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Teaching ESL in Italy

ESL teachers will find many interesting opportunities in Italy to work among friendly people and enjoy some of the good life that millions of travelers have discovered in a country rich in historical, romantic, and cultural appeal. The climate varies from the cooler northern regions to the balmy weather of the Mediterranean south. Although ESL teaching jobs are fairly plentiful in Italy, the competition for these jobs in the larger cities is tough, so be prepared for the challenge. Smaller towns may be your best bet, since the requirements are not as stringent and the turnover is good. ESL teaching experience with a specific number of practical teaching hours, excellent qualifications, and a lot of determination are basic requirements for securing a position in Italy.

Credentials/Qualifications/Hiring Process

First, you must have TEFL certification to teach ESL in Italy; it is almost impossible to be hired without it. Second, unlike some countries, a personal interview with your employers is compulsory. If you have arranged to meet with the school, this might be a good time to combine business with pleasure and see some of the country. Third, a Master's degree is required to teach at university level, as well as a basic knowledge of the Italian language.

The work visa is no longer required for EU citizens, according to the latest information (June 2013) from tjtaylor.net. Bring documentation of citizenship, college/university records, marriage license if applicable, and any other credentials the school may require. The entire process for non-EU citizens to get a contract and benefits is more difficult, but it can be done if you are an exceptional candidate. If you happen to be married to an Italian citizen or have family connections, things will move quickly. Otherwise, you will have to apply through a university at home for a study visa, which allows you to teach at least 20 hours a week. (Note: These requirements are always subject to change, but up-to-date information can be obtained from the Italian Embassy or Consulate in your area.)

Work Schedules & Salaries

Remember that when teaching abroad you should continue filing taxes in your home country. Americans may not even need to withhold taxes, but learning the use of a withholding calculator is a good time investment. Americans can file with TurboTax which makes filing the forms for foreign income simple.

Most ESL teaching jobs are at high schools or universities since learning English in Italy is currently not mandatory in their elementary education system; however, this trend seems to be changing. Jobs are also available at language schools, businesses, and private schools which offer the best pay and job security. If you are considering teaching at a public school, you must know the language since lessons and other teaching aids are in Italian.

Schools have two semesters like the U.S., September and January. ESL teaching jobs in cities like Naples pay around $1200/month, which can be supplemented by private tutoring for $9/hour. A small studio apartment in a central location will cost around $460/month. Your salary will be twice as much in Milan, as much as $2200, but monthly apartment rent averages $985. However, you can earn $26-$32/hour tutoring conversational English in the cities, and teaching ESL for in-house employee training by corporations. The contratto a progetto (contract) states whether the salary is paid monthly in a set amount, or if it based on the number of actual teaching hours. (Tax deductions depend on the contract and are too involved for this article.) Pay details for vacation, school breaks, holidays, and sick days must be Included in the contract.

Advantages

If you like Italian food and fine wine, you will find the very best here in Italy; visit Saturday food markets for a variety of local and regional products.

Transportation is readily available, and commuting to school is not a problem. Buses or the metro is preferred; tickets for either must be purchased in advance. Avg metro fare $2. Water buses in Venice are cheap means of transportation.

ESL teachers with foreign identity cards will be automatically enrolled in the national healthcare system and paid for by a percentage of their annual salary. Private health insurance for better coverage can be obtained at higher fees.

Possible Disadvantages

Although you will make more money in a large city in Italy, the housing, food, and overall cost of living is going to be higher. You can expect the same traffic congestion, noise, pollution, and crowded streets typical of all major cities.

Housing may or may not be included in your contract, so be prepared for the time it takes to get situated, especially in the cities. Newspapers or online ads are probably your best resource for locating accommodations, although some schools do offer assistance if you are unfamiliar with the language. There is a wide range of housing possibilities from small studios to huge houses, furnished, unfurnished, and partially furnished.

Generally, airfare is not covered; the school may reimburse you at the end of the contract, but don't count on it.

Job Outlook

The job prospects for ESL teachers are good, with numerous openings for EU citizens, and some available for non-EU citizens. Rome and Milan are often first choices, but they are listed among the top 50 most expensive cities to live in as far as housing, food, clothing, and entertainment. The wonderful, vibrant city of Florence is a popular location, as well as Bari on the Adriatic shore. It is not as well known, but a nice city with a university and opportunities for teaching ESL. Currently, a full-time ESL teaching job in Padua, northeast Italy, is open to EU citizens only. Experienced and non experienced with a CELTA, TRINITY, or equivalent and a minimum of 20 hours practical teaching can apply.

Recommended online sources for job listings include eslemployment.com, lovetefl.com, eslcafe.com, and Italy's main newspaper "Corriere della Serra." ESL forums, personal reviews, and reports by current and former teachers provide good information on living and working conditions in Italy.

Conclusion

You won't make your fortune teaching ESL in Italy, but you will have a wonderful opportunity to see some of the world’s famous art, architecture, and ancient treasures, as well as hear the finest in Italian opera and experience the diversity in the scenic beauty of the country. Spend your leisure time exploring the vineyards in Tuscany and other regions of Italy, or travel by train (convenient and inexpensive) to nearby European countries. ESL teachers should be familiar with Italian customs, and observe national holidays and feast days. Be receptive to the welcome amicizia (friendship) of the Italian people - respect and courtesy go hand in hand with a successful teaching experience. Whether you prefer the cosmopolitan lifestyle of a city, or comfortable easy living in a smaller town, an ESL teaching job in Italy is certainly a possibility.

Sharon L Slayton

July 2013

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