A Complete Guide to Teaching English in Russia
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About Teaching English in Russia
Russia has a sense of intrigue about it. It’s both mysterious and fascinating, oozing with history. From the bustling streets of the capital Moscow to the cosmopolitan city of St Petersburg, Russia offers a rewarding and unique adventure for English teachers.
Even better is that increased globalization has resulted in a booming job scene for anyone looking to teach English in Russia. There are a good number of language schools in both Moscow and St Petersburg and the market for teaching business English is on the rise. With a huge population of potential students, the demand for teachers is high and teachers are hired all year round, with peak hiring seasons being September and January. You can apply for jobs online in advance or on the ground in Russia.
While you won’t make your millions, full-time English teachers earn enough to live comfortably. Some schools have even added perks of free accommodation, airfare stipend and/or medical insurance. Hours will vary between 20 – 30 hours a week, not inclusive of preparation or travel time. Obtaining a work visa is essential and only viable after securing a job.
Want to know what it’s really like? Check out this video from Chris at Teaching Revolution:
Requirements to Teach in Russia
These will vary from employer to employer, but the most common requirements are:
- Native speaker
- TEFL certificate
- Bachelor’s degree (sometimes preferred but not required)
Being a native speaker is generally required to be able to teach English in Russia. Having said this, it may be possible to secure a job as a non-native speaker if you’re fluent, but it’s highly recommended that you’re TEFL certified as this will increase your chances of finding work. There are other countries which are less strict on their teachers being native speakers, so you could always check these out too.
Most schools and employers require their teachers to be TEFL certified and having one will certainly give you an advantage over those without, both in the job hunt and pay. If you’re a native speaker you may still find work without TEFL certification, but having one prepares you well for the world of teaching English, especially in a country that loves their grammar!
Having a bachelor’s degree (in any subject) is sometimes preferred by employers, but isn’t always required. If you have yet to obtain a degree, or not planning on getting one, Russia could still be a good option for you as an English teacher. While having one will certainly boost your CV, not having one won’t stop you from securing work due to the high demand for teachers. If you don’t have a degree, a TEFL certification is recommended as this will give you access to more jobs.
How Much Can You Make?
Similar to Colombia, teaching English in Russia will allow you to live comfortably and break even. If you’re working full time and are pretty frugal with your money, you may even manage to save a tiny bit! Pay will vary depending on employer, qualifications and experience, but on average an English teacher will earn USD $1,000 to $1,500 per month.
Different types of jobs
Private Language Schools
Private language schools tend to be a popular choice for English teachers in Russia, especially those starting out. They often require you to be TEFL qualified, but there are exceptions. Average monthly salary is typically between $1000 and $1200 USD a month, depending on experience. Some language schools will offer shared accommodation and a stipend for airfare, so it is well worth researching the schools that do offer these.
You will teach around 30 hours a week, excluding preparation time. This could be to a range of students, from children to adults, sometimes including business professionals. Contracts vary in length but are generally 9 – 12 months long, sometimes with the option to be extended.
These schools are private fee-paying schools set up for expat children living in Russia. Salaries are higher here, anywhere between $1500 and $3000 USD a month, based on experience, and qualifications with perks like housing, flights and medical insurance tending to be included. You will need to have a PGCE and some teaching experience, usually two years. These could be worth looking into if you meet the requirements and enjoy teaching children.
Teaching English to Business Clients
The market for teaching English to business professionals in Russia seems to be on the up as businesses recognize the value of speaking English in an increasingly international economy. Prior experience teaching business English is often preferred. You’ll find that the lessons are held in the company’s office and you will travel between locations.
Contracts are about 24 hours a week (face to face teaching time), plus travel and preparation time. Salaries are usually around $1,500 USD a month and perks aren’t usually included.
This line of teaching is an option for those who don’t want to teach children. You will need to have a professional approach and quite possibly an interest in the business world (although not essential). While pay is generally higher, working in an off-site environment, as opposed to a language school, may mean less interaction with other teachers and more time traveling between classes.
How to Increase Your Salary
Private tutoring is a good way to supplement your income, and teachers tend to charge around $30 USD an hour. Some teachers find that they are approached by students from their classes for private lessons, while others find networking and word of mouth to be a good method. Recommendations from students to other students will also occur if you’re doing a good job.
Some schools won’t like you working privately on the side, so you need to tread carefully with this. You may be asked to sign a form saying you won’t ‘poach’ students from the school for private lessons.
Prior Teaching Experience
Having previous teaching experience can help to boost your salary. While it isn’t a requirement for all teaching positions, it will give you an advantage over other teachers and you’ll find that some employers will prefer it. So if you can get in some teaching hours before applying for a job, it could be beneficial.
You’ll find that some schools will offer perks such as accommodation packages, a stipend for airfare and/or health insurance. It’s well worth researching schools that do offer these perks as they will save you money. However, there are also plenty of schools who won’t offer any or may offer just one or two of them, so make sure to do your research.
Cost of Living For a Teacher in Russia
You should be able to live pretty comfortably in Russia on a teachers salary with not too many crazy extravagances. Securing a job at a school that provides accommodation will give you a huge advantage as rent will be your biggest expense.
If you do need to find your own accommodation, expect to pay anything from $200 USD to $700 USD a month plus utilities. Living outside of the city centers is more affordable and shared housing will considerably reduce your rent. Employers may help you find housing, usually with other teachers in shared accommodation, so it’s worth talking to your school about this.
If you’ll be paying for your own apartment, here is a cool video on what you can expect:
Public transport is pretty cheap in Russia, with prices from $0.35 for a one-way ticket. Comprehensive public transport networks in both Moscow and St Petersburg, and in the smaller towns and cities, means that getting around is not too much of a challenge.
Let’s look at some average figures for the cost of living in Russia, compliments of Numbeo:
|Meal, inexpensive restaurant||500||$7.17|
|3 course meal, mid range restaurant||1000||$14.35|
|Loaf of fresh white bread||28.95||$0.42|
|Milk, 1 gallon||212.81||$3.05|
|Domestic beer, 1 pint||80||$1.15|
Want to know how much Russian Rubles are worth? Check out XE’s currency converter.
How Much Start-Up Money Should You Bring?
When moving to another country it is advisable to bring some start-up money to tie you over until your first paycheck. The amount you should take will depend on the lifestyle you choose to lead, whether or not you have secured a job before landing in Russia and if you have any perks like accommodation included in your job offer. Typically, between $1200 to $2000 USD is the recommended amount.
Visa Process for Teachers in Russia
Type of Visa
To teach legally in Russia you need a work visa. To get a work visa, you need a job offer and have your employer or school sponsor you. This sponsor (your employer) will provide you with an Original Letter of Invitation, which you’ll need to apply for the work visa.
Make sure to check that the schools you are applying to offer to sponsor a work visa. Some schools may also help to cover the cost of the visa as an incentive to work for them, others will expect their teachers to pay. Visa fees will depend on the country you are from.
If you land a job before going to Russia, you can begin the visa application process once you have received your Original Letter of Invitation from your employer.
If you are planning on securing a job once in Russia, you will still need a visa to enter the country (some countries are exempt from needing a visa, but the list is small). What visa you need and the documents required will depend on which country you are from and how long you plan on staying in Russia while looking for a job. Visit VISA HQ to find out what visa you will need. Once you have a job and the Original Letter of Invitation from your employer, you can begin the application for the work visa.
It’s important to note that your work visa is tied to the employer you work for, therefore leaving your job means your visa is annulled and you have a few weeks before you have to leave the country. If you’re leaving to change jobs, your new employer will have to sponsor another work visa in order for you to continue to work legally in Russia. Timings with one visa ending and a new one starting can sometimes be tricky, so this needs to be a well thought out process.
There are single-entry and multiple-entry work visas. It’s important to apply for the right one as they give you different rights. A single-entry work visa means you’re only able to enter Russia once, so you can’t travel outside of Russia during your stay. Multiple-entry visas permit you to leave and return to Russia.
Requirements and documents may vary from country to country, but expect to provide the following when applying for a work visa:
- Original Letter of Invitation (from your employer)
- An original HIV blood test (AIDS) certificate – this certificate is only valid for 3 months so make sure to plan to get this no earlier than 3 months before applying for the visa
- A passport with at least six months validity beyond your last day of residence in Russia
- Three passport photos
- A filled out visa application
Visa Application Process
The first step in the visa application process is to get a job. Once you have been hired, your school/employer will provide you with the Original Letter of Invitation. You will then need to fill out the visa application form, and print it off. Once printed, you will need to attach a photograph, which was taken no longer than 6 months prior to the application, date and sign the form. This application form and the required documents will then need to be submitted to your Russian Consulate. As mentioned above, the visa fee will vary depending on which country you are from and whether it is a single or multiple-entry visa. More information can be found at VISA HQ.
Upon entry to Russia, you will be given a stamped Migration card. This must be kept and carried on you for the whole period of stay in Russia. When you leave Russia, this card will need to be submitted to a migration officer at the port of exit.
How to Find a Teaching Job in Russia
Many teachers secure their job online before heading off to Russia as schools are more than happy to recruit and hire teachers in advance. The process tends to involve an online job search, submitting CVs, and interviews over Skype or phone.
As some schools provide accommodation and/or airfare, sometimes securing your job in advance can save you money before you have even landed in Russia. Once you have got a job, you can apply for your work visa. Make sure to look for schools who sponsor work visas.
It’s possible to land a job on the ground in Russia. If you prefer to do this, the application process will vary slightly. You will still need to search for jobs, but this may be done online or through going from school to school handing in your CV. Interviews will be in person. If you’re planning on getting a job once in Russia, you’ll need to make sure you have the correct documentation to enter the country – usually on a tourist visa. To check the requirements, have a look at Visa HQ. You can then apply for a work visa once you have secured a job – this is a great thread on transferring visas.
Where to Find Jobs
Researching online is the best place to start. Some of the larger language school websites worth checking out are BKC International House and English First. If you are looking to teach Business English to professionals, IPT is a good place to begin your job search. You can also check ESL Authority for teaching jobs in Russia, as well as job boards like ESL Cafe and Learn4good.
Peak hiring seasons are September and January. However, as there is a high demand for English teachers in Russia, it’s possible to find a job all year round, particularly in language schools.
Best Places to Teach
Moscow, the capital and biggest city in Russia, famous for its dramatic history and politics, has much to offer. It’s a vibrant and bustling city, with an active social life and a rich arts and culture scene. Communication may be challenging with many of the signs in Russian only, so be prepared to learn some of the Russian alphabet.
Also, be prepared for some extreme weather conditions, you are in Russia! However, don’t let this put you off. The job market here is booming, and there are a great number of language schools, as well as international schools and opportunities to teach business English.
North of Moscow, you’ll find yourself in the cosmopolitan city of St Petersburg, renowned for its magnificent architecture, majestic palaces and network of canals to rival Venice. Located next to the Baltic Sea means there are some dramatic seasonal changes, from bitterly cold winters to hot and humid summers. Communication here is slightly easier than in Moscow, with signs in both Russian and English. St Petersburg has fast become an international hub of education, commerce, and culture and there are plenty of opportunities abound for English teachers.
FAQs about Teaching in Russia
Can You Teach Without a Degree?
Yes, it’s possible to teach English in Russia without a degree. You’ll find that some employers require/prefer their teachers to have one, but there are schools out there who don’t. If you don’t have one, it’s recommended that you’re TEFL certified as this will increase your chances of finding work. If you do have a degree, it can be in any subject.
Can You Teach Without a TEFL?
While most employers will require you to be TEFL qualified, some schools may still hire native speakers who aren’t. Having a TEFL certificate will give you access to more jobs and will often increase your pay, so it could be beneficial to get qualified before or whilst out in Russia. If you aren’t a native speaker, it’s highly recommended that you’re TEFL certified as this will help your job search considerably.
Can You Teach With a Criminal Record?
There isn’t a lot of research out there specifically about teaching in Russia with a criminal record, but from what we’ve gathered there are a number of schools out there who require their teachers to have a clean background check. There will be some institutes and schools which don’t check, or who may still employ you depending on what your criminal record says.
I wouldn’t say teaching in Russia with a criminal record is out of bounds, but you may find you don’t have access to as many jobs as those without one. It may be worth speaking to your local Russian embassy and a lawyer about your options.
If you’re concerned about finding a teaching position in Russia with a criminal record, there are other countries which are more lenient on this, so it might be good to check these places out too.
Is It Safe to Teach in Russia?
Yes, in general, it’s safe to teach English in Russia. Russia is quite a misunderstood country. It has had a troubled past, but today it’s very different. The streets of Moscow and St Petersburg have the same level of safety as any other major city like New York, London, Paris or Rome. There are a number of high-risk areas in Russia, such as the border with Ukraine, which are advised not to travel to.
As with any country, you need to make sure that you watch out for yourself and your belongings. Transport like the metro and the train are safe in both Moscow and St Petersburg, but again, it’s advisable to always remain a smart traveler. Some areas in the cities may be best avoided, either day or night, so make sure to do some research before visiting a new area and always listen to advice about areas to stay away from.
Russia is steeped in history and culture, yet still remains off the radar to many. Its growing economy has led to an explosion in the job market for English teachers. It’s safe to say it would be a unique, challenging and stimulating environment to get stuck into.