Can you make a living teaching English in Madrid? Advice for 2024

January 2, 2018

Here’s a question I get asked a lot…

Can you make a living teaching English in Madrid?

It’s complicated, but the short answer is yes.

You can make a decent (but not glamorous) living as an English teacher in Madrid – and probably many other places in Spain.

The long answer is, of course, that it depends on what exactly you’re doing and what you consider to be “a living”.

I managed to survive on an English teacher’s salary for 10 years – and I still do my teaching in various ways online.

The market is there…

But the salary was hardly getting me rich – plus, I didn’t have kids, a mortgage, a family to support, all that stuff.

A few weeks ago I wrote about the cost of living in Madrid. And you should definitely take that into account as well.

Madrid’s expensive by Spanish standards. But it’s cheaper than many other world cities, and the salaries are also lower.

If you move here you might end up “scraping by” on salaries that wouldn’t impress people back home – once again, depending where home is.

On the other hand, the lifestyle I was afford on a minimal Spanish salary wasn’t at all bad compared to what I was doing back on the ranch.

Either way, living abroad is a great experience.

And you’ll certainly have fun!

Here I’m going to present a few different ways that English teachers earn a living, and the pros and cons of each.

Ready?

Let’s go…

Work as an “au pair” in Madrid

A lot of people come to Madrid or other cities in Spain to work as an au pair.

If you’re not familiar with the word, it’s sort of a babysitter or nanny with language skills.

You’ll spend a few hours a day with the kids, and usually live with the family. The pay is pretty low – just a few hundred euros a month – but you’ve got room and board covered, and usually your mornings are free to take Spanish classes or what have you.

Most of the au pairs I know are female, from English-speaking countries or the north of Europe, and under 25 years old… So there’s that to take into account too.

(Some families are looking for French-speaking or German-speaking au pairs too. And potentially other languages. Not sure about which, though. And I’m sure there are guys and people over 25 doing it as well. Good luck.)

A lot of people have great experiences as au pairs: they get to live in Spain for a while, learn Spanish, have an adventure, maybe save a little money.

Others end up with shitty families and don’t do very well.

earn a living teaching english in madrid
Plaza Mayor, Madrid. My beautiful city. Photo by Mr Chorizo.

It’s hit or miss. Some families are hoping to get a cheap servant, some apparently treat their au pairs very well.

You can find an agency online and see what happens. I don’t have any I personally recommend, but I’m sure you can google around.

Your call.

Also, you can…

Work as an Auxiliar de Conversación

An auxiliar de conversación is a sort of “language assistant” working in Spanish schools.

Spain’s invested a lot of money in their bilingual education system in the past decade or so – basically as long as I’ve been here.

And the auxiliares program seems to be effective at raising the general level, even if it’s sort of controversial among the locals. Basically, you’ll give a few lessons each week in English, and generally help the teachers with language stuff.

The salary is about 1000 euros per month, which is enough to live on, though not glamorously. And a lot of auxiliares have enough free time to give private lessons for some cash on the side. Either way, you’ll be able to rent a room, go out to lunch, travel on weekends, and have a good time.

Pros: you have the visa worked out from the get-go. You just have to fill out a few forms and stand in a few lines and boom! You’re legal. Not all of us were so lucky.

Cons: I’ve heard that the Spanish teachers in a lot of schools are a bit unfriendly to auxiliares. They probably feel threatened, somehow.

And… um… I’m not sure how to put this politely, but Spain isn’t known for its high levels of organization and efficiency, so you’ll have to deal with that.

That said, from what I’ve heard it depends a lot on the school you’re assigned to. A lot of people have great experiences – others, not so great.

Another con, I guess, is the application process, which has to be done from “home” and which is probably long and complicated. You’ll need to get a criminal background check, fill out a lot of forms, jump through all the Ministry of Education’s hoops.

Still, thousands of young people do it every year, so you can surely pull it off if you want to. For more info, check out one of the active Auxiliares groups on Facebook – the one I’m most familiar with is Auxiliares de Conversación (The Original) or google around. I’m sure you’ll find something.

And here’s another option…

Give in-company English classes in Madrid

Here’s another very common way to make a living teaching English in Madrid…

A lot of Spanish companies have in-house English teachers giving classes. If you apply to a language school or academy, they might offer you company classes first.

Pros: the hourly rate is usually higher. Your students can be fun. You might learn something from seeing the inside of a bunch of different industries.

Cons: you’ll probably be running around town on all forms of public transport all day. I used to criss-cross the city for 16 euros an hour when times were good, then when times got bad I continued criss-crossing for just over 10. It sucked. I’m really grateful to be out of that game.

Another con would be the early start. A lot of your students are probably executive types, who want to do English before their real work starts… usually around 8 AM. After that, you might be free till 1 or 2, do a few lunchtime classes, and then free again until the evening. You’re working when other people aren’t, and it’s a bit inconvenient.

My experience with in-company classes was just that: 12 hours out of the house on most days, with only 5 or 6 hours of actual in-class money making time.

And then there’s the issue of the management. I hope you don’t have this guy as a boss. He’ll probably ruin your life… or at least your sleep.

Can you make a living teaching English in Madrid?
Come to Spain! The sunshine is free. This is Córdoba. Photo by Mr Chorizo.

On the other hand, if you have contacts or more business acumen than me, you can probably find a way to eliminate the middleman – in which case you can earn pretty good money by dealing with the company directly.

I know some private teachers who manage to work out contracts with companies directly, and they do pretty well. But mostly they’ve been around a while and know people.

Here’s another goody…

Give private English lessons in Madrid (clases particulares)

I did a good bit of this one myself, back in the day.

Giving private English lessons can be fun and relatively “easy money” compared to some of the other options. And there always seems to be a healthy demand for one-on-one classes.

I was charging 20€ an hour back in the day – by which I mean 2009 or so, when dinosaurs ruled the earth and we all carried candy-bar phones…

And the price seemed to be holding steady. I never managed to charge much more and never had to go much lower. Some teachers manage to position themselves better and earn more… but I’m not sure how.

Cons: the transport, again. Students don’t care that you took an hour to get to their house and they’re probably not going to pay you more because of it.

The solution? Look for classes closer to home. Or just suck it on the metro for 9 hours a day.

Another con is that a lot of people are kind of flaky and love cancelling classes. The best thing is to work out a sort of pre-payment plan where you keep their money if they cancel with less than 24 hours’ notice.

Not everyone will accept those terms, but some will – and it’s better for you as a teacher as well. After all, you can’t pay your exorbitant rent on that awesome shared flat in Malasaña with the money you were “gonna” make but didn’t.

Pros: like I said, the money’s better, and you can sometimes be pretty flexible with your schedule. Also, new students are easy to find – except in summer, when the city grinds to a halt.

More about that in a minute.

Finally…

Teach English in a language school in Madrid

Language schools are what I personally have the most experience with.

Pros: teaching in a language school can be a lot of fun, and if you work in certain places you have a block of hours – meaning you’re not running around the city all day. I spent most of my time teaching working in a language school that’s since gone out of business, but I met a lot of great people and had a lot of fun doing it.

Most years, my block of classes was from about 4:30 to 9:30 PM so I finished late every day… but it sure beat the hell out of doing the early morning thing in companies.

Cons: the salary is okay, but usually lower than you’ll make on company classes. On the other hand, the block hours mean that often you’ll make more per month because you’ll be able to fit more classes into the day.

Another con: most schools won’t give you much help with the work permit, so you should try to get that taken care of before coming. It’s a process, and it usually requires a lawyer or some good information from someone who knows.

(That person’s not me, incidentally. If you message me, I’ll try to help you, but I’m not an expert on immigration law.)

Not everybody teaching English in Madrid has a work visa when they arrive – you might be able to do a bit of under-the-table work, but I would never EVER recommend something like that.

Keep it legal, kids.

And one final con: you should have a contract if you’re working at a school, but not all contracts are created equal. A lot of schools give you sort of partial contracts in order to avoid paying your social security…

So if you’re hoping to get a fat unemployment check when the contract’s up, you’re going to be very disappointed at the amount.

Your unemployment compensation is calculated based on your official on-contract salary – not on the envelope full of 20s they’re handing you at the end of the month. And if you’re only getting paid 400€ a month above board, your check is going to be pretty damn small.

Anyway, when you’re looking for a job, just keep in mind that all language schools are different.

Some schools do everything above board, others do as much as possible under the table. It all depends. (It’s also not unheard of for schools to pay late because the owner’s out binge-drinking everyone’s salary… but I guess that’s a story for another day.

Final option…

Skip all the schools and try teaching English online

The online option has of course become much more popular since I published the first version of this article.

Can you really make a living teaching English online, over Zoom or what have you?

Sure!

You’ll probably have to sign up for a platform like Preply or iTalki or something and create a profile. After that, just watch the cash roll in!

(Okay, just kidding. I’m sure it’s not that simple.)

Actually, I said above that I teach online, but that’s only sort of true. I create a lot of online content that teaches English, but I don’t personally give one-on-one lessons. So I’m not the best person to talk about this, technically. Also, since it’s online, you really don’t need to be in Madrid to do it.

Anyway, you can definitely look around and find some options. Previously, a lot of people were making big money by teaching kids in China, but I believe the government over there decided to put an end to that. Now the market tends to be more adult, as people have gotten used to the idea of online classes.

En fin…

Can you make a living teaching English in Madrid?

I guess it sort of depends.

The most I ever earned was with a mix of company classes and working in a language school, and that was about 1500€ a month. Most months, however, were closer to 1000€.

Also, you have to take the long, hot summer into account. On the plus side, you won’t be working much for the months of July, August and September. On the other hand, nobody’s paying you either.

Pro tip: start saving money in January so you don’t spend the whole summer eating rice and beans, while watching the contents of your “secret money sock” dwindle towards zero.

A lot of expats end up going home for the summers, or trying to scrape by on private classes or working at summer camps in faraway towns…

But again, it’s not glamorous. You probably won’t save enough to live like an aristocrat – or even a starving artist – in Paris all summer, because let’s face it: Paris is expensive.

In the end, you can definitely make a living teaching English for a while.

But I personally decided to get out after a few years. I realized I was going to be making the same salary forever, and didn’t want to be some 45-year-old guy who’s still living a 25-year-old’s life.

No disrespect to that, it just wasn’t for me.

What do you think? Hit me up, right here in the comments.

Yours,

Mr Chorizo.

P.S. I’ve written a bunch of other articles about what it’s like to make a living teaching English in Madrid and Spain. Check out the TEFL job interview, for example. Or maybe how to teach beach and bitch.

P.P.S Okay, here’s a new article about job offers and why English teachers sometimes get annoyed with them. It’s a bit less informational, but maybe it’ll help if you’re on the hiring end. And here’s another one answering the timeless question: Is teaching English for losers? Have fun with that.

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About the Author Daniel

How did I end up in Spain? Why am I still here almost 20 years later? Excellent questions. With no good answer... Anyway, at some point I became a blogger, bestselling author and contributor to Lonely Planet. So there's that. Drop me a line, I'm happy to hear from you.

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  1. I can very much relate to this. I taught English in Madrid for two and a half years, but jumped at the opportunity to get a “real” job when it presented itself. I really enjoyed teaching, and if you’re moving here as a native speaker it’s a virtually guaranteed way of supporting yourself while you get yourself established, but the pay, conditions and lack of possibilities for career advancement mean it’s probably not a viable option in the long term. As you say, nobody wants to be a 45-year-old still living the life of a 25-year-old.

    1. As a long term teacher in Spain I have to admit I have had all these feelings you are talking about but… but… do some people not have the same feelings in other jobs? Do people not also find themselves struggling in a variety of jobs?. The only thing that I find quite peculiar is that you usually find yourself teaching English to really wealthy and qualified people so why are English teachers so under valued?. The English we teach these wealthy kids and qualified professionals will be of great value to them in the future so why are language teachers seen as someone who doesn’t deserve a decent salary?

  2. I love teaching English! I’ve been here for ten years, I’ve tried all of the above except au pairing and more. My main problems are the long summer holidays and getting enough social security payments and taxes paid by the employer. You need the unemployment benefits in summer but you can’t use up your social security in case you want to do grown up things like have a baby and claim maternity leave. It’s pretty shitty but I have to admit I have it better than other immigrants in Spain and probably most of the working class here too.

    1. Oh yeah, the famous “contract” where they’re only paying social security for half your hours. Fun times! I actually really enjoyed teaching too… and will admit that it’s probably just as bad for “the locals”. Thanks for commenting 🙂

  3. Hey Daniel. I enjoyed your article. Im 37 year old guy from usa and used to teach English under the table in colombia but it was just one hour a day and i had enough money saved to not worry about work. My spanish is good enough to get around. Im considering coming to madrid to teach english. My friend went to a school called TT Madrid and had a good experience and did private lessions and made enough money that he was able to travel for 6 months. The cost of the tefl cert, student visa, 36 weeks of spanish classes so you qualify for student visa, and job placement assistance is about 5k usd. The program has amazing reviews. My question is since I can get around with spanish, is it better to just come on a tourist visa and find my own job and get visa through the school that hires me? It seems much cheaper, although i do want to get my tefl. Thanks for the advice

    1. Hey Ryan, a student visa from TT will make your life a LOT easier. Just trying to get a visa through the school you work for is nearly impossible, and most of them won’t do it at all. Spain’s great for foreigners, but it’s much better if you have the visa worked out from the beginning. Good luck!

  4. Hi Daniel! Very informative piece, thank you for it!
    I’m seriously considering coming down to Madrid in September, doing the TEFL course and teaching English. Moving to Spain has been on my mind for two solid years now and I think it’s about time! I have one big concern though – I am not a native English speaker (originally from Bulgaria). However, I do have 4 years of higher ed. all in English and have been teaching EU politics to bachelor students at a university in The Netherlands for 4 years now (again, all in English). Have you met non-native English teachers in Madrid and what would you say about the job prospects in this case?
    Thanks a lot!

    1. Hey Ennita, last time I was working at a language school I had lots of non-natives as coworkers. Some people prefer a native teacher for whatever reason, but there’s plenty of work to go around, in my experience.

      1. Thanks, Daniel! Probably I’ll be seeing you soon on Spanish land! 🙂 Great stuff on your blog, I wish you perennial inspiration!

  5. Hi Daniel!
    Thanks for summing all of this up. I am an American who has been living and working in the south of Spain for several years now, and am trying to decide what the future holds for me work wise. Nowadays, do you purely teach online and make a better income from doing so?

  6. Thanks for all the info, Daniel! I would love to live in Spanish for a while to boost my language skills. I’m a qualified secondary school teacher (in psychology) and have a TEFL certificate. I speak English and German fluently, and have taught English before in Peru. Do you know any good websites to find jobs for teaching English on? I’d prefer to work for an academy, or even as a language assistant in a school. Thanks 🙂

  7. Hi,
    I´m not sure if our paths have crossed but I´ve been doing private classes since 1986,despite the drop in work I´m still happy with it,and still retaining pupils at 20 and 22 euros.
    Life of a 25 year old? Depends….

    1. Hey Malcolm, not sure if we’ve met or not… but if you’re still happy giving private lessons, go right ahead! I got tired of it after a few years, myself. Have fun 🙂

  8. Hi Daniel, can I ask what are the chances of getting a job as a native speaker from the U.K without a tefl certificate or degree?
    Thanks

  9. Hi Daniel,

    I’m going to Spain for 3 Months on a Tourist Visa! Starting June Thru August, I’m taking my TEFL Certificate & will have it when I get there. What are the Job oportunities to get hired as a Native Speaker in English & Spanish ..
    Thanks
    Jay Var

    1. Hey Jay, you technically can’t work on a tourist visa, but in practice you can “probably” find something temporary. I don’t really know how it works these days, but with TEFL plus English and Spanish you should be fine.

  10. Hi Daniel,

    Nice and detailed write up I must admit.

    I’m a non native speaker of English (a Nigerian) with a bachelors degree and some experience in teaching over here in Nigeria. I’m currently making plans to come over to Spain to get my tefl. I would like to know my chances of becoming a teacher over there. Are there Black Africans you know of that teach English? Is there any sort of discrimination or bias towards Africans?

    I intend coming through Ttmadrid or EBC. They both offer one year student visa and have tefl and advance tesol programmes alongside Spanish classes they offer through the year.

    1. Hey Jerry, yeah, I know English teachers of all colors and nationalities here. There’s probably some bias, but there’s also a large enough demand for teachers that I’m pretty sure you’ll find something. Lots of people I know have been through Tt as well, and say good things. Have fun!

  11. Hey Daniel. Good article and great feedback from various people. Truly appreciated. My company is already established in the states luckily. So my move to Madrid is to focus on completing my book, change of scenery and weather being in from NYC. I just spent several days in Madrid and truly felt the city. I will be returning for a more extensive research time. Any good suggestions on how to go about locating an apartment/flat ?

  12. Hi Daniel,

    Thank for the information. I am a 46 year old attorney from the United States on an extended sabbatical looking to teach Legal English in Spain or wherever else you might suggest. I am assuming that Madrid is the best market in Spain, but I do not know for sure. Do you know anything about that specialty area or have any general thoughts on this particular subject? I may take the TT Madrid option to make sure my work visa is all squared away, but I do not believe that course starts until May of next year. I have a residency visa in another EU country which should cover my stay until then, but I would like to relocate to Spain this Fall and lay some groundwork. Thank you!

  13. In regard of your comment on flaky students, I am kind of on the other end of this problem. I had to let a tutor go because she was short notice (or no notice at all) canceling three out of four times on average. “My dog just passed away” “I have a terrible headache” “I double booked me by mistake”… enough. I found a new tutor on italki who canceled our trial lesson (booked a week in advance) fifteen minutes prior to the scheduled time because “she had a bad ear infection”. Is it even possible to find a reliable tutor these days?

    1. Hey Sergio, yeah, I’m sure it goes both ways. A lot of people try to convince me I should have my own language school, and my response is always “And have to hire English teachers? Ha!”

      Anyway, I’m sorry you’ve had that experience… I’m sure there are lots of good teachers out there, though.

  14. Hi Daniel,
    I am planning to come to Spain and take the TEFL course in TTMadrid. I am an Indian but i speak english very fluently, however i am bit skeptical about getting english teaching jobs there, can you please shed a little insight on this? Initially i had planned on studying spanish in a school in Valencia for 7 months, only 20 lessons per week with a certificate and i would return to my country, thus i found TEFL course better in comparison. I specifically want to come to immerse myself in the spanish language and culture so can you suggest me some options if you know. Also i am on a tight budget and would not like to spend much on accommodation. Great blog btw! I read your articles and found them extremely helpful.

    1. Hey Suruti, there are lots of kinds of people teaching in Madrid, if that’s what you’re worried about. As long as your level is close to “native” you should be fine. Good luck!

  15. Hey Daniel, I can totally relate.
    I recently moved to Madrid after three years of living in Valencia: a cosier, cheaper and gorgeous city, but of very little professional interest if you are a teacher. For the record, I actually studied English and majored in Lit, so I consider this a “real job”, to quote one of your readers, although Spain seems to disagree:) I am indeed making better money in Madrid, and the city is vibrant and lovely, but rental prices are astronomical compared to a teacher’s earnings (In Valencia I rented a whole furnished flat for less money than what I’m paying now for a smallish room.. Thanks, airbnb). I think that can really make you feel like you’re back at uni. I have some private lessons and in-company classes but, apparently, I lack the necessary business savvy that would enable me to save (too much queso frito and vino perhaps?ha). Oh, the joys of being a teacher. Any thoughts on how a freelance old lady can rent her own place in Madrid in this lifetime?

    1. Hey Deni, thanks for commenting. I was able to rent my own place in Madrid during “economic crisis” prices, and while I was working 3 jobs. Some of my coworkers were also, but most were sharing flats. Best of luck!

  16. thoughts on the american / international schools in Spain? I have been corresponding with one and am curious. Better pay / benefits than some of the other teach English jobs?

  17. Hi Daniel,

    I just discovered your site and it’s been extremely helpful to say the least haha. Long story short I am an American born and raised but my grandmother was from Malaga so I’m quite familiar with Spanish culture; I also studied abroad in Madrid in college too so I know the city decently and am seriously considering moving to Madrid right now due to the cheaper cost of living and also escaping the crazy political tension back home in the states. I am deciding between completing a TEFL course and teaching in Madrid, or getting another type of English-based speak job that doesn’t involve teaching, and I would really appreciate your advice and knowledge regarding some concerns of mine. I read where you typed that the salary for teaching in Madrid would stay the same and cap out forever, and was wondering if teaching Spanish with a work visa at perhaps a public high school or college, would there be room for growth salary-wise? Or is the max salary pay more for teaching in language schools? Also, I researched and with my grandparent being born in Spain, if I live there for one full continuous year I can apply for citizenship, but the only caveat is that I can’t be on a student or tourist visa, but a residency or work visa which is difficult to get and I was wondering if you knew if any public or private schools would give an American a work visa in Spain? Sorry for the long message haha and I am really looking forward to future posts of yours!

    -Steven

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