Many people consider teaching English in Europe, but few actually end up taking the plunge. This is in contrast to the countries of Asia, which are probably the world’s top destinations for ESL teachers.
The good news? With the right attitude and expectations, taking a job as an English teacher in Europe can improve or even change your life. The better news? I’m going to help you set those expectations over the next paragraphs, to say nothing of the seeds of inspiration I’m going to plant.
I hope you’ll continue reading, no matter where along the journey to teaching abroad you happen to be. Even if you end up teaching in English somewhere in Asia like Japan, the next few minutes will be more than worth your time.
Why (Relatively) Few People Teach English in Europe
On paper, teaching English in Europe sounds incredible. Instruct friendly locals in your native tongue by day; drink the world’s best wines with them in pubs at night (and on weekends, amid endlessly rolling hills and storybook farm houses). Unfortunately, the reality of life for English teachers often doesn’t match this, primarily because ESL jobs in Europe tend not to pay as well as those in other parts of the world, namely Asia and the oil-producing countries for the Middle East.
Of course, the front-end investment required to teach English is relatively small, assuming you’ve already graduated university. Most schools simply require you to have earned a tefl degree, as opposed to the years-long certification you might need to teach at a public school in your own country, or at an international school. If you can accept that you may be compensated more in life experience than euros (or whatever currency your target country uses), Europe could be the perfect place for you to teach English.
Popular Europe ESL Destinations
Who wouldn’t want to live La Dolce Vita in Italy? Assuming you can find a job that suits you, the next challenge will be deciding where in the country to live. Do you settle in the cosmopolitan fashion capital of Milan, in the Eternal City known as Rome or in the saucy, misunderstood south of the country? So many places to eat pizza, so few days in a year!
Another popular place for teaching English in Europe is Spain, given the relatively low percentage of the Spanish population that speaks English. Beyond the job opportunities, Spain is home to some of the world’s most unique food traditions, to say nothing of the boundless appeal of cities like Madrid and Barcelona.
Although more people speak English (or at least they seem to do so) in former Yugoslav nations like Croatia, Serbia and Bosnia, the Balkans region is one of the best places in Europe to teach English. Travel opportunities notwithstanding, the extremely low cost of living will offset what is likely to be a moderate salary.
As you investigate teaching English in Europe, are you really leaving your mind open to all possibilities? For example, while much of Turkey is technically in Asia, plenty of job opportunities exist in exciting Istanbul, which is every bit as European as Paris or Berlin, to say nothing of how much better (don’t @ me—I said what I said!) the food and weather are.
Russia is another country that straddles two continents, but is nonetheless a European destination through and through, especially when it comes to teaching English. Another thing Russia has in common with Turkey, on the ESL front this is, is that plenty of jobs for English teachers are available in cosmopolitan cities like Moscow and St. Petersburg.
How Can I Find an ESL Job in Europe?
If you want to browse ESL jobs in Europe, you will use the same tactics you would to teach English in Asia or the Middle East. Job boards that focus on English teachers will post opportunities from European countries as often as they come up, although you should accept that this will be less frequent than positions farther east, given that those places simply have greater demand for foreign English teachers.
It’s also possible that people curious about teaching English in Europe can find jobs listed on their local classifieds websites. I’ve personally seen ESL jobs (both in Europe and elsewhere around the world) on sites like Craigslist and Indeed! Depending on the timeframe you’re working with, seeking employment as an English teacher abroad requires a combination of active job searching and patient observation.
Other FAQ About Teaching English in Europe
What European countries need English teachers?
As a general rule, countries in southern and eastern Europe need English teachers more than those farther north and west, given the comparably poor English proficiency of their populations. Countries in Europe with particularly high demand for English teachers include Turkey, Russia and much of the former Soviet bloc, although some jobs also exist in more traditionally desirable countries such as Italy and Spain.
Can American teachers teach in Europe?
American teachers who are native speakers in English and are otherwise legally able to work in European countries can teach English in Europe. Note that while you may need to seek ESL certification before being hired and moving to Europe, you generally don’t need a university-level accreditation to teach English, although you will need to provide proof of having earned at least a bachelor’s degree.
Which countries have the highest demand for English teachers?
Within Europe, countries such as Russia (and the former Soviet bloc) and Turkey tend to have the highest demand for native English teachers. Beyond this, Asian countries like South Korea and China, plus the wealthy, oil-producing nations of the Middle East like Saudi Arabia and the UAE offer the most (and best-paying) jobs for English teachers seeking employment abroad.
The Bottom Line
Teaching English in Europe isn’t for everyone—it might not be for you. Although the experience of living in European countries like Italy and Spain can be as delicious as the food, relatively low salaries and less-than-ideal working conditions make it a less attractive option when compared to Asia or even the Middle East. At the same time, if you are truly committed to the idea of living in Europe, and are willing to do whatever it takes to reach that goal, getting an ESL job can be the perfect stepping stone to achieving your goal.