I’m often asked the question, “So why teach English in Italy?”. It’s one of those things I never know how to answer exactly. It’s just…well…it’s complicated.
How I Became an English Teacher in Italy
I first started teaching English in Italy in 2012. At the time, it wasn’t exactly a part of my “life plan”. That’s not to say that being an English teacher isn’t a great job, it’s just that it wasn’t what I was interested in at the time. I had graduated with a Bachelor’s in Accounting the year before and just completed my Master’s in Business Administration from Providence College. All the doors were lined up for me to become a businesswoman, only there was just one problem: while I enjoyed studying the theory of accounting and business (thanks to a series of wonderful professors I had), I hated it in practice. Business suits weren’t (and still aren’t) for me.
What I did know was that I loved Italy and I wanted to spend some time living abroad. After doing a bit of research I realized that the easiest way to move to Italy was through teaching English.
I signed up for month-long TEFL program in Florence, Italy at a school called Via Lingua. Before attending the course, I had to gather all the right documents (visa, health insurance, passport etc.) and book my flight. I applied for a 6-month study visa and told the Italian consulate that I would be taking a TEFL course in Florence and then have 5 months of teaching practice. I wanted to have a visa because I knew that many English schools would not hire me without one. I’ve heard from recent Via Lingua students that the consulate is no longer accepting this program for study visa applications since it is technically only a 1 month program and a short-term study visa requires a six month course.
While completing my TEFL course I began to search for a job. I sent my CV to many schools, but many were reluctant to hire me because I was American and only had a short-term visa. I finally got lucky and was hired by My English School. They told me that as long as I had a visa I could work there.
After my six month visa expired, I returned home and and applied for another study visa. Since then I’ve maintained my visas and was finally able to convert my study visa into a work visa in April 2014.
I am currently in the process of transitioning to Genova to open a new English school with a team of collegues. We will be opening a new My English School branch in Genova at the end of August.
I’ve also had many other odd jobs here there, including translation from Italian to English, private English lessons and babysitting in English.
Teaching English in Italy FAQ
Here are some of the most commonly asked questions I receive about teaching English in Italy. Please let me know if you have any other questions!
What is a TEFL certification and how do I obtain one?
TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) certification is required by almost every English teaching job out there – no matter which country you’re in. You can usually complete this course in your home country or abroad. I recommend doing a TEFL course near the city you ideally want to work in. I completed a month long TEFL certification course in Florence, Italy at a school called Via Lingua. For one month, 5 days a week, 5 hours a day, I attended this course which covered English Grammar, Pedagogy, Teaching Skills and many hours of hands on teaching practice and peer reviews. At the end, I earned my TEFL certification and was ready to start work.
What’s the difference between CELTA, TEFL, and TESOL certification? Is one more widely accepted in Italy?
This is a pretty hot topic debate among those in the industry because there are many different types, each claiming to be better than the other. All are equally valid certifications, but there are a few key differences between them (I’ll try my best not to offend anyone here!).
CELTA (Certificate in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages)
- issued by the University of Cambridge
- four to five week course (full-time)
- widely accepted in Europe
- highly standardized
- slightly more expensive
- intensive courses
- require some prior English qualification
- usually best for those who want to pursue a career in teaching English full-time
TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language)
- no governing body, but rather independent courses over see certification
- four to five week course (full-time)
- generally accepted in Europe, widely accepted in Asia
- less standardized and course material taught can vary depending upon school
- usually best for those who want to teach English part-time or for a short-term period
TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages)
- same thing as TEFL certification
- TESOL acronym generally used in Australia and USA, or used to refer to teaching immigrants/refugees that have moved to an English-speaking country and are now learning English as a second language
There is also the DELTA (Diploma in English Language Teaching to Adults). This is an advanced qualification for those who already have a CELTA certificate and want to advance their skills.
Choosing the right qualification really depends on your circumstances and career plans. Whichever you choose, be sure to research the program thoroughly beforehand!
I’m TEFL certified and I want to teach in Italy. How do I find a teaching job?
Even the most college educated and fully TEFL certified candidate can experience difficulties in finding an EFL job. My lack of teaching experience and my American status (see *disclaimer* below) made it quite difficult (but not impossible!) to find a job. My best advice during this process is this:
- Prepare an excellent CV that highlights any teaching experience or language abilties you have.
- Physically go to the English schools to inquire about opportunities – it’s more work than simply sending an email, but you will get a lot more attention by doing so.
- If you can’t physically go to the school, call or email and express your interest (written or spoken in perfect English!). Also, if you are outside of Italy you might want to prepare a video clip of a demo lesson or offer to do one via Skype.
- Prepare several sample lesson plans beforehand and be prepared to give a demo lesson during your interview.
- Always bring a copy of your CV with you when you visit a school.
- Always dress for success! I would say a suit and tie is too formal, but you shouldn’t wear jeans or a t-shirt either. Business casual is best.
- TEFL job sites can also be helpful, especially for figuring out what most schools require and which schools are hiring.
How much does a TEFL teacher earn?
An English teacher’s salary in Italy can vary, depending on the schools and the number of hours worked per week. In general the average TEFL teacher wage is somewhere around 15-20 euro/hour, 20-30 hours a week for a grand total of 800-1200 euro/month. It’s not exactly a Wall Street job, but it is sufficient. Plus, you can usually pick up a few private students for 20-25 euro/hour (see 7 Best Practices for Promoting Yourself as a TEFL Teacher in Italy).
What is the cost of living in Italy?
It greatly depends on the city you live in. Check out this awesome statistic site that gives you the different cost of living statistics for each major city in Italy (I did however write a thorough post on the Cost of Living in Bologna). You should be able to save at least 10% of what you’re earning, something to keep in mind when budgeting for an apartment, travel expenses, etc..
Is the demand high for English teachers in Italy?
Yes! Don’t be put off by my lengthy list of job search dos and donts! English is definitely the number one needed language in Italy, for both kids and adults. I’d like to argue that finding an English teaching job in Italy is easier than finding most other jobs elsewhere – as long as you’re a native English speaker, TEFL certified and not a complete idiot, rest assured that you will find something.
*DISCLAIMER: If you are an American looking for a job in Italy, come prepared! Get a visa, because without it most schools won’t hire you. Some schools do hire teachers illegally, paying them under the table, but you are way better off doing it legally, as it will open up your possibilities and allow you to live in the country without fear of getting deported.