How to Teach English in Poland
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Despite its turbulent past, Poland is now an energetic and bustling country, rich in history, art and tradition. Home to various UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites and to some of the prettiest cities in the Old Continent. The country is a wonderful – yet often overlooked – destination worth visiting and exploring.
Since it joined the European Union in 2004, the demand for English teachers in Poland has skyrocketed. That, coupled with the fact that now students have to pass a government-mandated test to pursue careers in business, engineering, technology and healthcare, has contributed to making Poland one of the biggest TEFL markets in Europe.
Besides its picturesque cities, the country is also home to incredible beaches, lakes, forests and deserts. So get ready to be charmed by Poland’s incredibly rich culture, unspoiled landscapes and friendly people.
What are the requirements to teach in Poland?
Before venturing to find work as an ESL teacher in Poland, you’ll need to have a few things under your belt to make sure your applications are successful. While the job requirements aren’t among the strictest, it is important to be aware of the following points:
- A Bachelor’s Degree will be required by the vast majority of schools and if you don’t have one, you run the risk of losing the job to someone else who does.
- A TEFL certificate is pretty much a standard requirement, so you should secure one before starting to apply for jobs. The 100-hour TEFL training is a basic requirement, but taking the 120-hour or 140-hour course will increase your chances of finding work.
- Non-native speakers will be able to apply for ESL jobs in Poland — so not being born in an English-speaking country will not impact your chances of finding a job, as long as your English is fluent enough.
What do teachers in Poland make?
Wages in Poland are known for being quite low and ESL teaching salaries are no exception; however, although you might not see your savings go up for a while, with a bit of extra work on your part, you should be able to break even.
Salaries can vary widely and mostly depend on the type of work you’ll be doing, however, the average monthly income for English teachers tends to be around $750, a couple hundred bucks above minimum wage.
Government schools are among the employers paying the lowest wages, around $500 a month or possibly even less (although they sometimes offer free accommodation); for this reason if you would like to earn more, private schools are probably a better choice, with a monthly wage that spans from $800 to the occasional $1800 offered in some elite schools.
Private tutoring remains one of the most lucrative options in terms of hourly wage, allowing you to make anything between $10 and $25 an hour, depending on your experience, your ability to negotiate and the city you are in — in bigger cities like Warsaw you can charge a lot more. However, teaching private students comes with the usual hurdles of having to build up a clientele as well as running the risk of having your lessons canceled or rescheduled at the last minute.
Even though these numbers may sound pretty scary, you need to keep in mind that the cost of living in Poland is actually fairly low; things like public transport and groceries are particularly economical and, unless you plan to go out for sushi every day, you should be able to get to the end of the month without breaking the bank.
Finding an accommodation is what might make things financially trickier as the cost for renting an apartment has recently risen in the country, especially in the major cities, but, worst comes to worst, you can always share a place and/or opt for a less centric apartment to cut down costs.
The number of steps required to legally work in Poland will depend on the passport you hold.
- For EU and EEA residents, moving to Poland is smooth sailing thanks to the creation of the Schengen area, which is meant to allow citizens of the European Union to freely travel and settle in any EU country. If you’re part of this group, relocating and finding a job will be a lot easier, as the only document you will need is a valid passport, which will grant you access to the country and a 90-day stay.
- Citizens of Ukraine, Russia, Belarus, Georgia, Armenia and Moldova also have it pretty easy when it comes to crossing the border and will only need a written contract signed by an employer in the country to have access to the labor market for 3 months, temporarily eliminating the need for a work permit.
- For non-EU residents, things are a bit more complicated as they will need to secure both a work permit and a national visa. But let’s take it one step at a time.
The first thing you’ll need to do is apply for a long-term visa (aka national or type D visa). Do this as soon as possible as it may require some time before your permit is granted. Visas are issued by Polish embassies or consulates abroad so you shouldn’t buy your tickets just yet (you can check this website to find out where the nearest office to you is located).
Here is a list of documents you will be asked to present to obtain a long-term visa:
- Valid passport
- Completed and signed visa application form
- Biometric photo
- Visa fee
- Health insurance
- Supplementary documents confirming
- the purpose of the visit
- possession of sufficient funds to cover the cost of entry, stay and departure from the territory of Poland
- the necessity of staying in the territory of Poland for more than 90 days within a half-year period — usually in the form of a work permit
Now, it may seem like a lot, but there is at least one thing from the list you shouldn’t worry too much about, and that is getting a work permit, which is the employer’s responsibility.
There is one last thing. I know, just when you thought you were done with all the red tape… It’s important to remember that, whatever your nationality may be, you have 3 months from the moment you enter the country to apply for a temporary residence permit to prolong you stay and continue working legally in Poland. You will be able to present your application in person at the competent voivode (the responsible municipality) for the place of your residence.
How can I find a teaching job in Poland?
Unsurprisingly, job vacancies in Poland are normally concentrated in the main cities, such as Warsaw, Krakow, Poznan, Lodz, Gdansk, Gdynia and Sopot.
Competition can be quite fierce when looking for a job, but with the right qualifications and a bit of persistence it shouldn’t take you too long to find work.
Before we delve into the nitty-gritty of working in Poland, here is a video that can give you a good general idea of what teaching in this country is like. The video is quite short, but it does provide the perspective of someone who has experienced teaching English in Poland first-hand.
Types of teaching jobs in Poland
ESL jobs come in all shapes and forms in Poland and each option presents its own advantages and disadvantages.
Public schools and universities
Working at state schools can come with some hard-to-pass-up benefits: room and board are frequently provided, you’ll qualify for all healthcare benefits and you’ll also be entitled to your well-deserved long paid holidays. However, all these perks do come at a price since wages at government-run institutions are among the lowest. Landing a job at a public school may also not prove to be the easiest, given most positions are filled by Polish teachers.
As mentioned above, private schools offer higher salaries, but with a catch. These types of institutions are, at the end of the day, companies profiting from the tuition of their students and, for this reason, the happiness of their staff may not always be their top priority, which means benefits are often scarce. If you manage to negotiate a good salary, though, private schools can make a good teaching option for your stay in Poland.
In-company jobs are among the best paid teaching positions in Poland. With such a high demand from business professionals looking to excel in their field, companies have been investing more and more in the language courses offered to their employees. One of the main drawbacks of working in a company, however, is the hours, as you will most likely find yourself working after the regular work day, late in the afternoon and in the evening. Be aware that finding an in-company job is not easy as they are often not advertised, so you’ll need to put in a little more effort to find one.
While it is obviously difficult to base a career on teaching private students alone, many ESL teachers include some tutoring in their schedule to make a bit of extra money. Before taking on any private clients though, you might want to consult with your school to make sure they allow it. They normally do, but better safe than sorry!
If you don’t feel like committing to a whole year of language teaching in Poland, summer camps might be a good option for you. They are time intensive and they may not pay much but it might save you the money you would pay for your flight, as normally airfare is paid for by the camp, and full board accommodation is provided.
Now that you’ve gotten a clearer idea of what teaching options you have, it’s time to start searching for a job. Looking online and going door-to-door are both perfectly viable and effective ways to find work in Poland, unless, of course, you need to apply for a visa, in which case you’ll have to do some online job-hunting before leaving your country.
The peak hiring months are September/October and then again January/February but job openings spring up all the time so be on the lookout.
Here are a few suggested pages if you want to look for work online:
- English teachers in Warsow (Facebook group)
- Wroclaw English teachers (Facebook group)
- olx.pl (to look for private students)
If you’re already in the country, you can also consult the classified ad sections of the major Polish newspapers such as the Gazeta Wyborcza to find new job offers weekly.
What’s it like teaching in Poland?
As an ESL teacher in Poland, you can expect to work between 20 and 30 hours, not including prep time. If this is not enough to make ends meet, you’ll probably have to implement your schedule with a gig at a different school or some private tutoring. Be also prepared to work at odd hours, depending on the jobs and the clients you accept.
Classes at private schools are normally 45-50 minutes long, so make sure you take that into consideration when negotiating your pay as it may affect the way your school calculates it.
Many schools offer free accommodation and the ones that don’t will normally assist you in finding one. Schools will generally also help you with getting the visa and work permit and, if you’re traveling from another country, may offer to pay for your plane tickets.
Unless you work for a public school, you should get international medical insurance as most schools will not provide it.
With all there is to see and do in Poland, you won’t have time to get bored. Stunning architecture, wonderful museums, extraordinary landscapes, this country will not cease to amaze you.
But that’s not it. Food in Poland is delicious and… affordable. Although eating out will mean forking out a few extra bucks (or zlotys) compared to eating at home, you simply have to try some of the staple dishes.
And if you’re looking to travel, you won’t have to go far, with its super convenient yet cheap train network you’ll have access to all Poland’s best locations. If you don’t know where to start, you can watch this video to find out more about some of the country’s most charming cities.
If you want to know more about the Polish culture or simply need some extra support before taking the big step, you can check out this blog containing plenty of useful information for foreigners looking to move to Poland.
In conclusion, Poland is currently one of the top markets for English teaching in Europe. However, despite it being fairly easy for both EU and non-EU citizens to find work in the country, staying long-term may prove quite hard unless you are lucky enough to find a position that will make settling here financially sustainable. Nonetheless, Poland is definitely a country worth discovering, with plenty of opportunities for ESL teachers who are just starting out as well as more experienced teachers wanting to explore this wonderful corner of Central Europe.
Resources & FAQs
Can you teach without a degree?
ESL teachers are normally required to have a degree but some schools will make an exception for the right candidate
Do you have to be a native speaker?
No, any fluent English speaker can apply for an ESL teaching position.
Do you need a TEFL?
Yes, the vast majority of schools will require a TEFL in order to consider your application.