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Teaching English in Germany

Germany is a fascinating country of contrasts with magnificent mountains, beautiful long, winding rivers, deep, dark forests, old castles and basilicas, and splendid architecture. Germany is one of the most highly developed and efficient industrial nations, fourth in the world following the U.S., Japan, and China. According to the latest U.S. News and World Report, 20 Jan 2016, it is at the top of the list for best countries based primarily on their entrepreneurship, as well as for power and citizenship. Besides being a top tourist destination, Germany is certainly one of the most desirable countries in Europe to teach ESL where non-EU citizens will find more job opportunities here than in some other European countries.

Credentials/ Qualifications/ Documentation / Hiring process

Minimum qualifications include a Bachelor's degree (a Master's is preferred), teaching exerience in a relevant field such as education or linguistics, and a CELTA or other TESOL certification. Business and IT experience are definitely a plus, as is a basic knowledge of German. Of course, the more experienced and better qualified ESL teachers will find the best paying jobs; however, there will be considerable competition for these jobs.

EU citizens do not need a work visa and can apply for a resident's card once in the country. Non-EU citizens do need a work visa, which serves as a visa and work permit. US citizens get a 3-month tourist visa on arrival, but ESL teachers from Australia, Japan, New Zealand, and Canada get a Germany Working Holiday Visa, good for one year. Americans and Canadians can often get assistance from Usually, the employer will assist you in getting the required visa, but you may have to hire an attorney and/or interpreter to organize the considerable paperwork and guide it through the proper channels in the time-consuming bureaucratic process. The basic cost for a work visa is $65, but there may be extra fees involved in getting one.

Hiring is usually done in May, occasionally year round, for contracts beginning in September or January at public and private schools. Typical contracts are for one year, but shorter terms may be available.

Work Schedules & Salaries

Salaries for ESL teachers working in a large city range anywhere from $1,100$2,700/month; whereas, a business ESL trainer/teacher is paid an hourly rate and can earn as much as $51 for a 45-minute class. Generally, holidays are paid, but vacation time will vary depending on the school.

Education is compulsory in Germany from age 6-15; however, in view of the large population of the country, it is surprising that there are only approximately 2,500 public, parochial, and boarding schools. Furthermore, home schooling is illegal in Germany.

There is a 3-school class system, which places above average students in the Gymnasium category, usually for those heading for college, one step below is Realschule for students who are above average and will be able to get better white collar jobs, and the bottom tier Hauptschule is geared toward students entering the trades or blue-collar jobs.

Average class size is 30 students, with different classes each day, some two, some three times a week (similar to a U.S. college). Teachers have considerable flexibility in choosing their working hours and classroom materials. There are break periods, but since there is no cafeteria at many schools, most students eat lunch at home. German schools concentrate on academics, rather than physical education, so students usually join a sports club if they're interested in athletics.


Germany is a highly efficient country with an overall high quality of life, a good economy, modern metropolitan cities, interesting small towns, and quaint villages. Although it could not be considered inexpensive to live there, the cost of living is less than in many other European cities and often much less in smaller towns. has excellent information on the cost of living, crime, health, pollution, climate, and traffic for cities in Germany. ESL teachers will find it much less in the small towns, providing of course there are job opportunities there.

Food prices are reasonable at 27-32% lower than New York City, for example, and two people can dine out on a 3-course meal for around $40.

Rent and utilities, on the other hand, are very expensive, averaging well over $200/month for full utilities and rent for a 1-bedroom apartment in the city is more than $700/month. However, the same size apartment outside city limits will rent for less than $500/month.

Monthly public transportation costs average $86, but still affordable if you consider gasoline is high at almost $6/gallon.

Health care in Germany is excellent, but you will need to have private health insurance. The national health care system only applies to legal residents of Germany.

ESL teachers in Germany will have numerous opportunities for private tutoring to school children and business executives. At $20-$30/hour, this is an excellent way to supplement their income.

Possible disadvantages (or things to remember)

Taxes are high, beginning with the standard 19%, and rising above that if you are single and living alone. Generally, schools do not pay these taxes, so you may find it necessary to find a tax consultant to assist you in this area.

It probably won't be possible to save much money while teaching ESL in Germany with the cost of living expenses, unless you're living in a small town. Any extra money you can put aside would more than likely be used to explore the country on holidays or during vacation time.

Airfare is usually not covered by the schools; however, large businesses may pay for it or offer reimbursement. Upfront money will be required to pay deposits and get situated.

Job Outlook

There is a substantial demand for ESL teachers in the financial sector at business English centres, at large corporations such as BMW and Mercedes, as well as in public, private, language centres, international, and chain schools such as Berlitz throughout Germany. Business professionals need to be well advanced in their knowledge of English to effectively communicate with their clients and international contacts.

Good paying jobs can be found in the large cities including Berlin, Frankfurt, Munich, and Hamburg, as well as in smaller towns and villages in Bavaria. ESL teachers may find interesting job opportunities in towns such as Leipzig and Dresden in East Germany, where they can be more involved in learning about the people, their culture, and the history of the country.

Good online sources of information on jobs and the country itself include lovetefl, Dave's ESL Cafe, teachaway, gooverseas, huntesl is one of the best, and OxfordSeminars.


ESL teahers will find their students are highly motivated to learn English at every grade level, whether they are interested in a business career or a trade. Adults are eager to perfect their English speaking and writing skills to enhance their potential in the financial, medical, or engineering career fields. Surrounded by the old world atmosphere of Germany with its incredible history, famous museums, world renowned music, art, and literature, your ESL teaching position will be a rewarding assignment and a memorable experience.

Sharon L Slayton

January 2016

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