Wednesday, 19 September 2012

Finding a Teaching Job in Italy

I've recently had several requests for information about finding teaching job in Italy and which qualifications are necessary. So here are some tips based on my own personal experience:

In terms of whether TEFL is necessary, for most schools it's considered the basic requirement which they'll expect from teachers applying for a position. Therefore, my official answer is YES you need a full TEFL qualification. 


If you were to press me, I'd lean in and whisper my unofficial answer.

It really depends on what the school is looking for. 

You can get by without a full TEFL but only if you're prepared for the fact that it will probably take longer to find a job and you'll much fewer options. 

My reason for saying this is that I was able to find a full time job in a well respected language school when I didn't have a full TEFL qualification. This lack of TEFL didn't come without its problem of course. I entered one school and asked if I could speak to the principal who promptly sent a message back with his secretary stating, "if she doesn't have a TEFL, I simply won't come down."  Visibly disappointed, I left looking rather sheepish while the embarrassed receptionists looked on as if to say 'don't worry, you may not have a job but we still have to work with this guy.' 

Rather than the full TEFL, I completed a 30-hour taster course at the British Study Centre [] which I found invaluable as a crash course in teaching and what to expect when I arrived in Italy. I didn't do the full TEFL as I wasn't sure at the time if teaching was the right career for me and I didn't want to spend the full £1000 unless I was certain. The taster course provided a great introduction into the world of teaching. Lessons included phonetics, classroom management and different teaching styles. It meant I had some ideas and resources to fall back on when I was plunged headfirst into the world of teaching. As a useful note, if you do choose to do the full course, the British Study Centre will reimburse the price of the week long taster course. Based on the quality of the brief TEFL course I attended, I would definitely recommend doing the full TEFL course if you have the means to do so as it provides you not only with a qualification but you'll also have hours of real teaching experience under your belt. 

For me, having a degree in English Literature or language was a great asset and English schools look favourably on this type of degree. I have several friends who moved to Japan and South Korea and have had no formal training but were able to find jobs based on their humanities degrees and being an British English speaker. This isn't always the case but it does happen. 

I certainly wasn't given my current job based on my level of Italian (which was dreadful at the time) but rather on the merit of my English degree and from the observations that the school made when I was let loose on several students. It's worth bearing in mind that schools are also looking for teachers who have the ability to create a good rapport with students. The ability to put students at ease is just as important as knowing when the difference between present continuous and past perfect.  

As a final note, being able to speak the native tongue is a definite bonus but it is not the be-all-and-end-all. I wasn't able to speak Italian very well when I started teaching but you'd be surprised how you can get by with mime, drawings and dictionaries when you get stuck. After a few weeks of teaching the same words or grammatical structures you quickly learn the words necessary for teaching and they become habitual. I'd definitely recommend taking a course in the native language before you go or when you arrive if you're able to though. Having a solid basis in the language boosts your confidence and will help you not only in your work and social life but also for your general appreciation of the country's culture.

★  ★  

I hope this may be useful to you if you're considering applying for TEFL or currently looking for a teaching job. If you have any questions or experiences you'd like to share, please feel free to leave a comment below or contact me on twitter at @SaritaAgerman


  1. I so very much appreciate your time and thoughts. You have been tremendously helpful, and I thank you! It will be several years before I can actually live out my dream of teaching in Italy, but I'm wanting to learn of the requirements and process now, so that when I am ready, I won't have major stopping blocks. (as an aside, I was ironically youtubing various cities in Italy when I received your twitter notice - Italy is often on my mind) I have Rosetta Stone and other Italian CD language programs I listen to in order to learn Italian. Unfortunately, I don't live in an area where I can readily find Italian language classes.

    1. You're more than welcome - I'm happy you found it useful! Starting with CDs is great because the first step is getting used to the sounds and common words. Then worry about grammar and longer phrase later. I used the same italian film to judge my progress. I'd watch it every few months (without subtitles) to see how my understanding had progressed.

  2. Even if you don’t have a full TEFL qualification, you have shown that you can still get the job that you want. Sometimes, you just really need to believe in yourself and strengthen your dedication for that dream job of yours. I wish you are happy with your teaching job right now, Sarita. Well, as I read this blog post, I can see that you’re really satisfied with it! :D


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