One of the most common questions that prospective American teachers have regarding ESL in Spain pertains to what the requirements are to get hired.

Contrary to popular belief, you don’t need any prior teaching experience or a degree in education or English to make your expat dreams come true in the Iberian Peninsula.

Let’s discuss what you do need to teach English in Spain, and how to make it happen.

If you’re pressed for time. for quick answers to the requirements issue and all your other burning inquiries regarding ESL in Spain, check out our handy RVF International frequently asked questions (FAQs) resource page.

What are the essential requirements to teach English in Spain?

Let’s get into the only three real requirements you must meet in order to work with RVF International, then we’ll delve into other popular credentials that you might want to consider investing in to make yourself even more attractive to potential employers.

#1 requirement: passport holder from a native English-speaking country

The first qualification that you’ll need is a passport from one of four countries recognized internationally as native English-speaking. These include:

  • United States
  • Canada
  • New Zealand
  • Australia

For logistical reasons, to assist in getting the proper visa in Spain, your passport should have at least six months of validity left before the expiration date. If it doesn’t, order a new passport before going abroad, as applying for one can be a hassle once you’re already abroad.

#2 requirement: bachelor’s or associate’s degree in any field

You don’t need to hold a degree in English or education to teach English in Spain but you do need a degree of some sort — either a four-year bachelor’s or a two-year associate’s if you’re Canadian or American or at least a bachelor’s degree if you’re Kiwi or Aussie.

If you’re currently pursuing a degree but haven’t earned it yet, you can still apply and get placed at a school in Spain through RVF International provided that you have your degree in hand before the annual October 1 start date.

#3 requirement: personal statement

You’re already likely familiar with the personal statement, being a college graduate or soon-to-be graduate. These are standard features of many application procedures.

Personal statements are sometimes referred to as application essays or statements of purpose. Their basic utility for potential employers is to assess the mentality and personal values of an applicant to a school, job, or program.

The personal statement is your opportunity to convey your career goals, what motivates you, what value you potentially add to the organization, and how your unique life experience in the past informs your path forward.

Get tips on how to craft the optimal personal statement to stand out from the crowd.

#4 requirement: letter of recommendation

You’ll also need a letter of recommendation from someone in your life (aside from friends and family). This could be an employer, a professor, a work colleague, a mentor, or anyone else (preferably in a position of authority to lend credibility) who is willing to sing your praises in written form.

The central purpose of the letter of recommendation is to confirm your potential value as an ESL teacher based on testimony from someone who has spent time with you and seen how you move through the world.

When selecting someone to approach about writing a letter of recommendation, consider their credibility level, their professional stature, and, of course, how high of an opinion of you they hold.

#5 requirement: clean criminal background

As with most countries abroad, getting a visa ultimately hinges on your ability to pass a background check. The Spanish authorities (specifically the Spanish Ministry of Justice) require a clean criminal background check as part of the visa application process before permitting teachers to work with children.

RVF International will hold your hand through the process. Contact our Program Specialist with any specific questions you have related to your own case for honest, judgment-free guidance.

In most instances, a felony conviction will disquality you. Misdemeanor convictions are a more gray area, and depend on individual circumstances. If you do have misdemeanors on your record, such as DUI or illegal drug possession, don’t let that automatically discourage you from pursuing a position in Spain, especially if there is no pattern of lawbreaking. Multiple convictions are a red flag.

Again, regardless of your circumstances, contact us with the details and we’ll work with you to give you the best chance of being accepted into an ESL position in Spain.

If you do have a past criminal history of any kind, earning the bonus qualifications below will help boost your attractiveness to an employer, so that they might be more willing to overlook your past mistakes.

Bonus qualification: TEFL certification

TEFL is an acronym that stands for teaching English as a Foreign Language. Although earning TEFL certification is not a requirement to participate in RVF International, and many students get placed with schools without one, it’s definitely a bonus to include on your resume.

Getting TEFL certified demonstrates two things to potential employees: you’re serious enough about becoming a professional English teacher that you’re willing to devote time and resources to your professional development and that you have at least some education specific to teaching English to foreign learners that can augment your effectiveness in the classroom.

Most certification processes involve both theoretical education about different learning styles, classroom management, cultural sensitivity, etc. combined with real-world practice.

The great news is that online TEFL programs exist out there that enable you to work through the material at your own pace on your own time, so it’s not difficult to integrate the coursework into your busy schedule.

Again, there’s no requirement that you earn a TEFL certificate to work with RVF International, but it’s a huge bonus, especially if you know you want to spend a significant amount of time in the industry, as TEFL certification is increasingly a baseline requirement for many schools worldwide.

Bonus qualification: past teaching, coaching, or mentoring experience of any kind

You don’t need to be an established English teacher to land gainful employment in Spain, but it does help enormously if you have teaching, coaching, or mentoring experience of any kind under your belt.

Nothing is too small in this regard to demonstrate your skills as a trusted authority figure guiding youth. You could have coached little league soccer or tutored students in your college on a volunteer basis; anything that involves guiding people to better their lives inside or outside of the classroom is an excellent qualification.

Plus, experience like this is marvelous material to include in your personal statement.

Bonus qualification: some level of Spanish proficiency

Spanish fluency is definitely not required to teach English in Spain, as most schools make it a point that ESL teachers deliver all instruction strictly in English to immerse their students in the language.

That said, it never hurts professionally or personally to attain some degree of Spanish proficiency before you move to Spain. Many Spanish people speak basic English (some estimates indicate that up to a quarter of Spaniards speak some level of English) but many, obviously, do not.

Again, no one is going to hold it against you if you don’t know a lick of Spanish, and understandably so if you grew up in the US, Canada, Australia, or New Zealand, but they will look fondly on any candidate who demonstrates an interest in learning the mother tongue of Spain.

Get in touch with RVF International, your local Spain experts

To learn more about the requirements to teach English as a foreign language in Spain, don’t hesitate to reach out and contact RVF International. We’re always happy to discuss all things ESL in Spain with teachers interested in breaking into the industry.

Ben Bartee is a Bangkok-based American journalist, grant writer, political essayist, researcher, travel blogger, and amateur philosopher. Contact him on Linkedin and check out his Portfolio.