Teaching English in Poland
Becoming an English teacher in Poland is a great option if you want to experience Eastern Europe, and it’s an option if you are a non-EU citizen and/or a non-native speaker too. In this guest post, Nick Wood, who works with English Wizards and has three years’ experience teaching English in Poland, tells us the ins and outs, including the requirements, TEFL courses in Poland and places to find English teaching jobs in Poland.
Why should you teach English in Poland?
When most people think of Europe, they’ll usually think of the Spanish Mediterranean coast, old Roman ruins in Italy, the Alps in Switzerland, or the Greek islands. But Poland? To people who haven’t been there, the name will often bring up images of a cold, dreary post-Soviet state.
But to those who have been there, Poland is a beautiful Central European gem of vibrant culture, beautiful medieval cities, fascinating historical sites and so much more. All just waiting to be overrun with tourists like some of its Western European neighbours.
The country is as every bit as modern, developed, and culturally fascinating as anywhere in Western Europe. Yet it’s big secret is the prices. While the cost of living is increasing, Poland remains the most affordable country in the European Union, without a doubt.
The country also consistently ranks among the safest countries in the world, as well as one of the countries with the highest English proficiency. All of this makes Poland an ideal destination for first-time English teachers who haven’t lived overseas before.
Related Post: Teaching English in Slovakia.
What kinds of teaching jobs in Poland are there?
Poland’s booming economy gives it one of the largest job markets for teaching English in Europe.
The job market for foreign English teachers in Poland is a fairly even split between private kindergartens and preschools, language schools, and “in company” teaching of business professionals.
The majority of new English teachers in Poland will get their start by teaching at a language school, which may also include some hours of in-company teaching organized by the language school. Although some do specialize in one or the other, most language schools will offer both kids and adult programs, so it really helps to be flexible.
Although all the major international language school brands have a huge presence in Poland (British Council, Berlitz, Montessori, International House, etc), the overwhelming majority of language schools and private kindergartens in Poland are small and locally owned businesses.
Large but lesser-known language school chains do exist, however most are best avoided as they have a very poor reputation among teachers for mistreating their staff and providing a horrible working environment.
Find out about different types of jobs teaching English abroad.
What are the best schools to work for?
If you have EU citizenship, a degree, and a CELTA certification or equivalent, International House is a great place to start. Not only are they willing to take newly qualified teachers, but they’re also among the few schools in the country that will offer perks such as free accommodation and holiday pay. Find more on the International House Jobs page.
(We have contacts at International House schools in Poland, so send us a Facebook message if you feel you are qualified).
If you only have a TEFL, Berlitz may be a good place to start looking for teaching jobs in Poland as they are almost always hiring and are willing to train freshly qualified teachers. However, the pay is not good.
Beyond these two major brands, most work available for new teachers can be found at all those little mom-and-pop language schools and kindergartens that are ubiquitous everywhere in Poland. These schools will have far less regulations and bureaucracy to deal with than the chains, so they’ll be more willing to hire you off your personality and wit if you lack the experience.
TEFL courses in Poland
If you aren’t yet TEFL certified, there are a few options to do your TEFL in Poland:
English Wizards offers an onsite TEFL course and paid teaching internship in Krakow. This is an excellent option for non-EU citizens as it also comes with a job placement and work visa assistance.
Angloville offers a free online TEFL course to anyone who volunteers for at least two weeks at any one of their language immersion camps all over Poland. Although you won’t get paid for this, language immersion camps are an incredible experience, provide free room and board, and don’t really feel like work in the slightest!
The aforementioned International House schools run the CELTA in various schools in Poland, including Krakow and Wroclaw. British Council also have CELTA courses in Poland at their schools in Krakow and Warsaw.
How do you usually find English teaching jobs in Poland?
It is possible to get hired to teach English in Poland in advance at some of the larger language school chains, as well as at some smaller language schools and kindergartens in less-popular cities. But all language schools you see advertising on international pages like TEFL.com or Dave’s ESL Café are merely the tip of the iceberg in comparison to the 1000+ language schools that exist in Poland and need teachers.
Here’s a little secret about getting hired to teach English in Poland. And honestly, I think this applies to job hunting in general, not just in TEFL.
By far the easiest way to stand out from your competition in the job hunt is to be at the right place, at the right time.
Most locally owned language schools in Poland do not have the resources, time, nor budget to recruit teachers from overseas.
Let’s say a school received two applications for an urgent job opening.
- One is a highly qualified teacher with a Master’s Degree, CELTA, and 2 years of experience. He is applying from Australia but can relocate within the month.
- The other is a far less qualified teacher, with only an online TEFL, no degree, and just a few months of volunteering at summer camps. He is already in Poland, walks in for his interview, and is able to start the next day if needed.
9 times out of 10, the school will choose the latter candidate.
So if you’re a new teacher, as long as you’re TEFL certified, my #1 piece of advice to finding a teaching job in Poland is to get your damn boots on the ground and start applying to job openings. Make sure to come around the start of an academic semester (September or February), and make sure you have permission to work so you can be hired on-the-spot. More on that later.
Find out how to get that TEFL job in Poland by writing a good TEFL c.v. and covering letter.
What is the salary for TEFL jobs in Poland?
Let’s be real, nobody goes to Europe in order to make big money as an English teacher. That being said….
Salaries for TEFL jobs in Poland are fairly comparable to teacher salaries elsewhere in the EU. A relatively inexperienced teacher working full time hours (20-25 per week) at a language school can expect to take home around €800 to €1200 after tax.
However, the cost of living is still only a fraction of what it is in Western Europe – so English teachers in Poland generally have it much better off than their peers in Spain or Italy!
While you won’t get rich teaching English in Poland, you will be able to afford some “luxuries” that would make your friends teaching in Spain jealous; affording a studio apartment right in the city centre, being able to eat out multiple times a week, and travel on occasional weekends without dipping into savings.
The vast majority of teaching jobs in Poland are freelance and on an hourly basis. Employment contracts are extremely rare, the exception being a few of the more prestigious schools mentioned above. What is far more common is teachers splitting their schedule with multiple part-time jobs.
This simply means that how much you earn will be proportional to how much you work. Want to go pick up a second job, or do private tutoring? Now we can talk about that extra spending money!
Do you need a degree to teach English in Poland?
Since virtually all of the Polish TEFL industry is in the private sector, legal regulations and requirements are virtually non-existent. So no, you do not need a degree to teach English in Poland.
Most schools will not care if you have a degree or not, and if they do require a degree, they likely want a relevant degree (ie, degree in education, linguistics, or English). So I’m sorry to say, but your random degree in gender studies or astrophysics will not help you land a teaching job in Poland.
Don’t have a degree? Read Ross’ story of how he’s taught all over the world without a degree.
Can you teach English in Poland if you’re not an EU citizen?
Luckily, the answer is YES! It is possible to teach English in Poland if you are not an EU citizen.
That being said, non-EU teachers will face an uphill battle when competing with EU citizens who fit into the “I can start tomorrow!” category. So finding a language school or kindergarten willing to spend 2-3 months dealing with paperwork and waiting for you isn’t easy. But it is doable, and in fact, it’s quite common that language schools will sponsor visas for non-EU teachers.
Once you have found a language school willing to sponsor your visa, the process of getting a visa is actually very easy. In fact, it may very well be the easiest work visa in the world from my experience. Your school will ask you to email them some documents for your work permit, and then once that’s ready, you’ll be in and out of the embassy with a visa in your hand in about two weeks.
No criminal background checks, notarization of documents, health check-ups, or any stuff of that sort is required. It is also possible to come to Poland without a visa and then apply for a Residence Permit. However this is a much more difficult and time-consuming process than getting a visa through your embassy. If you must go this route, I highly recommend enlisting the help of a local immigration professional who speaks Polish.
If you’re a non-EU citizen, be careful before accepting a job with work visa sponsorship. Remember when I said that teachers are always paid hourly and it’s very common for teachers to work part-time at multiple jobs? Yeah that, and there’s a 99% chance that your visa will only be valid for the one school that’s sponsoring you. So make sure that what they’ve offered you adds up to a liveable wage, because once you’re in Poland, you can’t “switch” your visa to another school.
Another option in the region is teaching English in Ukraine, since it isn’t in the EU and doesn’t have restrictions on passport.
A useful loophole: Get a visa through a teaching program
English Wizards Freelance Program offers an excellent unique option for non-EU citizens to get a visa before finding a job. For a fee, they will provide you with all the documentation required to get a work visa that will allow you to teach at not only one school, but anywhere in Poland.
If you’re not from the EU, I would highly advise looking into this program, as it may very well be the only option on the continent where you’ll be able to freely apply to any job and be hired without any additional paperwork like an EU citizen.
Find out about other options for non-EU citizens in Poland in our post with interviews from non-EU citizens teaching English in Europe.
Can you teach English in Poland if you’re a non-native English speaker?
This one’s another BIG YES! As private sector teaching is completely unregulated, it is possible for anyone of any nationality to work as an English teacher. Furthermore, EU law actually prohibits discrimination on the basis of nationality. So it’s actually illegal for a school to not hire you only because you have a non-native passport!
During my 3 years in Poland, I’ve worked with teachers from Nigeria, Saint Lucia, Argentina, Brazil, Italy, Egypt, Taiwan, Zimbabwe, Netherlands, Denmark, Malta, Ukraine, Russia, Italy, and Montenegro. And what did all of these teachers have in common?
All of them spoke English so well that I would never have been able to tell that they were non-native if they didn’t tell me. Remember that I mentioned Poland has one of the highest rates of English proficiency in the world? Yeah, the Poles speak really good English.
As a foreign English teacher who doesn’t speak Polish, your English level will have to be better than a local Polish teacher’s. I’m going to be blunt to non-natives and say this: If you’re English is anything less than perfect, you’ll struggle teaching in Poland. But if it is actually that good, Poland may be the perfect job market for you!
So hopefully that’s answered all of your questions about teaching English in Poland. If you are interested in working with English Wizards, contact Nick for more information.
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