Let’s just say it–living the auxiliar life can be great, but it can also leave you wanting and needing more. The schedule is minimal, the job itself is usually…less than fulfilling, and the pay will likely have you moonlighting at a low paying academy or riding the metro around town for 25 different private classes. Without fail, lots of language assistants will be searching for a way to continue working in education, (and some likely looking for any way NOT to work in education), while still living out their dream life in Spain, with a decent salary. Sounding familiar yet?
Enter, the questions I get asked the most about my experience living in Spain; how have I been here so long as an American and how did I find work in international and semi-private schools in Spain?
In this post I will be very transparent on my experiences–good, bad, and terribly paid, so read on if you want some hard truths as well as possibilities for your future.
Let’s have a look at all types of schools and how you would be able to work there as a foreigner.
Side note– the photos are totally unrelated to the post, other than being beautiful examples of why I’ve toiled in this system for so long (almost 12 years!), in order to live in this magical country.
EDIT: A fellow lady auxiliar very astutely pointed out to me that I did not specify whether I did or did not have my residency and work permission (one in the same really), before I worked at these schools. The answer is yes, I did. I was already pareja de hecho with my partner before getting work anywhere. I have yet to meet someone who has been able to get a school to sponsor their visa. More on that in an upcoming post.
Public Schools : Colegios y institutos públicos
These are state-run schools with students from ages 3-12 (colegios), and 13-18 (institutos), and if you worked as an auxiliar with the government program, you likely worked in one of these during your experience. Contrary to what you may have witnessed in your schools, jobs in public schools are by far the most lush out of the three.
Minimum requirements to work:
- official preschool, primary, or secondary teaching degree from a Spanish university, or a similarly official teaching degree from another country which has been certified, or “homologado”. If you’re holding a teaching degree and considering getting your degree certified, start yesterday. This process takes a very long time and is essential if you want to work in the public system.
- legal resident of Spain with permission to work
- getting a passing grade on the extremely rigorous “oposiciones” exams which are held every two years and alternate between secondary and primary/preschool.
Salary ranges: roughly between 1,800-2,300 euros monthly, in 14 installments. A very good salary in Spain. This is starting salary–when you have a certain number of years experience you accumulate more. Lush.
Schedule and vacation time: Normally their schedule is from about 9-2pm, with one day a week they come back for parent meetings until 6pm. This may vary slightly for secondary schools. Holidays and puentes during the school year which of course includes from Christmas eve to Three Kings day, all of Semana Santa, as well as a little over two full months in the summer time from around the end of June to the beginning of September. I should also mention that once you have a placement in the public system, you are basically golden until you die. Consider it like an instant tenured position.
Drawbacks: I’ll admit, I haven’t worked in public schools for years, but I have yet to meet any foreigner who works within the public system.
Because the three requirements in order to even qualify are extremely time consuming, expensive, and down right difficult. Getting your degree certified by Spanish government can take over a year, in which time they may decide that not all of your university courses can be matched to theirs, meaning you’ll need to take them again on your own time and out of your own pocket. Also, depending on where you’re from, getting legal residency can also be a tricky and lengthy process–more on that later. And finally, the oposiciones are something that people literally spend years studying for–giving up their jobs, families, and social lives to live with their parents and dedicate every minute to studying. And despite all of that, they still may not pass, (in the last exams it is estimated that only 9% got a placement…that’s a 91% chance of having to repeat the process two years later). Best of all, if you do get a spot, you’ll spend your first three years being sent all over the autonomous community you passed in. I’ve met plenty of teachers who were from Seville and spent a year in Almería, another in Granada, and one more in Jaén before getting their permanent placement closer to home. What I will say is that if you see yourself in Spain long term and know you want to teach, you could still make this work. Even if you don’t have a teaching degree. Yes, you heard me right. You are able to do a one year master program called the Máster Universitario en Profesorado en Enseñanza Secundaria, related to what you studied at uni, which qualifies you to teach that subject in secondary schools in Spain. You would bypass the process of certifying your degree, but you would still need to pass the state exams.
Personal take: Looking back, there is a part of me that wishes I had looked into this sooner, but alas…procrastination and no real idea of what the future held and no desire to commit on my part, kept me from it. You need to be extremely dedicated and sure of yourself and your future for this to be an option, which is why a lot of people you meet preparing the opos are Spanish, under 35, and living with their parents. Doing the one year MAES could solve a few of your problems at the moment–legally being able to stay (you would have a student visa), and the Máster Universitario en Profesorado en Enseñanza Secundaria would also help you work in private schools and concertados–although it may not be strictly necessary. I still may do the the masters, (REALLY wish I would have done this sooner as I am currently 7 months pregnant and free time as I know it will soon be gone, but moms are warriors so I think it can still be done), but more on that later.
Private schools are schools completely funded by private funds, receiving nothing from the state government. Whether that means strictly from the families or from families and a church organization, it doesn’t matter. This would also include any international schools, and certified American or British schools. They also have a lot more flexibility when it comes to hiring, firing, and curriculum.
Minimum requirements to work:
- legal residency and ability to work in Spain.
- A good CV with at some teaching experience, TEFL or CELTA being a plus
- **If you are looking into an official American or British school, I am almost positive you need to have the same teaching credentials you would need in each of those places. Salary and conditions are likely to be much better, though, than any Spanish school, however.
*****As far as I know, private schools do not require you to have an official teaching degree, certified or otherwise, in order to work there. You will find that the Spanish people who work at them almost always have these certifications, but it is quite possible that due to your native speaker status, you won’t need them. #privilege. I write this with my experience as of 2020, being hired on for jobs in various private schools in the years 2013, 2014, and 2018. If circumstances have changed, I am not aware. The bottomline here is that a private school could be your best bet to get a full work load and normal salary, without jumping through hoops to get a teaching degree or Masters.
Salary ranges: 1200-1500 in 14 installments for preschool/primary teachers, (low end of that for preschool, and high end of that for primary), and somewhere between 1500-1600 for bachillerato teachers. A big drawback here is that private schools are not required to give you the small raise you get for every three years’ work in both public and concertados. Climbing the salarial ladder here can be very difficult, if not impossible.
Schedule and vacation time: inevitably longer schedules, more class time, and likely less vacation. The average day would be similar to a lot of concertado schools, from about 9-5pm. However, the same flexibility they have to hire, fire, and create curriculum, they have to keep you working. Just to give you an example, my current schedule working as a kindergarten teacher, (salary which we established is at the low end of the range above), has me working all day from 8:45 to 5pm, with two days that I have an hour and a half for lunch instead of 30 minutes, and one day a week I have to stay at school until 6:30pm. Primary and secondary at my school have to stay one day a week until 7:30pm. In addition, private schools can dictate until when teachers need to work in July. Currently, we are obligated to be at school working from 9-2 until the last week of July. If you’re doing the math, that isn’t a whole lot more vacation that your average worker in Spain. So much for teacher vacation! This, however, varies from school to school and is something you would need to ask about in the interview process.
Drawbacks: Strikingly clear here is the salary, class hours, and vacation time. Private schools are notorious for having teachers who need to work twice as much as teachers in public schools and get paid significantly less.
Personal take: Without going into too much detail or bad mouthing anyone, my overall experience in private schools has been less positive than in semi-privates/concertados. That being said, they have always offered me valuable teaching experience, a path to a salary which can sustain me, (that might come as a shock for anyone reading this who hasn’t worked in Spain yet), and without having to get any extra qualifications which I either haven’t had the time or money to obtain. Private schools will be by far your best bet to getting employed after auxiliares, especially because lots of native English teachers don’t stay around that long. Some go back to their home countries, find another job, etc. Many private schools need new native English teachers every year.
Charter Schools or Concertados
There are two main differences between colegios públicos and colegios concertados. 1) Concertados are usually, (and in my experience, always), religious, and 2) they are partly funded by the state, but partly funded by private funds such as the church and obviously, families of the students. Public schools teach religion, but there is no daily prayer, chapel in the school, religious school functions, or focus on religion whatsoever outside of that one class. In addition, concertados, as well as privados have a certain freedom in who they hire, unlike public schools. They also have a certain freedom in the curriculum, but do still need to meet certain academic requirements by law.
Minimum requirements to work:
Here is where it gets blurry, so I will give you the information I’ve come up with in my research, while also adding my own experience.
- legal residency and ability to work in Spain.
- **official teaching degree in preschool/primary education and/or Máster Universitario en Profesorado en Enseñanza Segunda Obligatoria**
- *** NOT required, but helpful–DECA certification which is a course for teaching religion. As an English teacher you may not really need it, but if you are competing with others, it could be a point in your favor.
If you have these requirements, then you need to proceed as you would to get any job. Send your CV, follow up, keep following up, and show up in person if you have to.
**Now for my personal caveat. Although it isn’t something I like to advertise, (but also certainly isn’t something I lie about), other than an official TEFL degree, I do not have any sort of official teaching degree, not in the US, and not in Spain. Despite this, I was able to work for a concertado for four years, and I’m confident that should I ever move back to Barcelona, I would be able to work there again. How did I do it? Sending my CV, resending, calling, following up. In my case I also had the advantage that I knew the head chef at the school at the time, who turned in my CV for me personally, so your personal networks or your friends’ networks can ALWAYS help. Spain has a reputation for “enchufando” people a lot of the time, or “plugging them in”–hooking them up–with a job. And to be honest, I find this to be true more often than not. Sometimes it isn’t what you know, but who you know. I also know that my school on their paper work for inspectors had down that I was an auxiliar, even though officially I was getting paid the same and having the same hours as a normal classroom teacher. This was my experience in Barcelona.
Enter Sevilla. Two years ago my husband’s job changed and we moved back down south. Considering the relative ease I had always had finding a job in Barcelona, I thought that after 5 more years teaching experience as a “real” teacher, finding work in Sevilla would be a breeze. After all, certainly less native teachers to compete with in comparison. Spoiler alert; it was not. Not only did I send, resend, follow up with, and call back (twice) about 50 different schools, but the grand majority did not get back to me, or straight up hung up. It wasn’t until a hail Mary moment in May that the international school I currently work for called me for a position for the following September. And the concertados who did call me back, stressed that they would not be able to hire me without an official teaching degree, or the masters in secondary education. Many wanted to hire me for after school classes, which was not what I was interested in. So my question to myself was, are they not able to hire me because legally things are different in each autonomous community, or are they just not aware of how to get around the rules? Part of me thinks it is the latter, because I know another American who worked in a concertado in Sevilla for years as well. The bottomline: is it really necessary to have a primary teaching degree or the masters for secondary? It isn’t clear, but it is certainly worth your time to send CVs like mad to concertados anyway, in the event that they could somehow make an exception.
Salary ranges: According to an official document in 2018, the established salaries for primary and ESO teachers was about 1,550 euros in 14 installments–which matches up with my personal experience. Bachillerato are paid a bit more at 1,800. Primary and ESO teachers are given 36 more euros monthly for every three years they work there, and Bachillerato is given 46.
As you can see, this is significantly less than the public schools, but slightly more than private schools in most cases.
Schedule and vacation time: As they are paid for largely by families of the school, it is no wonder that their schedule is longer, usually going from about 9am-4/5pm for primary schools, with slight differences in secondary. There are concertado schools here in Seville with a schedule more similar to the public, but not all of them. The school I worked at went from 8:45 to 4:30pm everyday, and one day a week we stayed for meetings until 6pm. This does not necessarily mean you have more hours of class time than a public school, because during lunch time you may very well have a 2 hour break, and more prep time in between. However, you will inevitably work more because you are at school for more time. Vacation time is similar, although concertados have more freedom for what summer vacation for teachers looks like. We were required to work through the first week of July.
Drawbacks: Pretty clearly, salary and schedule are the primary drawbacks here. To that I would add that depending on your religious beliefs, it can be a major drawback to even have to attend certain religious ceremonies and abide by certain dress codes–some of which can be pretty serious. In my own personal experience, I never felt too uncomfortable with my beliefs, and I was very honest about my motto of respect for all, even if I don’t necessarily align with what they profess. I came out of the experience with a lot of friends, (one best friend in particular), and an appreciation and better understanding for a different way of life. I never felt pressured or made to feel like an outsider for who I was or what I believed. This is not always the case, though, and it is something to keep in mind.
Personal take: Working at a concertado can be a happy medium between the public schools and private. Your schedule will likely be better than the private, but not as good as the public, and same goes for your pay. If you are able to get a job here, I would take advantage and see what the experience is like. Through working here, I was even able to teach a university class for a semester. (Like I said it isn’t what you know, its who you know). As I mentioned I had an extremely positive experience, and would not hesitate to go back if I ever return to Barcelona.
The take away
This might be a lot to digest right away, and there are probably tons of sub topics you want to research right away like how to do the masters in secondary education, the DECA, homologando your teaching degree, or even, first and foremost, how to become legal in Spain. My main tips before embarking on your journey to finding work in education that isn’t being a language assistant are the following:
- Take time to think about what you really want for your future. Are you 100% committed to working in the education field? Are you 100% committed to staying in Spain? For how long?
- Evaluate your options based on what you already have. Do you have a teaching degree you could get certified by the Spanish government? Do you have other useful certifications? Could you get them if you needed to?
- Beautify your CV. Translate it to Spanish, elaborate on your skills and experience, get an opinion from a fellow teacher from Spain, and make it ready to send off.
- Beef up your Spanish. Not necessarily a requirement but a huuuuuuge bonus when interviewing. It shows you’ll be an integrated member of staff, able to understand the students, and communicate with parents if necessary.
- Work your contacts. Do you or anyone you know have friends or colleagues working in other schools? If you can give them your CV to hand in personally, it could really help you in the long run.
- Do your research. Look online for information you can find about private schools and their reputations–not only with students and families but for teachers as well.