Living and teaching English in Turkey can be an intense experience. The country stretches over two continents, so if you are teaching English in Istanbul, you can get on a boat and pop over to Asia for a drink, then sail back to the European side later in the evening. There's a lot of history here too, but it is life now that makes it an exciting place to live.
The Turks are interested in learning English, and there are many opportunities for teaching English in Turkey. The people are proud of their country, but hospitable. And although it's an Islamic country, there are far fewer personal restrictions than in the Middle East.
The types of jobs you can expect when teaching English in Turkey are pretty much the same as in any country with a large TESOL industry: private language schools, private elementary and high schools, public schools and universities. There is also work teaching private students.
Public schools can offer better conditions, but you will be working from around 8.30 in the morning, until around 4 o'clock in the afternoon. Schools operate from Monday to Friday. If you teach in a private language school - as most of those teaching English in Turkey do - you will have to work when the students are free to learn. This means teaching English in the evenings and at the weekend. Teaching English in Turkey full time usually means around 25-30 hours a week. If your school wants you to do more than this they should be paying you overtime.
Public schools usually have class sizes of around 20-30, although I used to teach a class of 38 in one school in Istanbul. Private language schools usually have classes of around 10 students. Private secondary schools generally pay more than private language schools: 3,000-4,500TL, compared to 2,000-3,600TL. Of course there is always a lot of variation. I've seen jobs offering only 800TL + accommodation [don't accept such a low offer], and some people earn over 5,000TL with benefits. The more qualified and experienced you are the better. Privates pay around 20-40TL an hour.
Housing is often included in packages - airfares sometimes are. Jobs in private universities are generally considered to have the best conditions, and are sought after. An MA (TESOL) is often required to work in a university, although I have seen jobs where lower qualifications were acceptable. The hiring season is July to September, but for university jobs you should be looking from around March.
Many TEFL jobs in Turkey are advertised online. It's also possible to arrive and look for work on the spot. As far as TEFL certification goes, the more you have the better. You will meet teachers who are teaching in Turkey without even a TEFL certificate, however, if you are qualified you can apply for better jobs, and put yourself in a much better long term position. An unqualified teacher is always more vulnerable position, and will generally only find work in the lower quality schools.
Be aware of phishing scams attempting to steal your personal information. It's better (as always) to contact the schools directly. And if anyone asks for money to process your visa – run.
The Grand Bazaar in Istanbul
Most of the work teaching English in Turkey is in Istanbul and the capital city, Ankara. Istanbul is the economic, cultural and financial center of the country. With a population of around 12.8 million people it is huge, and it is the main choice for most of those who want a job teaching English in Turkey.
Ankara is a very different city. It's 850m above sea level and located in one of the driest regions of Turkey - although the city has many parks. It's also a big city, of around 4.5 million people. Ankara has the second highest number of jobs for teaching English in Turkey.
Apart from the two largest cities, there are opportunities for teaching English in the smaller cities and towns. Conditions of work - and life - vary a lot when you are in the provinces. Remember that smaller, provincial towns are very conservative - and this will affect your life in many ways.
And it's best to avoid SE Turkey at the moment. I know some teachers work there, but the situation is dangerous. Check out the current situation for yourself as this changes, but I have no reason to think it will become much better soon.
Be aware that the Turkish lira tends to depreciate against other currencies. This obviously makes life difficult and it may be wise to have your salary fixed in euros or another hard currency. This was the reason I stopped teaching in the country.
As always, I recommend learning the language. A knowledge of Turkish is especially important if you live outside of the major cities. For English speakers many of the sounds will be familiar. Learning Turkish grammar will give you the opportunity to appreciate what your students have to go through when they study English.