How I Moved to Spain to Teach English - and How You Can Too
Like most Americans in Spain, I taught English as an auxiliar de conversación, or language assistant. I worked for 16 hours a week in an elementary school in Madrid, playing language games, providing conversation practice, and teaching about cultural differences in English-speaking countries.
There are several different programs that are looking for English teachers. While they seem similar at first, they all have different pay, requirements, application fees, and the level of support they offer. None of these programs require you to speak Spanish, but your life in Spain will be much easier if you do. Without further ado, here are some of the most popular programs that allow you to teach English in Spain.
North American Language and Cultural Assistant Program (NALCAP)
The NALCAP program is easily the most common program for language assistants. Run by the Spanish government’s Ministry of Education, they offer placements all across Spain. Everyone’s schedule is different, but most work 4 days a week, 5 hours/day. Pay varies based on the region you’re placed, but it ranges from €700 to €1,000, which is usually more than enough to live off of in Spain.
Pros: No application fees, high acceptance rate
Cons: They provide no support finding accommodation, applying to your visa, or getting your residency card.
Deadline to apply (2023-24 academic year): February 9th - April 4th. Applications are accepted on a first-come-first-serve basis, so apply early to ensure you get a good placement!
Be a U.S. citizen and have a valid passport until 3 months after the end of the program
Have a conferred BA, BS, AA or AS degree or be enrolled as a sophomore, junior or a senior in a BA or BS program.
Be a native-like speaker of English
Be in good physical and mental health
Have a clean background check
Be aged 18 - 60
Council on International Education Exchange (CIEE)
The CIEE program is the second most popular program to teach English. The biggest downside is that participants pay an entrance fee, but this fee comes with two significant perks. The first is that CIEE only offers placements in Madrid. Secondly, the CIEE programers support you through each step of the visa application process. They help you get your TIE (Spanish short term residency card), and they host a 4-day orientation in Madrid before the program starts. Here, you’ll make friends, tour the city, and learn what to expect in the program. They also host different events throughout the year to help participants make friends and have an unforgettable experience in Spain. CIEE participants are paid €1,000 a month for 4-day work weeks, and 5-hour days. CIEE is perfect for those who don’t want to go through the visa process alone or who want a guaranteed placement in Madrid.
Pros: Visa guidance, guaranteed placement in Madrid, CIEE-hosted events throughout the year, private health insurance
Cons: Program fee of $2,350
Deadline to apply (2023-24 academic year): March 31
Native English speaker
A bachelor’s degree in any field
Citizenship in the United States, Canada, Australia, Ireland, or New Zealand
59 or younger (government requirement)
Passport must have 3+ empty pages and must be valid at least 3 months beyond end of program on June 30
Meddeas is a less popular, but equally viable option for potential language assistants.
They have a more involved application process than most. Applicants complete a written application and attend two virtual interviews.
Participants can get their student loans deferred while they participate in this program.
Language assistants are given the option of living independently or with a local host family. Monthly stipends range from €878 to €1,141 for the independent housing, and €400 to €691 for the host family option. Participants can expect to work 20-24 hours/week, in addition to the time you’re expected to spend in their 360-hour TEFL course.
Pros: No Spanish language requirement, no program fee, visa help, free TEFL course, ability to defer student loans while participating, orientation in Barcelona or Madrid
Cons: €850 program deposit, work more hours than other programs
Deadline to apply (2023-24 academic year): March 31st
Be a native English, German, or French speaker.
Have a University degree from the last four years.
Have no criminal records.
Hold a valid passport
Conversa offers language assistant placements in Madrid, Castilla La Mancha, and Murcia. This program offers a lot of different add-ons, and is easily customizable based on the participants' needs. There is an optional immersion week (for an additional fee) in the region you’re placed in, an optional 140-hour TEFL program, and the choice between 12, 15, or 16 teaching hours per week. Fees vary based on placement location but it ranges between €1,195 - €2,935.
Spanish fluency isn’t required, but highly recommended. Conversa also offers visa and TIE assistance, private healthcare, and a monthly stipend €700(Castilla La Mancha), €875 (Murcia), or €1,000 (Madrid).
Pros: Accepts English speakers from a wider range of countries, no language requirement
Cons: Fees, only offers placements in 3 regions
Deadline to apply (2024-25 academic year): Winter 2023
Be a native English speaker or hold a C2 English certificate (CEFR) or equivalent
Hold a 3+ year degree
Be aged up to 59 at the beginning of the program
Fulbright U.S. Student Program
The Fulbright Program is the most prestigious and most difficult path to teaching in Spain. Fulbright is run by the State Department and is incredibly selective. They only offer 170 placements each year and accept 23% of applicants.
Salary varies based on your work hours and the region you’re placed. It ranges from €900 - €1,500/month for 12 - 30 hours of work each week.
Like all of the programs on this list, very little teacher training is provided before the program commences. You’re expected to prepare your own teaching materials. But unlike some of other programs, acceptance to the Fulbright program comes with access to an online 60-hour TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) course to prepare you before the school year starts.
Pros: Prestigious award, placements across Spain, no fee, free access to online TESOL course
Cons: Low acceptance rate
Application Opens (2024-25 academic year): April 2023
• Students must be U.S. citizens and in good health.
• Applicants must be a graduating college senior, BS/BA degree holder, or a master’s or doctoral degree candidate.
• Intermediate Spanish Fluency
• Preference is given to students who have not resided or studied for longer than six months in the country to which they are applying.