As a former long-term English teacher in Thailand, last year I looked at Europe as one of the places I would like to teach if I decided to get back into the EFL teaching industry. That’s because, with countries like Spain, Italy, France and the Czech Republic hiring thousands of native speaking English teachers every year, finding a job in many European countries can be easy, even with the current economic downturn.
While there are many pros to teaching English (EFL) in Europe, as I discovered when I looked into it, there are also some cons that any teacher considering going there to find a job should definitely consider.
After weighing up the pros and cons of teaching in Europe compared to my life in Thailand now, I decided against it as I felt I had better opportunities in Asia. You might decide differently but, no matter what, knowing about these pros and cons should hopefully help you make a decision that’s right for you.
Pros of Teaching English (EFL) in Europe
a) Jobs in Eastern Europe are booming – With the Eastern European countries like Poland, the Czech Republic, Ukraine and Russia still trying to catch up the rest of the EU, there are jobs everywhere in this region of Europe. If you’d like to learn more about a Slavic country and culture, or learn a Slavic language, any of these countries could be great places to start.
b) Cultures not as ‘exotic’ as Asia, South America or the Middle East – For those teachers who would prefer to teach in a country whose culture is closer to their own and would feel uncomfortable in a more ‘exotic’ culture like China, Thailand, Saudi Arabia or Uruguay, teaching in a European country can be a better fit.
c) Some European languages may be more beneficial for future – One wonderful thing about teaching English overseas is the second language you will likely learn. While learning Thai, Japanese, or Vietnamese can be wonderful, these languages are not always as useful for future job opportunities as are more commonly spoken European languages like French, German, Spanish and Italian. Keep this in mind when you make your choice for the country you’d like to teach in, if learning a second language is important to you.
d) You can get a job ‘in country’ – If you’re already in Europe and wanting to get a job teaching, you’re already at a huge advantage as many European teaching jobs are filled with people already on the ground and willing to start work. That means, if you want a job almost immediately, you should be very happy when job offers start coming in.
e) BA degree not always required – While some European countries like Romania and France require a BA degree from would-be teachers, others like Spain and Russia do not. As long as you have TEFL certification, you can get a job teaching in several European countries, which isn’t always possible elsewhere in the world.
f) Travel within Europe is easy – If one of the things you want to gain out of teaching abroad is travel, you can’t do any better than locating yourself in Europe as it is so easy to travel from one European country to the next. In just a year of teaching EFL anywhere in Europe, you could see so many new countries just a bus or train ride away, you would go home being quite the world traveler.
Cons of Teaching English (EFL) in Europe
a) Extremely difficult for Americans to teach legally – During the time I’ve spent in Europe, I’ve met a number of Americans who were teaching English there, yet not one of them was teaching legally. That’s because it is extremely difficult for Americans to teach English in Europe as work permits are almost impossible to get due to teachers in the European country you are in, as well as any teacher from any other EU country, being given preference by all schools and language schools.
Yes, teaching illegally can get you in trouble, including a large fine, jail and deportation if you are caught.
b) Salaries are low – In most European countries, salaries for native English speaking teachers are low, averaging between $1,000 and $1,500 a month. Once you take into consideration the cost of living, you will likely do no more than break even and won’t be able to save any money from your teaching stint.
c) Airfares not paid or free apartments given – Unlike in many other countries that need English teachers, it’s highly unlikely anywhere in Europe that you would get your airfare paid or be given an apartment to stay in. If these things are important to you, look at Korea, Japan and Saudi Arabia rather than a European country.
d) Less jobs due to European economic doldrums – The economy in most European countries has been in the doldrums for the last five years and in some European countries, like Greece, Italy, Spain and Portugal, it’s downright frightening. While it is still possible to get a job teaching English in any of these countries, it’s likely to be more difficult than if you were to go to the Middle East, South America or, of course, Asia.
While teaching English in Europe can be an amazing experience, just be aware there are as many negatives as positives, so do take them into consideration before you decide which country you think will be right for you.