Filled with medieval towns, folklore, folk songs, and picturesque forests, going to Estonia can be like stepping back in time. However, there’s nothing medieval about working in Estonia, which is a developed country and can offer a great quality of life. While tourism is relatively low in this Northern European country, lucky English teachers can find employment alongside having an adventure in this varied country, which has been influenced by Baltic, Finnic, Slavic, and Germanic cultures, and less than 70% of the population are actually Estonian. Employment opportunities aren’t high in Estonia for TEFL teachers, despite the willingness of students to learn English. However, if you have the right credentials and are blessed with good timing, positions might come up that could set you on your Estonian journey.
Almost 50% of Estonia is covered with forest, making hiking and camping popular pastimes in the summer months. There are also many lakes and rivers, and Estonians love sports such as canoeing and swimming, as well as skiing in the winter. As such, Estonia is a wonderland for outdoor types, but those who like living in bustling metropolises will probably be disappointed. Estonian cities leave much to be desired compared with other cosmopolitan hubs across Europe, despite the mix of nationalities you can find there. Entertainment is in short supply, with few theatres, galleries, events, and museums to choose from. You might find some aspects of modern life are a bit outdated, such as older models of public transport systems. However, if you’re looking for the quiet life and can find sound employment, Estonia could be the place you soon call home.
- Popular locations for TEFL jobs: Tallinn, Tartu and Narva.
- Average salary for EFL teachers: The basic monthly salary for full-time positions is likely to be in the region of €800 – €1,000 (£720 – £900/$920 – $1,150) per month. Higher salaries are around €1,500 (£1,350 / $1,725 ) per month. Freelance or part-time rates are around €9 to €13 (£8 – £12 / $10 – $15) per hour.
- TEFL qualification requirements: A 120-hour TEFL qualification will be required for most full-time positions, but not summer camps or voluntary positions.
- Prerequisite university degree: Most jobs require a degree.
- Term times: September to June.
- Currency: Euro (EUR)
- Language: Estonian
- Teaching programmes: Private Language Schools, Universities, Public Primary and Secondary Schools, International Schools, Freelance, Summer Camps.
- Age restrictions: None.
- Previous teaching experience: Necessary for some positions (such as university and international schools).
Estonian people are often quiet and might seem shy or reserved on a first meeting. The same is true in the TEFL classroom, where you might struggle to encourage lively conversations with your students, especially before you’ve been able to get to know them. However, while the students are quiet, they’re certainly willing to learn and you’ll find them receptive in class. Just don’t try to push them too hard with speaking exercises until you’re familiar with their confidence. You might be interested to know that Estonia has one of the highest literacy rates in the world!
Expect to work 25 – 35 hours per week in your full-time job – plenty of time leftover if you want to pick up some private tutoring work in the evenings, or you could use your free time to explore the place where you live. Some schools hire throughout the year, but the best time to look for a job that starts with the academic year is often between September and January, when hiring is for the following September.
While it seems like there are a variety of teaching programmes that TEFL teachers can apply to in Estonia, the truth is that there isn’t a lot of demand for job applicants. While Estonians are keen to learn English, it’s a small country and so there aren’t a huge number of positions available. Many language schools already have a database of teachers who have expressed an interest in working for them, and as such don’t need to advertise very often. Many schools hire predominantly local teachers. One good way to get into the country might be to do a stint at a summer camp, where you can get to know Estonia, perhaps learn a little of the local language, and inquire in person about schools that you can’t find details for online.
Requirements for teaching English in Estonia
|Country||Avg. monthly salary||Degree required||Start of term||Teaching experience||Housing & flights included||Suitable for non-native English speakers||Age restrictions|
|Teach in Estonia||£720 - £900
($920 - $1,150)
|Preferred||September||Preferred||Accommodation sometimes included||Yes||None|
The cost of living in Northern Europe is typically high, and while Estonia is cheaper than nearby Sweden and Finland, it’s more expensive than the likes of Latvia and Lithuania . Though saying that, the cost of living in Estonia can still be considered cheap, and as many TEFL positions come with free or cheap accommodation, it’s easy for teachers to enjoy a good quality of life. Even if you need to find your own rental accommodation, the school can usually help you find somewhere affordable. Public transport isn’t expensive, so whether you want to see a local beauty spot during the weekend or travel further afield during school holidays, you’ll be able to make the most of your time in the country. As Estonia is a small country, it’s also easy for teachers to travel to other nearby countries during their holidays. Jump on a ferry to Sweden, Finland, or catch a bus to Germany or Russia.
Your quality of life in Estonia depends very much on how you like to spend your free time and how you adapt to the Estonian culture. As mentioned above, if you love the great outdoors and spending time in nature, Estonia could be a dream come true. However, if you’re put off by the winters – which can be long, dark and cold – and would prefer to be somewhere with more impressive temperatures in the summer, Estonia isn’t a great choice. If you’re a party person who likes bustling social events, again you might find Estonia a bit on the drab side. Entertainment is lacking even in the big cities, and the Estonian people can be quiet and reserved, finding no awkwardness in long silences in social situations, and preferring to talk infrequently and genuinely rather than making small talk. However, if you consider yourself more of an introvert and could adapt to the peace and quiet in Estonia, it could be ideal!
- Accommodation: £538 – £968 / $676 – $1,216
- Utilities: £197 / $247
- Cost of typical visit to a GP: £45 / $57
- Monthly transport pass: £24 / $30
- Basic dinner out for two: £25 / $32
- Cappuccino in expat area: £2.97 / $3.73
- A beer in a pub: £3.49 / $4.38
- 1 litre of milk: £0.93 / $1.17
- 2 litres of Coca-Cola: £1.76 / $2.21
(living costs sourced from Expatistan)