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Teach English in Bulgaria

Bulgaria’s incredible history, beautiful climate and unbelievable sights would entice anyone to visit. Its vast opportunities for TEFL teachers should convince just as many to stay.

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If you want to teach English in Europe, and enjoy some of the most idiosyncratic culture and most hospital climates the continent has to offer, you've simply got to teach English in Bulgaria.

A short distance from Greece and Turkey, Bulgaria is a supremely underrated destination for both tourists and TEFL teachers alike. However, that’s starting to change: even by April 2023, Bulgaria had attractednearly 800,000 tourists to its shores.

Its history speaks for itself: relics of Neolithic Karanov culture, Thracians, Persians, Celts and the Romans have all either conquered or fought in ancient Bulgaria, and even in more recent history, Bulgaria has existed as a communist state. For history buffs, then, plenty to explore! 

If history isn’t your thing, Bulgaria’s technological prowess led to its informal name as the “Communist Silicon Valley” during the Soviet years. Parts developed in Bulgaria have made it to Mars, and its computing sector has long been world-class.

So, what about English teaching jobs? English is the second-most common foreign language spoken in Bulgaria, after all. So, what kind of life can TEFL teachers expect in Bulgaria? What kind of opportunities are there for ESL tutors, and what can they earn?

Bulgaria: An overview

Since joining the EU in 2007, Bulgaria has seen a massive surge in English learning. In terms of a TEFL marketplace, the country has seen demand soar for qualified ESL teachers, much like other southeastern European countries, such as Croatia. While Greece has been a more common landing spot for TEFL teachers in southeast Europe, Balkan and southeastern states have seen a real rise in demand for English teaching - and high-quality English teaching at that.

In terms of how well teaching jobs pay, as well as cost of living, but the main takeaway is that teachers can live very well, if not lavishly. Employers tend to be more generous in Bulgaria, with accommodation and airfare often offered to successful applicants for teaching jobs. In your downtime as an English teacher in Bulgaria, the ski resorts and spas are truly world-class, while the coast of the Black Sea is phenomenally beautiful.

Linguistically, Bulgaria is extremely diverse. While Bulgarian is naturally the mother tongue, Romani, Turkish and Russian are widely spoken, with English becoming popular in more recent years, especially with young students. As explored, joining the EU has had major economic and cultural effects on Bulgaria, with English learning becoming increasingly popular.

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Requirements 

What do you need to teach English abroad in Bulgaria? With an increased interest in English learning, more and more teaching jobs have opened up, and many have started making plans to move towards the Black Sea. So, what will you need to join them and teach abroad?

TEFL Certificate

Undoubtedly, you’ll need a high-quality TEFL certification with at least 120 hours of coaching. This is a prerequisite for the vast majority of teaching positions in Bulgaria, and certainly, any that pay a reasonable salary. Also, in terms of visa acceptance, a TEFL certification is incredibly important - otherwise, it’s hard to demonstrate your abilities as an English teacher.

Degree/No Degree

A four-year bachelor’s degree is highly prized by Bulgarian employers, and for a considerable number of jobs, it’s essential. While you don’t need to have studied a particular topic for your degree, having that kind of qualification will set you apart in the job market, and will help immensely in securing a visa. Most who are teaching in Bulgaria have a bachelor's degree, as so many teaching jobs in Bulgaria require it.

Experience

While experience in English teaching is never a bad thing, it’s certainly not essential for teaching in Bulgaria. Southeast Europe is a great option for teachers without experience, where the demand to speak English among young students and adult leaners is a more recent phenomenon. 

Certainly, some teaching experience will help you land high-profile, high-salary ESL jobs in Bulgaria. In universities and international schools, for example, experience can be greatly beneficial. However, in terms of getting started as an English teacher abroad in Bulgaria, experience isn’t the be-all-and-end-all.

Visa

If you’re an EU citizen, good news: you don’t need a visa to work as an English teacher in Bulgaria. If not, you’ll need a work permit, a “Type D” visa and a residence permit. The EU immigration website is a vital resource here, and it tells us that, though primary and secondary teachers are not subject to a labour market test, there is still a sizeable amount of paperwork that needs to be done.

You’ll need to be able to demonstrate your value as a teacher, including copies of certificates from a TEFL course and/or a bachelor’s degree. A clean criminal record and a physical from your doctor will also help considerably.

Salary and cost of living

What can you earn as an English teacher in Bulgaria? It’s a good question. To really make the most of such a varied and beautiful country, you’ll want a wage that will cover every adventurous urge, as well as basic monthly costs. So, let’s find out what ESL teachers typically earn in Bulgaria!

Salary

A typical salary for English teachers in Bulgaria is between 800 and 1200 Bulgarian Lev (£350-£530/$438-$657) per month. This might not sound like a lot, but contrasted against the cost of living in Bulgaria, these salaries make for decent living.

Depending on location and institution, wages can rise up to 2000 Bulgarian Lev (£880/$1095) per month, but this will require (in most cases) a degree and a certain level of experience. Typically, universities and international schools will pay higher wages, but will have stricter requirements for applicants.

Cost of living

We touched on the cost of living relative to salaries, and it’s time to go into more depth. Using the cost of living in Sofia as our example, we can quickly see that the EU’s 13th biggest city and Bulgaria’s capital costs nearly 44% less to live in than London, and is around 81% cheaper when it comes to rent.

Talking of rent, a one-bedroom apartment in Sofia city centre will cost you £390/$481 per month. If you’re willing to live outside the centre, it’ll cost just £295/$365. Many TEFL teachers share accommodation, which can bring down costs significantly.

A mid-priced restaurant three-course meal costs a mere £35/$44. If you’re eating solo, an inexpensive lunch will set you back £9/$11, and a pint of beer? Just £1.77/$2.20. If you’re heading out to the cinema, a recent blockbuster release comes with a ticket price of £6.65/$8.22. 

What about utilities? In Sofia, a month’s utilities (electricity, water etc) costs £109/$135. Getting around is pretty cheap, too: a monthly travel ticket is around £22/$27.

All in all, we can see that while salaries are hardly eye-watering, they are enough to comfortably and happily live in Bulgaria, and it gets even cheaper outside of Sofia and other major metropolitan areas.

Types of Teaching Jobs 

With all of that in mind, what about actual teaching jobs? Where can ESL teachers abroad in Bulgaria find the work they need, and thrive in engaging, diverse environments? Let’s explore the different types of jobs in Bulgaria.

Public schools

Bulgaria has a reputation for academic excellence and innovation, and the importance placed on education is obvious to visitors and residents alike. Public schools are typically well-funded and competitive institutions, where English is taught at a fairly young age.

Individual schools make choices about the languages they teach, but English is widely taught from the third grade (age 7-8) onwards. It is an elective subject later on at high school, but it is a popular choice of foreign language for Bulgarian pupils. So, teaching opportunities begin early and go right through to the late stages of secondary education. Summer schools are also popular, and are commonly run by public schools.

You’re likely to need a degree to work in Bulgaria’s public education system, although a high-quality TEFL certificate and some decent experience might land you a good role.

Teach English in Sofia

So you want to teach English in the beautiful city of Sofia? Who would blame you? The city, which clashes modernity and classic art and architecture together is a real meeting of worlds within one place. It’s where Bulgaria’s trendiest musicians, artists, students, writers and more meet in trendy, upscale venues, bars and restaurants, and it’s also filled with incredible history, enormous green spaces and food to die for.

While there’s ancient and middle-aged history to be enjoyed, Bulgaria chooses not to ignore its past as a Communist state, with the Museum of Socialist Art welcoming modern art enthusiasts from all over the globe. If culture is your thing, there are also a wealth of theatres and galleries, including the exquisite Ivan Vazok National Theatre

An incredible place, no doubt, and that’s even more true if you’re a TEFL teacher. Since joining the EU and Single Market, Bulgaria’s economy and outward look has required ESL teachers to sign up en masse. The number of TEFL jobs is extremely high, from universities and language schools to international schools and, of course, the public education system, which has seen graduates forge paths into Bulgaria’s world-class technology centres.

Some of the best-paid and most reputable schools are in Sofia. Take, for example, the Zlatarski International School of Sofia and Wall Street English international schools which operate in the capital. Salaries are higher in the capital, in large part because Sofia is more expensive to live in than the rest of Bulgaria. Even then, the cost of living in Sofia is markedly cheaper than Western European cities like Paris or London.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Q. How can I become an English teacher in Bulgaria?

    To teach English in Bulgaria, you’ll need to have a TEFL certificate and, in many cases, a bachelor’s degree. Non-native English speakers and teachers who aren’t experienced should find plenty of opportunities in Bulgaria, though experience and qualifications help.

  • Q. Are teachers in demand in Bulgaria?

    Since Bulgaria joined the European Union in 2007, the country has seen rapid growth which has necessitated a steady number of English teachers working in the country. Across different kinds of institutions, English teachers are in high demand in Bulgaria.

  • Q. How much can you earn teaching English in Bulgaria?

    The average salary for English teachers in Bulgaria is between 800 and 1200 Bulgarian Lev (£350-£530/$438-$657).