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The English speakers guide to teaching and living in Spain

Teaching English in Spain

Teaching English in Spain is a great way for Americans and other native English speakers to move to Europe. You’ll get to live, work, and experience a new culture. It’s a valuable way to begin your career path, spend a gap year, or switch things up during a midlife crisis.

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Spain is a particularly good place to teach English now as the government has been increasing the bilingual program. Additionally, more and more Spanish parents are encouraging their children to take classes.

Why Spain

Spain has a relaxed atmosphere, rich history, art, delicious tapas, and beautiful beaches. These are just some of the reasons Spain is both a huge tourist destination and a haven for expats.

Check out our guide to volunteering in the Spain, we show you how to get the foundations in place so you can start applying with confidence to go volunteering in Spain.

Options for teaching English in Spain

If you’re looking to teach English in Spain, there are several different options.

Auxiliares de Conversación

The “Auxiliares de Conversación” or “North American Language and Culture Assistants” government program brings native English speakers to Spain. They live and work for an academic year.

Teaching conditions

These assistants get paid between 700 and 1,000 euros (about 780-1,120 USD) for 12-16 hours of work per week. This depends on where in Spain they are placed. As an assistant, you will usually have one day off, either Monday or Friday. You’ll be allowed to live in Spain on a student visa.

There is not a Spanish requirement for the program. Generally, you’re not supposed to use Spanish in the schools as they don’t want the children to know that you understand and/or speak Spanish.

If they know you speak Spanish, they will be less inclined to speak English with you, (and they will also make fun of your accent). You will be teaching English to preschool, primary, or secondary students either at a non-bilingual or a bilingual public school.

If you’re at a bilingual school you could be helping to teach other classes taught in English, such as science, social studies, art, music, or physical education.

The classes

What you will actually do with your students will vary from school to school and class to class.

I have one class of first graders where my teacher shows me the lesson really quickly, and I stand up in front and teach it to the entire class.

I really enjoy this because I like having that autonomy and control, and I don’t have to do any prep work. For most other classes, I go out in the hallway to work with pairs or small groups, playing English board games or reading with them. For a couple of classes, I literally just sit in the back while the teacher teaches.

One of my friends, on the other hand, has weekly presentations for her classes on topics ranging from ‘English superstitions’ to ‘Thanksgiving in America’.

I’d say most auxiliaries don’t have to plan out entire lessons for the whole class very often if at all, but it is totally dependent on the teacher and school.

Teaching English in Spain – what’s the catch?

This is honestly a great route to teach in Spain as the requirements are not very strict. You have a set salary every month and don’t have to work so many hours.

However, be aware that 12-16 hours a week are your working hours, not necessarily how many hours you will be at school. For people whose schools are a little further out, you may very well leave your house at 8:00 a.m and not return home until 5 p.m.

Working hours

Most schools have a half-hour coffee break which is not included in your hours, as well as a two hour lunch break. If your school doesn’t have that siesta lunch break, you could be finishing your day around 2:00, which is ideal.

Many auxiliaries have long commutes as they want to live in the city but their schools are in the suburbs. You are also not guaranteed to be placed in the area that you want. So if you’re really gunning for a certain city, apply early, but don’t get your hopes up.

Also be aware that payment can be late sometimes, so you must come to Spain with enough savings.

Teaching English in Spain with CIEE

I personally came to Spain through a program called CIEE, which basically acts as a middleman for the auxiliar program.

What the fee includes

CIEE places you at a school (hopefully aligned with your preferences), and helps get you set up with your visa, bank account, housing, doctors, etc. in exchange for a fee.

However, they only help you find placements in certain areas of Spain, Madrid being one of them. The specific CIEE program I did had me live in a Spanish household for two weeks while taking language classes before I began work.

It also included a four-day orientation in a hotel where I made friends who remained very close to me throughout the year. After they help you get set up, you are an auxiliar de conversación. Then, your duties and lifestyle will be the same as mentioned above.

However, CIEE offices and staff are still there for when you need support. If you don’t feel you need that particular hand-holding and don’t want to drain your wallet, you can apply directly through the ministry.


Meddeas is similar to CIEE, in that you have to pay them a fee and they act as a middleman. I personally don’t know anyone who has done this program as I think it’s not as common in Madrid as the auxiliares program.

They have a certificate program which provides you with some teaching training and they also give you the option to live with a host family. You may, however, work more hours and make less money than with the ministry. You do have to pay a small fee which you get refunded if you complete the program.


BEDA (or Bilingual Education Development and Assessment) places language assistants in private and semi-private Catholic schools, where they have a similar role to the auxiliares.

With BEDA, you work 18-24 and get paid about 800-1200, so it’s less per hour than the ministry program. However, you could make more over all and you are much more likely to be paid on time. You still get health insurance and you have visa and other support, much like with CIEE.

Therefore you do have to pay a fee with BEDA as well. The program does interview its candidates, and there is also some coursework required for BEDA. They provide a teaching certifications that look good on a resume if you decide to continue teaching.

Teaching English in Spain requirements

To be a language assistant, you only need a bachelors degree. You can usually get accepted by using any sort of babysitting or coaching as experience.

However, I do certainly think it is helpful to have a TEFL certificate, even if it is not required. Being fluent in English, you don’t realize how many grammatical rules there are that you just know automatically without thinking about.

American or British English

As an American having to teach British English, there were definitely some “proper” English rules I hadn’t known, let alone had to teach to another person (“swum” is a word?)! When you get to Spain and your teachers ask you to explain question tags or first conditional. Then, it is helpful to know what on earth they’re talking about.

It’s also just a nice resume boost for when you’re promoting your private lessons (“TEFL-certified English instructor available!”). Or if you want to apply to English summer camps later on. You can easily get a certificate online for a low cost (I got mine from Groupon!).

Teaching English in Spain: teaching adults

CIEE Teach in Spain professional

For those who don’t necessarily want to work with children, there is the CIEE Teach in Spain Professional program. This program places you with a corporate English teaching job.

You get 900 euros a month, whether your students cancel or not.

You will also have the chance to go on group cultural excursions. The teaching you do will probably be more specific and challenging, as adults are motivated to learn English for particular reasons, often for their jobs.

TEFL programs

There are also TEFL-certification programs (you’ll find loads if you google “Teach English in Spain TEFL”). These will have you do a course, receive a certificate, and help you find a job placement.

This can be trickier as they may have you traveling around the city to different businesses to teach, and it may not always be a super steady income.

Language center

There are always plenty of language centers looking to fill positions with native English speakers (you can always find ads posted on

These jobs generally don’t pay quite as well per hour and you will be responsible for teaching entire classes and thus, more work. I generally don’t recommend this option for Americans, as it can be tricky with visas.

Most language centers will expect you to have an EU visa or some type of work permit already.

Private tutoring

While the wages you get from school are enough to live on in Spain, most people supplement their income with additional private classes. There are websites you can use to find these (such as or

Also, you will get referred students from families and teachers at your school. Just be careful not to overbook yourself. Make sure you space out your classes well so you’re not running all around the city every evening of the week. It’s best to find classes near your school so you can tutor right after school before you go home for the day.

Finding an apartment

There are plenty of websites and Facebook groups that will help you find an apartment in Spain. It is definitely smart to come with at least $1500 just dedicated to finding an apartment, at least in Madrid.

You won’t get your paycheck until at least the end of the first month, and you can sometimes be paid late.

Apartment deposit

You will also have to put down a deposit on your apartment, which at the very least includes a first and last month’s rent, and sometimes a security deposit and/or agency fee. If you want to live more centrally, which is ideal for getting around the city and meeting new people, rent will be more expensive. It could likely cost half of your monthly salary, but as I said if you supplement your income with private lessons, it’s not a problem.

Apartments in Madrid, particularly, are quite small and it is very rare for a language assistant not to have at least one roommate. However, in smaller towns and cities in Spain, you can find a comfortable room in an apartment for 200 euros or less!

Many landlords do not speak English, so it’s nice when viewing an apartment to have someone accompany you if your language level is not good enough to ask the necessary questions. Although some aspects of finding an apartment here are a little shadier than I’m used to in the U.S (paying rent in cash for one!). If you take the proper precautions, you will have no problem. For example, don’t pay your deposit until you have your keys in hand! Also sign a contract, especially if you plan on staying more than one year and want to register your address with the government.

If you are looking to save money on an apartment and perhaps get a more authentic Spanish experience, there are also homestay options. These include things like Babel Bridges, HelpStay, or being an au pair, all of which provide you with housing in exchange for language practice.

General life when teaching English in Spain

If you’re placed in a big city like Madrid or Barcelona, you will have no problem finding other people in a similar situation to pal around with. There are Facebook groups, language exchanges, and your coworkers of course!

Monthly transport card

If living in Madrid, it’s super easy to get around, as you can get a monthly transport card. If you’re under 26, the metro card is a measly 20 euros a month and gets you to surrounding areas like Toledo.

Other living expenses like groceries or a gym membership are also quite low, even in a big city like Madrid.

Getting a phone is a simple matter of getting a Spanish sim card, placing it in your phone, and recharging the balance for about 10-20 euros every month. You can also eat quite cheaply in Spain by ordering a couple drinks and getting some free tapas to munch on!

Overall, being a language assistant is what you make of it. If you are not feeling challenged enough with the job, you have the free time to seek out other ventures. Ventures like improving your Spanish, exercising, finding side jobs, or joining clubs.

I’ve personally grown very fond of my students here and have become very accustomed to the relaxed lifestyle. It’s very possible to plan to come to Spain for a year, and end up never wanting to leave!

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