How to set yourself up as a TEFL teacher in Spain in 4 steps

The stuff you need to know before you start teaching English in Spain

TEFL in Spain

In this article, part of a series for new English teachers, experienced TEFLer, George Chilton, takes us through the five key steps you need to take in order to successfully make a living teaching English in Spain

Spain is a great place for teaching English as a foreign language (TEFL).

After a brief stint teaching in Asia I arrived here in Barcelona with a backpack and a small suitcase to start a new life.

I found challenges along the way, but there was no question that the quality of life, the low cost of living, the culture and the people more than made up for it.

Here are the 4 steps you need to take in order to start your career as a TEFL teacher in Spain.

(1) Get a qualification

Without a TEFL qualification of at least 120 hours under your belt – or a lot of previous experience – you’ll struggle to find a well paid teaching job in large cities in Spain. Ideally, you should aim for a TESOL cert. or a CELTA qualification.  ( Check out George’s previous article for more detailed advice on how to choose a TEFL course)

If you take the qualification in the city you’re planning to live in, your training centre should help you find temporary accommodation for the duration of your course.

(2) Find a job

You can hit the ground running if you start off with employment lined up. Remember that  timing is important. The academic year starts in September/October time, and that’s when many teaching academies and schools start hiring their teachers.

For this reason, it’s a good idea to arrive in late summer (August especially, if you can take the Spanish heat), because you will be able to apply for open positions as soon as they become available  

While you can probably pick up one-to-one private classes at any time, job hunting is more difficult at other times of year. Nevertheless, you will find a number of classes starting in January, after Easter, and other holidays.

But don’t feel glum if you can’t time your move to Spain with the start of the school term, schools are constantly looking out for replacement teachers

(3) Do your paperwork

Every expat dreads the ‘B’ word. Bureaucracy in Spain is notoriously unpleasant, but it has to be done if you are serious about starting a new life in the country.

Before you can start to work legally, you will require a few things:

  1. Número de Identificación Extranjero (NIE)

A NIE is essential if you want to work in Spain. If you are a European citizen, the process is simple enough, though you must meet a number of requirements:

  • A letter from your future employer, explaining that they intend to employ you
  • A photocopy of your passport
  • Several passport photos
  • Fill out a NIE form (the EX-15) in Spanish/Catalan
  • Pay a small fee to process the application.

While you gather all that together, you should apply for a “cita previa” (an appointment). Bear in mind that this can take several weeks to come through. Although you do this online, offices only have limited resources to process applications – in general,  the bigger your city, the longer you’ll have to wait.

  1. Social Security:

In order to sign up to the social security system you will need to do the following:

  • Print and fill out the TA-1 form.
  • A passport for identification (it’s a good idea to take photocopies too)
  • NIE number if you already have one.Residency and visa if you are non-EU.
  • Rental contracts and supporting documentation if possible

Take all this to a local social security office.

(4) Find a place to live

Unless you have significant savings, it’s much easier to rent a room if you have a job lined up, as many landlords require proof of earnings, an employee contract, and a month or two’s deposit.

Most people start off by house sharing as it’s easier – and cheaper – than trying to secure a contract on a flat. If you’re not sure where to start looking, some popular rental websites are:

Those looking to rent an apartment for themselves can expect to pay*:

  • One month’s rent up front
  • One month’s rent deposit
  • An agency fee (up to 10% of the annual rent, non-refundable)
  • Moving and insurance expenses

*These are the most common charges, but they may vary depending on your agent or landlord. If in doubt, always seek advice from a professional advisor.

Please take care:

There are a number of scams involving fake rental agencies. Any individual or company requiring you to pay a “deposit” before seeing a property is most likely trying to defraud you.

Also any person telling you that they are “out of the country” and will deliver the keys to your flat on receipt of a deposit, is also very likely to be a con artists. In many cases, these scammers tell you that they are abroad undertaking missionary work,

(5) Learn the language!

Give yourself a few months to settle in and get your bearings, and then get right on with the business of learning the language.

Although a big challenge, having Spanish under your belt will mean that you can integrate fully, enjoy social events with local people and really make the most of your time in the country.

Alongside language classes (often available at the academy you plan to teach in), also participate in intercambio events (language exchanges). These are often free, and involve sharing your native tongue with a local. It’s a great way of meeting new people and making friends in a new city too.

There are also some decent online Spanish courses out there. Heck, we even offer one ourselves!: Hablarama Spanish 

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Acerca de George Chilton 7 Articles
George Chilton first started teaching English in 2007, in Wonju, South Korea. He then moved to Barcelona, Spain - where he moved into freelance writing, translation and materials design, eventually beginning the teaching materials blog Designer Lessons in 2011. George then became a full-time writer and editor when he went to work for Pearson Education in 2012. From 2014 to 2017 he lived in Medellín, Colombia, working as an editor for a PR company. He's now back in Spain and remains a part of Serveis Lingüístics de Barcelona, a language services cooperative, which he co-founded with other teachers, writers and translators.

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