Teach English in Spain: The To Do List For Becoming a Teacher

During the last amnesty there were 600,000 illegal workers brought into the system, a few of them English teachers...

Posted by Casi Cielo

Our second part of five articles providing information on teaching English in Spain. Discussion of the items you'll need to do before you leave and in the first few months you're here.

Teachers of English in Spain: read this, print this, follow this, if you want to get ahead of the rest of the pack of English teachers in Spain.

  1. Save money See our article Cost of Living in Spain You’ll need about $5000 (USD) saved as a non-EU expat, more is better of course, less is possible but even more difficult. An EU expat will need about 1800£. You’ll see why if you keep reading.
  2. Research available TEFL courses See Teaching English in Spain: Part I, TEFL There are plenty of them out here. Most of them will provide you with top training and lots of fun, ensuring you feel prepared for your first day of classes. You should ask the school for references and talk to TEFL grads, sending them an email asking about their experiences.
  3. Enroll in your chosen TEFL course You will have to apply, writing some sort of essay explaining your intentions and background. The course should cost between 1200-1700 € ($1500-$2300 USD). This is money well spent.
  4. Buy your flight. See our article Cheap Flights to Spain There’s plenty of low cost airlines offering cheap flights to Spain, even transatlantic if you don’t mind a lay-over in Ireland. Consider getting a full price ticket however, which you’ll be able to change the return date for. Once you’re here teaching English, your ability to plan more than a month or two in the future becomes impaired…
  5. Find an apartment.See our article, Apartments in Spain, read it carefully. Additionally, the school may provide you with shared housing during the course for an extra cost. This cost will be at a premium to what you can find yourself, but provides other benefits. Many TEFL programs will put you in shared apartments with other students in your TEFL course. This can be a great experience, absolutely tons of fun and being able to do homework together can be very helpful. Also, you’ll meet a guide upon arrival who will meet you at the airport, show you around and how to get to the school. That’s where the extra cost may be worth it. Otherwise, finding an apartment in spain or shared accommodations on your own can be highly advantageous. As soon as the course is over, you’ll be forced to move anyway, at which point it’s a scramble to find a place to live, often resulting in a hastily made decision full of new found regrets. Also, you’ll have the chance to arrive before the course starts to take a Spanish course and acquaint yourself with your new Spanish city on your own.
  6. Find a Spanish course. Read our article, Spanish Courses and Learning Spanish. There’s nothing worse than not being a tourist but feeling like one. You stumble around in shops, don’t know what you’re looking at in the grocery store (“is that body soap, hand cream or conditioner?”). Additionally, one can’t understate how enriching it is to learn another language while teaching your own and vice versa.
  7. Find Health Care or Medical Insurance See our article Health Insurance for Expats. Read carefully and be sure to get insurance before you leave unless you want to rely on the public health care system. Also see Doctors in Spain
  8. Arrive in Spain Either you’re renting your own apartment, in which case you should come out as early as you can to get into a Spanish course as mentioned, or you’re in the school’s shared accommodations paying a premium, in which case you should arrive 2-4 days before your first day of the TEFL course. In any case, it’s a good idea to settle in a bit, meet some people, get over that first feeling of being overwhelmed.
  9. Do TEFL course Enjoy. While you’re on the course, start looking at jobs sites, bulletin boards and asking your teachers and advisors about potential work for when you finish. If you’re in the school’s accommodations, start searching for your own accommodations before the end. Give yourself about 2 weeks, but intensify your search on the weekends. Your Spanish course will come in handy at this point!
  10. Finish TEFL course This is when you feel great, relieved of the intensity of homework and classes, having accomplished a great feat (not everyone makes it!). Now you get your butt in gear and start looking for jobs like a mad man/woman. Again, talk to your teachers, they’ll have connections in the industry and should help you out significantly. The schools themselves often have a “job guidance for life” program, which pretty much amounts to them forwarding you a list of TEFL jobs that you could have found yourself for English teaching positions around the world. Don’t count on it too much.
  11. Do a teaching CV At about this time you’ll need to be working on or completing your new teaching CV. Your TEFL course will cover this, listen to them, they know what’s best. If you need a heads up before hand, see our sample teaching CV here.
  12. Here’s where your path could split off in one of two ways.
    1. Start working on finding teaching hours privately by putting up posters around town, posting an advertisement in the local newspaper and online classifieds. See our article Teaching English in Spain Part IV: Private Classes for much further detailed information.
    2. Go back and keep working on your Spanish. Unless you’re already fluent by this point, you’ll inevitably suffer from missed opportunities. Go find an intensive course for a month or two, which will also keep you busy when you’re not job hunting. If you finish two months of intensive Spanish and still don’t have a job in a school, start looking at the above point a.
    3. Find a job! Seriously, get a job. A few months into the job search, your savings will be running low and you’ll be shopping more and more at Dia (the super cheap grocery store). Expand your search outside of your city, in fact, start looking throughout Spain, because unless you’re on your parents’ dime, you’re going to be SOL pretty fast. If you’ve found a job, congratulate yourself!!! That’s awesome. I hope your boss isn’t a jerk 😉. Often times you’ll be commuting for an hour or two per day, so you may want to look at relocating again, even if your new social circle isn’t on hand. Or just get out some of that Kafka you’ve been meaning to tackle.


  13. Again, your path can split off at this point, depending on your employer.
    1. If you have your EU passport, you’re sittin’ pretty. You should have your NIE by now, and your new employer will help you sort all the taxes and social security payments out. See our article on NIE and ID Numbers.
    2. Don’t have an EU passport? Apply for your working Visa. This, of course, means that your employer is willing to sponsor you and employ you illegally during the waiting period. Talk to a lawyer though, they’ll point you in the right direction and tell you how to help your employer help you. The lawyer could charge anywhere from 100€ to 500€ for services like this. Look in the classifieds for an immigration lawyer. You may also be able to utilize a student Visa by applying to other educational institutions, and then just cancel your matriculation and get your refund… You’ll be allowed to work part-time on a student Visa. The reason for all the trouble to get a visa? Job security. If you plan to spend more than a year in Spain, this visa will be absolutely vital to helping you should anything happen to this position you currently have. You should also have had a look at our information on working visas in Spain by now.
    3. You don’t have your EU passport and your employer laughed when you asked him/her about sponsoring you for your visa. Pray for another amnesty. In the last 5 years there have been 2 amnesties for illegal workers in Spain. Spain has a problem having so many illegal and undeclared immigrants working on the black market, and thus not paying taxes or social security. During the last amnesty there were 600,000 illegal workers brought into the system, a few of them English teachers (although the overwhelming majority were South Americans or Moroccans). This means that you’ll need to have proof of having been in Spain for a period of 6 months or more (this is why you get your empadronamiento right away!) and have a valid work contract. Employers are much more helpful when it comes to helping their teachers get working papers during an amnesty. See our article on Health Care and Medical Insurance for more about your Empadronamiento.

Last updated 05 08 2009

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enghun said:

I would like to ask for help. I am a bit desperate. I came to Spain 3 weeks ago because I got an English teaching job in a private school and I fouond out that they might fire me. What are my rights in this country.I am EU citizen. Thanks for all help.

robotochalk said:

For non-EU citizens, schools can also take you on as a student. I just went through this process and it took a little under two weeks for them to process my application. The Chicago Consulate website says it can take up to two months, but this is better than the year I just saw on the "Working Visa" page.

I'm not a student anymore and one of the people at the consulate did ask several questions as to why I would want to intern for a year, but they accepted the application all the same.

The disadvantage to this is that it requires some kind of relationship with a language school in Spain, and that you still must be in your home country to get it. I was confused at first as to whether or not an intern applied for a student visa, but it worked so I suppose so.

amarujewellers said:


Read a few of these articles, very interesting. I am thinking about working in Spain as an English teacher. I have ESL and TESOL qualifications from Uni and a teaching degree. I also teach Art. My Spanish is near fluent , spoken, but written is a little messy. I would not need to do any other course correct?

Amanda Carolena Zurita said:


Is it better to get your certification in Spain or can you get it while still in the states? There are a few schools in my area that offer TEFL and CELTA certification programs.

Thank you!


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