Teaching English in Portugal

If you've searched on the internet for teaching English in Portugal, you'll know that information is quite scarce. Even when here it's sometimes difficult to find out about TEFL jobs in the country. There are actually quite a lot of TEFL jobs in Portugal, but few of them are advertised. Many teachers stay in the country for a number of years, and keep their jobs until they leave.

The recession has seen some language schools close, and getting a contract is hard, as not many schools feel secure enough in guaranteeing you the hours or benefits this may involve. However, many teachers work by the hour. One advantage of this is that it allows you more freedom in when you work, and it allows you to find private students. Although I found finding private students harder here than in other countries I've worked in.

teaching english in portugal

A Typical Lisbon Street

As with teaching English in Europe generally, there is very little work here over the summer. Many teachers take a holiday, or teach summer courses in the UK. If you do manage to get a permanent position it will be easier to get work over summer. Split shifts are common - with teachers teaching early in the morning, again at midday, and again in the evening. In this, Portugal is no different to many other countries. Some schools will want you to work on Saturday mornings too. There is work teaching both adults and children here.

Finding ESL Jobs in Portugal

The best way to find a job teaching English in Portugal, is to conduct an internet search of English schools in Portugal, Lisbon, or whichever area you prefer, and send out copies of your CV/resume, with a cover letter to as many schools as you can. Then arrive, get a telephone number - it's easy to buy a mobile phone here - and make follow-up calls to all the schools.

I did this. I sent my CV to around 40 schools, called over 20 after I arrived, and one offered me part time work - which quickly became full time. Another school offered me the possibility of cover work, and some schools said apply again in the summer.

I arrived in January, which is in the middle of the academic year, and as most people hang on to their jobs for the whole year, is not the best time to arrive. The academic year begins in September, so you should be making enquiries from the Easter before the start of the academic year. Plan to arrive in late August to begin pounding the streets.

Some schools do advertise online, and it's always worth watching out for ads for tefl jobs in Portugal. Also, consider the part of Portugal you would like to work in. There are schools in most towns, but the best prospects for finding work are in Lisbon and Porto.

Qualifications & Experience Needed

A first degree, and a TEFL certificate are the basic requirements. It's best to take a recognized tefl certificate - not the online kind. There are schools which are only interested in experienced English teachers, and those which are happy to employ younger teachers looking for their first ESL job; or even prefer this.

If you are seriously interested in teaching English in Portugal it's a good idea to learn some Portuguese. If you know some Spanish you will have a head start. Although my Spanish is not so good, I could already read a lot of Portuguese when I arrived. Speaking Portuguese is not mandatory - many people are teaching English in Portugal without any knowledge of the language, but it can help you in your search - especially if you want to arrange private students.

Salaries & Costs in Lisbon

Salaries for teaching English in Portugal will not make you rich. However, they are enough to live in the country, and are well above the minimum wage. The average monthly salary for English teachers is around €900-€1400. With privates it's possible to earn more.

Hourly rates for teaching English in Portugal vary a lot. I've heard of teachers earning €12 an hour, others earn up to €30. The average seems to be around €15-20 per hour. Language schools charge around €30 an hour to the students. Therefore, it seems unlikely that many students will be willing to spend more than that.

teaching english in lisbon

A Lisbon Tram

If you are teaching English in Lisbon you will find the costs quite high. Outside of Lisbon the costs are lower. A small apartment in Lisbon can cost from €450 up to whatever you want. Paying €600 is not at all unusual. If you want to share a flat with half a dozen Erasmus students, then you should be able to get a room for €200-€300 a month. Utilities will be extra. There are a number of websites dealing specifically with this, and it's often possible to set up accommodation in advance - although I recommend you just arrange to see the rooms, and choose after you've arrived.

Many teachers who have been here for a few years choose to live outside of Lisbon, in the suburbs, where the accommodation is cheaper. If you want to buy a car, a 50 minute drive can take you into beautiful countryside.

If you enjoy going out, then Lisbon has lots of bars filled with students from 10pm to the early hours of the morning, and many clubs. Good restaurants are everywhere.

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