Thinking of teaching English abroad? Germany might not be the first European country that comes to mind, but maybe it should be!
Mention Germany and people think of thick accents, sausages, and of course, beer – Germany is the world’s 3rd largest beer consumer, edged out only by its neighbors, Czech Republic, and Austria.
Mention Germans, and they think of a serious and organized people, the classic joke goes something like this: How many Germans does it take to screw in a light bulb? – One. We are efficient and have no humor.
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The fact that this joke was told to me by a German, followed by hearty belly-laughter around the table, should tell you that there is much more to Germany (and Germans) than the stereotypes would have you believe.
What you will find in this article is an honest, how-to guide to help you navigate the process of teaching English in Germany. So grab a beer and learn why teaching is wunderbar in Deutschland!
|Quick Info: TEFL Jobs in Germany|
|Available Jobs||Private institutions only|
|Visa Requirements||Valid passport, 1-2 current 35x45mm biometric photos, Proof of health insurance, Proof of residence, Residence permit application form, Proof of income and/or savings, Proof of offered employment, Expect a €50 -100 application fee|
|Monthly Teacher Salary||€1200 – €2200|
|Monthly Living Cost||€1000 – €2000|
|Peak Hiring Months||Throughout the year|
Germany is located in the center of Europe, surrounded by NINE neighboring countries, namely Austria, Switzerland, Liechtenstein, France, Belgium, Netherlands, Denmark, Poland and Czech Republic.
The country is about 1000 km / 620 miles long and 600 km / 370 miles broad. It consists out of 16 different federal states, which all have their own traditions and cultural background. The weather in Germany varies throughout the year. While summers can be quite warm (25-28 degrees Centigrade / 77-82 Fahrenheit), winters can be freezing cold (-5-0 degrees Centigrade / 23-32 Fahrenheit).
Most people love teaching in Germany since it is one of the most advanced countries in the world, with a great education system, interesting culture and easy travelling possibilities to countries all over the European continent.
There are only very few basic requirements for entry into the German TEFL market. In general, you should be a native speaker (bilingual is fine) and have a bachelor’s degree. Apart from that, I’ve never witnessed any restrictions on citizenship. Having a master’s, TEFL certification, and/or loads of experience gets you both better gigs and higher wages.
The great news is: regardless of where you fall on the qualification or experience spectrum, employment is very possible for any native speaker! Sometimes having studied or worked in a field other than language can even be an advantage. Being an engineer, IT specialist, or nurse, etc. will get you jobs which pay more for “Fach” English (field-specific English).
In other words, all skills and areas of interest are valuable and make you more flexible and desirable. So make sure you list hobbies and other non-language skills, etc. on your resume as these will also help match you up with quality customers or companies!
TEFL Courses in Germany
Unfortunately, there aren’t many TEFL courses available in Germany currently.
ITTT (International TEFL and TESOL Training) offers a TEFL course in Leipzig, a lovely city in east Germany. The course takes 4 weeks and the tuition fees are $1,750 for the program. Accommodation costs $25 per night.
If you decide to get TEFL certified online at home instead, have a look at our guide to choosing the best online TEFL course to find the one that fits your needs.
Job Opportunities & Salaries
The demand for English teachers in Germany is already high and continuing to grow. This is because an increasing number of companies are expanding internationally. English is now essential for day-to-day business activities.
Due to a complicated credential process, it is not possible to work in any public institution without having studied and passed your specific federal state’s teaching program. This means elementary through high school at public institutions are not options for foreign teachers.
However, teaching at companies privately or via a language school is a booming industry. On top of that, higher-paying teaching positions can be found at international schools, private schools, or higher education institutions.
Generally, this work is on a freelance basis and salaried positions are very hard to come by. Still, working freelance has many benefits and it is possible to live, work, and even save while freelancing. Geographically, any large city will have plentiful work opportunities and I recommend starting your TEFL journey in a mid- to large-sized city.
Apply for a Job & Hiring Process
Teaching English in Germany, at least in the beginning as a freelancer, is a hustler’s game – you say yes to every job you’re offered.
Writing emails from abroad is an ineffective way to find work. While that is possible or even preferred in some countries, in Germany your best bet is just to apply in person. Just be sure to come with enough savings to last you 3-6 months while you establish yourself.
You can apply for jobs throughout the year. The required documents are usually your TEFL certificate, bachelor’s or master’s degree, past working experiences, letter of motivation and additional qualifications.
Unless you’re coming with TEFL certifications, a master’s, or tons of experience, the courses you are offered at first will not be much to write home about. It’s important to prepare yourself for early hours and long days initially. It will take some time and patience to really get established — but hustle for a bit, put in the time, pay your dues, and this will change.
When you send out your documents, you will usually get feedback by an organization within two weeks. If they are persuaded of your application, they will invite you for a job interview. Usually, you will have to answer a few questions about your working background, about yourself and they will also look whether you fit to their culture.
After the job interview, they will tell you within one to two weeks, whether you got the job.
Visa Requirements & Application Process
It is essential to live and work legally in Germany — don’t risk it. The permit process can seem like a closed-loop, but I promise that things eventually fall into place for everyone.
As of this writing, Australian, Canadian, and US citizens and a few others can begin the process from within Germany while on their normal tourist visa valid upon arrival for 3 months.
Once here, get started early and make appointments when possible a month in advance to avoid stress – walk-ins are accepted, but the lines are long. Below is a list of potential documents you may need on hand. Please know this is not exhaustive, and when in doubt, bring it!
To get your work and residency permit in Germany, your application must include the following:
- Valid passport. You will need to go through the whole process again any time your passport expires, so consider renewing before you go if your passport is set to expire in 3 (or fewer) years.
- 1-2 current 35x45mm biometric photos. You can take one at any Fotofix booth at train stations and airports or at local photography shops.
- Proof of health insurance. Your health insurance card will do
- Proof of residence. Remember registering your address? You’ll get your address registration confirmation (“Meldebescheinigung”) in the mail. Bring it!
- Residence permit application form called: “Antrag auf Erteilung eines Aufenthaltstitels”. First-time applicants are typically limited to a one year trial period.
- Proof of income and/or savings. Your bank statements will do. This is to prove, especially as a freelancer or self-employed person, that you are capable of supporting yourself in or extracting yourself from the country without burdening the state.
- Proof of offered employment. A standard letter from your employer will do.
- Sometimes: Job description form, called “Stellenbeschreibung”.
- Sometimes: Your resume or CV
- Expect a €50 -100 application fee
Good Luck! I promise it’s doable! More info can be found on the website of the German Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Before you can teach English in Germany, the work and residency permit process usually goes like this:
1. Find a Residence
This is typically your first priority, as having a registered address is essential for all other steps (health insurance, bank account, work permit, etc.). Not only that, like Germans, you also need to register your address (called “Anmeldung”) at your local “Bürgeramt” within 14 days. There are many options for types of accommodation. Just make sure you get your name on a lease – even if it’s the third signature down or a short-term sublet.
2. Open a Bank Account
Usually, step two: You need to have a German bank account relatively early on in the process. Many payments happen via direct deposit or bank transfer. It’s a step many people find surprisingly frustrating and bureaucratic. Again, this is a little tricky given that most banks want you to come in and sign the papers in person.
However, to sign them legally, you must understand the German language and this creates an additional barrier if you are like I was and don’t speak a lick.
Some banks offer an official translator or translated documents, often for a fee. My solution was to find an online bank and a friend to help me understand the terms – an easy, albeit frustrating, workaround!
3. Get Insurance
This is a strict requirement. You need to prove your insurance is valid in Germany for the duration of your approved stay. A letter or email from your provider saying so will do. Alternatively, if you need new insurance, I recommend an expat-specific insurance policy as they tend to be cheaper.
Usually, if you freelance, you’re likely to have private insurance as opposed to the public option – although there are ways around this. I have MAWISTA ExPat (private) and can generally recommend them. Germans love their insurance options – online you will find a plethora of blogs specifically dedicated to this topic!
4. Apply for Jobs
The single biggest factor in getting hired is showing up in person. If you have little to no experience, your first stop should be language schools. Walk in during opening hours and ask about the hiring process. Be nice to the secretary! They are always important. Actually, just be nice in general.
Then proceed as you would in your home country, with your resume, the interview, and so on. Often they will give you an in-person or online training course. Make sure to request a letter stating their offer of employment. Usually, each school has a standard letter. You will need this for your residency and work permit!
Even with extensive experience, the language school route can be a good option for those just starting out in Germany. Other places to find work are online job listings for your city, or directly on the websites of schools, and universities, etc. Some of my best jobs have come from word-of-mouth or even volunteering, but it takes some time to establish yourself. There is plenty of work teaching English in Germany: research online, pick a city and apply in person.
I recommend to search for accommodation directly in Germany. Depending on the city, the price can range from being relatively painless to being a nightmare. I’ve lived in three different German cities, all of them in the two largest and southernmost states: Baden Wurttemberg and Bavaria. Now I live in Munich.
Expect variation in the prices or difficulty of securing housing. Munich is infamous for its high-cost, hyper-competitive housing market. Nearby Augsburg (population ca. 250k), on the other hand, was relatively easy. I recommend www.immobilienscout.de or even Facebook expat groups specific to your city as a starting point.
The city center of Munich (Bavaria), Germany
Rent will usually be listed as “kalt” or “warm” meaning rent without or with utilities, respectively. Note that places are often listed with the total number of rooms (“Zimmer”) and this does not mean bedrooms (e.g. “1 Zimmer” will usually be a studio, “2 Zimmer” will be 1 bedroom and 1 living room); kitchen and bathrooms are not included in this figure. Expect a deposit of about three months’ rent.
The reality is: as a foreigner, freelancer or not-yet-employed person and non-German speaker you are not exactly the most desirable candidate for a landlord and that puts you at a disadvantage.
This leaves three options: Have impressive bank statements, have a German take responsibility for you, and, most commonly, sublet or have roommates. Apply to a “Wohngemeinschaft” (WG), this is a shared apartment, usually with a chief renter looking for subletters where they enjoy having a multicultural presence.
Remember, this doesn’t need to be your forever home, but it does get the process started, and it gives you official papers, like a lease and registration confirmation. I was fortunate. I came to teach in Germany partly because I fell in love with a German, and he was able to help me remove a lot of the negatives in the permit and residence-finding process. The process is significantly easier with a German next to you.
Living Costs vs. Salaries – Can You Save Money?
That’s one of the questions always asked before moving abroad to teach English. How’s the answer for Germany?
Living Costs in Germany
Costs of living depend very much on the city and region of Germany. While a salary of €1,000 (~$1,160) per month will cover your basic expenses in cities in east or north Germany, you will hardly find a 2-room rental flat for that money in Munich, Bavaria.
Groceries are surprisingly inexpensive, and this greatly reduces living expenses. But in 2021, prices for food, restaurants, energy, and other everyday items have increased drastically, some by 20%! At the same time, salaries mostly remained on the same level.
Given that you don’t live like a lord, a net income €1,500 ($1,740) should be enough for a living. Compared to many other West European countries, Germany is quite affordable, and it is possible to create a little nest egg while teaching English in Germany.
Note: Germans hardly ever pay with credit card. Debit or cash are king here, especially in smaller stores! Yet another reason a German bank account is a must.
Salary as an ESL Teacher in Germany
Overall, I would estimate that your first year’s salary will work out to between €800-€2,000 ($930-$2,320) per month, depending on your willingness to hustle and level of certification.
As a freelancer, you are responsible for your savings and insurance, etc. and if you don’t work, you don’t get paid. In other words, vacation or sick days can be taken at will, but your paycheck will take a hit. Also, while there is no limit to your hours or salary, keep in mind that taxes are graduated: so sometimes making slightly less annually is actually better in that regard, if it keeps you in the lower bracket.
After you’re established, and especially if you start working for yourself, your unit price goes up to about €40 per unit and above. Big difference! Personally, it took me a few years to get there. Keep in mind, customer acquisition and program design become much more labor-intensive behind the scenes, too, once you’re on your own. But as a freelancer, there are virtually no limits to how many hours you can work, and subsequently, how much you earn annually.
Can You Save Money?
For me, Germany is one of the better countries to save money, while working abroad. The income is relatively high, compared to other countries in Europe, still living costs aren’t extremely high. If you find a well-payed job and try to live on a budget, it will be possible to save a few hundred Euros every month. However, as mentioned, it heavily depends on how much you work.
The Best Cities to Look for Teaching Jobs
Germany is a country, where most people live on the land and not in big cities. Still, most expats prefer living in the cities or at least near the city to have some entertainment and meet fellow teachers. If you love a quiet and relaxing life, it might also be recommendable to find accommodation on the land and drive to the city, when you have to work.
Munich is the biggest city in Bavaria. There are about 1.5 million people living in Munich. The city is located in Southern Germany and popular due to its tradition and culture. The Oktoberfest is one of the most famous events around the world and takes place for 3 weeks per year in Munich.
Besides that, Munich has one of the world’s best soccer clubs and a lovely city with old buildings, great parks (English Garden, Westpark). It’s surrounded by beautiful nature, mountains, and lakes, where you can go hiking in summer and skiing in the winter. Unfortunately, it’s by far the most expensive city in Germany.
When are ask young people for their favorite German city, you will definitely hear Berlin as the most common answer. It is the biggest city in Germany with roughly 3 million people, it’s multicultural, full of museums and sights, like the Berlin Wall; you can get great food from all around the world, and can choose between 500+ bars and clubs to spend nights out. Each district of Berlin has its very own style and atmosphere.
Many international corporations as well as start-ups reside in Berlin, with English as their company language, so you will find countless opportunities for teaching private lessons or company classes. Unfortunately, finding an apartment in Berlin has become incredibly hard recently, as more and more people are attracted to this city.
Cologne is located in the Western parts of Germany and mostly known for the Kölner Dom, a beautiful cathedral in the center of the city, and their Carnival (which was cancelled during the Covid-19 pandemic). Its economy is shaped by the media and creative industries. The just over a million Colognes, usually, are very open and friendly, love their city, love to party and drinking a Kölsch beer (or two or more), which is served in ridiculously small 0.2 liter glasses.
Around Cologne, there are many other mid-sized cities worth visiting, and you can reach the border to the Netherlands and Belgium in under an hour by car.
Hamburg is located in Northern Germany, not far from the Northern Sea. With about 1.8 million inhabitants, it is the second-biggest city in Germany. Hamburg is known for the Elbphilharmonie, an astonishing building and awarded musicall hall at the Elbe riverbank. If you like water and the sea, Hamburg is right for you. Take a walk along the Alster river and the countless canals or make a boat trip through the Speicherstadt (a district of storage houses).
Living in Hamburg is quite affordable, compared to Munich, Stuttgart, and other Southern cities. Accommodation is still afordable, and you’ll find cheap street food everywhere. Hamburg is a great destination for people who want to live in a bustling city, but want to enjoy peace and quit the other day.
Frankfurt (750,000 inhabitants) is the only city in Germany with skyscrapers shaping the skyline: the largest one, the Commerzbank Tower, has 259 meters. As the financial capital of Germany, many banks and insurance companies have their headquarters in Frankfurt, which makes it a very international place. After work, you can go shopping at the “Zeil”, walk along the Main river or have a traditional Hessian cider in the Alt-Sachsenhausen pub district.
Stuttgart is the capital of the south-western federal state of Baden-Württemberg, with about 600,000 people living in this city. It’s famed for its car manufacturers like Mercedes-Benz and Porsche and its engineering industry overall. Due to the strong economy, living costs are high, but there’s high demand for English classes, too. Within three hours by car, you can reach Austria, Switzerland and France, which makes Stuttgart a perfect starting point for day trips.
There are plenty of technicalities and challenges that all hit you right at the beginning, including, most notably, a bureaucratic immigration process and a predominantly freelance TEFL market, with all its pros and cons. This can be a little overwhelming.
However, once you clear those initial obstacles, you have access to one of the strongest economies and highest qualities of life in the world. With great social benefits, open-minded people, and superb work-life balance, there is a lot to be grateful for. This article contains just about everything I wish someone had told me before I took my leap of faith, which is a lot!
But apart from all the practical reasons you should come and teach English in Germany, I’d like to share one more with you: Germans are the most lovable and helpful people I’ve ever known. Yes, they are a puzzle you have to understand unlocking, but friendships are meaningful, and interactions are amusing and rewarding once you crack the German code.
I hope this article can help you do just that – to not just survive or integrate, but to thrive and make amazing connections while teaching English in Germany. Because it’s been eight years (I planned only two) since I moved from sunny California to not-always-sunny Germany, and it’s still one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. Deutschland ist wunderbar.