As European TEFL destinations go, teaching English in Croatia might be one of the best choices you can make. After all, you’re talking about a country with so much to offer; little islands for Mediterranean-style getaways, beaches that are the envy of Europe, a fascinating and rich history, and cultural influence from both Western and Eastern Europe, the USSR and loads more – including plenty of teaching jobs!
Croatia has represented a modern success story over the last decade, a world away from the drama and pain of its secession from Yugoslavia in the 90s. Its influence and performance is incredible for a country of just under 4 million people. The national football team has twice finished finished 3rd and runners-up once in the FIFA World Cup since gaining independence in 1991, helmed by superstars like Davor Šuker and Luka Modrić. Its scenery has been used as inspiration for fiction and as a setting for behemoth TV franchises like Game of Thrones.
The diverse landscape, the passion of its people and its unique history make Croatia an incredible landing spot for any TEFL teacher. Its tourism industry speaks for itself: Hrvatska raked in a record $13.1bn from tourism in 2022. For reference, that broke the previous record – set in 2019 – by 24%, which shows just how popular Croatia has become in recent years.
What about TEFL opportunities? Well, suffice it to say that advancement in the tourism sector has led to a rise in multilingualism. A poll found that 80% of Croatian respondents would describe themselves as such, with 81% of that group able to speak fluent English. Incredibly, 95% of 15-34-year-olds purport to speak a foreign language, the most common being English.
That means English is being taught to a high standard in Croatia, but how can you be part of it? What qualifications do you need, what kinds of jobs are available, and what salary should you expect when you teach English abroad in Croatia?
Croatia: An overview
The geography of many countries can fairly be described as “unique” or “fascinating”, but Croatia’s is utterly singular. Almost the entire country is coastline. It lies on the banks of the Adratic sea, with Italy opposite. Little wonder, then, that there are lots of port cities that are so popular with visitors and locals alike.
Pula, Split, Rijeka and the capital city Dubrovnik are all coastal, and the culture reflects that. English is very popular, along with other languages, including Italian, Bosnian, Serbian and – of course – the native language, Croatian.
In terms of day-to-day life in Croatia, you can expect a typically European lifestyle, with students who are keen learners. There are some cultural points to remember, though: don’t bring up the break-up of Yugoslavia and the war with Serbia, which remains an open wound. While Italian food is immensely popular in Croatia, don’t turn down the chance to enjoy local delicacies, which are a common part of welcoming newcomers: Rakia, dried figs – try it all, as a mark of respect.
So what do you need to teach English in Croatia? We’ll get on to visa conditions shortly, which are a major factor in deciding whether you can teach English in Croatia. Largely, the rules for a working visa also apply to finding teaching jobs, but there are some exceptions.
It’s always a good idea to get a high-quality TEFL certificate, with at least 120 hours of training. This is especially true in Croatia, where the best jobs are dependent on holding a degree as well as TEFL certification.
Some employers might not ask for TEFL certification, but it’s highly unlikely that the best-paid jobs in Croatia will skip the need for an internationally-recognised teaching qualification. In short: make sure you’re certified before you head over to teach English in Croatia.
You’ll need a bachelor’s degree – in any subject – to be considered for a working visa in Croatia. If you’re an EU citizen (we’ll get to visas later), you might just need a TEFL certificate, depending on the employer, but many English teaching jobs in Croatia are dependent on a degree, especially in the bigger cities like Zagreb and Dubrovnik, where there’s more competition.
Prestigious institutions, such as international schools and universities, often require a master’s degree from applicants.
If you have teaching experience, it’ll certainly help. However, if you’re a new TEFL teacher, there are plenty of great opportunities to teach English in Croatia, regardless of your CV to date.
While higher-paid jobs at more well-renowned institutions will likely require teaching experience, you can easily find work in Croatia without years of work behind you.
Here’s where things can get a bit tricky. Croatia is in the European Union, so citizens from EU member states can go to Croatia and work without the need for a work visa. That’s not the case for the UK, of course, and if you have a British passport you’ll need to apply for a working visa. To attain a working visa as an English teacher, a bachelor’s degree is required.
Salary and cost of living
So once you’re teaching abroad in Croatia, what can you expect to make, and what kind of cost of living can you expect?
First off, it’s important to compare Croatia to the UK and the USA for an idea of how living costs relate. Croatia, generally speaking, is 25% cheaper to live in than the United Kingdom, according to Numbeo, and rent is nearly 60% less expensive. Compared to the USA, the differences are even starker; restaurant prices in the United States are around 90% higher than in Croatia, and groceries are around 72% cheaper in Croatia than they are in the USA.
Staggeringly, rents in the USA are over 200% more expensive than in Croatia, on average. This means when it comes to discussing salaries for English teaching jobs, we can judge with more context – the context being that comparatively, Croatia is an inexpensive place to teach English abroad.
Salaries for TEFL jobs can depend on where you’re based – cities tend to have better wages on offer – and the kind of institution you’re working in. However, an average monthly teaching salary in Croatia tends to lie between 7,000 and 11,000 Croatian Kuna (HRK), equivalent to £805-£1,266/$1,015-$1,600.
While it’s not quite as much as you might expect in other European countries like Italy, Switzerland or Spain, it’s important to remember that Croatia has a considerably lower cost of living, which we’ll now explore.
Cost of living
Simply put, you get far more for your money in Croatia than a lot of other places. That’s a little surprising, given its popularity as a tourist destination (other countries with similar tourist numbers might feel inclined to up prices!), and its relatively strongly performing economy.
As a TEFL teacher, you might be less concerned as to why goods and services are cheaper than how cost-effective it is to live there. Let’s look at Zagreb, Croatia’s capital city, to get an idea of the cost of living.
According to Numbeo, a one-bedroom apartment in the city centre costs £511/$645 to rent per month, while a more residential area will cost nearer to £400/$500 every payday. The average salary after tax is close to £1,000/$1,250, meaning that rent doesn’t swallow up a whole payslip, typically.
When you’re out and about, you might want to use public transport or drive around yourself. A monthly ticket in Zagreb costs about £41/$52, while petrol runs at £5.60/$7 a gallon. If you’re out and feeling peckish, a solo meal at an inexpensive restaurant will set you back about £9/$11, while a three-course meal for two in a mid-price eaterie costs a very reasonable £42/$52.
If you’re a cinephile, it’ll be useful to know that a cinema ticket for a new release costs just under £6, or $7.30 US, but if you’d rather stream movies, the internet typically costs £21/$26 per month.
So, if the lifestyle, cheap cost of living and gorgeous views of Croatia appeal, your next question might be “how can I teach English in Croatia?”. It’s a good question, with a satisfying answer, with teaching jobs in private language schools and public schools, universities and more!
Types of Teaching Jobs
When it comes to teaching English in Croatia, you’ll find plenty of great opportunities, with English teachers in high demand. Qualified applicants who want to start teaching in Croatia are valued assets, and Croatian schools start teaching children a second language – which is typically English – around the age of 7.
Given Croatia’s multicultural and multilingual characteristics, this is hardly surprising. Add in a tourism sector that has ballooned over the last decade, and the emphasis on speaking multiple languages, TEFL teachers have a range of options when they get off the plane in Dubrovnik, Osijek or Zagreb.
The most common route to TEFL teaching in Croatia is through the public school system. English teachers are needed at both primary and secondary levels (or elementary to high school) since English is typically taught from the age of 7.
To teach in Croatian public schools, you’ll need a degree and TEFL certification. Experience of working with children, as well as some ability in Croatian, is desired but not necessarily required.
Croatia welcomes digital nomads, who work remotely while paying taxes in certain countries. If you’re not from the EU or an EEA member state, you can work in Croatia as a digital nomad, provided you earn around €2,300, and you don’t work for a Croatian company as a TEFL tutor. Read our blog on becoming a digital nomad for more information.
Teach English in Zagreb
With a population of just over 800,000 people, the historic city of Zagreb is an iconic and breathtaking city to start teaching English in. With a history that dates back to Roman times, modern Zagreb is culturally diverse and welcoming, as well as a centre of business in Croatia. With the Sava River running nearby, Zagreb’s status as a place for trade has been long-established.
What’s there to see and do in Zagreb? You won’t be short of options. Tkalčićeva Street ought to be your first port of call, with a litany of fantastic bars and restaurants just calling out for new customers. Intriguingly, Zagreb is also home to the Museum of Broken Relationships, so if you’re feeling a new lease of life after a breakup, nowhere else offers quite the same experience!
If museums about breakups aren’t quite your thing, don’t worry – the beautiful Cathedral of Zagreb demands attention with its enormous spire and incredible Gothic architecture, it’s not just a holy site, it’s also the second tallest building in Croatia! Once your eyes have feasted on the gorgeous stained glass and antique fittings, you can head off to Maksimir Park or Zrinjevac, two incredible parks that bring stunning nature to the city centre.
As we’ve covered, Zagreb isn’t particularly expensive to live in, either. Rents are comparatively low, even in the city centre, and you won’t find yourself aghast at the cost of food and drink, either. Meanwhile, if you’re into sport, you’re in luck: basketball and football (the round variety) are massive in Croatia, with superstars like NBA legend Dražen Petrović and Luka Modrić both having emerged from teams local to Zagreb.
Zagreb is home to a number of international schools, private language schools and eager tutees, some of whom would benefit from you teaching business English. As the economic centre of the country, you should easily find a teaching job, if not in a school, then certainly through private tutoring – or you can even teach English online, as a digital nomad.
TEFL opportunities in Zagreb
If you’re heading out to teach English in Croatia for the first time, Zagreb is probably your best bet. It’s the capital city for a reason, with a big population and an inordinate number of fantastic international schools, as well as public schools, universities and eager child and adult learners who want to hire tutors.
Once you’ve secured a visa, finding work is relatively easy. After all, you need a degree to attain a working visa as a teacher, and any teacher with a TEFL certificate and a bachelor’s should be able to take advantage of the vast number of teaching opportunities.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q. Are English teachers in demand in Croatia?
Yes, English teachers are in demand in Croatia! Not only do many schools teach English from the age of 7, but English is one of the most popular languages in the country, owing largely to an ever-expanding tourism sector.
Q. Is English taught in Croatia?
English is widely taught in Croatia, with many schools starting English lessons from the age of 7. It’s common for Croatian people to speak more than one language, and English is a favourite.
Q. Can you make a living teaching English in Europe?
Of course you can make a living teaching English in Europe – while wages differ between schools and nations, you can absolutely make a living working as a school teacher, in a college or university, as a private tutor or as a digital nomad, working remotely.