Frequently Asked Questions about Teaching in Spain
The answers on this page are for our most popular programs:
“Teach in Spain”, “Teach in Spain Basics” and “Teach in Spain Immersion”.
This is a paid, two-semester long Language and Culture Assistant program in the Community of Madrid.
Topics on this Page
Why are there so many programs in Spain? Which one should I apply to?Click to Open
Spain is a destination that is popular with a wide range of people. Some know Spain well, and some are eager to visit for the first time. To meet the needs of this diverse group of applicants, we have split up our program into multiple options!
Our original program, Teach in Spain, is still the largest group. It includes a 4 day orientation when you arrive, and a total of 7 nights of temporary accommodation in a hotel. There are no requirements for language ability or teaching experience.
On the other hand, if you have strong Spanish and experience living abroad and teaching, and don’t need an in-depth orientation, you should consider Teach in Spain Basics, which has a shorter orientation and lower program fee.
If you’d like to add Spanish language study to that experience, we built the Teach in Spain Immersion program with you in mind. It’s the same original package with some added features: two or four weeks of intensive language classes and homestay living between when you arrive and when you start teaching, to strengthen your Spanish skills.
All of the programs above are Language and Culture Assistant positions where you would work 12-16 hours a week at public schools and get paid by the Ministry of Education. In addition, we also have two small, specialized programs in Spain: Volunteer and Professional. Scroll up to the top of the page for more info about those!
I’m unsure about the requirements for experience or Spanish. What should I do?Click to Open
Teach in Spain Basics is the only program with these requirements. You’ll need to show us the following things. If you can’t, you should apply for a different option in Spain.
1. Upper intermediate Spanish skills equivalent to four semesters of study at university. Most people use college transcripts to prove their language level, but alternatively you may submit a letter from a language instructor (not high school) or a supervisor at a job where you used Spanish professionally, or proof of enrollment in other Spanish classes outside university.
2. You’ll also need to describe your experience living in a Spanish speaking country for at least one semester or five months. This can be on your resume or personal statement.
3. Finally, your resume will need to include formal or informal teaching experience. This can be volunteering, working as a teaching assistant or tutor, or extensive experience as a camp counselor or sports coach. This last requirement can also be met by signing up for a TEFL certification, or uploading an existing TEFL certificate to your Education Documents task.
We don’t want you to feel stressed about whether or not you qualify. If we review your app and determine that you’re missing one of these requirements, we won’t reject you, we promise! Instead, we’ll get in touch and help transfer you to a different option in Spain where you do qualify.
Is TEFL certification required to teach in Spain?Click to Open
TEFL certification is not required for the teaching assistant positions on our Teach in Spain programs, but it will give you the confidence and resources to effectively teach English to foreign language learners. Taking TEFL before you teach abroad can help you think about the English language from another perspective and understand how to teach English grammar. Teaching and preparing activities, whether for a small or large group of students, can be daunting. The students are your main priority and you want to give them the best education you can. Additionally, we strongly recommend getting TEFL certified if you are considering ESL as a career, or want to teach abroad independently in the future, as most foreign schools will require full-time teachers to be TEFL certified. Learn more about CIEE’s online TEFL certification programs!
I haven’t graduated yet, can I still apply?Click to Open
Yes, as long as you will receive your bachelor’s degree by the time you depart for the program. In the Education Documents task, please upload a letter from your advisor or registrar’s office, confirming your expected date of graduation. You can also have your school email the graduation confirmation letter to TeachinSpain@ciee.org and we would be happy to upload it for you.
Why does CIEE charge a program fee?Click to Open
Our approach is to offer a high level of preparation and support at every step of your journey toward teaching abroad. It’s different than what some of our competitors do, but based on participant feedback, we think it’s really valuable!
Before you go, we’ll guide you through the visa process and share lots of useful logistical tips and advice from former teachers. Our US-based staff is here to respond to questions by phone and email. When you arrive, you’ll be met at the airport, and you’ll have an in-depth orientation with accommodations and meals provided. Our in-country staff and representatives are there to support you during your experience, including 24/7 availability for emergency situations, and US residents will receive international travel and emergency medical insurance for the duration of their program.
Your program fee covers the costs of those services and the staff and facilities that make them possible. It’s not enough for us to just match someone up with a job and call it a day – our goal is to give them the support and preparation they need to have a successful and rewarding experience!
When is the program fee due? What expenses should I budget for?Click to Open
A $50 application fee is due at the time of application submission, to let us devote our effort and attention to serious applicants. Once CIEE accepts your application, a $500 non-refundable commitment deposit ($1,000 if TEFL is included) is due within 10 calendar days. The remaining balance of the program fee is due within five days of receiving a placement (around late May). Payment plans are available for the final “balance” payment - to request one, contact your coordinator after receiving your placement.
Each of our programs in Spain has a different total program fee, based on the features included. To see these, please visit the webpages for each program.
Besides the CIEE program fee, you will also need to pay for your visa fees and documents (approximately $200), your plane ticket, and we strongly recommend having about $2000 saved to bring with you to support yourself until you receive your first paycheck.
Are there scholarships available?Click to Open
CIEE does offer scholarships for our Study Abroad and High School Abroad programs, but because our Teach Abroad participants receive compensation while on program, we’re not able to offer scholarships for our Teach Abroad program fees.
Where in Spain do CIEE teachers get placed?Click to Open
Placements for all of our Teach in Spain programs are located in the capital region of Madrid, in urban and suburban areas up to 120 minutes away from the city center. Madrid teachers can choose to live near their schools, or commute from further away, giving everyone the option of living in the city center if they would like to. Madrid teachers will have 16 teaching hours per week, four-day work weeks, and a stipend of €1000/month.
When and how are school placements assigned?Click to Open
Placements are offered based on the date participants commit to the program. Once accepted into a CIEE Teach in Spain program, participants are asked to pay a commitment deposit and agree to our Terms and Conditions. Once those tasks have been completed, we’ll add you to the list to receive a placement. Upon receiving placements, we’ll start at the top of the list and do our best to match participant preferences.
We begin reviewing applications on a rolling basis, prior to the deadline, and so it’s best to apply early to improve your chances of getting your preferences matched!
How competitive is this program? Are there interviews?Click to Open
We have hundreds of job opportunities available in Spain each fall. As long as you meet the program eligibility requirements and apply on time, it’s highly likely that you will be accepted and placed. There are no selection interviews for our Language and Culture Assistant positions in Spain. We have an excellent track record with placing teachers and are normally able to find jobs for everyone!
Can friends or couples teach in Spain together?Click to Open
We get this question a lot: Can couples teach in Spain together? Can friends teach in Spain together? The answer is, yes! You’ll be able to list this preference on your CIEE application. If being placed close to each other is your top priority, we suggest applying together early as we offer placements based on commitment deposit date (see above FAQ). City center placements are competitive, so it’s important to be flexible and have an open mind when requesting a placement with someone. We recommend researching the wider region you’re interested in and find a place further off the tourist track that appeals to you, and request placement there. In any case, you get to choose where to live and rent your own apartment, so you have complete control over who you live with!
Can I get another job while teaching in Spain?Click to Open
All of our participants travel to Spain on Student Visas. The recent economic and unemployment crisis caused the Spanish authorities to make it much more difficult for Americans to get work visas. On a student visa, it will be fine if you want to work part-time as a private tutor or at a language school, or a similar “under-the-table” job.
You can start tutoring whenever you want, even before your first paycheck or official teaching day. Lots of teachers do this to earn some extra money. CIEE does not assist with finding private tutoring clients, but as a native English speaker, you will be in demand! Usually you will get requests from your students, your co-teachers, or even your neighbors for tutoring help. Also, there are many Facebook groups for expats and English teachers in Spain where people often post private tutoring jobs.
Can I teach in Spain for more than a year?Click to Open
Yes! The Language and Culture Assistant program allows you to renew your assignment for a second year at the same school, as long as they are happy with your performance. You can even renew for additional years beyond the second year, although the Ministry of Education usually has additional requirements or you might have to change regions.
Living and Working
How many hours per week will I teach? What will my role be?Click to Open
You'll work part time at a public school as an English Language and Culture Assistant. As a native English speaker, you will be assisting classes or small groups of students in order to develop their listening and conversational skills, as well as their understanding of North American culture. In many schools, you'll also teach English to members of the school staff. If you are placed in a bilingual school, you may facilitate English conversational activities in subjects such as science, art, physical education, and history.
Exact responsibilities of Language and Culture Assistants vary according to each individual school. However, you won’t be left alone with an entire class of students, nor will you be responsible for grading, discipline, or the independent supervision of students. Assistants in Madrid have 16 classroom hours per week and work four days a week. While you’re physically in the classroom 12-16 hours a week, you may be invited to work gatherings or professional development sessions for a few additional hours a week.
How will I find an apartment?Click to Open
Housing (aside from temporary housing when you arrive) is not included in the Teach in Spain programs. You can start researching options a few weeks before you depart, but we strongly recommend waiting until you are in Spain before agreeing to anything. There can be scams online and it’s always best to visit the apartment in person before paying for it. Usually our participants find housing within two to three weeks of dedicated apartment hunting, and they typically live with other language assistants or Spanish flatmates in a private bedroom in a shared apartment. Generally, they select apartments that are already furnished.
We provide information about how to search for apartments during the pre-departure preparation course and during orientation in Spain. Participants often find our panel of past teachers to be particularly useful for this. To get an idea of what kinds of rooms are available, you can visit www.idealista.com/en. Our staff in Spain will be there to help answer any questions that you have during the apartment hunt!
Is the stipend enough to live on?Click to Open
CIEE Language and Culture Assistants in Madrid work from October to June and receive a monthly stipend of €1,000. Remember that paychecks arrive after your first month of work. On the Immersion program, there is no stipend while you are taking the language course.
For most participants, this is adequate to afford a comfortable lifestyle. If you’re careful with spending, you’ll have some money for fun and to explore Spain and other European countries. Your income will go further outside of city centers where the cost of shared accommodations, food, transportation, entertainment, etc., is lower. We will provide you with advice on how to find an affordable apartment and how to best plan your budget each month.
Most program participants also teach private English classes, either through their school or independently to supplement their income.
Is the stipend taxed in Spain or the US?Click to Open
The stipend for Language Assistants is not considered taxable by the Spanish government. As such, you will not receive any tax forms from your work in Spain. You may need to report your earnings to the IRS when you file your US taxes, although we usually defer specific questions to a tax professional. You may find this blog post about taxes for Language and Culture Assistants helpful!
How do I set up a bank account in Spain? Can I use my bank or credit card from home?Click to Open
During orientation, we will explain how to set up a local bank account, since your stipend will be paid via direct deposit to a Spanish bank. It’s not possible to arrange direct deposit to a bank back home. As for US/Canadian ATM and credit cards, most financial institutions will allow you to continue to use them abroad, but you will need to contact your financial institution to discuss fees, travel alerts, and security.
How can I set up cell phone service in Spain?Click to Open
Many participants chose to bring their smart phones with them and buy a Spanish SIM card and data plan. It’s important to make sure that your phone is “unlocked” before you try to do this, so contact your home country provider to ask them to unlock your phone. You can also chose to buy an inexpensive basic phone after arriving in Spain. You can choose to sign up for a service contract or select a “pay-as-you-go” option. We’ll discuss phone plan options both in our pre-departure resources and also at orientation.
What is the dress code for teaching in Spain?Click to Open
It is quite casual – jeans, nice sandals, and t-shirts are fine. Tank tops and flip-flops are not okay. Don’t forget to pack warm clothes for the cool winters!
How can I travel around Spain without a car?Click to Open
Spain has an excellent public transit system, which means you don’t need to worry about buying a car. Madrid has a world-class network of subways, buses, and commuter rail that make it easy to get from place to place in the city. To travel between cities, there are trains and coach buses available. Google Maps doesn’t always give the best information about local buses, so the best place to find those schedules is on the website of the specific city or town you’re looking at.
Is it safe to live in Spain?Click to Open
We send over 600 participants a year to teach in Spain. Our placements are distributed all over the country both in big cities and smaller towns, but it’s extremely rare to hear about safety issues at any of our placements. When you arrive in Spain you will receive a lot of information about housing, so you’ll be able to make an informed choice about where to live. Spain is a developed nation with plenty of safety resources. As long as you use normal “city-smarts” you will not face any situation that is more dangerous than living in the US. You’ll also receive some tips at your orientation about common-sense safe practices while abroad. In addition you’ll also have 24/7 emergency support from our staff in Spain and travel insurance through iNext. You can also read more about safety and security conditions in Spain on the US State Department website. All participants are advised to enroll in the State Department STEP program, and it can be helpful for concerned family members as well!
What kind of experiences have past participants had?Click to Open
This is a great question. We consider our alumni and returning teachers to be extremely valuable resources, both for us at CIEE and for our applicants. We like to invite them to serve as panelists at our orientations to help share their experiences with you, but you don’t have to wait until then to start learning from them! You can read participant blogs from Spain, and see independent reviews of our programs as well. We’re proud to say that people’s experiences on our program are overwhelmingly positive!
Travel and Arrival
Do I need a visa to teach in Spain?Click to Open
Unless you have dual citizenship in an EU country, you’ll need a Spanish Student Visa to participate in our Language and Culture Assistant programs in Spain. For those who haven’t used one before, a visa is an official page stamped into your passport that allows you to 1) enter Spain and 2) apply for temporary residency with the local authorities. Visas are usually valid for 90 days, which is plenty of time to receive your residency documents that cover the remainder of your program in Spain. You don’t need to work on these things before you apply - we’ll guide you through it when the time comes.
How will CIEE help with my visa?Click to Open
CIEE will provide assistance and detailed instructions on how to apply for your visa, as well as reminders throughout the visa application season. You’ll apply at the Spanish consulate with jurisdiction over your permanent address. In most cases, you’ll need to make an appointment several weeks in advance and appear in person at the consulate. It can be a little confusing and stressful, but that’s why we’re here to guide you through it!
When should I buy my flight?Click to Open
You should not book plane tickets until after you have received your teaching assignment. You’ll also need to wait until CIEE announces exact orientation dates by email, roughly 3 months in advance. In any case, we strongly recommend waiting to buy tickets until after you receive your visa, to protect yourself from airline change fees in the unlikely event that your visa isn’t ready on time.
How can I get advice and tips from former teachers?Click to Open
We know that getting advice from someone who has done the program before is immensely helpful and valuable. That’s why we collect the best tips from our former teachers and include them in our pre-departure materials. We’ve added lots of information over the years on topics like cultural adjustments, phones, banking, and apartments, and suggestions for how to do well in your role, and we present these resources in the format of an online “course” several months before departure. You can also read participant blogs from Spain, which is a great way to learn from our current and former teachers!
Can I travel in Europe before the program starts?Click to Open
Once you’ve received your visa from your home country, it’s typically safe to arrive a couple weeks before your program start date. But, we ask that you let us know beforehand as there will likely be some logistical tasks we’ll need to inform our in-country staff about regarding your early arrival.
When will I receive my first paycheck?Click to Open
All Language and Culture Assistants will begin teaching at the beginning of October. After you’ve completed your first month of teaching, you can expect to receive your first paycheck in early November. Your paycheck is typically deposited directly into the local Spanish bank account that you open up in your first weeks in Spain. For participants on our Immersion programs, remember that you will arrive in August and you won’t receive a stipend for the months of August and September while you are settling in and taking your language classes.
Can I bring a pet to Spain?Click to Open
In most cases, the best thing to do is to find a friend or family member back home who can care for your pet while you are teaching abroad. Things like vaccination requirements, quarantine, animal importation procedures, and pet hotels are beyond the scope of our program, so CIEE cannot advise or assist you with these. You will also need to research the procedures and rules for re-importing animals back into your home country when you return. It can also be difficult to find an apartment where pets are allowed. All told, it is an undertaking that can be very expensive and inconvenient.