What is life like in Russia for a TEFL teacher?
Russia is a place full of surprises, steeped in history and rich in culture. One thing for sure is that you’ll never be bored! As I’m sure youre aware, Russia is huge. Local customs and cultures intertwine with what remains of the Soviet Union, meaning that there are both huge similarities and differences with Saint Petersburg in the west and Vladivostok in the east.
The first thing to take note of is the weather, with most English teaching jobs located in cities that have extremely cold winters and relatively warm and pleasant summers. Be sure to consider whether you want to live in a country where the weather impacts your life in such a big way.
The second thing to consider is language. People in Russia don’t tend to speak English as well as you may find in other countries such as Spain, Korea or Italy. Therefore, it would be wise to consider learning a few basic expressions before you head there in order to help smooth out any communication issues.
Finally, the cost of living is surprisingly low in comparison to other European countries. The economic situation means that it is possible to find much cheaper apartments than you may expect. Due to the sheer number of cities you could work in as a TEFL teacher, it’s difficult to give a rough estimate of the cost. However, you will expect your English teaching salary to comfortably cover these expenses, with many employers offering free or subsidised accommodation.
What types of English teaching jobs are there in Russia?
To the ESL world, Russia is certainly opening up. English is being valued more and more by all of Russian society. A few years ago, working within a Private School may have been your only option. Nowadays, there are a great variety of jobs, working in a variety of different establishments. Most teaching roles start in September and you’ll be expected to complete an academic year. That said, you will find jobs pop up at all times of the year.
The main type of job you may find is working in a private language academy. These tend to function very similarly to those that you may have found in Spain or Italy. Expect to work mainly with children or adults who will come in for classes a few times a week. Hours of work expected are around 30 hours a week including class preparation and meetings.
There are also English teaching jobs working in private schools. These jobs may require you to work with an existing class teacher, helping to reinforce a student’s spoken English. These jobs can be the most rewarding as you get to see the children’s spoken English improve as the academic year goes on.
As well as working for a private company, you may have the opportunity to develop connections and undertake work on a self-employed basis. This can be an extremely well-paid opportunity, with many private individuals paying upwards of $50USD per hour! This work will tend to be with children, and also includes time spent travelling from a city centre to the family’s home.
If you find yourself interested in teaching in Russia, but would like to spend a summer there in order to get the flavour for this beautiful place, then there are a few roles available working in summer immersion camps. These last a few months and although they aren’t as well paid as camps in western Europe they are certainly a great way of getting into Russia.
What are the requirements to teach English in Russia?
As I have said before, the ESL market in Russia is expanding at a fantastically quick rate. The wide range of jobs all seem to have different requirements. However, the basic requirement is usually some sort of TEFL certification or a degree in a relevant subject.
When it comes to visas, the company who is offering you employment will provide assistance with this. Generally speaking, it isn’t too difficult to gain a visa. However, you may find yourself heading back and forth from the visa office (not the embassy) as it may be difficult to get your paperwork correct. That said, good schools and academies in Russia will help you as much as they can from their end, and will usually offer to cover the visa costs subject to you completing your contract.
Do I need experience to teach in Russia?
As I’m sure you can imagine, experience is certainly desired by potential employers in Russia, such is the case all over the world. That said, for the right candidate with suitable education or qualifications, you may find that the experience requirement is skipped.
In terms of general life outside of the classroom, experience of living abroad may be useful. Russia is a beautiful place and somewhere I certainly recommend. However, as I’m sure you can imagine, the culture shock can be massive, and experience of living abroad would certainly help you to deal with this.
There are a few things you can do in order to prepare yourself. For example, learn a few basic phrases in Russian that will help you in everyday situations, revise some of the courtesies in Russia as it may surprise you what is considered polite and impolite, and also revise the history of the place a bit. Just by spending a little time learning these things, you’ll be amazed how much it will help you to adapt to your new destination.
What can I expect to earn teaching English in Russia?
I have referenced a couple of times the size and diversity of Russia. This directly influences the answer to this question. Earnings for TEFL teachers can vary a lot. That said, I think it is fair to expect to earn around $1000 per month in your first year working in a private English academy. Although when you compare this to other parts of the world this may seem low, remember that the average monthly salary in Russia is less than half of this. You can expect to live extremely comfortably on this salary in most of Russia.
After spending a period of time in Russia, and with successful networking, it is possible to find better-paid work. It is not uncommon to find teachers working solely with private clients, earning upwards of $50 per hour, especially in big cities like Moscow or Saint Petersburg.
To summarise, Russia is a fantastic country, rich in both culture and history. Both the number and diversity of English teaching jobs are rising at a fantastic rate and it must be advised to get there early, before it becomes a well-trodden path!
While you may have the opportunity to earn more money and enjoy a better climate elsewhere, I wouldn’t simply disregard this beautiful country. As an ESL teacher, I’m sure you are looking for the perfect place to have new experiences and make amazing memories, and with Russia I am sure you have found a great place for that.
Written by Michael Johnson