Germany, it’s the land of beautiful old-world cities, efficient service and a good hearty cuisine; why would you not want to go and teach English in Germany? For either experienced and new ESL teachers or perhaps those looking for a career change, Germany offers a lot for native English speaking teachers and it may just carve the path to success if you’re willing to work for it.
Germany is known as being one of the most efficient countries in the whole world where everything runs like clockwork, so if you really love teaching ESL, Germany can be a very satisfying place to work in. Unlike other European nations, where you’re dictated by strict methodologies, you’ll have much more control over what you choose to teach in your lessons, what hours you prefer to work, and even which materials you opt to use in the ESL classroom.
English language courses can be found throughout Germany from the largest metropolitan city to the smaller quaint villages of Bavaria. Despite ESL having been taught in Germany for the last 20 years, there’s still a huge demand for English. The Germans don’t do anything by halves and ‘knowing’ English just isn’t enough with most professional employers wanting a high level of spoken and written English that’s also in the same field of the employees’ work, which is why there’s a need for high level business English courses in Germany. Many German companies want specific ESL teachers catering to the varied business demands such as English for engineers, English for medical practitioners or Financial English. When teaching English in Germany or another German speaking country for that matter, it’s essential that you find your own niche in their larger market of English language instruction – in other words, find something that suits you because the chances are if you look at the right time, you’ll find what you want.
So, when is the right time to look? In most business English courses, there’s an ongoing hiring process to keep up with the demand for Business English instructors in Germany; however, if you prefer to teach general ESL classes or in a public school, contracts usually begin at the beginning of September and hiring in May (or perhaps in some cases even before). Germany’s cities and bigger towns offer a myriad of fantastic ESL positions. Big named chain schools like Berlitz or Wall Street Institute are reliable and so is the public school system. There are also some huge businesses in Germany that take English language training very seriously for their employees and it’s not uncommon for companies like Siemens, BMW and Mercedes to hire ESP (English for Special Purposes) trainers separately. Business English centres in Germany hire ESL teachers with business teaching experience only as these are much coveted positions, so if this is something you can see yourself doing, it’s a good idea to get some extra training and some experience under your belt first.
In Germany, it really pays to be qualified. All prospective English language trainers in Germany need a minimum of a Bachelor’s degree in a relevant field; however, an MA is also desirable. Additional TESOL qualifications from reputable training companies are also often required. Germany enjoys high standards in everything including language training. Please note that the certificate is not enough and most German employers will look to see if you’ve fulfilled all the criteria and the recommended training hours of 120 hours. Also, if you’ve previously worked in an area that’s related to finance or marketing, you’ll increase your chances of being employed as an in-house English trainer.
A well-qualified business English trainer in one of Germany’s greater cities such as Berlin, Munich, Frankfurt, and Dresden, can earn approximately €45 for a 45 minute class. This is one of the highest hourly rates for an English language teacher in the whole of Europe. A regular ESL teacher in Germany does not earn an hourly wage usually and it’s more common for them to earn a monthly salary of approximately €1,500 per month. Because Germany remains as one of the more desirable European countries to work in as a language teacher, full-time teaching positions are gold dust – rare, which is why many people begin their ESL teaching career in Germany as a freelancer.
Berlin is one of the top tourist destinations in Europe to visit with literally thousands upon thousands of people visiting each year, so it’s no wonder that those wishing to teach in Germany make the capital their first choice. If you’re lucky enough to land a teaching position in Berlin, you’ll never run out of things to do. You can take a wonderful stroll through Grunewald Forest, Berlin’s largest forest. You can visit some of Europe’s most interesting and beautiful museums such as the Neues Museum where you can see a vast collection of ancient Egyptian artifacts or the Pergamonmuseum, the world’s largest archeological museum. If you’re into strolling the streets and looking for bargains, you can head to Mauer Park, a wonderful bustling area full of flea markets and cheap eateries – really Berlin has it all, but at what price?
Berlin’s known for its opportunities for English teaching work, especially in the kindergarten and primary sector; however, finding a well-paying teaching job can prove to be quite the challenge as there’s literally hundreds of other ESL teachers competing for the very same position. Sometimes, if you’re less qualified or experienced it’s better to look outside of Berlin in other major cities such as Frankfurt and Munich. Also, there are a number jobs in smaller towns – simply research some areas and their industry and directly contact the company to see if they’re in need of a trained language teacher.
If you’re an EU citizen, there’s no need to apply for a visa to work in Germany. All that’s needed is an application for a residence card on arrival. Non-EU citizens need a visa, which is why, like many other European nations, Germany’s more skeptical when hiring people from outside the EU. The visa requirements for non-EU citizens in Germany depend on your country of birth. All US citizens automatically get a three-month tourist visa when they enter Germany and then if the company hiring is willing to, they’ll organise the paperwork on arrival. Visa requirements are always changing in Germany, so it’s a good idea to check with your nearest German consulate to make sure. Bureaucracy in Germany can often be complicated, so if you do have a friend or someone you know who speaks German, it’s a good idea to take them along too.
While Germany is a beautiful and an oh-so efficient country, you also need to be aware of their numerous taxes. Most teachers working in Germany are freelancers and this means they’re responsible for taking care of tax returns and payments themselves. Most schools and institutions do not pay the taxes for you and you need to make sure this is clear from the start, which is why it’s recommended to find a tax-consultant who speaks English to help you as it can get really complicated. In addition to the VAT (19%) that’s paid there are also higher taxes if you’re single and living alone. Before making the decision to work in Germany, it’s worth doing thorough research about it before you go.
Generally speaking, Germany is not an expensive country to live in (not including the high German taxes) and it’s quite comparable to its neighbouring countries. However, as expected, the bigger the city, the more expensive it’s going to be. Some typical average prices include:
A cheap meal of sausage and potato for one: €8 (£6.25)
A pint of local German beer: €3 (£2.35)
A regular coffee: €2.50 (£1.97)
A 0.33l bottle of still water: €1.50 (£1.30)
A one-way ticket on local transport: €2.50 (£1.96)
Taxi starting fare: €3.50 (£2.57)
One-bedroom studio apartment in the city: €600 (£450)
One-bedroom studio apartment outside the city: €400 (£320)
Another question that many ESL teachers, who want to work in Germany, ask is “Is it necessary for me to be fluent in German to teach ESL in Germany?” The answer’s no, however, having some German does help especially when working with higher levels as you’ll be able to understand the frequent mistakes German speakers make.
Many ESL teachers are somewhat misguided when moving to Germany to teach – they often believe that it’s uncomplicated since Germany is one of the more advanced countries in Europe. They forget to take into consideration the visa process and also the high taxes, but if you can overcome these obstacles, teaching in ESL in Germany will definitely boost your teaching career.