Europe is an excellent and often-overlooked ESL destination. If you’re interested in finding the perfect spot to teach English in Europe, you want to check out this info-packed guide and some of our top recommendations of places to go to teach in Europe.
Let’s dive into the rundown.
Highlights of TEFL in Europe Jobs
Here are a few highlights of teaching English in Europe – which generally apply across the board — that you might want to consider:
- Culture. Europe was the epicenter of the Western Renaissance and Enlightenment. From world-class art museums to stunning cathedrals to medieval-era castles, Europe hosts more cultural riches than you could ever hope to explore in a lifetime.
- History. Europe’s story extends back thousands of years – with the artifacts to prove its historical footprint like buildings that have survived centuries and some structures like the Greek Acropolis that have weathered even longer expanses of time.
- Similarity to your native culture. Sometimes, Westerners go abroad in search of an environment that’s entirely novel (I did when I went to Asia). However, such a drastic change might not be ideal for everyone. If you’re coming from a Western culture like North America or Oceania, you might want to consider the shared cultural heritage – for instance, much of the food, the religious heritage, the general worldview.
- Versatile geography. Europe is home to a wide range of climates. From sunny Portugal in Southern Europe to the wintery upper latitudes of Poland, there’s a climate to match everyone’s preferences.
- Social support services. In most European countries, essential services like medical care are free or extremely cheap to the patient at the point of care.
Best Places to Teach English in Europe
Let’s explore a few of the top ESL destinations in Europe. To learn more about each, check out the links at the ends of the sections for our all-encompassing TEFL Hero guides to each respective country.
The land of Don Quixote is still as enchanting as it was when Cervantes wrote his classic novel centuries ago. It’s got one of the higher levels of development on the continent and a rich geographical, cultural and historical landscape.
Here are a few highlights of teaching English in Spain:
- The government has made huge investments to recruit and welcome ESL teachers from abroad
- The majority of jobs are located in larger cities such as Madrid, Barcelona, and Valencia
- Easy-to-get Working Holiday Visa is available to Kiwis, Aussies, and Canadians (sorry, Americans). On this visa, you can stay in-country for up to a year with minimal bureaucratic wrangling
- The climate is generally warmer than certain other locales on this list such as Germany, France, and Poland
The average salary for an ESL teacher in Spain, depending on the location and school type, is $1,500-$2,300.
The average cost of living in Spain is about $1,500, including rent in a one-bedroom apartment.
Recommended programs for finding rewarding ESL work in Spain are ConversaSpain, CIEE, and the North American Language and Culture Assistants Program (NALCAP).
Take a digital tour of a day in the life of an ESL teacher in Spain:
Like Portugal and Italy, which we’ll also profile coming up, work-life in Spain is a little slower in comparison to other European destinations. The Spanish, in short, enjoy their leisure. (La Siesta – the mid-day nap, is a bit of an anachronism, as it’s gone the way of the buffalo in many areas, especially the big cities. But it’s still practiced in more traditional areas).
When you think of Rennaissance enlightenment and all the artistic flair that came along with it, your mind probably jumps to Italy. Whether you dream of rowing through the canals of Venice or touring the Roman Colosseum, there’s no shortage of diversion, nor ESL jobs, in “lo Stivale” (“The Boot”).
Here are the CliffsNotes on ESL in Italy:
- Nulla Osta (work permit) required for non-EU citizens (the bureaucracy can be quite opaque and slow-moving if you don’t have the help of your hiring school)
- Most jobs are available in the big cities like Naples, Florence, and Rome
- There are tons of summer camp teaching opportunities available
The average salary is in the €1,000-€1,500/month range (about $1160-$1740/month) – somewhat lower than the continent-wide average. Jobs in bigger cities pay more, as a reliable rule of thumb, than ones in smaller cities and villages. The North, likewise, tends to offer higher pay than the relatively less economically developed South.
The average cost of living in Italy, depending on the region of the country and the size of the municipality, is about $1,500-$2,000 monthly. It’s the 4th most affordable country in Western Europe.
One highly-reviewed program for finding rewarding ESL work in Italy is GeoVisions Foundation’s program. This is particularly marketed to young and new ESL teachers; you get the benefit of TEFL certification + job placement + visa assistance. The program can function as a springboard to future, more lucrative work.
Here’s a day in the life of an ESL teacher in Italy from Aussie Renee Williams:
Portugal is arguably Western Europe’s best-kept secret. Although historically its neighbors to the east, notably Spain and France, have gotten more love, foreign ESL teachers are increasingly interested in Portugal as their first choice.
Here’s the down-low on ESL in Portugal
- It’s one of the fastest-growing labor markets for foreign ESL teachers in Europe
- Non-EU citizens must apply for a Portuguese residence certificate within three months of arrival
- Portugal has one of the lowest costs of living in Western Europe
The average salary for an ESL teacher in Portugal is $1,000-$2,500/month.
The average cost of living in Portugal is $1,200-$1,800 monthly. Expenses are highest in Lisbon.
If you’re looking for an organized ESL experience with an established program, we recommend Teach For All as a solid resource for finding rewarding ESL work in Portugal.
Did you know? Portugal routinely claims the #1 spot on lists ranking the best digital nomad destinations. With its generous digital nomad visa options, friendly atmosphere, and relatively low cost of living, why not consider teaching English online with Portugal as your home base?
For inspiration, read our guide to 21 Best Companies To Teach English Online To Chinese Students In 2022.
Germany is one of the most highly-developed destinations in Europe with a world-class social support network, an advanced economy, and unbeatable beer.
Here’s a nutshell summary of teaching English in Germany:
- It’s got one of the highest pay rates for ESL jobs in Europe
- Working holiday visas upon arrival allow certain visa holders up to 90 days to find a job
- German residents enjoy an exceptionally high quality of life
The average salary for an ESL teacher in Germany is $1,400–2,250 USD/month ($14-22/hr).
The average cost of living in Germany is $1,400-$2,200, depending on whether you’re located in a big city or a smaller township/rural area.
Survey a “day in the life” for an ESL teacher in Germany:
France rivals Italy as the #1 European hotspot for cultural and historical legacy. Just envisioning Paris’ iconic streetside cafes stirs the romantic passions.
Here are the highlights:
- France has a vastly underserved ESL market
- Student visas are available to enrolled university students, which you can leverage to get into the country and find a job
- Second perhaps only to Germany, France has the highest quality of life of any country on this list and a top-tier healthcare system
The average salary for an ESL teacher in France is $1,000-$2,500/month.
The average cost of living in France is about $1,700-$2,000, depending on your location.
We recommended that American teachers take advantage of the Teaching Assistant Program in France (TAPIF).
Journey on a “day in the life”:
For ESL work, Poland is the crown jewel of the East. It’s come a long way economically in the past 20 years since the collapse of the Soviet Union.
Here’s the lowdown on the highs of ESL life in Poland:
- It has a lower cost of living than other countries listed here
- Work visa is required for non-EU passport holders
- Schools have generally more lenient requirements for teachers than other countries in the West
The average salary for an ESL teacher in Poland $1,400-$2,000.
The average cost of living in Poland for a single person in a one-bedroom apartment is roughly $1,200 — 38.67% lower, for contrasting purposes, than in Germany.
You can look for work through one of the many NGOs serving Poland.
Survey the Polish work-life vibe with Laura:
General Requirements for Teaching English in Europe
European schools and visa-issuing governments tend to have a universal set of requirements for ESL teachers. The most common of these include:
- TEFL/TESOL. TEFL certification is increasingly a standard qualification that teachers must possess. TEFL Hero’s flagship, comprehensive 120-hour online course is fully accredited and accepted worldwide from East Asia to South America to Europe. We also offer a 40-hour 100%-free online course to get your TEFL feet wet.
- Bachelor’s degree. Most schools require that teachers have attained a minimum of a 4-year university degree.
- Native English Speaker. Schools typically require that an applicant come from a native English-speaking country, defined as UK, Ireland, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, and United States passport holders. In some instances, non-native speakers may present evidence of high English proficiency such as a CELTA certification.
Get Certified to Teach Anywhere!
Keep in mind that many of these requirements are flexible. Ultimately, most employers have wide latitude in terms of who they hire; many standard requirements are negotiable.
ESL summer camps that occur seasonally throughout the continent tend to have laxer restrictions – you might not need a bachelor’s degree or be a native speaker to participate. Experiences like those can give you important work experience and may, in some cases, incentivize future employers to overlook deficiencies in your resume that they might not otherwise.
How to Find English Teaching Jobs in Europe
There are several methods to find an English-teaching job in Europe. You can do it yourself (DIY) or you can enlist help from a private entity or government.
Online job boards are increasingly the easiest and quickest resource for landing your ESL dream job. You can apply for multiple jobs at once in a matter of minutes from the convenience of your laptop in your PJs (just put on some clothes for your Skype or Zoom interview).
Some of our favorite ESL job boards to locate well-paying jobs in Europe include:
Many European governments with a strong national emphasis on developing their populations’ English proficiency coordinate the placement of teachers in schools throughout their territories.
For instance, Spain’s North American Language and Culture Assistants Program (NALCAP) places Americans and Canadians in classrooms across the country.
Check out our full country guides linked above for the country you’re interested in to learn what government programs, if any, are available to native English-speaking teachers as a high-value commodity.
Finally, you can go the paid route.
Programs like CIEE’s Language and Culture Assistants are potentially great resources, especially for young or new teachers.
While the obvious drawback is the out-of-pocket cost to teachers, enrolling in a paid program does have certain benefits. Chief among them are visa support, job placement/job guarantees, and professional networks to build your career on.
What’s the Pay Like to Teach in Europe?
Europe, as a whole, has a higher rate of pay than other world regions. Perhaps second only to oil-rich Middle Eastern countries like Saudi Arabia and the UAE, Europe is the highest-paying region for ESL teachers. However, we’re not comparing apples to apples: you should also factor in the higher relative cost of living in much of Europe compared to, for example, Southeast Asia.
Teaching in Europe FAQ
Let’s run down a few frequently asked questions regarding teaching English in Europe.
Are English teachers in demand in Europe?
Yes. Various European states have made significant investments in English as a second language (ESL) education. English is the international business language, so it’s vital to economic development.
Which European country offers the highest salary for English teachers?
The highest-paying ESL jobs tend to be in the Western destinations with higher rates of economic development. France and Germany tend to pay the most.
Is teaching overseas a good idea?
Teaching overseas, for many teachers, is a life-changing experience that opens up new perspectives and allows social connections that would otherwise be unavailable at home.
Is it hard to get a job after teaching abroad for a year?
ESL jobs are plentiful; generally speaking, there is greater demand than supply in terms of ESL teachers, so it’s not hard to find a job if you have the basic qualifications.
Is it safe to teach in Europe?
European crime rates, especially in the more developed Western half of the continent, are some of the lowest in the world.