If you’re looking to teach English abroad somewhere with a gorgeous climate, stunning views and a warm welcome everywhere you go, Cyprus might just be the answer. A hugely popular destination for tourists, Cyprus very much knows its strengths; unbelievable beaches for the sunbathers, and perfectly preserved historical monuments for the sight-seers.
A former member of the British Commonwealth, and a member of the European Union since 2004, Cyprus may be small but it has enormous historic importance. It’s an island country which has faced serious existential questions due to historic takeovers, with Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots amassing the majority of the population. As such, the official languages are Greek and Turkish, though its popularity as a tourist destination has meant that the infrastructure for learning English is very decent.
What can TEFL teachers expect over there? While jobs in the public sector aren’t as widespread, there are plenty of opportunities. Language schools, international schools and universities all need ESL teachers.
Cyprus is full of metropolitan hubs, with plenty for sightseers and beach enthusiasts alike. Limassol has a population of 100,000, while Nicosia, the capital city, has over 300,000 residents, and its unique location and history mean it’s a required visit.
So, what’s life like in Cyprus for a TEFL teacher? Where are the jobs, what are the salaries like, and what’s the cost of living for an ESL teacher? Let’s explore one of Europe’s most unique locations.
Cyprus: An Overview
The beauty of an island nation with a warm climate? Beaches. Cyprus is absolutely full of them, with fantastic resorts dotted around the coastlines. This means the country is an absolute must for tourists, with nearly 400,000 visitors in the first quarter of 2023 alone. A vast number of these tourists speak English, and many decide they like Cyprus so much, they have to live there. As such, the demand for English teaching for young families has soared, and people working in the tourism and hospitality industries are keen to learn the language, too.
Being a former British Commonwealth nation also means that English proficiency is decent in Cyprus. Though it was never the official language of the country, English has been considered an important foreign language for decades.
However, somewhat unusually (compared to most other countries), the public education system prefers English teachers who are Cypriot nationals. Therefore, it’s very difficult – nigh-on impossible – to find work in the public education sector in Cyprus. However, there are jobs available, particularly in language schools and international schools, which are popular choices on the island.
While it can be hard to get a read on what qualifications and experience are needed in Cyprus, some general rules apply. Additionally, it can be hard to get a work visa for Cyprus if you’re not an EU citizen, but that’s not to say it’s impossible.
One of the trickier countries to gain access to as an ESL teacher, sure, but Cyprus is well worth it. So, what do you need?
You absolutely need a TEFL certificate to teach English in Cyprus, whether it’s in private schools or teaching English in Cyprus through a programme, at a university or a language school. This is broadly true everywhere, but TEFL certification is especially valued in Europe. 120 hours is the industry standard and the absolute minimum you’d be expected to have studied, in terms of certification courses.
The Cypriot teaching sector is mega-competitive, and so to stand any real chance of landing any top TEFL jobs in Cyprus, a 4-year degree is a must. If you’re not an EU citizen, a degree is essential to have any chance of obtaining a work visa, while even EU citizens are likely to see a bachelor’s degree in the requirements of any decent job advert.
Some institutions will require a master’s degree or even a PhD in an English-language or teaching-related topic, however, the majority of jobs will only require a bachelor’s degree.
Two years of experience is the standard for jobs in Cyprus. While many jobs, especially internships, include on-site teacher training, you’ll still likely need teaching experience to be considered for full-time jobs.
Due to the sheer level of competition, Cyprus isn’t ideal for newly-qualified TEFL teachers. Given that the vast majority of teaching opportunities in Cyprus for TEFL teachers are in private schools, international schools and language schools, the requirements are stricter, and so brand-new teachers will likely find it difficult to attain meaningful work teaching English.
If you are an EU citizen, you do not need a work visa to start teaching English in Cyprus. If not, you’ll need to apply for a work visa, which requires getting approval from the Cypriot Department of Labour and applying for a permit from the Civil Registry and Migration Department. Your nearest embassy will be able to assist in this.
The best chance of getting a work permit comes from actually having obtained a teaching job offer from a Cypriot institution before applying. An employer will be able to provide a lot of required documentation needed for a work visa application, and without a solid teaching position on offer, it’s unlikely you’ll be accepted.
As always, it’s a great idea to book an appointment at a Cypriot embassy to discuss your chances before launching into the visa application system and expect a wait of at least 4-6 weeks.
Salary and cost of living
What kind of salary can you expect while teaching English in Cyprus, and how does the cost of living compare to the likes of the UK?
As discussed, Cyprus is a top-rated tourism destination, and that’s aided by a cost of living that’s lower certainly than in other European countries, East Asia or North America. This is matched by salaries that won’t make any English teacher’s eyes water, but are more than enough to cover expenses.
Cyprus uses the Euro, having joined the Eurozone in 2008.
Typically, an ESL teacher in a full-time teaching role will earn between €800 and €1,200 ($890-$1,330/£680-£1,000) per month, depending on experience and qualifications. Longer-tenured teachers with at least a bachelor’s, working in an international or private school, will earn more (with added incentives).
While these wages don’t compare particularly well to highly-popular TEFL destinations like China, Japan or other European destinations like Switzerland, it’s well worth considering the cost of living in Cyprus in relation to wages.
Cost of living
Immediately, it’s important to point out that Nicosia, Cyprus’ capital, is around 31% less expensive to live in than London, and crucially, rents are 71% lower on average, via Numbeo.
First, let’s look at those rents. If you plan on living in a one-bedroom city centre apartment, a typical monthly rent is €616 (£530/$660). If you’re willing to live just outside the city centre, that price drops to €517 (£444/$553). If you are moving as a family unit, or want to share accommodation with friends, a three-bedroom city centre dwelling costs about €1,235 (£1,060/$1,322) monthly, and it’s €928 (£798/$994) outside the city centre.
In terms of utilities, you’re likely to be paying around €169 (£145/$181) for electricity, water, air conditioning and other amenities. Transport is fairly cheap, with a monthly travel pass working out at around €40 (£34/$42).
You’ll want to try the sumptuous Cypriot cuisine when you teach English in Cyprus, and who could blame you? If you’re going solo, at an inexpensive restaurant, a meal will cost €12.50 (£10.75/$13.40). For two, having three courses in a mid-range restaurant, you’re looking at an expenditure of €50 (£43/$53).
Though there is high demand for those who want to teach English in Cyprus, there’s also plenty of competition. With gorgeous weather and dedicated, eager learners, Cypriot English teaching jobs are at a real premium.
So, what kind of teaching jobs can you find in Cyprus?
Unless you’re an extremely well-tenured teacher, who’s been working in Cyprus for several years and have at least a bachelor’s degree and a TEFL certificate, you’re unlikely to find openings teaching English in Cyprus’ public schools.
Cypriot teaching jobs, including foreign language teaching jobs, are normally taken by locals. While it’s not technically a closed shop, you might find it difficult as a non-Cypriot to find work in public education.
Teach English in Nicosia
The last divided capital city in the world, Nicosia is split into two by the ‘Green Line’, named after the colour of pen that the UN used when trying to reach a diplomatic agreement. On the surface, that can sound a little threatening, but if you’re imagining Nicosia as some war-torn locale, you’re way off.
Nowadays, the line represents the two cultures that bring a unique flavour to Nicosia: Turkey and Greece. The influence from both is immensely strong and can be seen in the art, architecture and linguistic abilities of Nicosia’s residents. If you’re looking for ancient and new Nicosia in one fell swoop, Ledra Street will take you from the old town to the bustling city centre, known as the Leiki Geitonia. There are countless cafes, restaurants and bars to sit and take in the Cypriot lifestyle from a comfortable vantage point.
Once you’ve checked out the historic city walls, beautifully preserved and a reminder of the fascinating past of Nicosia, try the Municipal Garden, where you can crane your neck up at the gigantic palm trees, muse on lilypads straight out of a Monet painting, or just chill out with friends. If you’ve got a sightseeing itch to scratch, the Cyprus Folk Art Museum and Leventis Municipal Museum are well worth a look.
What about TEFL teaching? Nicosia has a wealth of public schools, as well as 13 universities. Though coastal Limassol has all the international schools, the education system in Nicosia is robust, with a keen audience for English learning. Expect to earn above the national average, due to Nicosia’s comparatively more expensive cost of living, and jobs that will require excellent qualifications. In return, though, you get to live and work in a truly astonishing, one-of-a-kind city.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q. What are the requirements to teach in Cyprus?
To teach in Cyprus, you will require a bachelor’s degree, a TEFL certification (of at least 120 hours’ training) and some experience in teaching. Knowledge of Greek is also very useful.
Q. How much are teachers paid in Cyprus?
A TEFL teacher in a full-time teaching role will usually earn between €800 and €1,200 ($890-$1,330/£680-£1,000) per month depending on experience and qualifications.
Q. Is there demand for TEFL teachers in Cyprus?
Yes, TEFL teachers are in demand in Cyprus. With a range of foreign language schools, international schools and a booming tourism trade, the island nation is very much in need of qualified individuals who want to teach English in Cyprus.