Italy is one of the most popular destinations in Europe for TEFL teachers. It offers beautiful landscapes, clean and well presented cities plus almost unrivaled heritage and a wealth of cultural history.
Thousands of foreign TEFL teachers work in Italy and this article explains what you need to do to join them.
The basic qualifications to teach English in Italy are a degree and a TEFL Certificate. Having said this, anyone with some teaching experience or willing to be trained onsite can find work even without a recognized certificate, but these jobs are not necessarily with reputable schools. TEFL Certificates are typically asked for and can often make the difference between being offered the job or losing to a better qualified candidate.
Being a member of the European Union it is far easier for EU passport holders to find work here. This means that if you do not have an EU passport (e.g. British or Irish) then you will likely have a difficult time finding work as the bureaucratic complications come into play and you will need to convince your employer that your skills are worthwhile.
Although not essential for teaching, a knowledge of Italian also helps as many people – including some school owners – do not speak English.
Work for English teachers in Italy can be found in private English language schools. It is rarely found in the state schools however there are a few jobs to be found in universities where qualified English mother tongue teachers are employed as Lettori or Esercitatori linguistici. These jobs are usually found after you have been living in a university city and know some of the university staff already.
The best way to go about finding a job teaching English in Italy is to be there in person. Failing that a smaller number of jobs are posted online. If you’re already living in Italy, you probably know that Italians prefer face-to-face contact and they are much more likely to hire someone they’ve seen or know than someone they have never met. Even if they are not hiring at the moment, it’s a good idea to visit every language school on your list.
Tip: when you arrive to the town that interests you with your Pagine Gialle (Yellow Pages) listing, pick up a map at the local tourist office and map out the schools in the area over a cappuccino or espresso at the nearest coffee bar. Even if the private language schools you visit are not hiring at the time of your visit, leave your CV/Résumé with the director anyway as you never know when they might need an English teacher. Schools will most likely keep your resume on file and may even call you one or two months later.
It is advisable not to waste your time sending your CVs/resumes by mail or email to private language schools directly if you can visit them in person.
International school chains like Wall Street, Linguarama, Berlitz and Inlingua are very present in Italy, training many would-be EFL teachers for subsequent teaching positions in their own schools. The British School has over 70 branches across the country. However, some of smaller schools will offer better working conditions.
The school year starts in early September and finishes in mid June so contracts are typically 9 to 10 months. Some private schools will also run short summer courses in June and July.
Schools will start looking for teachers around February and March but there are also many job openings close to the beginning of the school year, sometimes only a few days before school starts. Last minute openings for substitute teachers are common throughout the year.
Do not bother looking for work in August as the country closes down for holidays.
Pay & Conditions
Each school is different when it comes to pay. At the lower end of the market you will find schools paying €15 ($19 USD, £12) per hour (often large chains pay this little). Small concerns may go up to €20 ($25 USD, £16) per hour and private colleges right up to €35 ($44 USD, £28) per hour depending on qualifications and experience.
Teachers are generally employed as ‘Contract workers’ or ‘Freelance workers’. Italy’s corporate legislation on Social Security payments has made it more attractive for private language schools to take on freelance teachers, as teachers who fall into this category must make their own Social Security payments.
Schools in the North of Italy are certainly more organized and financially sound though living costs in the northern regions are much higher than in the South, whilst teaching salaries are not reduced proportionately. An average teaching salary in the southern region of Calabria is only a couple of hundred euros less than salaries offered in the rich, industrial capital city of Milan. In places like Rome where accommodation is very expensive you may well find yourself sharing an apartment with several others.
Generally speaking new teachers will work for one school and it can sometimes be difficult to make ends meet. As you progress, however, you may well pick up work with other schools and some teachers work for three or four different schools during the week.
Private lessons can also be a good little earner. English in State schools is often confined to just a couple of hours per week so many parents will turn to the help of a private teacher to ensure their children get good grades.
In fact some English teachers are able to turn private lessons into their main source of income. Hourly fees can be as high as €30 ($38 USD, £24) and as long as you make yourself known in your neighborhood you will always have a pool of students to access, from kindergarten children to teenagers to business people.
A First Time English Teacher in Italy – a personal story from a first time TEFL teacher in Italy