When we posted an introduction to the job situation in Spain earlier this week, we mentioned that one of the jobs that most native English speakers can get in Spain is teaching English classes. There are many ways to go about doing this, from as complicated as trying to become a teacher in a public school (after your oposiciones—read more about what they are here) to as straight-forward as teaching private classes for cash. In the middle of these options is getting hired by an English academy to teach students of all ages and levels.
Now, when you think of the word “academy,” you might think of some fancy private school for elite students. In Spain, while they can be expensive, academies mostly tailor classes to the everyday student who needs a little extra support or wants to get ahead in a certain subject. While English academies are quite popular, you can also see people studying at academies for other subjects (such as math or biology) as well as when they study for things like oposiciones.
As you might imagine, the possibility of finding a teaching job at an academy depends on your qualification and the clientele of the specific school—i.e. their requirements. As there is a high demand for native and (to a lesser extent) highly qualified non-native speakers, finding a job teaching English might be your best bet to getting a job in the Spanish economy. In fact, like when people apply for auxiliaries programs, for many, teaching is not necessarily their speciality but something that allows them to live abroad in Spain.
In the sense that you don’t have to be an expert to teach at these academies, teaching English can be a great opportunity for people who want to come and live abroad in Spain. At the same time, it is important to be aware that you will have to adapt to the conditions that are offered to you. Sometimes these conditions are fine but, if you are new to Spain, you might find that some places will try to take advantage of you. Both of us here at Sincerely, Spain have worked in an English academy and while we think that it is a great option for you, here are our five things you need to know about teaching in an English academy in Spain:
1.) You might not need a certificate, but some places will require it
As a native English speaker, depending on where (both the region/city and the specific school), you might find that no certificate in English teaching or the like is required. This will be more likely if you find yourself in a place that doesn’t have a large supply of teachers but has a significant demand. You might also be able to get away with not having a certification if you have experience teaching.
However, especially if you are a non-native speaker, many places will require you to have some sort of teaching certification. In our experience, most places will not require you to have one specific certification, but you might also find places that ask for one teaching style (as many places only cater to one type of exam) or a certain amount of experience. To make sure you don’t have any issues, you should check out the requirements of the position before you apply and plan accordingly.
Note: Read more about how Spaniards learn English here.
2.) It is different from teaching at a ‘normal’ school
Working at a school means that your classes will, normally, run from 9 am to 3 pm and that you will have to do some extracurriculars or lesson planning outside of class. When you work at an academy, you will have classes when your students are available. For younger (18 and under), most classes will be held after 5 pm. For students and workers over 18 you might find that you are able to get some earlier classes as well, but count on most of them being after 5 pm.
In addition, working at an academy will mean that you follow their book. Most of the time, the academy will sell a book together with the classes and then expect you to build your lesson plans around it. If you’ve never made a lesson plan, you are in for a (potentially nice) surprise as this is usually easier than developing something without a book. At the same time, it can also give you less flexibility as students and, potentially, their parents will have specific goals for how you advance in class.
Finally, it is important to note that school English classes focus on learning the material necessary for the end-of-year exams; academies focus on their students passing specific tests. Right now, in Spain, English is quite popular because of the impact that knowing it may have on students future jobs. However, this is not the only reason. Another big reason is that, to graduate an undergraduate program, it is necessary for students to have a B1 level in a foreign language. English is not required, but it is the language of choice for a fair amount of university students.
Note: Like when teaching at a school, you will find that some of your academy students don’t want to be there but need to pass their class, reducing their interest and motivation.
3.) Finding a position isn’t always easy
Despite the fact that English teachers are in high demand for the reason mentioned above, it is not always easy to find a job. This is because word of mouth is still a common way to find someone to do an interview and fill an available position. That means that someone who is integrated into the community will get the job before someone who has just arrived in town.
Obviously, this is easier to avoid in large cities as there will be more jobs and less reliance on the people you know; however, there will also be more people looking for work. Therefore, if you know someone where you are looking to move, consider putting out feelers before you go. Or, if you are not able to get a job when you arrive, consider taking on some private classes (read more about how to do that in this article) while you are getting to know the community. If you can make sure that people know who you are and that you are good at what you do, you will have a better chance of someone remembering you when they need someone to fill a spot.
In addition, you should consider that not all times of the year are created equal when it comes to searching for a teaching job. As the school year starts in September/October, that is when most students are looking for extra support with their classes and academies are getting an idea of how many teachers they need. In addition, you may find that some positions become available at the beginning of the year, in January.
Note: Remember that many places (including most English academies) are closed in August, so, this might not be the best time to look for a job.
4.) It might not help you get a visa
Just in case you are thinking that teaching at an English academy is your shoe in for a working visa in Spain, we want to warn you that it might not turn out like you want. Many academies are small (read: family run) and having an employee that requires a working visa can cost them thousands of euros. Not to mention that giving a job to a non-European means the company will also have to go through the bureaucratic process that comes along with it.
That means that, many times, companies will look to employ people who already have visas or choose not declare that you are employed by them and pay you under the table. While this might not put everyone off—a job is a job, after all—, remember that if you are not being paid through the system, you are not contributing to taxes. This means that you will not be able to access public services such as the sistema sanitaria or the public health care system.
One way around this is to check the kinds of visas that are available to you. With student visas you can often work up to 20 hours a week (a normal teacher’s schedule at an academy). In addition, if you are on a traveler’s visa, you might be able to figure something out to be able to work.
5.) It might not give you the same life conditions of full-time jobs
One thing that can be really hard to understand for people who have not lived in the situation is that working at an English academy might not provide you with the means for your dream life. This is because most of the time English teachers do not work enough hours to be considered ‘full-time’ and the benefits employers are responsible for providing you with will change. In some cases this might mean you don’t get as much vacation time during the year as other workers but it also might mean that you don’t get paid when you don’t have classes (or obligatory vacation during the holiday season).
While this might seem unfair, you should also know that this is not just English teachers and that part-time workers all around Spain do face the same consequences. In addition, there are English academies that do make an effort to go beyond covering the basics. And, even if you don’t make enough money to live in the lap of luxury, you should be able to pay for all your necessities. Luckily, in Spain, most English teachers have the opportunity to supplement their classes at academies with private classes at student homes.
Note: Sometimes working shorter hours is not a bad thing as it means you have more time to dedicate to living in Spain.
Please be aware that we believe that working in an English academy can be a great choice for you if you are looking for work while living abroad in Spain. With this post, we want to make sure that you know what questions you should consider before taking one job over another.
Have you taught at an academy in Spain? What was your experience?
Are you looking to teach at an academy? What more do you want to know?