Guide to TEFL in Italy
Italy is one of the most popular countries in Europe to teach English as a foreign language. Why? Well, the weather, the different lifestyle, the limitless culture, the many beautiful cities and the amazing food are selling points enough. It also has a relatively low cost of living (compared to the UK for example), particularly in the south, and a healthy work/life balance. A decent level of English has suddenly become a requirement for most well-paying jobs in Italy over the last few years and therefore demand is extremely high for qualified, native-speaker teachers. It is also home to scores of academies ready to employ enthusiastic and motivated teachers who are eligible to work in the European Union.
What do I need to teach English in Italy?
You will need a CELTA or TESOL certificate to teach English as a foreign language in an academy or school in Italy. However, you don’t necessarily need a degree. It is preferred by most academies of course, but not required. Most academies will ask for some previous teaching experience – usually a minimum of one or two years. Obviously if you are applying for a more senior position, you will need more previous experience.
Where can I teach in Italy?
Like in other countries, the most popular cities in Italy for TEFL teachers are the larger ones. More people mean more academies, which in turn means a higher demand for teachers. Milan, being the nation’s financial capital, has scores of academies in and around the city centre. Rome, the actual capital, also has many.
Further south, Naples and Bari are your two best bets. Naples is the biggest city in the south and has a large university population – which is enough to set money signs flashing in the eyes of any enterprising TEFL teacher. Bari, on the opposite coast, is probably one of the most underrated cities in Southern Europe, and has several major academies situated there that are worth checking out. It is the capital of the beautiful Apulia region, and TEFL jobs can also be found in other parts of the region such as Lecce, or Taranto.
How do I find a job teaching in Italy?
Start your search on this very site! ESLBase has a TEFL jobs section that you can access here. The internet is awash with TEFL jobs (of varying appeal), so check out TEFL.com (they even have an app) too and join as many Italy-related ‘TEFL Teachers’ Facebook groups as you can.
If you’re not on Facebook, do not worry! Academies, like all businesses, love to see proactivity too – so why not make friends with Google Maps and email academies from your preferred city directly? Like anything, it’s a numbers game – so write out a template on Microsoft Word that you can copy and paste into emails, only changing some key information depending on the job and its specifications.
When should I look for a job?
The main hiring season for academies in Italy, as with the rest of Europe, is May-August. That’s because the academic year normally starts in September or October and finishes in May or June. You might find there are still some jobs available in early September but after that – you’re going to struggle. It is unusual for an academy to change its staff during the year, and therefore you will find it to be slim pickings in terms of vacancies from October to March/April. You never know though, so don’t despair – keep checking those jobs pages and sending those emails!
Do I need a visa?
If you are a non-EU citizen – yes you do. While there are some teachers who come to Italy on an initial ninety-day tourist visa and continue to work ‘under-the-table’ or cash-in-hand, this is extremely unadvisable and apart from anything else – illegal. If you want to teach English as a foreign language legally in Italy as a non-EU citizen, you will need to apply for a ‘work visa’. Here’s the tricky part: you need to already have a job (or a job offer) before applying for a work visa. This is because a work contract is one of the documents that you need to provide in order to apply for a visa. The other documents are:
- The original and a copy of your Nulla Osta (work permit)
- A completed Italian Long-Stay Visa Application form
- Your passport with at least two blank pages, valid for at least three months after the duration of your visa
- Passport photos (two minimum)
- Proof of accommodation in Italy (flat/house contract)
- Proof of financial means (bank statements etc)
- Proof of paid visa fee
- Diplomas/other certificates
Italian bureaucracy is infamous, so I would strongly advise bringing all the above documents to your visa application.
At the time of writing, we still don’t really know much about the ins-and-outs of Brexit and how this will affect those of us who are living and working in mainland Europe going forwards. It’s worth regularly checking the gov.uk ‘Living in Italy’ page – you can even sign up for updates or follow them on Twitter @UKinItaly.
How much will I earn teaching English in Italy?
You are not going to get rich Teaching English as a Foreign Language in Italy. Southern Europe is economically less stable than some of the major northern nations such as the UK and Germany – and therefore you will find that the average salary is significantly lower. You can expect to earn slightly more in the big cities in the north such as Milan, Rome and Turin compared to smaller towns with a lower cost of living. If you are working a full-time job (25 hours plus) you can expect to earn more than 1000 euros, but you are unlikely to earn much more. If you combine academy work with a few well-paying private students, you could earn closer to the 2000 euro mark.
What’s the cost of living like?
This depends largely on which part of the country you decide to settle in. Italy famously has a major North/South divide. Milan is the nation’s financial capital and one of the world’s most illustrious cities for fashion and so as you can imagine – the cost of living is quite high there. Rome is an incredible city and therefore a major European tourist destination – also expensive.
Even outside these two main cities, you’re probably going to have to pay between 1400-1800 euros if you want a (small-ish) flat to yourself in the north, and around 500 euros (plus bills) if you’re happy with just a room. If you’re on a penny-pinching budget (we’re TEFL teachers after all), you may be able to find something cheaper but make sure that a) it’s not a scam and b) it’s legal (i.e. with a contract, etc). If you are arranging your accommodation before you move to Italy, but already have a job lined up: ask your new boss for advice. In my experience, they’d be more than happy to help.
The south is much cheaper. You’re talking anything from 200-350 (plus bills) for a room in a city like Naples or Bari, possibly even less in a town. Don’t be surprised if you’re even paying your rent in cash. Eating out is much cheaper than in the north too and this is important – eating out in restaurants/bars/cafes is a major part of southern Italian culture. You can get a pizza for as little as two or three euros in some parts of the south.
Drinking, however, is not so cheap. Italy has a food culture far more dominant than its drink culture, and a ‘night out drinking’ that is so dearly treasured in Northern European culture simply does not happen in Italy. Drinks are to be enjoyed, but only one or two. Therefore, the prices of alcoholic drinks do not necessarily correspond to the low prices of food. Beer tends to be served in bottles rather than glasses and can be found for as little as one euro (small bottle) but is likely to set you back significantly more. A Spritz will cost you north of five euros, regardless of which part of the country you are in.
How many hours will I be working?
Most academies, including ones I worked for, guarantee a minimum of 20-25 hours a week, or a certain amount of hours a month. Even if you end up working fewer hours some weeks, you’ll still get paid for the number of hours on your contract. Be warned though – this may well include Saturdays. In Italy, the working week is a long one and it is very common for schools and academies to remain open on Saturday mornings. Sometimes even afternoons.
Another downside (or upside depending on how you like your work schedule) is that the hours tend to be quite spaced out during the day/week. For example, you could be teaching a class in the morning and then not have another class until the evening. Also, and this is important, you may be asked to work ‘off-site’ at a local school. Maybe even several ‘local’ schools. Larger class sizes longer travel and more chaos… for the same money. Be sure to ask about what an average timetable looks like at the academy you’re interviewing for before accepting any offer.
Any other advice?
Eat as much pizza as you can. It really is better in Italy. Try and learn some Italian before you go if possible, but don’t worry too much if you don’t have the time. I found most Italians to be extremely friendly and helpful, never prone to mocking a bumbling foreigner’s attempts at basic conversation.
Do your research and decide on the area that you want to live in first and then tailor your academy search to that. Research academies in that area. Read reviews, see if you can find current or ex-employees to ask questions to, perhaps on social media (it’s not stalking if it’s work-related I promise). Above all, DO NOT just accept the first offer that comes along because you think no other offers will be forthcoming. It’s very tempting to think like that (I did in fact), but the reality is that its much better to wait and make sure that you are moving to an area and an academy that suits you. Offers will come.