Stories that Shaped Us: An Alumnus’ Guide to Teaching English in Spain

Kacper Grass is an ISA Barcelona and Seville alumnus at the University of Tennessee-Knoxville whose experience abroad in 2015-2016 led to new discoveries in professional growth and an opportunity to extend his stay in Spain.

We reached out to learn more about why he chose to go abroad with ISA Spain and about his time working as an English teacher abroad. Check out this unique story below to hear his advice for others wanting to follow a similar path!

At the hermitage of San Juan de Gaztelugatxe, Bilbao (2015)

Over the years, my life has taken several unexpected turns. When I first went abroad with ISA to Barcelona and then to Seville as an undergraduate student majoring in political science and Hispanic studies, I did not imagine myself one day becoming a Spanish resident and working as an English teacher. This, however, is exactly what happened. After graduating from the University of Tennessee, I was accepted into a master’s degree program in political science at the Autonomous University of Barcelona. Over the course of the one-year program, I made some extra money by working as a freelance English language tutor for students of all ages and levels. I soon came to realize that there is a very high demand for English language educators in Spain, and after completing my master’s program in Barcelona I spent the next three years teaching English in Seville. Ever since I returned to the University of Tennessee to continue my graduate studies, I have received many questions from current students interested in the prospect of living and working in Spain after graduation. For those who would like to follow in my footsteps teaching English, this short article serves as a guide to the three possible routes for your journey: becoming a freelance tutor, teaching in a private language academy, or working in the public school system.  

Route 1: Becoming a Freelance Tutor 

Being a native speaker of English makes any tutor a competitive candidate on the job market because many Spanish students seek help with conversation practice. Whether it is businesspeople working for multinational companies who need to improve their speaking skills or students preparing for listening exams, a tutor who is a native speaker of the target language is always a valuable asset even without formal qualifications or previous experience. Two common websites to advertise oneself as a freelance tutor are and Due to regional differences in the cost of living, freelance tutors in more expensive cities like Barcelona tend to charge 15-25€ per hour while those in less expensive cities like Seville charge 10-20€ per hour, depending on their marketability. While one appealing advantage of being a freelance tutor is the ability to have control over your workload and schedule, as well as what age groups and language skills you teach, the drawback is that income can be irregular when students cancel classes or decide to discontinue sessions altogether. For this reason, the freelance tutoring route makes most sense as a supplementary source of income for teachers working in private language academies or in the public school system. However, prospective teachers without a formal pedagogical background or professional teaching experience may be interested in beginning as freelance tutors while building their resumes with free professional development certifications offered by Cambridge English and Trinity College London, two of the most prestigious English language institutions for English education in Spain. 

In the Plaza de Toros, Sevilla (2016)

Route 2: Teaching in a Private Language Academy 

If you are considering residing in Spain for the long-term, then it is a more secure option to apply for employment in a private language academy. In every city, and even smaller towns, there are numerous private academies that specialize in foreign language instruction, and English academies comprise most of these institutions. Their scope is typically quite broad, offering supplemental instruction to grade-school pupils, preparing university students for official level placement exams, and even offering courses catered to companies and government agencies. is an excellent resource that maintains a directory of private English academies around the country and organizes annual job fairs. In order to be legally eligible for employment in Spain, all foreign residents must first apply for a Foreigner Identity Number (NIE) and residents who do not have citizenship within the European Union must also apply for a work visa. Besides the legal requirements, private language academies will also expect job candidates to hold a Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) certificate, which can be earned online through providers like The TEFL Academy. Once employed, a teacher at a private language academy can expect to have between 15 and 20 hours of classes per week, earning 15-25€ per hour in more expensive cities and 10-20€ per hour in less expensive ones. Although the hourly pay is comparable to that of a freelance tutor, private language academies ensure teachers a fixed schedule each semester as well as public health insurance and—if needed—future unemployment benefits through the Spanish social security system. Moreover, since classes are mostly in the afternoons and evenings after students finish school or work, many teachers in private language academies find extra classes as freelance tutors in the mornings or on weekends to supplement their income.  

Breakfast in Gibraltar before crossing the straight to Ceuta (2016)

Route 3: Working in the Public School System 

Although English language education in Spain has traditionally been centered on British standards set by the University of Cambridge and Trinity College London, there is a growing demand for American English teachers who can offer students exposure to different dialects and cultural perspectives. In pursuit of greater diversity among English language faculty in public schools, Spain’s Ministry of Education started the North American Language and Culture Assistants Program (NALCAP), which recruits American university students and graduates to work as teaching assistants in Spanish elementary and secondary schools. NALCAP contracts span the academic year and offer teaching assistants health insurance and a fixed salary of 800-1000€ per month, depending on the region, for a commitment of 14-16 hours per week. Alternatively, American teachers interested in living in Spain might also consider a less explored option: working in an American public school in the United States naval station in Rota, Cadiz or the air base in Moron de la Frontera, Seville. Those interested in this option can explore the job offers listed on, where openings are published on an ad-hoc basis. While the application and selection process for these positions is quite rigorous and open positions are relatively few, full-time teachers are offered a salary of $28,000-$38,000 per year. 

Let the Journey Begin! 

Whichever route you choose to take, teaching English in Spain is bound to be an exciting and very rewarding journey. Over the course of the four years that I lived and worked in Spain, I had the opportunity to meet some very interesting people. For example, while teaching in a private language academy in Seville, my weekly schedule included morning classes with the local Health Department, where I had one-on-one conversation sessions with the spouse of Spain’s former Minister of Health. In the afternoons I would have classes with students from the University of Seville, engineers from the local Airbus plant, as well as public administrators from the Andalusian Department of Transparency and Data Protection. On the weekends I worked as a freelance tutor for a university professor who needed practice presenting at conferences and giving English-language lectures as well as an entire family of three girls—ages 6, 10, and 14—and their mother. Upon returning to the University of Tennessee to begin my PhD program in political science, my first teaching position was actually not in my own department but rather as an English language instructor helping international students attain the language level necessary to enroll in undergraduate and graduate degree programs. Today, I look back upon my time as an English teacher in Spain and feel that, although certainly unexpected, it was a truly unforgettable journey that continues to have a profound impact on my life.  

View from Montserrat, Barcelona (2015)

Curious to hear more from ISA/TEAN alumni? Read more blogs from Spain Alumni or explore other posts about how study abroad can influence your professional growth.

Inspired by Kacper’s journey and want to discover your own while immersing yourself in a study abroad program? Fill out your details below to let our team know and we’ll help you find your adventure today!

Disclaimer: ISA by WorldStrides is not affiliated with any of the third-party organizations mentioned in this article.

Author: International Studies Abroad (ISA)

Since 1987, International Studies Abroad (ISA) has provided college students in the United States and Canada the opportunity to explore the world. ISA offers a wide variety of study abroad programs at accredited schools and universities in 73 program locations throughout the world.

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