Teaching English in Europe: An Overview

Craig Martin of the Indie Travel Podcast and Indie Travel Guides.
Castle guard in Riga, Latvia

Castle guard in Riga, Latvia. Photo by kavanadb.

Related post: Teaching English in Asia

Travelling Europe is expensive, but native English speakers can fund an open-ended world trip through teaching. Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL, ESL, EFL or half a dozen other acronyms) is a time-tested way to work and travel or set up as an expat. Although there is high demand for quality English language teaching throughout Europe, you’re more likely to get a job if you’re an EU citizen.

Can I get a visa?

Getting a visa is likely to be much more difficult than getting a job offer! Citizens of Britain and Ireland have it easy here: EU citizens can work anywhere in the EU, while those of us from the colonies can really struggle to get beyond our six-months-in-the-UK or 90-days-within-Schengen visa waiver. And you can’t legally work during that time. The main options are:

Ancestry visa: This is available to the children or grandchildren of people born in the host country. They generally allow complete freedom of movement and ability to work.

Work and travel visa: Short term (12-24 month) visas available to under-30s. Holders are normally able to take on casual work for up to half of their time in the country. The USA has no Work and Travel agreements with European countries.

Spouse’s visa: This is only available if you’re married to someone from the host country. Sham marriages are not condoned by Travelblogs!

Teaching English is a time-tested way to work and travel or set up as an expat.

Work permit/visa: These are difficult to get because you must obtain a job offer from a country in order to apply. Using contacts gained while travelling or transferring to a foreign branch of your company are the two easiest ways to obtain a work permit.

There are other options available depending on your situation and the country you’d like to work in.

What qualifications do I need?

While there are myriad courses available online, there really are only two qualifications which are internationally recognised and respected. CELTA and Trinity TESOL are the two qualifications you’ll want to choose from if you’re serious about making a start in ESL teaching in Europe. At present it seems CELTA is the better choice of the two. Combine one of these with a university degree and you’ll have a very good chance of picking up any position you apply for.

If you’re not interested in getting qualified or looking for a taster, several “volunteer” organisations run English camps, especially during summer. Accommodation is normally provided by homestay families and you receive some small financial compensation for your time. Sometimes “volunteering” like this helps you get around visa issues.

How can I find a job?

Legal, qualified and raring to go? This is when the internet becomes your best friend: it’s time to start researching. Popular ESOL job sites include:

There’s no shortage of ESL job boards: a google search will unearth hundreds. Unfortunately, Dave’s ESL cafe doesn’t supply an RSS feed, but you can get your fill of instantly-delivered job openings with the other two sites.

Getting your foot in the door

A typical attempt at finding a job starts with looking online, narrowing down some options, approaching the companies and following up with phone interviews (for international jobs) and finally in-person interviews and contracts being signed. This is all well and good, but what if there are no jobs advertised in the area you’re moving too? Temporary teaching is a great stepping stone to a regular part-time or full-time position.

Put together a short but inviting CV or resume. Something that fits on one side of an A4 page. If you have the savvy, put together a simple website to go with it: you are marketing yourself. Hit the phone books and send your CV as an attachment or link to it in the email (.pdf is my favourite; others prefer .doc format) with a brief cover letter explaining you are in the neighbourhood and would be happy to fill in for absent teachers at short notice. Follow this up with a phone call or drop in to the school if you’re in a more casual country.

We know you’ll enjoy your travels in Europe…and hope you also enjoy finding fun, well-paid work!

Find more information on ESL qualifications for travellers or pick up a copy of Craig’s Travelling Europe ebook.

About the author:

Since they started travelling full-time in 2007, New Zealand couple Craig and Linda have trekked through five continents. Their weekly podcast on the Indie Travel Podcast features tips on how to travel the world independently.

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