TEFL In Europe
It’s easy to conjure up the TEFL in Europe dream: a quaint flat with a balcony overlooking a café on a narrow cobbled street. Maybe in the dream you even wear a beret and tote a baguette in your bicycle basket. Unless you’re independently wealth, though, reality may be a little different. Irish, UK and other EU teachers* can work in the “old” EU states, while others will face an uphill battle to do so (but do lookout for a few stellar opportunities in Spain and France below). If you do have a chance to work, you will often need to make do with less-than-dreamy salary. Salaries in eastern Europe, in which I include both the new EU and pre-Eu countries, vary from “enough to live well by local standards” to “just enough to get by” in more popular locations like Prague and Budapest. Throughout Europe, full-time positions are on the way out, and hourly or part time sans benefits (but avec split shifts and unsociable early hours) are on their way in.
But – it’s still Europe and if you’re a true Europhile, the experience should be worth it! You may be shopping second hand and buying cheap wine for your unheated efficiency flat, but you’re living in Europe.
Please take the following information as a guide, but make sure to confirm details yourself. As an English teacher who has worked in a handful of countries, I do my best to summarize information and present useful generalizations. But keep in mind that I am one person working independently to provide information to make your life easier – I’m not an expert on EU employment laws and don’t pretend to present the last work on EFL employment.
Conditions and Qualifications
There are no hard and fast truths as far as who your students will be, but business learners are common, as are those who have studied English in school and who can and sometimes will grill you on grammar – so be prepared! While perhaps not always required by law for a work permit, teachers in Europe almost always need a BA and TEFL certificate to be competitive in the market. This is in contrast to much of Asia, where a BA will be the main requirement for many entry-level jobs. If there is a preference for a UK citizen (over a North American or other), this is more likely due to work regulations than one accent being favored over another. People may say they prefer one or the other but, given that they can understand you, individual characteristics, experience and qualifications make more of a difference than whether you pronounce the final –r or use present perfect frequently.
Overall conditions tend to be good or at least acceptable, though you may be surprised to find classroom technology lagging behind Asia and maybe even the US. Wifi and computers in the classroom aside, you usually have or can easily find what you need to teach.
Under The Table Jobs
Many people wonder about the possibility of working without the proper authorization. How frequently does this occur? How likely are you to get caught? It depends on the country and on who you ask. Working under the table is not recommended; first of all because it’s illegal, but also because you’re more likely to encounter disreputable employers this way. Those who don’t care about honoring local laws may also not care about honoring their verbal (or unenforceable written) contract with you or with their students. Under these circumstances, it’s much harder to get recourse if you are paid late, not paid what you are owed, or fired without warning. Illegal work is generally not going to be openly advertised as such online. Teachers sometimes still do it – perhaps some without a full understanding of the possible consequences – and so do schools…but beware and find more of my opinion on it starting here.
- Jobs: ESL Job Feed, Tefl.com, ESL Café International Job Board, Tefl.net
- Forums/Info: Dave’s ESL Cafe Europe Forums, eslHQ forums, One Stop English: Letters From Teachers Around The World
- Blogs: ELT Notebook (Italy), Teacher Dude’s BBQ And Grill (Greece)
- TEFL Courses / Teacher Training: CELTA, BootsNall’s TEFL course offerings, SIT, TEFL International, ESLbase TEFL Course Diaries