Guide to TEFL in Poland
One question you should become accustomed to answering if you choose to give this unique country a chance – Why did you choose Poland? Apart from having a fairly good exchange rate and an affordable cost of living, it’s surprisingly beautiful. It has an interesting and lengthy past, with plenty to learn, quite good infrastructure for travel and internet connectivity as well as mountains, seaside, lakes and plenty of national parks.
Why teach English in Poland?
The average salary and work schedule for English teachers gives you plenty of opportunity to earn, live fairly comfortably, and save if you’re careful. The scheduling can vary depending on which type of job you take (more on that below), but for almost any academy job, you will work afternoons and evenings.
This affords you ample time and opportunity to find more teaching, through private lessons or one of the many online options around the world that typically pay in USD. With an exchange rate around 4 Polish Zloty to 1 USD, any income from online companies can allow you to live more comfortably or spend on what you want, not just what you need.
Whether you come on your own to Poland as an English teacher or choose to take a TEFL course in Poland, you will be pleasantly surprised. Even if you grow tired here, it’s still close to other big cities in Europe such as Prague or Berlin.
What types of teaching jobs are available in Poland?
As mentioned above, you have several options or avenues to choose from regarding jobs. Depending which you choose, the hours, work contract, and pay will vary:
If you look on any of the local websites, nursery and pre-schools jobs are the most abundant. These positions are typically Monday to Friday, with hours usually 8 or 9am to 5 in the evening. As the hours are longer, you will make a decent salary, but the opportunity to work private lessons decreases. You’ll normally have bigger groups, up to 15-20 young students. You should be able to work for most nurseries without much difficulty regarding paperwork, and it should be no problem to get a proper work contract.
Public and Private Schools
Another option for teaching in Poland is to work at public or private schools. These positions can usually be found on ESL teaching websites, as well as the job search websites in Poland (there are links to a few of these later). Normally, you will work for a company that contracts you to a school, but it is also possible to find work directly with schools. These positions vary depending on the school, but always follow a typical school schedule and calendar: weekday work, usually 7 or 8am to early / mid-afternoon. Pay can be slightly higher than academy work, but classes are bigger (up to 40 students in some high schools), with more prep work and grading required.
Working for private language academies is the most common choice for those who choose to teach abroad in Poland. You’ll have plenty of options, most being afternoon and evening hours, 2 or 3pm to 8 or 9pm. There is also the possibility to teach business English, and you could work from 7am to 9pm if you want to or are able to.
Conditions can fluctuate, from one-to-one lessons to small groups, or groups up to 10-15 students. Most centres will be preparing/readying students for the Cambridge Suite Exams (Preliminary, First, Advanced, Proficiency). There are A LOT of academies all around Poland. It’s always possible to find open positions online, but you can also use the tried and tested method of dropping off resumes/CVs at academies near you.
Whichever option you choose, make sure to confirm what your net, or take-home pay is. Companies may tell you a rate of pay but ignore the glaring issue of taxes, which can be upwards of 20%. Also, if you choose to work with an academy that requires you to start your own business and collaborate as a B2B (business to business), be prepared to pay 20% in taxes, plus 600zl+ monthly towards the public healthcare system (ZUS).
What are the usual benefits and salaries for English teachers in Poland?
If you come to Poland with a work contract and visa you should expect health insurance to be provided. It is common to find jobs that offer accommodation, either at a reduced cost or free of charge. It will usually be shared with 1 or 2 other people.
Most important – pay:
You can expect to make at least 3,300 zloty per month (around $900), hopefully after taxes. As mentioned above, it is possible to work longer hours and make even more money.
If you’re working an hourly contract, expect a minimum of 50-55 zloty ($13-$14) an hour. Experienced, certified teachers can earn up to 120 zloty ($32) an hour, normally for business English classes.
Where are the majority of teaching jobs in Poland?
Not surprisingly, the biggest cities have more job offers. The highest demand for English lessons is in the biggest cities: Warsaw and Krakow. Some of the smaller, university cities such as Wroclaw, Poznan and Szczecin may also be good choices, with lower costs of living. That said, it is possible to find ESL teaching jobs anywhere in the country. In smaller towns, you will have to go directly to schools/academies, as they are less likely to advertise positions online.
What are the requirements to teach English in Poland?
A Bachelor’s degree is a must. Your area of studies is not always important, more that you have a degree. A Master’s degree may be necessary for some positions, for example to work at universities. Another mandatory requirement is some sort of English teaching certification. This can be as simple as an online TEFL course, or a more advanced certification like a CELTA or Trinity Cert TESOL.
Native speakers are given precedence for jobs, provided they have legal papers to work. If you are not a native speaker it may be difficult, as it is more common for companies/schools/academies to hire Polish teachers with a Cambridge or IELTS certification at C1 level.
Teaching experience is preferred, but not always necessary. However, if you don’t have experience, anticipate the interviewer may ask more questions about your TEFL certification.
Many centres focus on Cambridge exams, so experience or familiarity with these exams is quite helpful too.
When are the best times for English teachers to look for jobs?
If you’ve applied to an opening in the early summer months, June or July, don’t be discouraged when you don’t get an immediate response. Poles take their summer holidays seriously, and may not respond until late August or early September. These two months are the peak hiring season for academies and schools in Poland.
Another time that can be fruitful when looking for ESL jobs is January, after the Christmas holidays. Teachers often leave during this break, so there are jobs available in the second week of January, preferably for those who are already in the country.
Private academies that focus on adults or business classes hire year-round, with fewer opportunities in the summer and around the end of the year.
How difficult is it to get a work visa to teach in Poland?
Visas to teach in Poland are fairly easy to obtain. As with most positions around Europe, British or EU passport holders need very little. Unlike some of the popular destinations in Southern Europe, Americans are able to obtain a work visa, and companies are more than willing to help. For a work visa, Americans need:
- to make an appointment at your appropriate embassy
- a paper copy of your appointment date
- a completed visa form, printed and signed.
- proof of sufficient financial means to support yourself and proof of accommodation in Poland
- a copy of your travel insurance stating coverage with a minimum of 30,000 EURO for trips outside of the U.S. valid in ALL Schengen Countries
- a passport valid for 3 months beyond the planned departure from Poland, with two blank pages and issued within the last 10 years
- a flight reservation or other proof of transport showing arrival and departure dates
- 2 passport photos
- a driver’s license / utility bill with your name as proof of residence in the proper consular district
- a registered, addressed and prepaid envelope for your passport
Helpful websites for finding teaching jobs
A few sites to help search for work when you are in Poland:
Cost of Living in Warsaw
Single apartment/studio: 1,700-2,500zl ($460-$680)
Shared- up to 800zl ($200)
90-minute transit ticket: 3.40zl ($0.93)
Monthly transit pass: 120zl ($32)
Loaf of bread: 3zl
Bottled water (1.5l): 1zl
Potatoes (kg): 2zl
0.5l beer: 2zl to 6zl
If you are interested in an affordable country with jobs that give you the scheduling flexibility to work for other companies, (online or in-person), Poland is a country you should seriously consider. For those interested in history, Poland has an interesting and lengthy past, with plenty to learn. The country has quite good infrastructure so travel and internet connectivity are not an issue. If you enjoy nature and outdoor activities, you will be pleasantly surprised, as Poland offers mountains, seaside, lakes and plenty of national parks.