How to Teach English Abroad in Italy

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Written by  March 27, 2017

English teaching opportunities abound in the land of la dolce vita.

When I first moved to Italy, I didn’t plan to teach. But like most English-speaking expats, it was the quickest way to find a job. It only took an ad placed online before I found myself teaching private lessons to adults and teenagers. Week-by-week, I built up my clientele, all while learning more about my new community. However, it wasn’t until I found my current position at an Italian public elementary school that I officially fell in love with teaching English.

Here’s how—and why—to start your own love affair with TEFL in Italy:

Why teach English in Italy?

Though many “fall into the job,” I’m convinced that teaching is one of the best gigs to have in Italy.

Compared to countries like Germany and the Netherlands, Italy hasn’t had as much English immersion. With foreign films and TV expertly dubbed into Italian and an excellent national film industry, Italians didn’t grow up hearing English on TV. That, combined with the growing global demand for English, means that native English-speaking teachers are in high demand. With the right visa, North Americans are almost sure to find work teaching in Italy.

Moving abroad can be quite isolating, especially in countries like Italy that tend to have small, tight-knit communities. Working side-by-side with Italian and expat colleagues gave me immediate insider access to my new home. Not only that, but the flexible work hours ensure you can truly indulge in la dolce vita.

Applying for a work visa

As Italy scrambles to grow a future generation of English speakers for tourism and business, demand for teachers is high. Yet very few schools (if any) are likely to sponsor you for a work visa. For most companies, it is simply seen as too expensive and risky to invest in what might turn out to be a short-term contract. Most prefer to hire English-speaking expats who are already residing in Italy legally. This means that as a Canadian or American, you’ll have to apply for a work visa and permit of stay before coming to Italy.

Working side-by-side with Italian and expat colleagues gave me immediate insider access into my new home.

Because it’s so difficult to obtain a work visa, your best bet is to get a visa through study (students can legally work up to 20 hours per week), independent work, or family.

I gained a permit of stay after marrying my Italian husband, but it’s not the only way to legally stay and work in Italy. Check out all your different visa options and apply online at the Ministero degli Affari Esteri or read here Verge’s “Guide to Italian Work Visas” for more information on different work visas.

Where to work

Once you can legally work in the country, you’ll need to decide where you want to be located. Consider the average pay in each area to assess what you might be able to make. Bigger—and more expensive—cities such as Rome or Milan usually have a higher demand for teachers and more language schools to choose from. However, remember that you can always live near those cities and commute in.

Personally, I live in Monza. It has more than enough local work, but I know that if contracts ever dry up, I’m close enough to Milan that I can head there.

How to find a job

To teach in Italy, you can teach private lessons, work in an English school or in the Italian school system. Here is what you can expect from each: 

• Go independent

When I started, I made a living teaching private lessons after simply posting an ad online. From there, my clients told their friends and my practice grew. However, it takes organization, you’re completely on your own when it comes to lesson plans, and there are frequent cancellations.

• Apply to English language schools

English language schools provide their own group lessons, work with Italian schools, or both.

For English language school employment, a Bachelor’s Degree is a plus, but not mandatory. And though teaching experience or TEFL certification will help your chances of finding a job, it’s not strictly necessary; schools want native speakers, and for better or worse that often trumps certifications. In fact, popular language school The British Council specifically states that “you do not need a Teaching English as a Foreign Language qualification” to be able to apply to their language assistant position. 

Here in Italy, most English teaching jobs are contractual, based on dates (tempo determinato) or specific projects. Though some offer contracts, others will require that you have opened a Partita Iva declaring yourself as a freelancer and obtaining a value added tax (VAT) number, all of which needs to be done once in Italy. This means that though a language school might support you and find you positions, you are technically considered a freelancer. Each pay period, you will have to send an invoice and manage your taxes independently.

Truly, the only permanent position you’ll likely find will be with an international school or at an Italian private school. For these, you’ll need to have a Bachelor’s Degree, a teaching degree and some experience teaching. These are best applied for after you’re already in the country and know the area and schools well, as most aren’t so present online.

Popular English language schools in Italy include Wall Street English, British Council Italy, and British Institutes, but there are many different franchises and smaller English schools that work locally. This is a great option for many, as most Italian schools prefer to hire an intermediary English school in the area, such as the ones listed above, which will then supply the English teachers.

To ensure that you constantly have work, it’s best to apply to one of the many local English schools in the area and discuss what different kind of work placements they have—whether evening classes, private lessons, or positions in specific Italian public schools.

• Use a placement program

If applying for positions independently overwhelms you, you can engage the services of a placement provider or a program that ensures you a set amount of hours per week for a specific period of time.  

Though convenient, these tend to be relatively short experiences abroad. Still, it can be a great way to get your foot in the door and see if teaching in Italy is something you’d like to do long-term.

British Council: EU citizens and native English speakers can apply to be a language assistant with the British Council. There they will work up to 12 hours per week from October to June. Recently graduated American citizens can apply for the Fulbright U.S. Student Program to work from October to June. Posts are limited and a background knowledge of Italian is preferred.

TEFL Academy: TEFL academy can help find you interviews during the peak hiring season with many language schools, but you’ll have to have a TEFL certificate and already be in the Italy to interview. You can obtain TEFL certificates from the TEFL Academy or another qualified certification centre.

The English Camp Company: A great way to get a taste for teaching in Italy is working in an Italian summer camp. “Outgoing and energetic” native English speakers can apply to work as a camp tutor with the English Camp Company. Tutors are expected to pay for their travel to and from the camp as well as an international health insurance. The position is unpaid, but room and board with a host family is provided and weekends are free for travel. 

The Fulbright English Teaching Assistant (ETA) Program: The Fulbright ETA program places recent college graduates and young professionals as English teaching assistants at Italian high schools, primarily in the south. Applicants must have at least a Bachelor’s Degree and though Italian language knowledge isn’t necessarily required, it’s highly recommended. The part-time position is for 12-25 hours per week running for nine months from October until the end of June. 

Italy is rife with English-language teaching jobs, and those willing to do the research are sure to find a way to teach in this beautiful country.

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Published in Work Abroad
Gina Mussio

Gina Mussio is an English teacher and American journalist living in Monza, Italy where she writes about travel, culture and food in Italy. Follow her @ginamussio.

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