There are plenty of TEFL (teaching English as a foreign language) jobs in Barcelona but there can be a lot of competition for the best positions. Here’s our insider guide to finding work as an English teacher in Barcelona.
1. Get qualified
There are thousands of native English speakers in Barcelona, meaning that language schools are free to be choosey when it comes to employing new teachers. Most academies only take on teachers with a recognised CELTA or Trinity CertTESOL qualification. The CELTA 'Certificate in English Language Teaching to Adults' is an intensive month-long course that prepares you for life in the classroom. Courses cost around €1,500 and most will throw you in at the deep end and have you teaching real live students from the off. In Barcelona, International House and OxfordTEFL are the main schools providing the course. Online CELTA courses are also available but unless they offer actual in classroom experience, they’re not likely to be taken seriously by potential employers. Smaller, less picky schools might take you on if you have plenty of experience and some minimal TEFL training.
Most neighbourhood language acadamies offer on-site after-school classes for children and a few adult classes. Many also offer business English (for which the teachers travel out to the companies’ premises).
Most private international junior and secondary schools in Catalunya will ask for a PGCE (Postgraduate Certificate in Education) qualification and a good level of Castilian and/or Catalan. However, if you’re lucky, you might be able to get your foot in the door without a PGCE by working as a classroom assistant.
2. Get some experience
As many TEFL teachers go home after a year or so, experienced, qualified teachers are highly sought after. If you’ve got two or more years experience, you should have no trouble finding work with a reputable language school. If you’re a newbie, highlight on your CV any experience you have of voluntary work, giving presentations, acting or working with children.
3. Get your timing right
May, September, October and December are the best times to look for work. May is the month when teachers are most likely to hand in their notice and also when schools look for staff to work on summer camps for kids. In September, new students start enrolling and schools frantically try to fill teaching vacancies. In-company classes tend to start a bit later, so you might be able to pick up a few business English classes as late as mid-October.
New courses start in January and there’s always a chance you might be able to pick up a full timetable if a teacher decides to stay home rather than return to Barcelona after Christmas.
Some places also offer short vocational courses for adults who are unemployed which have year-round start dates and several schools offer July intensives.
Don’t waste your time looking for work between mid-July and the end of August—everyone will be on holiday.
4. Be pro-active
Language schools want to know that you don’t look like a heavily tattooed psychopath so get out there and start knocking on doors. Don’t bother translating your CV into Castilian or Catalan as a short, well-presented resumé in English, with a photo, will do the job. Jenny Johnson (author of Teaching English in Spain and one-time head of teaching training at International House in Barcelona) gives this advice: “Walk to all the schools with your CV, ask to speak to the director of studies and then follow it up later. Talk to all the teachers you meet about good and bad schools and remember, many jobs don't really get advertised; it's more about word of mouth and luck.”
5. Know your stuff
Directors of Studies want to know you can handle tricky questions in the classroom. Be prepared for interview interrogations along the lines of: ‘How would you teach the different between the present perfect simple and the present perfect continuous?’ If your grammar is rusty, get hold of a copy of Raymond Murphy’s excellent English Grammar In Use (Cambridge University Press) series and start swotting.
6. Get out of town
Non-native teachers of English and those without an EU passport (however qualified and experienced) will have a hard time finding work with academies in Barcelona. To improve your chances, try your luck in nearby smaller towns like Granollers, Mataró, Sabadell or Manresa, where there are fewer native speakers.
7. Be honest
If you’re skipping town in a few months or your worst nightmare is teaching children, say so. Directors of Studies don’t like being messed about and it’s unfair on your students too. Oscar Nogueras of Eurolog Idiomas recommends that “applicants are clear and honest when applying for a job (especially regarding how long they are planning to stay in Barcelona). In return, they should ask employers for the very same honesty and clarity regarding payment and student group profiles.”
8. Advertise for private classes
Private classes tend to pay more than academy classes but you have to find your own students and there’s not the same job security; if your student goes out of town for a month, you’ll still have to find a way to pay the rent. If private classes are your main income, you’ll also need to register as autonomo (self-employed) if you’re going to keep things above board.
To get the word out about your availability for teaching, Metropolitan has a free classified advert service or you could try www.loquo.es. Look out for noticeboards in nearby supermarkets, corner shops and locutorios. Women, don’t forget about your own safety: always tell someone where you’re going if you take a class with a male student at a private address.
9. Be a people person
Teaching English can sometimes feel like being a social worker, babysitter, psychologist, actor and army sergeant all rolled into one. It’s not a job for wallflowers, so if you’re not strong on people skills, you might want to think again. If you’re outgoing, professional, organised and have something interesting to say, it might just be the job for you. For teaching children, endless patience and energy are essential.
10. Know what to expect
Classes with a language school can pay anything from €9 to €20 an hour. For private classes, charge from €15 an hour upwards. In-company classes tend to pay more but as you have to travel to the company, you need to take those expenses into account. Remember you might spend a lot of unpaid hours on the bus or metro.
Neighbourhood language academies that teach children and adults will usually want you to work weekdays from around 4pm to 9pm and possibly Saturday mornings too. If you choose to specialise in business English you’ll be doing a lot of split shifts with 8am starts, lunchtime classes and possibly evenings too. Twenty-five paid hours a week in the classroom plus unpaid preparation and travel time are standard.
Most language academies are pretty casual so as long as you don’t arrive wearing jeans or flip-flops, you should be fine. For in-company classes, you’ll need to step it up. The smarter the company you’re going into, the smarter you should dress.
Look for places that are CELTA or Trinity centres, have an EAQUAL’s accreditation or an ISO certificate. Any of these will tell you that you’re dealing with an organised, efficient academy.
Teaching contracts will vary. Most schools are likely to offer you a contract from September until June. In the summer, you’re on your own, so make sure you budget accordingly. Other schools might pay you per class and ask for an invoice, or pay you in cash with no questions asked. Note that a school might offer a low hourly rate but pay for travel and holidays and throw in teacher training and language classes. Make sure you know exactly what’s included before you sign the contract.
Teaching English means spending a lot of hours preparing lessons and activities, marking exams and writing reports. If you’re new to teaching, try to find a job with a school that offers a lot of teacher support and a good staff library.
Where to look for jobs
Also check out the Barcelona TEFL Teachers Association Facebook page
Have any questions or a top tip for teachers? Post your comments below.