For the average person working in Russia is almost impossible unless of course you’re high up in the oil and gas industry or one of the world’s biggest construction firms. However, the new demand for a high level of English has seen a rise in visa issuing to foreign experts. The cool thing among young Russians these days is to learn English and to speak English like a native speaker – you could say it’s the new “black.”
English instruction in Russia has been around for a good few years, however, the quality of teaching has been poor following old-school teaching methodologies such as the grammar-translation method. Russians have recently come to the realisation that their English was not up to scratch compared to neighbouring European countries and with a growing number of Russians leaving Russia for further education, English is a must. English learning has not only become more popular amongst the youth, it’s also become quite the competitive sport amongst parents. Parents compete to see whose child is greater; it’s a form of “prestige”; and one way of proving their child’s greatness is through their education, knowledge and especially their ability to speak ‘good’ English.
So, what does teaching English in Russia involve? Most jobs are given a set number of hours, however, an hour does not equate to 60 minutes, it equates to the length of an academic hour which is 45 minutes. The next thing you need to know before making the decision to teach English as a second language in Russia is that there are a number of different kinds of teaching scenarios that you could find yourself in while you’re there, so it’s important to weigh up your options before you jump right in and decide you’re going to work there.
One of the most popular places to teach English is at a language school in Russia. This is probably by far the easier kind of job to get as well. Most of these language schools in Russia usually offer only English despite using the collective term ‘language.’ Here, at these language schools it’s a hive of activity and there are always students coming and going of all ages and backgrounds. You can literally see a group of pre-kindergarten students having a lesson in one room and a group of middle-aged workers learning English in the next. There are a couple of English language schools in Russia that have a long history, and it’s usually these schools that have the better reputation and the bigger clientele due to its name (and not necessarily the teaching). Some schools include EF and International House. In these kinds of schools it’s possible to get contract teaching positions and casual positions, however, it must be noted that if you opt for a casual position, you won’t be able to get a work visa, so it’s a bit of a catch-22. If you find a school that has got favourable reviews from both staff and students online, it’s probably a good sign because Russians aren’t usually ones to hold back on bad reviews and all it takes is a simple Google search and you’ll be privy to a great deal of English schools in Russia that have been blacklisted by someone who feels like they’ve been scorned. There are even a number of English language forums about language centres in Russia, so it’s really worth checking out.
The different contract packages that ESL teachers in Russia might vary greatly and at the end of the day it all depends on your experience and qualifications – to the Russians, that piece of paper matters, so make sure you get fully qualified before heading there or you might just find yourself in the predicament that you won’t receive your residence card and work permit despite having been given the all-clear for your entry. Russia has been known in the past to not be very welcoming to foreigners wanting to work there, however, in the last 5 years they have made more of an effort. Most Russian employers have a good reputation of looking after their new ESL teachers and usually shared accommodation is offered, which is really beneficial since the prices of everything, especially accommodation in Russia is skyrocketing. If you don’t have the accommodation provided, be sure that your employer includes an accommodation allowance. The basic salary for an English teacher in Russia is around $650USD per month (not including housing) – this is enough to live on comfortably at the moment.
There’s also a huge demand for business English trainers due to the booming Russian market. It’s imperative that anyone who wants to make it in business in Russia knows English to a high degree. Employers are looking for clear teaching qualifications and it’s also mandatory for teachers to have some sort of professional business background. All this teaching takes place in the clients’ office and it could range from 1-on-1 lessons or small groups. When teaching business English, you need to remain completely flexible and willing to work your schedule around your clients. This is where you can begin to make some decent money working as a teacher in Russia. Business English tutors in Russia can expect to earn around the $1,500 mark, not including accommodation. Some employers offer salaries and some offer an hourly basis too.
You also have the option of teaching English at a Russian private school. There are a number of private Russian schools that are more than willing to have English taught by a native English teacher because not only will the students get good English instruction, you’ll also be great marketing for the school and a lot of what Russia’s about still is its face and how the outside world perceive it. These jobs are more difficult to come by and it’s essential that you’ve got a teaching qualification that’s recognised in Russia – having a TESOL does not count and they’re more interested in you having a formal teaching qualification from a reputable teachers’ college. You’ll need a good list of teaching references, a police background check and most importantly, you need to have had experience teaching children previously. If you’re lucky enough to land yourself a great job in a private school in Russia, you could be earning well up to $3000 USD per month, which is more than enough to live a life of luxury.
Then of course there are other ways of supplementing your income. If you’re an English language teacher, the answer is by teaching private English lessons. Usually, you’ll pick up private students along the way and most teachers offering this service can earn around the $30 per hour mark.
While it is possible to go it alone in Russia, there’s a price to pay. Teachers will be expected to organise and fund their own visa, which means getting your visa granted is not guaranteed, so in short it is a bit of a risk.
While the Ruble is the national currency, the US dollar is also quoted in most instances. Some average costs of living in Russia are as follows (excluding Moscow and St. Petersburg which are considerably higher).
A cheap meal for one: £7.10
Pint of local beer: £1.10
Regular coffee: £2.20
0.33l Bottle of water: £0.55
One-way ticket of local transport: £0.40
One-bedroom apartment in city: £540
One-bedroom apartment outside city: £359
Most Russian English students are super motivated to improve their English for a number of different reasons and most understand that this could make or break their future.
So, if you would like to take the opportunity and work in Russia as an English teacher, you first need to decide in which kind of school you’d like to teach and then do a number of different searches for jobs. Sometimes it’s beneficial to write letters of interest to schools even if they’re not directly advertising because a lot of the time hiring is done through agencies. For new English teachers in Russia, phone interviews are usually the norm as it’s really difficult to have in-person interviews. For any person staying over a month in Russia, a full visa is needed as is a full medical exam.
Russia really is a spectacular place to visit and despite what everyone thinks, it’s relatively safe for foreigners, including women. However, there’s still discrimination against homosexuals and it’s even stated by law that homosexuality in Russia is illegal. If you need proof of such discrimination, you only have to recall the most recent Winter Olympics held in Moscow.
There are many reasons why you may want to visit and work in Russia. It’s steeped in great religious and literary history. There’s food and drink galore – make sure you sample some delicious Russian traditional fare such as stuffed cabbage leaves and the ever-so-famous beet soup otherwise known as borscht, and then of course there’s what Russia is famous for – Russian vodka. But it’s not just the hearty Eastern cuisine and interesting places to visit, Russian people in general will make your stay more enjoyable. Known for their hospitality and funny personas, Russians are very easy people in general, so if you’re looking to go off the beaten track a little and don’t mind a little bit of organised chaos from time to time, Russia may be the place for you.