If you’ve got a burning desire to teach English in Portugal, or just want a feel for what it’s like, here’s all you need to know about living and working in arguably the most exotic locale in Western Europe.
About Teaching English in Portugal
Thanks to its glistening beaches, its relatively warm Mediterranean climate, and its historical attractions, Portugal has come to rely heavily on tourism for its economic vitality.
Along with a growing tourism sector comes an increasing demand for English education to meet the needs of incoming visitors. However, Portugal has historically lagged behind other EU member states in its foreign language instruction to students:
“In a majority of EU Member States, more than three fifths of students in general upper secondary education pupils were learning two or more foreign languages in 2019; by contrast, this share reached only… 6.3 % in Portugal.”
What this means is that the Portuguese ESL industry is ripe for explosive growth – and we’ve got the low-down on where to get your foot in the door of this expanding ESL job market.
On average, you can expect to earn in the range of $1,000-$2,500/month, depending on the type of school and your credentials. We’ll survey some common ESL jobs with specific examples of posted job ads later on.
What Are the Requirements to Teach English in Portugal?
The requirements to land an ESL job in Portugal will vary slightly from position to position but generally include:
- Native English-speaking status
- 4-year university degree in any subject (may not be required for all jobs)
- Teaching experience (again, may not be universally required)
- TEFL certification from an accredited provider*
*If you haven’t earned your TEFL certificate yet, check out TEFL Hero’s 120-hour 100%-online, self-paced TEFL course. At just a $99 price point, you can study on your own time to earn this fully-accredited certification.
Adding a high-quality TEFL certificate from a reputable provider to your resume arsenal will unlock multiple teaching opportunities in Portugal and elsewhere that are otherwise unavailable to non-certified teachers.
What Visa Do You Need to Teach English in Portugal?
Visa requirements to teach English in Portugal vary depending on the passport you hold.
For passport holders from EU member states, you won’t need any special visa to travel and teach in Portugal.*
However, teachers from EU member states and non-EU member states alike must apply for a Portuguese residence certificate after three months.
*The UK’s recent exit from the EU (Brexit) has complicated diplomatic matters between the island nation and continental Europe.
Beginning in 2022, whereas previously UK and Irish citizens enjoyed visa-free work in the EU, incoming Brits will need to apply for authorization to work in Portugal via the European Travel Information and Authorization System (ETIAS).
All other passport holders from non-EU states must apply for an autorização de trabalho (work permit) from the Portuguese government.
You may then, depending on your passport, also be required to apply for a separate work visa.
Many employers, for the sake of bureaucratic efficiency, often prefer to hire teachers from EU member states. However, being short on native English-speaking nationalities given the UK’s recent departure, schools are more and more willing to accommodate non-EU applicants.
The bottom line: don’t let your passport hold you back from applying for the job you want. Schools will take care of work permits/visas for candidates they are enthusiastic about.
Types of English Teaching Jobs in Portugal (+ Salaries)
Here are the most plentiful and high-paying ESL jobs available in Portugal.
Portugal ESL Job Type #1: Private Language Schools
Private language school positions are by far the most abundant ESL teaching opportunities available in Portugal. A quick job search (more on where to look online later) will return scores of wanted ads recruiting teachers, like this one from Language Project in Loures, near Lisbon:
Depending on your lifestyle, private language school schedules can be great for night owls because their classes typically occur during the afternoons/evenings and on the weekends, allowing you to sleep in during the day.
Due to a higher turnover rate than other school types, language schools tend to have an ongoing need for teachers – so if you’re interested in a school, don’t hesitate to contact them directly to see if they’re in the market, even if they haven’t publicized an opportunity. You’ll be surprised how many are receptive to unprompted solicitations.
Portugal ESL Job Type #2: International Schools
As the highest-paying institutions in the country, international schools offer unparalleled salaries and benefits packages to qualified candidates. Along with that higher pay tier, though, come more stringent requirements and greater competition.
Here is the recruitment page for the United Lisbon International School:
As you can see from their staff overview page, the school employs a diverse set of teachers from a wide range of nations around the world.
And here is another ad from Carlucci American International School of Lisbon:
As is the case in most countries, the majority of the international schools in Portugal are located in the capital city where the elites with the resources to invest in their children’s expensive educations live and work.
Portugal ESL Job Type #3: Adult Business Education
Due to the vital importance of tourism to Portugal’s economic livelihood that we discussed earlier – in addition to the global trend of internationalized commerce — there are tons of opportunities to teach English to corporate employees and tourism sector workers who require improved English proficiency to do their jobs.
Here is an ad from goFluent for “online corporate English teacher“:
Increasingly, many of these jobs are available online but you can still find in-person positions by checking out the resources we’ve provided in an upcoming section.
Where to Teach English in Portugal
Here are the top locales to snag your next ESL position in Portugal.
By far among Portuguese destinations, Lisbon is home to the greatest wealth of ESL positions, both in terms of volume and in terms of pay rate.
The preponderance of the international schools and high-end corporate gigs, for example, are situated here. Plus, with its idyllic location on the coast against a versatile backdrop of architectural influences, it’s the quintessence of “picturesque.”
Home to around 1.7 million inhabitants, Porto is Portugal’s second-largest urban hub. It’s also one of the oldest European cities and accordingly was awarded status as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. Like Lisbon, there is a plethora of well-paying English jobs here. For the aesthetically minded, arguably, Porto rivals Lisbon in beauty.
If Porto and Lisbon represent the business aspect of Portugal, then the Southern Portugal region is the pleasure side of things – featuring golf courses and beaches galore, a year-round warm Mediterranean climate, a pair of stunning national parks, and a slower way of life than the fast-paced urban environments of the capital and second cities.
ESL jobs are less plentiful here but there is still a strong demand, especially around the peak hiring seasons of August and the New Year.
How to Find an English Teaching Job in Portugal
Here is the definitive how-to guide to finding and landing your dream ESL job in Portugal.
Where to Start
Being in the digital age, the majority of ESL jobs in Portugal are posted online across a handful of popular hosting sites. Accordingly, surveying the jobs offered on the web is a great first step to get an idea of what is out there and to compare the various pay rates and teaching requirements, etc. among schools.
Start by visiting these resources:
If you’re in the fortunate position to already be physically present in the country, then you can augment your online job search with old-fashioned pavement pounding.
Many employers place a premium on teachers already in-country because it eliminates the headache of handling (at least a few of) the logistical hurdles in terms of importing new teachers from abroad.
You might consider leveraging your physical presence in two ways:
- Identify job postings online that interest you, apply via email, and then follow up that application with an in-person visit (this demonstrates both the obvious fact that you are, indeed, present in Portugal as well as a commitment to securing the position)
- Visit schools that you are interested in but haven’t seen any online job ads for (they might be hiring anyway)
How to Get Hired
Here are a few ways to guarantee that you’ll land the ideal ESL position in Portugal:
- Get to Portugal ahead of your hiring, if possible, to reap the benefits described above
- Survey new job ads on the sites posted above every day to apply to newly opened positions ASAP (which gives you an edge in the hiring process, especially for schools that are in a hurry to fill vacancies)
- If you apply to a position online but don’t hear back within a week, send another email (it’s very possible, as often happens, that your application was simply lost in the sea of other emails in the hiring manager’s inbox and if he/she sees your new message then you might get that interview)
- If you haven’t already, get certified to teach English as a foreign language through TEFL Hero’s $99 online program (it’s definitely worth the investment as it significantly increases your attractiveness as a candidate)
What’s It Like Being an English Teacher in Portugal?
Here’s a quality breakdown of the Portuguese education system. Some of what she talks about here might not be super relevant unless you’re looking for a job in the public school sector but it gives you an idea of how things work education-wise:
Many ESL teachers in Portugal and around the wider world, are going full “digital nomad” – the major benefit of which being that you are not tied to any one location and the major drawback being the difficulty in getting a visa (see section on visa requirements in Portugal for more info).
Here we have online teacher Gargie Kejriwal, based in the southern region of Algarve, Portugal, who explains the ins and outs of her daily work life:
At the end, she answers some common questions about living and working remotely in Portugal.
FAQs About Teaching English in Portugal
Here is a brief roundup of the essential FAQs many aspiring teachers have about teaching English in Portugal.
How much do teachers make in Portugal?
ESL teachers in Portugal take home an average of $1,000-$2,500 depending on the type of school and personal qualifications.
Can I teach English in Portugal without a degree?
Not usually. The only notable exception to the degree requirement is summer camp programs which are generally open to all ages, experiences, and education levels.
How much money do you need monthly to live in Portugal?
Modest living in the countryside or in smaller cities is highly doable on a $1,200/month budget. For Lisbon or Porto, you’re going to need north of $1,800/mo to be comfortable.