Spain makes any list of great places to teach English abroad, and with good reason. With the warmest climate in Europe, rich culture and history, and a high demand for native English speakers, it’s no wonder so many people are drawn to make the move to Spain. As someone who has spent four years teaching English in Spain, I’m excited to share some of the insights I have gained along the way.
If you want to teach English in Spain, it’s important to decide where you’d like to go within this vast and diverse country, learn about positions available, and do your research on how and when to apply. Below I’ll cover all of this and more, and hopefully help you realize how possible it is to turn this dream into a reality!
As with any big decision, it’s just as important to do your research as it is to get excited about the fun aspects of this new chapter. Let’s dig into a healthy mix of necessary steps, exciting travel opportunities, and insider tips to get you started toward the adventure of teaching English in Spain.
When and where to find jobs
It can be overwhelming figuring out where to start when hunting for TEFL jobs abroad. Luckily, Spain’s demand for native English teachers is one of the highest in Europe. There are plenty of paths to choose from to find English teaching jobs here. Let’s take a look at a few of the most popular programs and avenues for teaching English in Spain.
Language and Culture Assistants Program
The North American Language and Culture Assistants program is a popular program among English teachers in Spain, and it is the one I have been working through for the past four years. You get placed in a public school and work 12-16 hours a week as an assistant in bilingual classrooms.
As an American, I apply directly to the North American Language and Culture Assistants program, but the same program operates through the British Council for British citizens. Native English speakers from other countries are able to apply to this government-run program as well. This program accepts many applicants. As long as you meet the requirements, you have a good chance of receiving a placement!
- Requirements: You must be a native English speaker and have a university degree. No level of Spanish is technically required, although it certainly helps with paperwork. You are not required to have a TEFL certificate to apply for this program, although it would help you stand out among candidates and feel more confident in the classroom!
- Program duration: October through May or June
- When to apply: The application is open from January through May for the North American program.
- Job description: This job differs from a typical ESL teaching position in that you are assisting Spanish teachers with English activities in their classrooms. The role varies widely from school to school. I have taught in typical English classes, but I have also taught art, natural and social sciences, and physical education to children ages 3-12. You may assist with lessons in the class text book, play speaking games, or even give presentations about your country’s customs. You will not be required to discipline students, grade assignments, or spend much time working outside of your teaching hours. This is a great position for testing the waters with teaching English, before deciding if you’d like to take on a role with more responsibility!
- Cost to apply: There is no cost to apply to this program, although, depending on your home country, you will have to pay for a visa application and other related relocation fees.
- Age limit: The age limit for this program is 59 years old, although most candidates are between the ages of 21 and 35.
- Ability to renew: You can apply to renew after completing one year of the program. The amount of times you can renew depends on your nationality. British Council applicants can complete four years as language assistants, while North American applicants are able to complete five or more years of this program. Each region of Spain has different rules regarding ability to renew. For example, you can only spend two years in Andalusia. After those two years, you will still be able to renew again, you’ll just need to choose a different region where you’d like to receive a placement.
- Compensation: Through this program, you’ll receive between 700-1000€ per month. This amount is less than half of the monthly salary of a full-time teacher in Spain, but the position requires much less work than that of a full-time teacher. You can survive off this amount with ease, but many teachers take on private English classes or other side jobs to earn some extra spending money.
- Benefits: As a language assistant, you will receive quality health insurance to use during your time in Spain. This program does not pay for travel, rent, or any other costs associated with getting yourself set up in Spain.
- Why choose this program? As a language assistant, you’ll gain valuable experience to add to your CV, and insight into the life of an English teacher. The 12-16 hour a week schedule is perfect for someone who wants to gain valuable TEFL experience, while still enjoying free time to explore Spain and take trips to new places!
Other work placement programs
CIEE – https://www.ciee.org/
CIEE is a company that offers to help you secure a placement and complete the paperwork associated with teaching English in Spain, specifically in Madrid. They offer support in exchange for a fee. You’ll work 16 hours a week and earn 1000€ per month. This route may be a good option if you’re looking for extra support along the way!
Meddeas – https://www.meddeas.com/
Meddeas is a Spanish organization that places language assistants in schools around Spain. Through their program, you receive training, attend workshops, and have support to help you along the way. You will work between 20-24 hours a week and receive around 1000€ per month. There is no fee for participating in this program.
BEDA is a program that places English teaching assistants in private Catholic schools in Spain. Through this program you will take a course that teaches you about teaching and assessing bilingual students. Most language assistants in the BEDA program are placed in Madrid, though they have placements in a few other regions across Spain. You will work between 18 and 24 hours a week and earn between 900-1200€ per month. There is a program fee of 175€. You will receive support with paperwork, and the program is known for being reliable with pay.
If you’re an EU citizen, you have the unique advantage of being able to hit the ground running, looking for jobs once you have landed in Spain. This may sound like a daring move, but there are so many opportunities in bigger cities. It is quite possible to find a teaching job at an academy once you arrive in the city of your choice! Tons of language academies offer English classes for children and adults, and are always looking for native teachers to add to their staff.
There are English academies all over Spain, so it is possible to find work as a full-time teacher. You’ll likely notice several academies just walking around the block. Most academies are locally owned, so you’ll want to search for academies in the area where you’d prefer to live. You can do this through typical job search sites like Linkedin, or check out forums and groups for English teachers in Spain on Facebook. A great place to start is by searching for the Escuela Oficial de Idiomas, or official language school, in the city where you’d like to work.
Reach out to academies via telephone or email, or show up in-person to ask important questions about teaching methods, type of students, teaching schedules, and available positions. As Spain is located in Europe, many students prefer to learn British English from British teachers, but most academies have a diverse staff from a wide variety of backgrounds.
Many Spanish companies prefer in-person communication when hiring new employees, and language academies are no different. Especially when applicants are travelling from abroad, companies like to know that you are committed to living in Spain before agreeing to hire you. Of course, you can find academies willing to do phone or video interviews, but showing up in person will work in your favour.
Popular places to visit
When you think of travelling in Spain, the bustling streets of Madrid or the artsy cafes of Barcelona may come to mind. However, there are so many incredible places in Spain that still fly under the radar. Consider what you want out of the experience and decide where to go based on your top priorities. To give you some ideas, here are a few of Spain’s autonomous communities that I have visited or lived in, and why someone may want to live there.
With its capital of Barcelona, Catalonia gets well-deserved praise among tourists. It may also be a good choice for English teachers looking for a year of exploring Mediterranean beaches, cheap travel from Barcelona’s international airport, and wandering through countless art museums.
Castilla y Leon
With well-known cities like Salamanca, Segovia, and Burgos, Castilla y Leon is a history buff’s dream. Elaborate historic architecture will decorate your daily commute, and you’ll get to learn the “purest” form of Spanish out there. The accent is clear and beautiful in this region, making it a great place to pick up the language!
Galicia is like living in a country within a country. It’s lush, green landscapes set it apart from the rest of Spain and make it a great choice for a nature lover. Plus, Gallego is spoken here in addition to Spanish, so you could add another language to your repertoire by living here!
When you think of the traditional elements of Spain: flamenco, tapas, and endless sunshine, you are thinking of Andalusia. If that’s the experience you’re after, head to the vast region of Andalusia where you can experience mountains, beaches, and a richness of culture that knows no bounds!
This is a lesser-known region of Spain, known for wine production and the famous Camino de Santiago. As this pilgrimage passes through the region, it’s an excellent place for hiking and exploring historic villages. Plus, its central location in the north makes it a great home-base for exploring other parts of northern Spain and beyond!
Learning the language
Chances are, during your time teaching in Spain, you’re hoping to pick up the language. Many people think picking up a foreign language will be an effortless process after moving abroad. However, I’m here to tell you that you will get out of this experience what you put into it.
Here are a few of my quick tips for learning Spanish in fun and achievable ways:
A common experience is to move abroad and befriend other English teachers. It is great to find people with shared experiences and cultural backgrounds, but try to expand outside your comfort zone and befriend some locals too! This is by far the best way to practice the language and gain a deeper knowledge of the culture.
Practice your hobbies, in Spanish
Learning a language is so much more fun if you engage in it using activities you are genuinely interested in. If you love art, find a pottery class in Spanish. If you enjoy exercise, find a fitness group in town. You will learn the language more naturally, and create memories that will help new vocabulary stick in your mind.
Seek out entertainment in Spanish
We all love a good Netflix session or afternoon curled up with a good book. You can make these moments another opportunity to practice the language, write down any unfamiliar vocabulary, and ask your local friends to explain the words so you’ll remember them next time.
Immerse as much as possible
Try to get out and live within the culture as much as possible. You may even want to consider living with a family or roommates from Spain to get extra practice at home as well.
As you can see, there are tons of opportunities for teaching English in Spain. This country is teeming with diversity and unique experiences. Regardless of your goals, you can find the opportunity that is best for you.
My experience teaching in Spain is proof that the opportunities for learning and self-development are endless, even after multiple years. If you’re considering teaching English in Spain, lean into your curiosity. The growth you experience will be well worth the steps it takes to get here!