Teaching English in Barcelona

By | October 24, 2013

Barcelona is Spain’s second largest city, and consists of around one and half million people (nearly five million in the metropolitan area). It is an impressively vibrant city with sandy beaches, boundless culture, awe-inspiring architecture, and world-class gastronomy. Eat, chill or dance. Shop, watch or drink. And when it all gets too much, hike the hills of Montjuic and gaze down from above. It’s a city which never bores you and always surprises you.

Not all of Barcelona’s beaches are natural, and some of them can get pretty crowded in the summer, but take a walk a bit further down the promenade, past Port Olympic and you will find a spot that’s perfect for a relaxing day of sun drenching.

Night time in Barcelona is limitless. Whether you choose mojitos at a beachside chiringuito or cava from a hillside restaurant, it’s up to you. Towards midnight the bars fill, then empty at 2am. If you’re up to it, you can move on to the clubs until 6am and explore the wilder side of the city.

Barcelona’s architectural treasures include the narrow, mysterious lanes of the Gothic quarter, shady plazas, intricately designed façades and ancient cathedrals. In other parts of town you can find creations by Gaudí and his Catalan architectural contemporaries. The likes of Dalí, Miró and Picasso are well-known to have been inspired by the city’s charm.


Barcelona’s official languages are Catalan and Spanish. However, most signs are only in Catalan because it is the official language. It’s a good idea to learn a few phrases in Catalan to get by, and it’s always appreciated by locals. Most residents are bilingual in Catalan and Spanish, and usually speak to foreigners in Spanish. Due to Barcelona’s international population, English is fairly widely spoken. Most Catalan or Spanish people already have a basic level of English.

Training to teach English in Barcelona

Teaching English in Barcelona

The Streets of Barcelona
Photo by Fran Austin

Business is booming in Barcelona TEFL world. The only real down turn that I have noticed over the last two or three years has been company classes. But there is still high demand for English among individuals as they constantly search for ways of being one step ahead in the job market, or if planning to move abroad.

There are a few options to choose from when deciding on a TEFL course. Online as well as face-to-face options are now readily available, as well as a wide variety of starting dates to choose from, which offers a lot more flexibility than in the past. If you are not sure whether TEFL is for you, or if you don’t have the cash for the Trinity Certificate in TESOL or Cambridge CELTA, you could take a TEFL Starter course instead. This will give you a taste of what it’s like to be a TEFL teacher and provide you with some skills that you can apply to classes. However, employers in Barcelona, and most other locations around the world too, require the Trinity Certificate in TESOL or Cambridge CELTA before considering you for a position.

The Trinity Certificate in TESOL or Cambridge CELTA course is an intensive four weeks, combining theoretical input with practice – teaching real classes, being observed and reflections. Think carefully about the month you choose to take the course. If you choose to do it in August, you will be in a good position to then start searching for work at the end of the month or at the beginning of September. If you prefer to take your time to get the certificate, part-time options are also available.

Finding Work in Barcelona

Trainees from OxfordTEFL

Trainees from OxfordTEFL
Photo by Fran Austin

Employers recruit locally so you should make sure that you are in Barcelona and ready for interviews after you have qualified (or even before). You could even drop your CV in by hand if you can afford the time. Getting a job teaching English is as much about your teaching skills as it is about your character and presentation, so don’t underestimate the power of a smile and a nice dress or shirt.

The school year begins in October but it is possible to find some work during some other times of the year too. You may find yourself giving private classes here and substitutions there but as long as you are not travelling from one side of the city to the other all day, it’s not too much of a problem. Barcelona has quite a good underground system and also a bike system which will save you the Euros in travel expenses.

You may find that academies will only employ native speakers but sometimes a friendly persona, good English and the Trinity Cert. TESOL or Cambridge CELTA certificate will do the trick. If you are a non-native English teacher and you are having a hard time finding work, you could travel a little further out to places like Granollers, Mataró, Sabadell or Manresa where there are less native speakers on the job hunt.

Try to find a job with a school which has good resources and teacher support. In Barcelona there are a variety of language schools, from the small school on the outskirts of the city, to the larger, well-equipped and central language academies such as Oxford TEFL Barcelona, which is where I work.

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Expected Salary & Cost of Living

[sociallocker id=”864″]Contracts and payments

Teaching contracts will vary. You will probably be on a contract for nine months between October to June, the length of the school year, but you may also find yourself offering private classes on the side too. Perhaps a school will offer a low hourly rate but will reimburse you travel expenses and paid holidays. Make sure you know exactly what’s included before you sign on the dotted line. Schools will pay between €10 and €20 an hour, depending on experience, location of the school and any extras they include (or not).

Barcelona Seafront

Barcelona Seafront
Photo by Fran Austin

Summertime in Barcelona usually means that you’re without classes, so you should budget accordingly during the year. If you like working with children, many schools also offer summer camp around Barcelona. It is hard work but it can be fairly well-paid, especially if you have accommodation and meals included. You can expect to earn around €600 to €800 for a two-week summer camp.

For private classes, you should charge between €15 and €20 an hour. Don’t charge any less than this because you will be selling yourself short, especially when considering travel time and lesson planning. As well as that, charging this will give people the impression that you are good at what you do (which you can prove to them later).

In-company classes tend to pay a bit more than the standard rate in an academy. You will have to travel to the company, so you need to take those expenses into account too. Any unpaid time on the bus or metro can be taken advantage of – mark homework or plan some of your class if it’s a long ride.

A full-time TEFL schedule would be around 20-24 teaching hours, which will probably result in €1300 – €1400 a month. During your first year, however, you may have trouble getting a full-time teaching timetable. Many new TEFL teachers also find themselves spending a lot of time lesson-planning, marking homework and fretting about the next morning’s class.

If you are good, and once your employers have got to know you, they will eventually offer you more teaching hours. Being a good teacher is not just about being able to explain grammar – you should also have good rapport with the students and be sensitive to their needs. If you can help them to learn English and they have a good time while they’re at it, they will keep coming back.

Living expenses

The cost of living in Barcelona depends on a lot of things. Firstly, it depends on where you live. Barcelona is fairly big and if you are renting an apartment, as you would expect, the price is cheaper the further out you go. A lot of people flat share which brings the cost down again. Your lifestyle will also have an impact on how much you spend. There are a multitude of things to do in Barcelona which are free, and plenty of things you can do which will damage your wallet. Supermarket prices can vary, as well as food quality. Buying at the markets and buying in bulk help you save the pennies.

Here is a rough guide of the average you can expect to spend on your basic necessities:

  • Single room rental €250 – €350
  • Double room rental €350 – €550
  • One bed flat €600 – €800
  • Three bedroom flat €800 – €1100
  • Meal in an inexpensive restaurant €10
  • Glass of local beer €2-€3
  • Loaf of bread €1 – €2
  • 1 litre of milk €1
  • 10-journey ticket for the underground €10
  •  Taxi starting tariff at normal rate €2.50
  • 1 minute of pre-paid calls €0.18
  • Internet 6Mbps €32.50
  • Gym membership €40- €50 per month
  • Cinema €8

For more information about the cost of living in Barcelona, click here.[/sociallocker]

Getting your NIE

The NIE is used as your official ID in Spain as a foreigner. You will need it to obtain a contract for a flat, open a bank account, join the gym, and many more things.

At the end of 2012 there was a change in the law for EU citizens that want to get the NIE in Spain. The reason for this is that they don’t want to give the number to everyone in case they don’t find work and cannot pay taxes. So it is now a requirement for those that want to get the NIE to have an offer of a contract. This means that once you have an offer of a contract to work in a school, they can either provide you with a letter which you can use as proof or, if you can wait, you can take the real thing with you in order to obtain your NIE number.

Click here for the official application forms.

Are you tempted to teach English in Barcelona?

It may seem like a lot of paperwork, but starting a career as a TEFL teacher in Barcelona is fairly straight-forward. And hundreds of people are doing it right now!

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