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Teaching ESL in Turkey

Turkey is a fascinating land of ancient wonders, famous mosques, and interesting cultural contrast between the old world appeal of the Middle East and the cosmopolitan lifestyle of western Europe. There is a huge demand for both EU and non-EU citizens to teach ESL in Turkey. Most ESL teaching positions have salaries and benefits which provide for comfortable and affordable living conditions. The classrooms are small, the hours reasonable, and the students are eager to learn. Teachers will have plenty of time to explore the ancient history of Asia and Europe, tour the Bosporus, or relax for a day on one of the Princes' Islands, where carriages have replaced the automobile and the noise of the cities has disappeared.

Credentials/Qualifications/Hiring Process

CELTA, TEFL, or TRINITY certification and a college degree are basic requirements, as well as teaching experience, usually two years.

Turkey is one of the few countries where you may be hired for an ESL teaching job without a face-to-face interview, since many schools interview by phone and/or e-mail. The hiring process is greatly simplified, and relocating is easier in knowing you have secured a job before you arrive.

A one-year contract is the minimum required by most schools, and it should cover the specifics including salary, housing, vacation, and holidays. Many schools, especially private ones, will take care of processing the work visa for legal employment in Turkey.

Work Schedules & Salaries

Jobs in Turkey for ESL teachers can be found at foreign language schools, public and private schools, and universities. The majority of ESL teachers work in major cities including Istanbul, Ankara, Izmir, and Gaziantep, one of the oldest cities in the world. The weekly schedule at private schools (K-12) for a class of 20-25 students is usually 20-30 hours a week with extra preparation hours and some Saturdays. Language schools with more adult students often require you to teach evenings and weekends, while universities and international schools have Mon-Fri, 8-4 schedules, with an occasional weekend.

A basic monthly salary might be as low as $900; however, if you have a Master's degree in Education or Linguistics, you could earn anywhere from $2200-$4,000/month teaching at a university, as well as 10 weeks' paid vacation and holidays.

Advantages

Many schools pay for or provide an allowance for housing, but in any event your salary should be enough to cover rent and other living expenses. Rent for a one-bedroom apartment from $200-$365, three-bedrooms $340-$600. Utilities average $143 and internet $30.

There are numerous large supermarket chains and grocery stores, but shopping for food bargains at the markets in Turkey is fun and less expensive. Dining out in the city is reasonable with a 3-course meal for two averaging $26 at a nice restaurant.

Transportation within the cities is readily available on the Metro and city buses, which run regularly from 6:30am-11:30pm. Electronic tickets are available at bus stations, ferry ports, and other locations. One-way fare about $1, monthly passes for $3. Prepaid credits up to $80 can be loaded onto the key fob, which is scanned at the gate. Ferries, a popular means of transportation, run every 15-20 minutes with ticket prices at $1 to cross the Bosporus, $26 for a tour of the Bosporus, and $4 for a one-hour trip on the sea bus or fast ferry to the Princes’ Islands ($2 on slower ferries). (Note: The project to connect Europe with Asia by train through the Marmaray tunnel is scheduled for completion in 2015.)

If taxes are deducted from your salary, you are automatically enrolled in the national health care system for a small co-pay of $50-$60/month. Salaries for teachers at universities and some private schools are usually tax free.

Possible Disadvantages

You may not be able to put aside a lot of money while teaching ESL in Turkey, but this depends on several things. Salaries and benefits for ESL teachers are good, but the cost of living especially in the larger cities may come close to or equal what you earn. Of course, individual preferences for housing, food, and entertainment will determine how far your salary will go. Sharing expenses with a co-worker is a popular solution to living economically. Where you teach is important, as well, since salaries for teaching ESL at university level will pay for a better lifestyle and provide enough extra for savings or travel.

If you're not familiar with at least some of the language, you may find this a disadvantage in teaching younger students or in daily, routine activities.

Job Outlook

There is considerable turnover in ESL teaching jobs in Turkey, but this is one of the world’s largest job markets where the demand frequently exceeds the supply of qualified applicants. This is not surprising if you consider the number of schools and the fact that there are more than 166 universities in Turkey. There are peak hiring seasons in September and January, but Turkey hires year round. It is estimated that 40,000 teachers for preschool, elementary, high school, and universities will be hired in the next five years.

According to an ESL teacher in Bursa, with daily bus or ferry service to Istanbul, the city offers a lower cost of living than other large cities in Turkey. Average rent for a 2-bedroom apartment is $415, from $233 in older areas to $623 in newer neighborhoods. Universities in Bursa (two public, one private) may have job openings for teaching ESL. Recommended sources for job openings and other information on Turkey are go-tefl.com/country, tefl.com/jobs, eslcafe, and worldoftefl.

Conclusion

ESL teachers have an incredible opportunity to live and work in a country located in both Europe and Asia, with about 97% of Turkey in Asia. The hospitality of the Turkish people and the enthusiasm of business professionals and students promise an interesting and rewarding teaching experience. Your leisure time on weekends and holidays can be used for exploring the legendary city of Troy, the archaeological excavations and ruins of Ephesus, or the ancient tombs in Bodrum on the Aegean coast. There is no lack of things to see and do within the city or town such as shopping for fine rugs and enticing spices in bazaars, relaxing in thermal waters, visiting world famous mosques and museums, or enjoying the variety of music and the exotic flavors of international cuisine. Qualified ESL teachers with classroom experience who are looking for something new and different should give some priority to finding a job in Turkey.

August 2013 - Sharon L Slayton