The Swiss eat more chocolate than any other nation in the world – reason enough to consider this TEFL location if you have a sweet tooth. However, chocolate aside you’ll have to weigh up the pros and cons of pursuing a TEFL career in this small country. Chocolate, cheese and the great outdoors (you’re never more than 10 miles from a lake anywhere in Switzerland) are some of the highlights, but getting work can be tricky even for experienced teachers. Work permits are necessary for anything more than summer jobs, and only a limited number of permits are granted per year. As such, schools don’t want to sponsor a permit for anyone but the best teacher they can find, and would rather hire locally without the permit hassle, even if the teacher isn’t such good quality.
One of the most expensive countries in the world, it can be hard to get by in Switzerland unless you’ve landed a well-paid job. If you plan to work your way up the career ladder, prepare to grow a thick skin. The Swiss have a very hierarchical society and you’ll feel this acutely in the workplace. Arguing with your boss could mean a reduction in hours or not renewing your contract despite earlier promises. If you want to succeed, keep your head down, agree with the right people, put up with any annoyances and work hard. If you do, you’ll be rewarded with some of the best paid TEFL positions in Europe.
- Popular locations for TEFL jobs: Zurich, Bern, Basel, Luzern, Geneva, Winterthur, Ticino
- Average salary for EFL teachers: Most jobs are freelance and paid hourly or by lesson (often 40 or 50-minutes). Hourly rates are usually around SFr60 (£50/$63), but can range from SF20 up to SFr123 per hour (£17 – £100/$20 – $127). Work in a hotel school and earn SFr2,200 – SFr3,000 (£1,850 – £2,475/$2,260 – $3,015) per month. Other full-time positions might exceed SFr5,000 per month.
- TEFL qualification requirements: At least a 120-hour TEFL qualification
- Prerequisite university degree: Most jobs require a degree
- Term times: The school year starts in August/September
- Currency: Swiss Franc (CHF)
- Language: Mostly German (also French, Italian and Romansh)
- Teaching programmes: Language Schools, Summer Camps, Private Finishing Schools, Higher Education Facilities, Private Lessons, Hotel School
- Age restrictions: Postgraduate, apart from some summer camp roles
- Previous teaching experience: Some jobs rank experience over a degree or TEFL experience, but others are happy to take new teachers. Inexperienced teachers can struggle even with getting summer camp positions, but if they’re bilingual or multi-talented they might get a position
A multicultural country with several official languages, the average Swiss person can speak two foreign languages as well as their mother tongue. For those in the German speaking part of Switzerland, English is a popular choice of second language to learn, but is less popular in the other parts of Switzerland where their second language might be German, French or Italian. However, English is often used as a lingua franca, and so lessons are high in demand.
The Swiss are keen to learn English as it is the language of business, so you’ll find opportunities for teaching English to adults as well as to children. All children in Switzerland learn English in school – some in primary school, others not until they reach about 14 and have studied another language already. Language schools are often flexible to meet the needs of the clients, offering classes at varied times of day and on specialist subjects. In the summer months some schools will specialise in catering for international students, and there are also a number of popular summer schools where TEFL teachers can find work.
A unique opportunity for TEFL teachers in Switzerland is working at hotel schools – institutes that train people in the hospitality sector who might also need to improve their English. These positions can be easier to get than those at higher education institutes (which rarely have openings as they hire experienced, qualified, long-term teachers) and private finishing schools (where the Swiss elite send high-achieving kids). Private lessons can be lucrative but it’s a competitive market.
In-house training is often offered at language schools, and might be mandatory even if you’re experienced and qualified. One thing you’ll learn quickly in Switzerland is not to argue – the boss is always right, and arguing can mean making your life uncomfortable, so if you’re asked to do mandatory training, just do it. The Swiss are formal people (both in smart appearance and behaviour) so be sure to come across well, shake hands with everyone, and use formal address.
Requirements to teach English in Switzerland
|Country||Avg. monthly salary||Degree required||Start of term||Teaching experience||Housing & flights included||Suitable for non-native English speakers||Age restrictions|
|Switzerland||£1,850 - £2,475
($2,260 - $3,015)
Brace yourselves… Switzerland is the most expensive country in Western Europe, and in the top three most expensive places to live in the world (along with Bermuda and the Cayman Islands). As such, newbie teachers on lower wages can struggle to get by in Switzerland, but those with more experience under their belt can pitch for better jobs and earn enough to live on. Starting out at a summer camp (where food and accommodation is included) is a great way to see if you’ll be able to get by in such an expensive country.
- Accommodation: £1,435 – £2,669 / $1,764 – $3,280
- Utilities: £149 / $183
- Health insurance: Cost of typical visit to a GP: £82 / $101
- Monthly transport pass: £65 / $80
- Basic dinner out for two: £66 / $81
- Cappuccino in expat area: £4.40 / $5.41
- A beer in a pub: £6 / $7
- 1 litre of milk: £1.34 / $1.64
- 2 litres of Coca-Cola: £2.18 / $2.68
(living costs sourced from Expatistan)