Please tell us a little about your English teaching background
Before coming to Italy in October 2002, I was working for a private language school in the States which had a European agent in Florence, Italy. My boss in California, who knew of my desire to teach in Italy, put in a good word for me. When I arrived in Florence, I had a job already waiting for me.
After two years in Florence, I decided to accept a job at a university in Mexico where I worked for one year and then returned to California to pursue an MA TESOL degree. I returned to Italy permanently in 2007 to work as the principal trainer and academic director of a TEFL certificate program. I have been teaching English (and teaching others how to teach English) in Italy ever since.
Please tell us about all the jobs you have had teaching English in Italy?
When I first came to Italy, I worked for a private language school in the city of Florence. I worked about 15-20 (in class) hours or less per week, more if I could get it. Most of my lessons were organized through the school and were usually off-site one-to-one language lessons where I would meet the student at his/her place of work during the day. I also taught private lessons and small group classes at the language school. I was paid by the hour and received no benefits. When I worked full time at the teacher training center as the principal trainer, I received a fee (or salary) for every four-week course I did. If there was no course, I was not paid and there was no paid vacation. Currently, I am training English teachers online from Italy. I work with teacher trainees from all over the world.
Please tell us about your job in Mexico
I worked in the state of Oaxaca at the Universidad del Mar, which is located in the developing coastal resort area known as Huatulco, for one year. It was a fantastic experience living in Mexico; very culturally enriching, interesting and eye-opening. I worked in a language department with other professors from the States, Canada, the United Kingdom and France, and had paid vacation, holidays, and benefits.
How easy is it to find English teaching positions?
Teaching positions are definitely available and often advertised. Be prepared though to work for more than one language school to make ends meet. Better jobs can often be found in small lesser known towns where English language teachers are more of a novelty versus a dime a dozen like in some major tourist centers in Italy. Due to its size, I think Rome might also be a good place to look for work teaching English as well as Milan.
Is it necessary to have teaching certificates or training to find employment?
At this point in time, I definitely think so. This wasn’t always the case but I think those with any kind of teaching certification (TEFL/TESL/ TESOL) are definitely considered before all others—and there are plenty of people looking for work who already possess a certificate. You’ll need one to compete for the best and available jobs—that’s for sure!
How valuable has your Masters in TESOL been to your career?
I think very valuable. My MA TESOL came in very handy when I was working in a teacher training center where I was constantly updating and developing curriculum and has also served me well in the online teacher training I am doing and the various projects I am involved in as a teacher of English in Italy.
How did you get your first work visa?
I didn’t have one. I worked in my first job for a private language school that hired a lot of Americans. I had a contract but no work visa.
Is it easy for non-EU citizens to obtain a work visa for Italy?
Not that easy, but possible. I suggest coming on a student visa, which allows non-EU citizens to stay longer than the three month tourist visa and work 20 hours a week. Another idea is to obtain Italian citizenship, if at all possible, through relatives. I also think pursuing jobs with private language schools in smaller out of the way places (with less competition) is a good idea. If a non-EU citizen marries an Italian, it will be a lot easier to acquire working papers and other documents.
Is it possible for teachers to arrive without a work visa and look for a job?
Yes, definitely. Italians prefer face to face contact and many people (Americans and those with or without an EU passport) look for and find jobs teaching English in private language schools or freelance. Bring extra cash and plan on working for more than one language school, at least in the beginning.
What is the cost of living in Italy?
Expensive compared to the average wage (even for Italians). Expenses vary depending on where you decide to live, how much you want to eat or go out, and whether you’re living in the northern or the southern parts of Italy.
How much of a salary can teachers expect to make?
Typical salaries in Italy are around 1000 Euros per month, but many English teachers are paid hourly. This can range from 12-16 Euro per hour on the average.
Are there many opportunities to earn income on the side?
Definitely. Freelance work can be found through advertising or through word of mouth through other teachers you meet.
Do you recommend Italy for other English teachers?
Definitely! Italy is a wonderful country and, in most cases, Italian students enjoy participating and interacting, which makes them very fun to teach.
What advice would you offer for others thinking of teaching English in Italy or other countries Abroad?
Take an onsite or online TEFL/TESOL certificate course if you’re interested in finding work in private language schools. You will find the information invaluable to your teaching and the certificate will help you find work. I would also suggest Susan Griffith’s book, Teaching English Abroad, as well as my website: TeachingEnglishinItaly
TeachingEnglishinItaly Sheila’s web site