A Guide to Teaching English in Russia

Teach English in Russia

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.  

Summary

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

Michael Johnson has over 5 years experience living and working in the Czech Republic, Spain, Slovakia and Russia. Having previously worked as an Engineer in the UK, Michael decided he wanted a change of career and scenery. After picking up a TEFL certificate, Michael headed to Spain to begin his teaching career. Now specialising in IELTS preparation and children’s classes, Michael works mainly online while travelling.

Related

Teacher training courses in Russia
Teaching jobs in Russia
English language schools in Russia
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6 comments and teachers' experiences of Russia

  1. Mark

    Hi, I’m an American who has been teaching in Russia for more than 10 years, specifically in Chelyabinsk. Nobody can really give good info about an entire country, but I can at least try to get rid of a few myths.
    You do not arrive in Russia on a tourist or a business visa and expect to get a job teaching English. The stories you read about this are either very old, or just not true. Just like anywhere else, you need to be sponsored by a language school and you get a working visa. I work for a large school called The English Club in Chelyabinsk, which is a privately owed school with 5 offices in Chelyabinsk. Most jobs advertised in Russia are from large chains, otherwise known as “Teacher Mills”, which seem to have a habit of surviving only by having a constant stream of teachers to chew up and spit out. Many smaller schools are actually better options because they are privately owned and you become part of a family. If your goal is to be treated like a king or queen, why don’t you stay where you are? I’m sure wherever that is would hate to do without their monarch. If you are a guy and your thoughts turn towards finding romance with a Russian girl, you should also stay home. If you work at the same place as me and appear to be always on the prowl, I’ll make sure that you go home. A school is a place where parents entrust the safety and welfare of their kids and where adult customers don’t go to be harassed. While it may be true that the women here are better looking than where you are coming from, they are humans also and worthy of respectful treatment. They aren’t notches in your belt.

    “Russia is so cold!” Well, Russia is a huge country with all kinds of climates. Where I am the temperatures are about the same as northern New England in the U.S., but there are warmer places and certainly colder places. Talking about a country this huge in generalities concerning weather is twice as foolish as speaking about the U.S. in the same terms. If your idea of research is to Google a location, believe everything you read, (after all, if it’s on the internet it must be true!) then you should also stay home.

    I’ve actually not hired teachers before when they write back to me quoting verbatim some garbage they read on the internet. I guess that it shows me that they are not sufficiently creative or curious enough. Probably get all of their news from twitter or Comedy Central also.

    As I mentioned, I’m a English teacher in Chelyabinsk, Russia. If someone Googles “Chelyabinsk”, one of the first things that comes up is, “Chelyabinsk, the most contaminated place on the planet” and based upon this one story, the person is now an expert. Truth be told there was a nuclear accident in the 1950’s in the Chelyabinsk region, which is an area about the size of Illinois. The accident had no effect on the city of Chelyabinsk or the surrounding area. Not much different than “Love Canal” in New York, which is also horribly contaminated, but you wouldn’t factor this in if you were offered a job in NYC. I’ve been here more than 10 years and haven’t seen either mutants or zombies.

    Truth is, Russia, at least in my experience, is a great place to live and work for a foreigner. You will fall in love with the people and the lifestyle the longer you are here. just like anywhere though, you need to remember that the first and foremost reason that a school sponsored your visa was to have you do a good job teaching their students, Chances are that there will be many to most native teachers there who are both better teachers than you and also have more experience and training, so don’t think that you will be a teaching “god”, you won’t. Your main purpose there is to satisfy some customers who think somehow that having a native speaker will help them learn more. Now that I’ve hopefully knocked you off your pedestal, it is quite possible to have a most unforgettable time here as a teacher and also as a foreigner living in Russia. The pictures drawn by rookie teachers who taught here for short periods of time of corrupt cops stopping you all of the time looking to squeeze some money out of you don’t hold true most places. I have never been stopped by the police for any reason in my 11 years in Russia.

    To sum it up; Russia can be a great place to work but come here knowing why you were hired in the first place and come with your eyes open. If you have a ton of requirements and demands then just stay home; the monarchy no longer exists here.

  2. Jhill

    Very good advice, and this is coming from someone with 8 years of experience in Russia under his belt. What he said about the women issue is very true. If you’re coming to Russia for women, you are wrong and you need to stay home. Suffice to say that virtually anything you read on this subject is nonsense.
    I can’t agree with the thing about falling in love with the people; with me it started out that way and then went 180 degrees in the other direction.

    So why do I stay? Because you can make a lot of money here for very little work. That is a good reason. There are also options for travel around the area.

  3. Laxmi Prasad Chaulagain

    Namaste, I am Laxmi Prasad Chaulagain (28) from Nepal. Currently I am learning Russian language in Moscow Power Engineering Institute (MPEI).
    I have completed my Bachelors degree in education English as major subject and I am waiting for my Master degree result.
    My simple request, may I have chance to teach English for basic learner and children?

  4. Luca

    I’ve lived and worked here for over 7 years and I can’t agree with most of what the other guys say.
    First of all if you come here on a business visa it is certainly possible to find work teaching. I wouldn’t recommend it simply because of the 3 months limit before having to get another, but it is 100% possible to get work. The same goes for US citizens on a tourist visa which is a 3 year visa!
    As for Russian women, they are incredibly beautiful and I would say if you are a decent looking European guy you’ve got every chance of finding a (or a few) very beautiful girls to start a relationship with. Just treat them properly and respect them. That being said I’ve never dated a student as I believe it to be inappropriate. But if you’re coming to Russia to find a partner it’s a great place to go. Also there’s not much of the feminist garbage that has become normality in the UK and some other western countries.
    As for actually teaching I would definitely say it is better to start at a school and then go private. You can find many private students and earn a lot more money with them than teaching at a school. You can also acquire your own working visa from an agency. The only slight downside is that there is travelling to be done to and from students. However, as I’ve been here for a while I’ve managed to stay for the majority of time in the centre of the city for good money.
    Russian winter in Moscow is cold but not horrifying.
    Overall it’s an amazing place to live and work with great people, great restaurants, night clubs bars and cafes, excellent architecture and a brilliant place to settle for a few years! Enjoy it, I know I have and am.

    • aldo

      You encourage him to respect and treat women properly in Russia yet you call the feminist movements in the UK and western countries “garbage”. Make some sense and grow up a little.

  5. Ivan

    I wrote an extensive guide on this but I’ll give you guys the TLDR version here.

    I’ve been teaching English + German for a few years now in Moscow.

    The good:

    -freedom
    -decent income that allows you to live somewhat well
    -you live in one of the best cities in the world with all its perks

    The bad:

    -no real future, ceiling on your income, dull work
    -students WILL frustrate you with cancellations, laziness etc.
    -you live above bum status but are constantly reminded that you aren’t going anywhere with your measly income as a freelancer

    That is working as a freelancer. If you work for a school, you’ll have a stable income but less thereof and probably more work.

    Would I recommend it?

    Hell no. Actually trying to fight my way out of it at the moment.

    For anyone who’s interested in the extended version where I also give away valuable tips for those daring enough to give this thing a try: http://moscownightguide.com/teaching-english-in-russia-guide/

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