If the idea of 3,000 hours of sunshine each year sounds peachy, then you might want to teach English in Portugal.
Portugal has one of the most agreeable living costs in Western Europe. Don’t get too excited – salaries aren’t as high as in neighboring countries. You’ll pretty much break even each month. However, a job in Portugal will certainly allow you to bask in the languid Mediterranean lifestyle.
As tourism (the largest industry in Portugal) continues to bloom, there’s a steady demand for English teachers. Teaching English in Portugal is ideal for travelers who fancy staying put for six months to a year. It’s a great option for recent graduates or gap year travelers – particularly those with EU passports. The lifestyle may not sustain you in the long term if you want to put money aside for the future.
To help you decide if teaching English in Portugal is right for you, read our ultimate guide below!
Why Teach English in Portugal?
Teaching English in Portugal is very lifestyle-oriented. You’ll work hard, but you’ll play hard, too.
Pros | Why You NEED to Teach in Portugal
- Mediterranean lifestyle: Teaching English in Portugal gives you a chance to soak up the glorious culture, scenery and lifestyle of the Med! (no, it’s not on the Med, but you’d better believe you’ll get the full experience)
- Travel opportunities: Portugal is excellent for backpacking; it’s small enough that you can spend weekends exploring other regions. If you want to go further afield, connect to other European destinations or even hop over to Morocco for a weekend break.
- Climate: Ask anyone who ever taught in Portugal what they loved about it, and the weather is going to rank at the top! The country experiences pleasant year-round temperatures – it’s just a tad wetter and cooler in winter.
- Work hours: Schools usually offer around 20-25 hours of teaching work each week. This will afford you enough money to cover your expenses and leaves plenty of time to travel.
- Contract length: Most schools will sign you for a 9-12-month contract. That’s the perfect amount of time to get to know a country without feeling tied down.
- Requirements: To teach English in Portugal, you’ll need a bachelor’s degree and TEFL certificate. The great news is that you’re likely to find a job even without teaching experience. Unfortunately, non-EU citizens will have a tougher time finding work in Portugal.
- Visa requirements (EU citizens): If you’re a resident of an EU country, finding a job in Portugal is very straightforward. You don’t need a visa or a work permit, but after three months, you must purchase a residence certificate. To apply for this, you need to present a letter confirming your employment status or evidence that you have sufficient funds to cover your stay. Of all the EU countries, British and Irish citizens are in the best position for finding employment. Native speakers are favored by Portuguese schools.
Cons | What to Consider Before Teaching in Portugal
- Salary: If you’re looking to get rich quick or bank some cash, teaching English in Portugal isn’t the way. The typical salary of an English teacher in Portugal is $1,300 – $1,850 USD (€1,050 – 1,500 Euro). Your living costs will chew through this, and you should expect to break even each month. Be prepared to negotiate your salary; Portuguese schools typically try to sign their teachers at lower rates.
- Visa requirements (non-EU citizens): If you’re not an EU citizen, then you’ll find the process more difficult. You’ll need to find an employer who will sponsor a work permit (autorização de trabalho). The permit is granted upon the offer of a job. Depending on your nationality, you may then need to apply for a work visa (this is not the same as the work permit). There are different visas as per your nationality and length of employment. Generally, citizens from New Zealand, Australia, Israel, Japan, Canada, and the US can apply for a long-term (6+ months) work visa from inside Portugal. Other nations may need to apply from their home country.
- Hiring process: Aspiring English teachers will need to seek job opportunities in June as recruitment is usually finalized by the end of August. There’s another round of job ops in January. While not strictly a con, you’ll need to be strategic so as not to miss out on the jobs. In most cases, it’s best to apply from your home country and line up some interviews. It’s not the place for rocking up and handing out CVs – spots are simply too competitive.
How Much Can Teachers Expect to Make?
A teacher in Portugal can expect to earn $1,300 – $1,850 USD (€1,050 – 1,500 Euro) per month. There are several types of employment opportunities, but the main two are public schools and private language institutes. Jobs in Lisbon typically offer the highest salaries.
Private language institutes in Portugal generally pay higher salaries. This is where most of the jobs are. You won’t be expected to speak any Portuguese, and the more credentials and experience you have will affect your pay grade. It’s rare, but some private institutes will provide accommodation for their employees. It’s worth asking!
In comparison, to work at a public school, you need to speak some Portuguese. You may have to take a test before receiving your job offer to prove your language proficiency. A public school might grant you health insurance as a benefit, but you’ll need to source your own housing. Don’t count out having to work additional unpaid hours – chaperoning school trips. Your salary will be at the lower end of the scale.
With both schools, you should expect to negotiate the salary offered.
If you’re a self-starter, you could pitch yourself as a private English tutor. The going rate is €10 per hour ($11.20). You can pitch yourself to parents with young kids or target university students or adults. You could do this on a full-time basis or part-time, to supplement your other source of work.
Requirements for Teaching in Portugal
To teach English in Portugal, you’ll need to satisfy the following requirements:
- Native English speakers: Native speakers will find it easier to get a job in Portugal. If you’re not a native speaker but have good fluency, you could still find work, but it may take longer.
- TEFL Certificate: Anyone who wants to teach in Portugal will need a TEFL certificate. This may have been completed online, in the classroom in your home country, or while in Portugal. If you don’t have any previous teaching experience, an on-site TEFL course with practical experience will help you stand out.
- Bachelor’s degree: Preference is given to English teachers who have a bachelor’s degree. The subject can be anything, but students of education disciplines will be at an advantage.
- English teaching experience: Previous experience is not required in most cases in Portugal. But, it will make you a more attractive candidate and open the door to higher salaries.
- Visa: As discussed above, non-EU citizens need a work visa to teach English in Portugal. You will need to receive an employment offer first to be granted a work permit. This makes you eligible for a work visa, which your employer will arrange. The specifics depend on your nationality.
- Proof of funds: If you need a residence certificate after 90 days (EU citizens), you’ll require proof of funds if you don’t have a job. You may be asked to show a bank statement as part of the work visa process (non-EU citizens).
Where to Get TEFL Certified
It will be much easier for you to find a job in Portugal once you have completed your TEFL training. Jobs are competitive, and it will help your CV stand out. Online certification is accepted in Portuguese schools.
Online TEFL Certificates
|myTEFL Professional||myTEFL Intermediate||Let’s TEFL||TEFL Pros|
|120 Hours||60 Hours||120 Hours||120 Hours|
|✅ Live Tutor Included||✅ Live Tutor Included||❌ No Live Tutor||❌ No Live Tutor|
|✅ Job Assistance||❌ No Job Assistance||✅ Job Assistance||❌ No Job Assistance|
|The most comprehensive TEFL course.||Best for getting a TEFL cert quick.||Great for brushing up on English knowledge.||Allows a free trial before buying.|
There are tons of places to get TEFL certificates online. Some of them are phoney. These are usually video-only courses where you don’t talk to someone or lesson prep on your own and they won’t help you teach English on the ground. Here are 3 good ones:
The myTEFL 120-hour course is the gold standard of TEFL certificates. This certification will be accepted by any country and the course prepares you for a career of English teaching and curricula. They have other certifications with fewer hours that will also work for your job in Peru but may not help you get a job somewhere more rigorous later on. MyTEFL does an awesome job at teaching the skills you need to manage a classroom and transfer your knowledge to your students.
Let’s TEFL is the second-best online TEFL certificate and might be the best for those needing to review English rules themselves before they hit the classroom. Actually, if it’s been a long time since you’ve taken a grammar class, you’re going to want to brush up.
TEFL Pros isn’t the most hands-on, but one of the best teachers at our institute vouches for the quality of their curriculum. Their course is usually the cheapest. Plus, they’ve got a free trial so you don’t need to drop money to see what this is all about!
Getting Your TEFL in Portugal
If it’s financially viable, you can take your TEFL certification in Portugal itself. You’ll need to have enough money to support yourself while studying, but this is a great way to get a sense of the culture. You’ll make valuable contacts and can start building your own community in the country. Here are two schools you should check out.
International House – this globally acclaimed network of language schools has ten centers dotted about all over Portugal. Studying your TEFL with International House provides you with high-quality teacher training. The course includes six hours of observed teaching practice, where your trainer will assess your performance. Available full-time or part-time, with a variety of different TEFL courses.
Cactus TEFL – this institute is based in Lisbon and offers Cambridge CELTA TEFL courses. Courses are scheduled throughout the year and provide comprehensive training across teaching methodology and practical skills. The school will help you find accommodation, and they guarantee an interview upon completion of the course.
Where to Teach English in Portugal
Now, the next consideration is one of the most exciting – where to teach in Portugal?
Teaching in Lisbon
Portugal’s sleek capital is where the majority of jobs (and the highest salaries) can be found. You might teach the children of wealthy families or tutor adults in business English. Lisbon has plenty of entertainment opportunities for social butterflies and culture vultures.
Teaching in Porto
The second-largest city in Portugal is another popular place to find work in public schools or private institutes. Expats love Porto for its close-knit vibe and small-town spirit. Porto is known for its lively nightlife scene on the banks of the Douro River. Even teachers need to let their hair down at weekends.
Teaching in Coimbra
This ancient city is the former Portuguese capital and the next most popular option for finding work. If you have an education background or previous teaching experience, you might even find work at the university. Alternatively, you can freelance by teaching students.
Teaching in Southern Portugal
If Portugal’s beaches have piqued your interest, you can investigate your options in the southern cities of the Algarve, such as Faro and Lagos. Opportunities are much rarer to find in the south and, as you can imagine, are very competitive. You may find work in an international or public school, but you’ll likely require a level of Portuguese and some teaching experience. There are a handful of language schools across the main cities, and there is a market for tutoring tourism workers. It’s another place you could consider freelancing and sourcing private students.
Living in Portugal and Teaching Online
If you fancy living in Portugal as a digital nomad, you can consider teaching online. Portugal has a thriving ex-pat community, and in recent years, has flourished as a digital nomad destination. The internet is reliable in general, and you’ll have the flexibility to dictate your own schedule. Plus, the salary that you would receive in your teaching job in Portugal is similar to what you can earn as an online English teacher.
If you decide to teach online in Portugal, make sure you’re in tune with the time difference between you and your students.
How to Find a Job in Portugal
If you’re an EU citizen, you could fly into your Portuguese city of choice and start the application process once you’ve got your feet on the ground. Those of you who have British or Irish passports, a bachelor’s degree, and a TEFL certificate stand a good chance of finding work this way.
If you want more security (or aren’t from an EU member country), you can start the process from home.
Finding a Job in Portugal With a School
- Decide which time of year you want to relocate to Portugal – ensure you plan around the recruitment periods of June and January.
- Prepare your CV and ensure it lists any teaching experience.
- Visit online job boards and teaching forums to seek job opportunities in Portugal.
- Once you know which city you want to base yourself in, you can Google the schools and institutes that the destination has on offer. Visit their websites and see if they have any job vacancies advertised.
- If a school catches your eye but doesn’t have a vacancy advertised, email them to enquire. Compose a professional email stating why you’d like to work for them and ask if they can contact you when they have a job opening. If you don’t hear back within a week, translate your original email into Portuguese and resend.
- Once you’re in a situation where you are invited to interview, this can take place over Skype. In other instances, the school may want to interview you in person. Ensure that when you start the process, you are in a situation where you can financially support yourself to travel to Portugal while you are interviewed. You might want to schedule several interviews before committing to the flight.
Working in Portugal as a Freelance Tutor
If you have confidence and some teaching experience behind you, you can freelance as a personal language tutor in Portugal. This is only possible for EU citizens, but after 90 days in the country, you will need to purchase your residence certificate and prove that you’re working on a self-employed basis.
You can advertise your services on boards at shops, schools, and language centers, or via social media. You can advertise if you have a specialty, such as teaching preschool kids, conversational English, or IELTS prep. If your clients like you, they may well recommend you to their friends. Even if you work at a school, look into tutoring on the side for a bit of pocket money.
You’ll need to be certain that you have enough money to sustain yourself while you get set up if you take this option.
Living in Portugal
Once you’ve got your offer of employment and booked your flight, it’s time to pack your SPF50 and make the move! Living in Portugal will let you experience more than sunny plazas and beautiful beaches.
Portugal is a safe country on the whole. The cities have low crime rates, and violent crimes are rare. As with all European cities, there is always a risk of pickpocketing. You should be watchful over your belongings when in cafes and restaurants, as you would be back home! Exercise caution at night and use your common sense – avoid walking down alleys and don’t use unsolicited taxis.
When you are apartment-hunting, be careful about which neighborhood you opt to live in. The major cities are known to have rougher areas on the outskirts. Muggings, assaults, and drug crimes happen (in the world in general). If the rent seems too good to be true, it probably is. Take it as a red flag and do some investigating before you commit.
Unless you find an employer who will subsidize your accommodation (this is rare), expect to break even on your salary and living expenses in Portugal. The following assumes the minimum salary and a careful approach to spending.
|Flying to Portugal from the US||$400 – $600|
|Total Monthly Expenses||$950|
Accommodation in Portugal is where the largest chunk of your money will go each month. Expect to spend around half your salary on your digs. At the very least, you’ll pay around €250 ($280) a month for a room in a flatshare. If you want your own place, costs will range from €300-€500+ ($360-$635). Ultimately, the standard of your accommodation in Portugal will reflect what you pay for it.
Travel in Portugal is reasonable. Cities such as Lisbon and Porto are served by buses and the Metro. A single journey costs in the region of €0.85 ($1.10) to €1.50 ($1.90). Multi-day passes will save you money in the longer term – you can buy a monthly pass in Lisbon for €40 ($45). Even Lisbon and Porto are relatively compact cities, and you will be able to get around on foot much of the time. You can use Uber rather than metered taxis.
Food is part of the reason for moving to a new country, right? The Portuguese lifestyle is all about dining, so prepare to spend many an evening sipping a coffee or beer under the setting sun. Fortunately, Portugal is one of the most affordable countries in western Europe for eating out. Two courses with a drink will cost you between €5-€10 ($5.65-$11.30) in a local eatery. If you can be thrifty with your grocery habits, you can get away with €150 ($170) per month of groceries. Supermarket staples are cheap in Portugal.
Entertainment in Portugal is easy on the budget too. You can wander around quaint plazas and sip a €2 beer. Save yourself some money by visiting museums on the first Sunday of each month. Most museums offer free entry!
Speaking the Language
In the major cities, English is fairly widely spoken. You’ll be able to go about your day, use public transport, and order food in restaurants without needing to speak Portuguese. Outside of the main cities and resort towns, you will notice a language barrier.
If you want to teach in a public school, you will need some level of Portuguese. This will depend on the school, but as I said, some public schools will test your Portuguese schools. To teach in a private language institute, you can get by without knowing the language.
That being said, if you plan to base yourself in Portugal for a year, it would be in your favor to master the basics. You’ll find it easier to communicate with your employers, students, and community. You’ll probably make friends with locals along the way and will have an overall deeper experience. You’ll get a lot more respect all round, which is never a bad thing!
Final Thoughts on English Teaching in Portugal
And that’s your guide to teaching English in Portugal in a nutshell. I think getting a job in Portugal is one of the best things a new graduate or gap year explorer can do. You’ll earn enough cash to support yourself, and you’ll have a memorable experience in a beautiful country!
Good luck with your job hunt in Portugal.
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