Now is a good time for finding work teaching English in Russia. The population is young and keen to learn English, and there are plenty of private language schools to supply this need. There are also a number of chain schools which can and provide a fairly easy way into the TEFL market in Russia.
For this article on teaching in Russia, I interviewed Cole Davis - a long time teacher in Russia and Belarus, and owner of Career Steer a website offering free career tests to help people make career choices.
Cole Davis has also given Tesol Zone an interview on teaching English in Belarus
What is the job market for teaching jobs like in Russia now and have there been many changes recently?
The market is strong. Various schools in Moscow will consider newly qualified teachers. Experienced teachers can apply directly to other schools there, in St Petersburg and elsewhere. The shortage of native speakers means that a teacher with some experience can get work in some Siberian cities, although it is generally necessary to make direct applications as they rarely advertise.
How would you recommend a new teacher gets his or her first job teaching English in Russia? Is it best to begin with one of the large chain schools?
I don't think it matters too much where your first job is. Before I went to Siberia, I gained experience as a part-timer in London teaching multilingual classes and then competed successfully for a full-time job in Tyumen in Siberia.
However, if I hadn't gained experience beforehand, I think I would have applied to one of the chain schools, as they are geared to working with newcomers.
The other language schools are often small and employing foreign teachers is an expensive exercise, and one which is risky for them. They will want you to 'hit the ground running. So yes, if you are newly qualified, I would recommend a chain schoool.
Is TEFL certification and/or experience necessary?
Yes, TEFL certification is necessary. Remember, the school has to get an invitation for you in order for you to apply successfully for a visa and you will need a work permit (although the precise rules tend to change from year to year). Experience is helpful but not necessary for chain schools. It will be required for other schools. Where a qualification is specified, it is usually the CELTA, although most schools are aware of the existence of the Trinity certificate as its equivalent.
What is a typical range of salaries for teaching English in Russia, and is it possible to save any money? Are there large regional variations?
This varies a lot. If accommodation is provided, then between $500 and $1200 is common. The variations are as much between schools as regions. If you decide not to go out too often, then yes, it is possible to save.
What are the best cities - or regions - for finding work teaching English in Russia?
Moscow, St Petersburg and Novosibirsk.
How important is it to learn Russian? Are there good opportunities to learn the language?
I always recommend learning to read the Cyrillic script. Then you can read an Anglo-Russian dictionary. Employers, however, are not overly concerned about your knowledge of Russian, but I would suggest at least reading the first few chapters of a textbook so that you can be polite and can do some basic shopping and travel.
Where the school offers language learning, I think it is worthwhile to take them up on the offer. I do not, however, recommend private tutors or the local university, as the teaching methods are often poor.
What are the best things about living in Russia?
If you like Russian food then that is a good thing. Many people enjoy the night life, although too much of it militates against saving money!