Spain is an exciting destination in southern Europe that has long attracted tourists and expats seeking a way to make a living abroad. Thanks to the country's high demand for English, teaching English in Spain has grown as a popular way to do so over the years.
One of the most popular ways to teach English in Spain is through The Cultural Ambassadors Program. This government program goes by many names, and you may know it as Auxiliares de Conversación or even the North American Language and Culture Assistants Program. This program offers an exciting opportunity for U.S. citizens and Canadians to earn an income, experience life in Europe, and even improve their Spanish.
This comprehensive guide shares all you need to know to teach English as a Cultural Ambassador in Spain.
Read more: Teaching English in Europe
Snapshot of Teaching English with the Cultural Ambassadors Program
Avg. Salary: €700-€1,000/month
Teaching Hours: 12-16 hours
Duration of contract: 8 months
Application period: February to April
Start date: October
School term: Beginning of October to end of May
Visa requirements: Long-stay student visa
What is the Cultural Ambassadors Program?
The Cultural Ambassadors Program, officially known as the "North American Language and Culture Assistants Program" (NALCAP), is a government teach abroad program sponsored by Spain's Ministry of Education. The program hires English speakers to work as Auxiliares de Conversación (teaching assistants) in public and private schools to better English instruction around the country.
Learn more about the CIEE Teach Abroad Program in Spain.
What are the requirements to teach English with the Cultural Ambassadors Program?
The North American Language and Culture Assistants Program has a very specific set of eligibility requirements. You must:
- Be a native-English speaker from the U.S. or Canada*, or have near-native ability
- Have a Bachelor’s degree, an associate’s degree, or be currently enrolled in a university program.
- Be between 18-60 years old
- Have a clean background check
- Have a TEFL certificate (preferred**)
*Spain’s Cultural Ambassadors Program is also open to other nationalities and language speakers. To check the current list of nationalities accepted and the corresponding application requirements, you can visit the official Ministry of Education website.
**A TEFL certificate isn't required for the Cultural Ambassador application. However, the Cultural Ambassadors Program can be very competitive, and having a reputable TEFL certificate can make your application stand out. CIEE TEFL offers a $150 discount on the 150-Hour TEFL Certificate course to those applying to government teaching programs like NALCAP as a way to help teachers increase their chances of being accepted to programs all over the world.
NALCAP also recommends applicants have a basic understanding of Spanish to ensure a smooth transition to life in Spain. You can learn more and see the complete list of eligibility criteria on NALCAP’s official website.
Your Responsibilities as an Auxiliar de Conversación
Auxiliares de Conversación are expected to be a linguistic model for Spanish students in the classroom. Not only are participants expected to help students with their English abilities, but also to be cultural ambassadors for students. One of the program's goals is to foster positive international relations between Spain and the United States. As part of your contract, you're expected to spend 12-16 hours in the classroom each week.
Auxiliares Salary: How much can you earn teaching with NALCAP?
Auxiliares receive a monthly grant of €700-€1,000 ($800-$1,150) to cover their living costs in Spain. The exact amount you earn each month depends on where you're placed. Those teaching in Madrid and within the Comunidad de Valencia receive the highest grant to offset the higher cost of living in a big city.
Many teaching assistants find that this stipend is just enough to cover the cost of living and decide to tutor privately.
Additional Benefits Provided to Auxiliares de Conversación
One way that the Cultural Ambassadors Program is dramatically different from other teach abroad programs like EPIK in South Korea or JET in Japan, is that teaching assistants in Spain don't receive many additional benefits.
The additional benefits teaching assistants do receive are:
- A legal right to live in the EU
- Health insurance
- National holidays and school vacation time off
Where are teachers placed in Spain as Cultural Ambassadors?
Those accepted into the Cultural Ambassadors Program may be placed in public or language schools. Public school teaching assistants may work with elementary, secondary, or high school students. Whereas those teaching at language schools predominantly work with adults and may be expected to teach evenings and weekends.
Successful NALCAP applicants can be placed anywhere in Spain, including small towns, big cities, and even Spanish territories like the Canary Islands.
How to Apply to Teach English with NALCAP
Once you've checked your eligibility, it's time to apply! The NALCAP application is submitted online and requires only a few documents.
Here’s a step-by-step summary of how to apply to the North American Language and Culture Assistants Program:
1. Create an account on NALCAP’s Profex website.
2. Prepare and submit required information and documents for NALCAP:
3. Personal information
- A scan of your passport
- A scan of official university transcripts or diploma
- A cover letter in Spanish or English that’s 250-300 words long
- One academic or professional letter of recommendation
- Three placement preferences
4. Request official background and medical checks if selected; these two documents are needed for the visa application.
5. Apply for a long-stay student visa at your nearest Spanish embassy or consulate in your home country.
6. Fly to Spain and start teaching!
Cultural Ambassador Program Application Timeline
The Cultural Ambassador application opens once a year in late winter and ends in early spring.
Here’s a rough timeline of the Cultural Ambassador application process:
- February-April: Application acceptance period.
- May-July: Acceptance and placement notices are sent.
- May-August: Receive your official Letter of Acceptance needed to apply for your visa.
- July-September: Begin applying for your visa.
- September: Leave for Spain once you have your long-stay student visa.
- End of Sep-beginning of Oct: Attend a short program orientation.
- October: Begin teaching!
The Pros and Cons of Teaching English as a Cultural Ambassador in Spain
While teaching English with NALCAP is a fantastic opportunity overall, it's important to highlight some key benefits and disadvantages so you can decide if the program is right for you.
Pros of Teaching with Spain’s Cultural Ambassadors Program
- High demand for private English classes: Many Auxiliares pick up additional work as a private tutor. However, this is not strictly legal without a proper work authorization.
- Low number of work hours: With only 12-16 classroom hours each week, NALCAP teachers have plenty of time to travel, and enjoy other things.
- Live and work in Spain: Securing a residence permit to live in Europe is notoriously difficult for U.S. citizens, and the Culture Ambassadors Program is one way to do so.
Cons of Teaching with Spain’s Cultural Ambassadors Program
- Little support when moving to Spain: Unlike other teach abroad programs, Auxiliares are responsible for the visa process, finding a place to live, and covering the cost of the first few months of living in Spain.
- No choice in placement: On your application, you can list three regions where you'd prefer to live but it's not guaranteed you'll get any of them.
- Low salary: While the salary covers basic living costs, the pay may not be enough for travel or life’s extras.
What’s it like to teach English as an Auxiliar?
If you’d like to learn more about the experience of teaching English in Spain with the North American Language and Culture Assistants Program, these blog posts by previous participants are an excellent resource.
- How to Find an Apartment in Spain by My Travel BF
- A Day in the Life of an English Teaching Assistant in Spain by Olivia M.
- 15 Things You’ll Wish You Knew Before Becoming An Auxiliar de Conversación by Miss Adventures Abroad
- A Public Announcement on Private Lessons in Spain by Leslie C.
Do you need a TEFL certificate to teach as a Cultural Ambassador?
You don't need a TEFL certificate to teach English with the North American Language and Culture Assistants Program. However, this teach abroad program is competitive.
Which is why having a reputable TEFL certificate with at least 120 hours can give you a better chance of being accepted. Plus, if you find work teaching English in Spain after completing your contract with the North American Language and Culture Assistants Program, many schools in Spain require full-time teachers to have a TEFL certificate.
CIEE TEFL’s 150-Hour TEFL Certification
CIEE TEFL is an internationally trusted brand recognized for being one of the best TEFL providers in the industry. CIEE has a proven track record of helping graduates secure teaching jobs abroad and equips teachers with the confidence to succeed—especially in Spain!
CIEE TEFL's 150-hour TEFL certification makes it easy to complete your TEFL training online in just three months. This comprehensive course includes:
- 130 hours of ACCET accredited coursework
- A 20-hour TEFL practicum
- Instruction by highly qualified TEFL tutors
- CIEE TEFL Job Placement Assistance in Murcia, Spain
- $150 discount for government teach abroad participants like NALCAP