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Teaching English in Spain as an expat: What you need to know

8 min read

  1. Are English teachers in demand in Spain?
  2. Qualifications to teach English in Spain
  3. Types of English-teaching jobs in Spain
  4. How much do English teachers get paid in Spain?
  5. Can you teach English in Spain after Brexit?

If English is your native language, or you speak it at a near-native level, you may already have a head-start when looking for a job in Spain. One of the most popular jobs for expatriates is teaching English as a foreign language – particularly because it's one of the easiest jobs to find. It's also fairly accessible, since you don't need years of training to be able to do it. If you're considering this type of career, here is what you need to be able to get started, and what type of jobs are available.

English teacher teaching the simple present tense on a blackboard in a classroom
English-language teachers are very much in demand in Spain. Photo: Canva

Are English teachers in demand in Spain?

Yes, they certainly are. Since 1990, English has been the compulsory first foreign language taught in schools, and since 2006, it has been taught at infant school level (from age three to six). English is a core subject for the Bachillerato (sixth-form, or age 16-18 qualifications) for students taking the Arts route.

Many jobs advertised in Spain state that knowledge of the English language is a 'bonus' for candidates, meaning young adults in particular are keen to study it.

Despite the value placed on English-speaking ability in Spain, the standard remains very low among the general population. Even young adults typically only have a basic level of the language. Although competence is generally higher in reading, writing and grammar, the average Spaniard's listening and speaking abilities are normally fairly elementary.

For potential English teachers, this is great news - the wide gulf between desired and actual language competence means demand is huge.

Qualifications to teach English in Spain

English teaching jobs in academies or other organised settings will need a recognised qualification, such as a TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages), CELTA or TEFL certificate. You will not normally be expected to have a university degree in addition, although most TESOL, CELTA or TEFL courses stipulate a degree or equivalent as an entry requirement. Some courses will take candidates who are working towards a degree but have not completed it, or mature students who have at least sixth-form level education or the equivalent.

Giving private English lessons in Spain may not need an actual qualification, if you already have the necessary skills. For example, if you are qualified as a teacher in another field, especially in teaching a foreign language other than English, you should not find it difficult to transfer your existing techniques to be able to teach English.

Being a native or near-native-level speaker of English is the most essential qualification, but is not enough in itself – you need to have teaching skills, either through experience, qualifications, or both.

Types of English-teaching jobs in Spain

Anyone with a TESOL, TEFL or similar qualification can work in a privately-run language academy. Nearly all towns have at least one – some of which are specifically geared towards English, others which offer lessons in several languages.

It is very common for Spanish parents to send their children to after-school classes – sometimes several, and sometimes every day. English is one of most frequently-chosen subjects for these classes. Many Spanish children also attend extra-curricular lessons in the summer holidays, too, meaning English academies regularly offer short courses over July and August.

Children reading book with their teacher during their English class
Many Spanish parents send their children to after-school English classes. Photo: Getty Images

If you are already a school teacher in your home country, and your qualification is relevant to the curriculum taught, you may be able to find work in an international school in Spain. English teachers may be less in demand in international schools in cosmopolitan areas where pupils are mostly native English speakers, but in areas with a much smaller expatriate population, you may have greater chances of finding a position. In international schools in these communities, pupils are more likely to be Spanish, and the demand for remedial English classes greater. Note, though, that you are very unlikely to be taken on as an English-language teacher at an international school with just a TESOL, CELTA or TEFL certificate; you would need to have mainstream educational qualifications.

To be able to work in a State school, you would need to train and enter for public-sector exams, known as oposiciones. Once you have passed these, you would be placed on a long-list or 'recruitment bank', and expected to apply for any position notified to you. For the first few years, these might merely be a two-week supply-teaching job in another part of the country, but if you refuse due to practicalities, you will normally be taken off the list.

Any teaching jobs in Spanish State schools are highly competitive, with hundreds or even thousands of applicants per position. For this reason, it is extremely rare for children to be taught English in school by a native speaker. But this does mean those extra-curricular English classes in private academies are very well-attended, and private lessons also in high demand.

Another type of English-teaching job might include weekend clubs or summer camps, organised by the community or private academies. An example of this could be Saturday-morning sessions at a language school or community centre. This work is, effectively, babysitting, but in English – you arrange or supervise activities, such as games or arts and crafts, to keep the children occupied, but all verbal communication with them is in English. Such sessions, or workshops, are popular with parents of very young children, so they can get used to hearing English spoken before they start learning it at school.

Temporary work as an English language assistant in State schools or colleges is a great way to experience living and working in Spain for up to one academic year. Successful applicants work approximately 14-16 hours a week for a fixed payment of €800 a month. British and EU citizens can apply to the British Council's English Language Assistant (ELA) programme, and North American citizens to NALCAP or NALCAP Canada. Recent graduates can apply to Meddeas, which also offers full TEFL training.

How much do English teachers get paid in Spain?

In a language school, English teachers are not exceptionally well-paid – largely because only classroom hours are remunerated, not exam-marking or lesson-planning.

The standard, full-time Spanish work week is 40 hours – anything less is considered part-time – so you are unlikely to get a full-time worker's wage as an English teacher. Pay per hour is typically higher than in most jobs, so you won't necessarily be living on half a wage in a 20-hour-a-week teaching position, but you almost certainly won't be wealthy.

A standard teaching job at a language academy would earn you a net monthly salary of approximately €800 to €1,300 for 20-25 hours a week, depending upon where you are based. Academies in major cities, such as Madrid or Barcelona, may pay more for the same hours – up to €1,400 or even €1,600 in some cases – but the cost of living in Spain's main metropolitan areas is much higher, especially if you need to rent a property.

A couple who live together would be reasonably comfortably-off if they both worked the standard academy week, but sole earners usually find they need to take on private clients in addition.

Can you teach English in Spain after Brexit?

In theory, yes, you can, although it's far more difficult. Prior to February 2021, a job teaching English was one of the most popular routes to a life in Spain: Britons could take a TESOL course and then apply to all the language schools in their chosen area, and either continue indefinitely in the field or simply stay there until they found a job in their preferred industry. Any British national with a TESOL or similar was practically guaranteed a teaching job if a vacancy came up, even if they had no post-qualification experience, since native speakers are the most sought-after in privately-run academies. Yet now, although the door has not entirely closed, it has become much tougher to wrench open.

If you were already resident in Spain before Brexit, then you can simply apply for an English-teaching job, as long as you're qualified. But if you're British and not yet living in Spain, you need a visa to be able to work there.

Working visas must be sponsored by an employer who has already offered you a job, and the salary will need to meet the required for a visa to live in Spain. To find out more about what you need to earn, you could take a look at our article Moving to Spain after Brexit: Income requirements explained. If you're able to get a job in an international school, it is more likely they will be willing and able to sponsor your visa and provide a salary that meets the threshold.

Another route could be through self-employment. To meet the minimum income for a freelancer visa, you could start from the UK by setting up online tutorials or courses, targeting people in Spain. Or, if you have some capital behind you, you could set up a language school in an area with high demand and limited facilities. Both these methods would, however, require plenty of experience in English-language teaching. You'll find more information about this in our article How to register as self-employed in Spain.

If teaching English is your chosen career, rather than simply a route to living in Spain, you could look into finding employment in Spain in a different field – through a larger company with the means to sponsor your visa and pay you a qualifying salary – then look for English-teaching work once you become a permanent resident.

British citizens with Irish parents or grandparents may be eligible for an Irish passport in addition to their UK passport. If you are able to obtain one, you will not need a work visa, since the Republic of Ireland is a European Union country; you can simply move to Spain and then look for a teaching job. Otherwise, we recommend you take a look at our article Working in Spain after Brexit.

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  1. thinkSPAIN
  2. Information
  3. Working in Spain
  4. Teaching English in Spain as an expat: What you need to know