There is absolutely no doubt that Spain is a fascinating, unique and beautifully sunny country to teach English as a foreign language.
Spain, nestled between the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean, has a unique geography and history. A fiercely proud and culturally idiosyncratic nation, it’s truly a country that has influence from everywhere around it, from northern Africa in the South, religious influence from the east, and a mainland European feel in the north, specifically around Andorra, the Basque region and Catalonia. Linguistically, a “Spanish” accent or vernacular means something entirely different depending on where you are: a Spaniard in San Sebastian is going to sound extremely different to a Catalonian, or a Madridista.
Where does English fit in? Of course, Spain – specifically its islands – is full of sun-seeking ex-pats, while the status of English as the lingua franca of business means, like everywhere, that it’s useful to have some English vocabulary in your arsenal. That means there are plenty of opportunities to start teaching English in Spain.
Currently, according to EF, Spain has “moderate” English proficiency. The highest levels of proficiency are in the port cities, such as Vigo and A Coruña, with fewer English speakers the further you go inland.
So, how do you get started teaching English in Spain? Teaching programmes are a fantastic route to finding secure work and setting up a foundation to live and work teaching English in Spain longer-term. We’ll go over exactly what you need to do just that and tell you all about the top teaching programmes that Spain has to offer.
Spanish teaching programme requirements
Given the sheer volume of Spanish teaching programmes, the list of requirements needed to start teaching English in Spain varies. In general, a bachelor’s degree is required to get on to most – but not all – Spanish teaching programmes, or you need to be undergoing a degree with at least three years of study. What’s guaranteed is that you’ll need a TEFL certificate to make the most of your experience in Spain, with at least 120 hours of training (the industry standard). To have a good chance of landing a place in a teaching programme, a TEFL certificate is your best friend.
In some cases, a decent level of Spanish language proficiency is needed, and in other cases, Spanish language lessons will be included in the programme. As always, it makes sense to try to learn some basic phrases before heading to a new country, as it makes life that bit easier upon first arrival.
Teaching experience is not a universal prerequisite for Spanish teaching programmes, but it does help. For some programmes, teaching experience can be a good substitute for a degree, whereas in other cases, it’s either necessary or not needed at all.
To surmise: If you have a TEFL certificate, a degree (completed or ongoing) and some level of teaching experience, you’ll meet the requirements of most Spanish teaching programmes, and be able to teach English. Of course, we’ll go into more depth with some fantastic examples, and go over individual requirements.
Teaching programmes vs teaching jobs
At this point, you might be wondering: what are the key differences between a teaching programme and a job teaching English?
A teaching job, as the name suggests, is full or part-time employment by a particular school or institution teaching English. Once hired, there is no third-party involvement, even if you’ve got the job through an agency or recruiter, and the only organisation you need to worry about is the employer.
A teaching programme generally involves a more over-arching infrastructure, with a company or government agency overseeing the process from application right to the end. Teaching programmes are, in essence, temporary employment, sometimes involving a level of study (that wouldn’t be required in a job), community work, or with a broader aim of maintaining or improving relations between two nations. In terms of visas, it also means you’re going to need a student visa, as opposed to a work visa.
Teaching programmes usually aren’t as well-paid as teaching jobs. Likely, the school or institution is involved in some kind of arrangement with either a government agency or an independent TEFL recruiter and is rewarded for taking on English teaching talent from overseas on a student visa. Your monthly stipend is likely to either come from a company or a government fund, as opposed to the school directly, or there’s an arrangement where schools contribute a percentage of your salary. However it’s done, it’s unlikely that a stipend would reach as far as the monthly wage from a full-time job.
Another key difference is time. Teaching programmes are temporary and have a limited number of hours to teach English. This is in order for students to continue their degree, for example, or pursue interests like community work, studying the local language, or generally exploring their new surroundings! Full-time teachers can, of course, partake in extra-curricular activities, but their weeks are generally packed with scheduled lessons.
It’s also vital to understand the roles here. It’s most likely that, when you’re on a teaching placement in Spain, you’ll be working as an LTA (Language Teaching Assistant) or ELA (English Language Assistant), operating as a language assistant and absorbing lessons from an experienced educator. This means less responsibility, especially when it comes to areas like discipline, lesson planning and projects.
A teaching assistant still has a vital role, however, even with less responsibility. In many cases, you’ll be the first native or native-level English speaker that a student speaks to. This means that the knowledge you’re imparting won’t just be linguistic, it’ll be cultural – and that’s a big responsibility! If you’re interested in becoming an English Language Assistant, read our comprehensive blog.
Top teaching English in Spain programmes
So, now you’ve got a taste for teaching English abroad in Spain, it only makes sense to present some fantastic options.
These are some of the best programmes to teach English in Spain, for citizens of countries all around the world, with different levels of experience, qualifications and perspectives. For each, we’ll cover eligibility, what the programme offers and how long it lasts.
Here are some of the best routes to Spanish classrooms and your dreams of teaching abroad.
NALCAP North American Language and Cultural Assistant Programme
One for our North American students, the NALCAP programme has long been an excellent route to teaching English in Spanish public schools. This programme places teachers all across Spain, with an emphasis on building relations between North American nations – Canada and the USA – with España. Falling under the category of a public diplomacy programme, your role will involve around 14-16 hours of teaching assistance, but also representing your nation abroad, through community work.
To be eligible, you’ll need to have US or Canadian citizenship and a valid passport that expires after the final day of residency in Spain. US or Canadian citizens will need to either hold a degree or be in the process of deferring their bachelor’s degree for a year. You don’t need to be a native English speaker, but you will need native-level abilities, as well as good physical and mental health. Like all programmes, you’ll need to pass a background check and have a clean criminal record. You’ll need to be aged 18-60 for consideration to teach English with NALCAP. TEFL certification also helps a great deal.
Language and Cultural Assistant Programme
Are you from Australia, New Zealand, Fiji, Vanuatu, Tonga, The Solomon Islands, the Philippines, India or Singapore and looking to teach English abroad? The Language and Cultural Assistant Programme is for you, then!
The Spanish Ministry of Education actively seeks out graduates or students from these nations for either a full year or semester teaching in Spain. The idea is to assist Spanish teachers, primarily in English of course, but also in other subjects where English can be used.
Much like ALCAP, the requirements are fairly straightforward. You need to be a citizen of any of the listed countries, either have a bachelor’s degree or be in at least your second year of a degree programme, be under 60 years old, have native-level English and, as ever, a clean criminal record.
What can you expect to earn while working as a teaching assistant in Spain? The monthly stipend varies based on hours and location. The minimum a teacher on this programme will be paid is €800 per month, and the programme includes training, health insurance, paid holidays and – at the end – an official certification from a Spanish teaching authority.
BEDA Language Assistant Programme
The Bilingual Education Development and Assessment (BEDA) programme is a Spanish initiative that places talented TEFL teachers in Catholic schools around Madrid, and in some, cases, other Spanish regions. This programme isn’t just teaching; it includes a course at the Comillas Pontifical University, one of the top universities in Spain.
Catholicism is the primary religion in Spain – much like other countries in southern Europe – and as such, there’s a robust Catholic schooling infrastructure in the country. They, as much as Spanish government state schools, also need English-speaking teachers and language assistants to help in lessons and give a student a flavour of different cultures.
You don’t necessarily need to be TEFL certified – though it helps enormously – but you will need to have completed a degree. Non-native English teachers are welcome, and as it’s a study programme, you’ll be expected to apply for a student visa. If you can’t speak Spanish, don’t worry – a test will be performed as part of your orientation, and if you score lowly, you’ll be given Spanish lessons as part of your course.
The programme can last as long as four years, depending on whether you want to complete a full degree at the university. Travel and accommodation aren’t covered, but a monthly wage of around £770-1025/$940-1250 should help any English teacher live comfortably in Spain.
UCETAM Language Assistant Programme
Offering 18 or 26 hours a week of teaching assistance, the Unión de Cooperativas de Enseñanza de Trabajo Asociado de Madrid (UCETAM) may sound like a Madrid-only deal, but you can explore all parts of Spain on this programme. In fact, the majority of teaching English positions are for preschool classes outside of Madrid!
So, what does the UCETAM involve, beyond teaching English and giving assistance in public schools? Again, it’s tied to a university – in this case, the Universidad Autonoma de Madrid (UAM) – that designs and implements the training programme. Beyond teaching, you’ll have plenty of work to do: a two-day orientation, monthly workshops and a total of 106 online learning hours, conducted by lecturers from the UAM. In return, you’ll receive 6 European University Credits!
What do you need to apply? Unfortunately, candidates must be native English speakers. Additionally, you’ll need to have demonstrable experience with children in a professional capacity and hold a university degree. A clean criminal record is, as ever, a must, and having a TEFL certificate will help tremendously.
As well as making a mark teaching English in Spain, you can expect to earn €900 (£794/$969) per month for 18 hours of teaching assistance a week, or €1300 (£1,150/$1400) every month if you’re assisting for 26 hours a week. Not bad, if you ask us!
Meddeas Language Assistant Programme
We’ve written plenty about Meddeas over the years, and for good reason. A real opportunity to get to grips with Spanish government public schools, expect around 20 hours of teaching time per week with local teachers, and a monthly stipend of €878–€1,140 (£775/$834-£1,000/$1,230) for living expenses, allocated based on where you are, the programme you’re doing and the kind of accommodation you find.
As for requirements, you’ll need to be a fluent English speaker, with a university degree from the last four years, or hold a postgraduate/master’s degree related to education or linguistics. As is always the case, an English teacher will need to pass a background check, with no criminal record, and a valid passport that expires well after their time in Spain. A TEFL certificate will help enormously, and give you the edge over applicants who haven’t got TEFL qualification.
Allocation in Spain is chosen by the Meddeas programme, although you can ask to be located somewhere specific. Read our guide to the Meddeas programme for all the pertinent information.
UP International Education
The UP Programme is a newer addition to the fantastic list of Spanish teaching opportunities and looks well-placed to be one of the biggest names going forward. Free of charge for native-level English speakers with degrees, the programme is for graduates who have very definite plans to work in education.
Founded by UP International Education, the programme collaborates with kindergartens, primary schools and secondary schools. The difference is, though, that UP opportunities also include the chance to work at the Foro Europeo Business School of Navarra, as well as other universities and colleges in Spain. That’s quite a scope.
So, you’ll need TEFL certification and, clearly, a demonstrable desire to work as a teacher well beyond the duration of the programme, which begins each October. Degrees are preferred, but not always a prerequisite.
The application process is particularly interesting, as it involves an interview with a native-level English speaker, a “face test” which “measures 20 personal and professional skills of each candidate”, an interview with UP staff, and finally, an agreement with a school that meets your particular skill-set. For a monthly stipend, expect around €840 (£740/$905) per month.
Looking to teach English abroad specifically in Madrid or Murcia? Firstly: who could blame you? Secondly: the Conversa Spain programme might be just what you’re looking for. Conversa finds teaching assistants who want to absorb the culture of Spain, all while providing vital classroom assistance.
In terms of pay, you can expect a monthly stipend of €700 (£614/$755), €875 (£768/$944) or €1,000 (£878/$1078), depending on the region. To apply, you need to be a native English speaker or hold a C2 English certificate (or equivalent). You’ll also need to be a graduate with a bachelor’s degree of at least 3 years of study. Finally, you’ll also need to be under 59 when the programme starts. As ever, TEFL certification makes a major difference in your application.
For American academics, Fulbright will be a name you’re already familiar with. With the aim of building bridges with communities around the world, it should come as no surprise that Fulbright offers placements across Spain.
You’ll need a bachelor’s and – in some cases – a master’s degree in order to be eligible, as well as being a US citizen. As well as working around 20 hours in Spanish schools, applicants will be expected to perform outside projects, which “may include projects at host school(s), at local cultural centres or NGOs, independent research projects, multimedia projects, and other engagement with the local community”.
Due to the sheer range of individual degree requirements and salaries on offer to the budding ESL teacher, we can’t include them all here. Be assured, though, if you’re an American college student or graduate and want to teach in Spain, get yourself a TEFL certificate – there are so many opportunities with Fulbright.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q. Are English teachers in demand in Spain?
Yes, English teachers are very much in demand in Spain, with lots of ESL jobs available all year round. Not only are TEFL teachers wanted to teach English in Spain, but there’s also a real effort to provide bilingual education, especially in colleges and universities.
Q. How much do English teachers in Spain get paid?
The typical monthly salary for full-time English teachers is likely to be in the region of €1,200 – €1,500 (£1,053–£1,317/$1,300–$1,623).
Q. Are English teaching programmes in Spain worth it?
Yes, it’s well worth doing an English teaching programme in Spain. If you’re looking to bolster your CV, earn a living and explore what Spain has to offer, a teaching programme is more than worth it.
Q. What programme is best for teaching English in Spain?
When it comes to teaching programmes in Spain, it’s really all about preference. Consider what region of Spain you’d like to teach in, the kind of role you want, and the number of hours you’re looking to work.