all over the country. The majority of private language schools in Italy expect their teachers to possess a TEFL certification, although some do prefer to train new teachers using their own system. A typical working week involves between 20 and 28 classroom hours, with evening, weekend, and split shift work all commonplace. Pay rates are generally by the hour and can often be quite low in comparison to other employers, but the availability of jobs in this sector is widespread.
Private tutoring is also a very popular option in Italy, particularly in university towns and cities. This option allows a great deal of flexibility as you are able to set your own hours and pay rate. By advertising in local newspapers and posting flyers in student areas many teachers soon find they have as many clients as they can handle. Also, private students generally pay cash in hand which teachers often choose not to declare to the tax office.
Other employment options for foreign teachers in Italy include English summer camps which offer short-term contracts during the summer months, teaching business related English in the corporate world, and assistant posts in university English language departments. These options are relatively small in number but tend to pay a good salary.
As the cost of living is relatively high in Italy you are unlikely to save a great deal of your salary during your stay. However, if you have a full-time teaching position and are able to teach private lessons in your spare time, you should have enough income to live a comfortable lifestyle. Accommodation is rarely included in a teaching contract so this is likely to be your biggest expense. In smaller towns and cities it should be possible to rent a studio apartment for around 400 euro per month, while in Milan or Rome this figure is likely to be double or more. One popular option that can considerably reduce your expenses is to share an apartment with other teachers or with local residents.
The figure you can expect to earn as an ESL teacher in France will vary considerably depending on your qualifications and experience, the location, and the type of employer. For most teachers a figure between 1,000 and 2,000 euro per month would be typical. Many teachers, especially those at the lower end of the pay scale, supplement their income by taking on private students in their spare time. Rates for private tutoring range from 15 to 25 euro per hour. Teaching contracts in France rarely include any additional benefits such as airfares and accommodation but you should receive health insurance and some paid holiday.
The best salaries are often found in public schools and universities, however, these positions usually require high levels of qualifications and experience, as well as fluency in French. The most popular option for teachers who don't meet these criteria is to apply to private language schools that can be found in large numbers right across the country. Paris alone has over 500 language schools catering to a wide range of students of all ages. The average salary may be less than other employers but private language schools offer a good opportunity for new teachers to gain experience in the classroom. Private tutoring is also a very popular option for foreign teachers in France. Many teachers use it as a means to supplement their income, while others build it into a full-time occupation. Finding enough clients can take time but the flexible working hours that this option provides is ideal for some teachers. Clients can be found via advertising in local newspapers and magazines, by posting on bulletin boards in schools and universities, or by simple word of mouth.
Other options that are worth considering include summer English camps which often pay well and offer short-term contracts, and teaching business English to employees of private companies. American passport holders can also apply for a place on the government-run Teaching Assistant Program in France (TAPIF). As long-term visas are often difficult to secure for non-EU citizens this program offers a great way for recent college graduates to live and work in France. If accepted in the program you will receive a stipend of 790 euro per month.
Your monthly expenses in France will vary greatly depending on your lifestyle and your chosen location, although for most teachers a figure between 600 and 1,000 euro would be typical. The cost of living in Paris is considerably higher than most other areas so you will need to seriously consider your budget if you have your heart set on living in the capital. Housing costs are the single biggest expense for most teachers, with rents and utilities averaging around 600 to 800 euro per month for a one-bedroom apartment away from the most popular areas. To help reduce these costs many teachers choose to rent a room from a local family or share an apartment with fellow teachers.
Although ESL teaching jobs are still relatively easy to come by, the salaries on offer have not risen substantially since the start of the financial crisis. However, the average salary for a first-time teacher of around 800 to 1,000 euro per month should still be enough to cover all the basic expenses. Teachers with experience may find they can earn significantly more than the average sum. It is also common practice for teachers to increase their income by providing private tutoring in their free time. Hourly rates for private lessons range from 10 to 20 euro.
The vast majority of foreign ESL teachers in Greece are employed by private language schools known as frontistiria. You will find over 6,000 private language schools across the country catering to children of all ages, as well as a smaller number who handle business clients. As private schools are generally aimed at school children who come to improve their English skills outside of normal school hours, most positions involve teaching during the late afternoon and evening. The number of hours you can expect to spend in the classroom varies from one contract to the next but it is typically between 20 and 30 hours per week. It is rare for contracts to include financial help with airfares, but housing support and paid holidays are often included. Private language schools generally hire teachers at anytime of the year, although the peak hiring seasons are from August to October and throughout January. A degree in any subject is usually required and a TEFL certificate will also be a big advantage. It is worth noting that due to the extensive bureaucracy involved in obtaining work permits for foreign citizens in Greece, teachers with an EU passport are generally preferred by most employers.
Despite the economic downturn, Greece is still a relatively inexpensive place to live in comparison to much of Western Europe and North America. Housing costs are typically the biggest expense for most teachers working overseas, and while that is still the case in Greece, rental prices have actually dropped significantly in recent years. Utilities are another big expense so many teachers choose to house share to reduce their overall outgoings. Imported goods including food items are generally expensive, but if you do your shopping at local fresh food markets you should find much lower prices than in supermarkets. In general, the cost of living is considerably less on mainland Greece than it is on most of the islands that surround it.