How to Get a Job Teaching English in Spain

Recently a few people have emailed me about the teaching program I’m doing in Spain. This topic is tangentially related to Pueblo, so I thought I’d post some info here in the hopes that someone will find it useful. If you’re looking for a job abroad, it is definitely worth considering this. The application is free and as an American it’s one of the easiest ways to legally live and work in Europe.

The teaching grant is sponsored by Spain’s Ministry of Education, and as grantees we are officially called North American Language and Culture Assistants or auxiliares de conversación. (Note: grants are also available for people from England, New Zealand, France, and other countries, but I’m not familiar with the specifics.)

The exact nature of the work varies from school to school, but as an auxiliar your role is essentially to be a cultural representative and language teacher, whether that be in an elementary or high school (or possibly an adult-oriented language school).

So that’s the basic lowdown. Here are some FAQs:

Who is eligible?

In order to participate you must be at least a junior in college and a native speaker of English with a U.S. or Canadian passport. It is also expected that you have an intermediate level of Spanish. I don’t think they really check up on your language credentials, but you will be better off living here if you know some Spanish.

How do I apply?

First, you have to register on the Profex web site and fill out a CV. The site is in Spanish and is a pain to navigate, but if you download the program manual it will walk you through the process. Once you’re registered you have to fill out the program application, but you don’t need to upload any documents because those must be sent as hard copies.

After you’re done submitting the online portion of the application you will be inscrita and have a four digit Profex number. This number represents where you stand in line compared to other candidates (e.g. if your number is 1000, you know that 999 people applied before you and have priority over you, provided they also meet the requirements).

Lastly, you have to snail mail the required documents listed in the manual. Once those are processed you will be admitida. This doesn’t actually mean you are admitted–it just means that your application is complete and you are eligible for a spot. Whether you actually get a spot will depend on your Profex number and how many positions they ultimately have.

Is it hard to get accepted?

No, not really. The key to getting accepted is to apply early (like right now). I don’t think it makes any difference if you have an amazing essay or fancy recommendations. The positions are given out on a first come, first serve basis to everyone who meets the requirements.

As I explained above, it will depend on your Profex number. Once you have your Profex number, you have your place in line, so you don’t necessarily need to rush to get the hard copies mailed. So to recap: do the online application ASAP and then you can relax and just mail in the documents sometime before the deadline. According to the manual, the online application period ends March 31, 2011 and the hard copies are due two weeks later on April 15th.

When I applied in February 2010 for the current school year, my Profex number was in the 1300s. I was accepted in first wave sometime in May, and I think that those who weren’t initially accepted were defaulted to the wait list. The embassy waits to see how many confirmations they get, and then they start accepting lots of wait list people.

They are offering over 2000 positions for the 2011-12 school year, so if your Profex number is 2000 or less you are probably a shoo-in. If your number is higher you still have a good chance, since many people end up declining or changing their plans. In late summer when they are still filling last-minute openings, they send out an email to the remaining candidates (regardless of Profex number) and ask who is still interested. This happened to a friend of mine whose number was in the 4000s. The point is, a lot of people get spots, even with high Profex numbers. The only problem is you might find out late in the game and already have other plans.

Which region should I select as my preference?

That depends on you, but keep in mind that many people do not get any of their top three preferences. I think it partly has to do with your Profex number and is partly just luck. Also, even if you do get your preferred region, it is almost impossible to influence whether you are placed in a city or a town.

But I absolutely must must must live in Madrid or Barcelona or Granada or etc. What do I do?

Here’s the deal. Lots of people want to live in the cities. Some auxiliares end up in them, but many do not. Mysterious Spanish bureaucrats have control over your placement. Once you have your regional placement it is not even in the hands of the embassy anymore, but rather, the regional government (i.e. the embassy assigned me to Andalucí­a and then Andalucía assigned me to La Puerta de Segura). You could try to email them, but sometimes I feel like those emails disappear into a black hole.

And this is slightly off-topic, but it turns out it kind of works the same way for all teachers in the Spanish education system. For example, within Andalucía, a given teacher cannot necessarily choose to work in the town where his or her family lives. In fact, most of our co-workers are not from La Puerta de Segura. Some of them commute here from other towns, but others live too far away to do this, so they rent apartments in town during the week and then go home on the weekends. The system is really complicated and strange, but if you come to Spain and work with teachers, you will probably hear all about it…

What is day-to-day life like as an assistant English teacher?

I work at the elementary school and Ben works at the high school. We work twelve hours per week, Monday through Thursday. Schedules vary for different auxiliares, but three day weekends are pretty typical.

At my school the bilingual program is focused on the 3rd graders, so I spend at least an hour a day with them, either in Science, P.E., or English. The rest of the time I assist in the 1st through 6th grade English classes. Sometimes I talk about American holidays, or help with pronunciation, or go over lessons/homework. Whatever the teachers ask me to do. Sometimes I come up with games or creative projects too.

With a 12-16 hour workweek you will have lots of free time. This is not a job that will earn you a lot of money, but it is ideal for someone who wants to live in Spain and would appreciate having time to pursue another interest, such as music or writing or making a web series…

Also, the bonus of working in a school is that you get to vacation on all the school holidays. If you can afford to travel, there will be lots of time to explore Spain and the surrounding countries.

Speaking of money, how much do you earn?

The stipend is 700 euros per month (the program lasts eight months, from October 1st to May 31st). You also get health insurance.

Is it hard to live on 700 euros a month?

It’s not that hard, but you do have to be aware of your budget. For example, I am typing this in my living room right now decked out in a scarf and winter coat because I would rather splurge on travel than pay for heating in the winter. Ben makes fun of me because I sleep in a down sleeping bag made for cold weather camping. But…next week we go to Morocco so it all evens out.

One advantage to being in the boonies is that the cost of living is cheaper. Many auxiliares teach private English lessons on the side to supplement the stipend, but Ben and I haven’t pursued that because no one’s asked and it’s nice to have the time and flexibility to work on Pueblo. That said, in an expensive place like Madrid or Barcelona, it’s probably necessary to earn extra income or arrive with hefty savings (but keep in mind you can also charge more for private lessons in the cities and there are more potential students).

Also, don’t forget that you will need to save up some money before you arrive, since you have to buy your plane ticket to Spain and pay your first month’s rent before you get your first paycheck.

Do you know of any other programs for teaching English abroad?

I have some friends who’ve done a program in France that is like this one. The application process is similar, but I think they are stricter about French language abilities. And, unlike in Spain, the grants are not awarded first come, first serve. For more info there is a wikibook and an online forum. There is a forum for the Spain program as well.

The only other program I have personal experience with is the Fulbright program which sponsors English Teaching Assistantships around the world. Last year I had a Fulbright in Brazil so I sometimes get emails from people asking about this application too. If anyone has specific questions about the Fulbright or the Spain program or anything else, feel free to ask me in the comments below.

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27 Responses to How to Get a Job Teaching English in Spain

  1. avatar Ana says:

    Thank you for your explanation of the program. It sounds wonderful, something I would have loved to do when I first graduated. I’m assuming young grads are preferred, although I’m seriously considering applying for the program. I have very good background in Spanish and also in Spain where I lived twice for brief periods, most recently in 2002, and traveled several more times. It’s my spiritual home. But, I’ve now a pretty formidable obstacle: I’m 56 years old, homeless and nearly penniless.

    I’d love to apply. Do you know of any older teachers who are there doing it?

    Thanks,
    Ana

    • avatar Ben Raznick says:

      Hi Ana! Most of the auxiliares I’ve met are in their twenties but as far as I know, no specific age is preferred in the program. The teachers we work with are of all ages (twenties to fifties, etc.) so if the program interests you I suggest you apply. Sorry I don’t have more specific insight but if you look on the forums I linked to above I think there have been some discussions of older participants there.
      Good luck!

    • avatar Christine says:

      Hello, I just discovered this site and am really enjoying the Pueblo series and the blog post so far. In response to Ana, I will be teaching in Malaga for the 2011-2012 school year and I’m 42, so I say go for it!

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  3. avatar Ely says:

    Hi!

    Thanks for your comments. I was recently accepted on profex to go to Madrid as an assistant for the 2011-2012 school year. I have not received a confirmation email that I am accepted, even though profex says I am. Do you remember getting a confirmation email, or did you just wait awhile to hear from the specific school where you will be teaching?

    Also, how likely is it to get tutoring jobs if you only have a beginner level of Spanish?

    Thank you,
    Ely

    • avatar Eve Richer says:

      Hi Ely, congrats on being accepted! If Profex says you are in then I am pretty sure you are in. That said, I think I did originally get an email so if I were you I would just contact them to confirm and make sure you are good to go. Did you already accept on Profex?

      Regarding tutoring jobs, I don’t think your level of Spanish should be an issue. What really matters is that you are a native English speaker. Personally I think students are better off if lessons are conducted completely in Spanish anyway. Good luck!

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  5. avatar Katelyn Krygowski says:

    Hello,
    My name is Katelyn Krygowski and I am also a participant in the Auxiliares de Conversacion program. This will be my second year and I love it.

    I have a couple questions for you that I have been and am currently working at getting answered i.e. still waiting. Things can take a while in Spain as I’m sure you know:)

    Do you know what is required for a U.S. citizen to become a “funcionario” at a public school in Spain? I have my BA in Spanish and Sociology and am planning to complete the TEFL plus, will have worked as an Auxiliar de conversacion for two years by that time. I’d appreciate any advice you can give.
    I’m going to have my boyfriend head down to the offices to ask what can be done so I can get paperwork in order before returngin but I also thought I’d give it a shot on this forum.

    • avatar Eve Richer says:

      Hi Katelyn,
      Unfortunately I have no idea how to go about being a funcionario. If you were a European citizen it might be more straightforward, but I feel like it will be pretty tricky coming from the U.S. To do that legally wouldn’t you need a work visa? Sorry I don’t have any experience with this but if you find anything out feel free to share here. Thanks!

      • avatar Katelyn Krygowski says:

        Thanks for getting back to me promptly Eve.:) Unfortunately I think you are 100% right. I will definitely let you know when I hear something back from the offices.
        There has to be a way!

  6. avatar Glenn says:

    Man, y’all are awesome for real. Thank you guys for all y’all’s insight

  7. avatar Jenn says:

    Hi Eve,

    My friend and I are applying for the program for the 2012-2013 school year. We are very excited, but we want to make sure we end up in the same place regardless of where. Basically we want to room together over any sort of location preference. Have you ever heard of anyone doing this before or how this is possible? I wonder if we can include a seperate letter in our hard copy information detailing this? Just wondering if you had any experience or knowledge on this!

    Thanks a ton!

  8. avatar Adam says:

    Hey,

    Great site with a lot of great information. I was just wondering, for the 2012-2013 school year it says the application process starts on November 1st. So does that mean at midnight on November 1st, I could turn in my online application and get my profex number? Thanks!

  9. avatar Peter says:

    I’m currently filling out the PROFEX application and I was wondering if it should be in English or Spanish. The program manual is in English as well as the webpage but the actual application is in Spanish…Your help is appreciated!

  10. avatar NS says:

    Thanks so much for writing this up, the information is really helpful!

    I submitted the online portion of my Profex application and have a number in the 500’s. As I was helping my friend to do the same last night, I ran into a problem: are we supposed to have submitted a short written piece as part of the online application? There’s a button at some point to attach a 300 word document. Did you write anything at all for the web application, or was it just straight facts/information in the online portion you submitted?

    For those of you wondering, my friend submitted on 11/15 and is in the 700s. Thanks for the help 🙂

    • avatar Ben Raznick says:

      If the application is the same as when I did it last year, you won’t need to actually submit any documents or attachments such as the 300 word document online, and that once you finish the application and get the number you will print it out and submit all your documents as hard copies via snail mail.

  11. avatar Mariah says:

    I am so glad I found this page and the comments below! I have been having a lot of trouble navigating the Profex webpage and haven’t been able to submit my Profex application, yet. Do I need to upload my diploma/transcript before I receive my Profex number? Can anyone tell me if I can skip the datos de funcionarios section? I couldn’t understand how it related to me?

    Thank you! And good luck to those of you who have already applied!

    • avatar Ben Raznick says:

      Hi Maria,
      If the application is the same as last year, you won’t need to actually submit any documents online, and that once you finish the application and get the number you will print it out and submit all your documents as hard copies via snail mail.

  12. avatar Collin says:

    I have filled in all of the information on the Curriculum section, but I can’t figure out how to submit it, get my Profex number, and make my preferred region selection! HELP!? Thanks in advance for any responses.

    • avatar Collin says:

      I think I figured it out, actually.
      Under the Presentación solicitudes section, my número solicitud is 12_1AXC001041. Does that mean I’m done with this preliminary part of the application? Now I just have to get the physical documents together and mail them off? I’m not making any assumptions with this website, it’s really made me question my Spanish abilities!

      Also: 1041?! Can’t believe over a thousand people have applied before me and the application period has only been open for three weeks!

      • avatar Lori says:

        From my understanding, I thought that all the documents such as transcripts, passport, personal essay, and recommendations had to be uploaded on the application online. And then send in the information via mail. Is this not true; can I fill out the application and turn it in online, then mail in the other documents? If someone could answer ASAP that would be great because I’ve been jumping through hoops to get my passport. Goodluck to all the applicants!!

  13. avatar Carlita says:

    I have applied for the 2012-2013 year and recieved admitida status. I have been looking at message boards pertaining to the program and some people were discussing FBI checks. I that something you do when you apply for the visa? Should I wait for my placement before I apply for my visa? I guess I am just sort of confused about the actions I am supposed to be taking now. Your help would be greatly appreciated!

    • avatar Sarah says:

      What number are you? I’m applying right now and I really want to know how many have gone so far.

      I had to apply for a visa for studying abroad in Spain last year and there wasn’t anything for an FBI check (but there is a behavior check, which you get from your local police department). If you are unsure as to if you should wait for placement or not before going through the hassle of applying for a visa, just call your nearest Spanish consulate. Make sure you go to the right one once you are read to do it. Also, you have a while because your deadline for your visa application in 6-8 weeks prior to departure, so don’t worry about it just yet.

  14. avatar Danielle says:

    I just want to thank you for this because it was very helpful to me when applying. I have been accepted for Catalonia and I am very excited! Now I’m just panicking about whether I will be able to afford living there since you mentioned that cost of living is higher in the cities. Roughly how much money can I expect to be paying for rent?

    I applied for the second semester only (2013) so I’m assuming that means I would work for the months of January – May. That is still quite some time away. Do you know what happens if by next year circumstances (health issues etc.) make it difficult for me to go?

  15. avatar Lily Mc says:

    Hi, I am interested in applying for the 2013-2014 school year, would it be too soon to apply now? I also tried to look at the program manual but unfortunately it seems they have taken it off the website, or relocated it. I wondering if anyone knew where I could possibly find it? Thank you!

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