Travel & Teach - Austria
At the heart of Europe, Austria is a beautiful, mountainous country waiting for you to arrive to the next step in your TEFL career.
If you are heading for Austria then you will find a well developed market economy and high standard of living is closely tied to other EU economies, especially that of Germany. Membership in the EU has drawn an influx of foreign investors attracted by Austria's access to the single European market. Although Austria has common borders with no fewer than eight other countries, 98% of the population is German-speaking.
There is a healthy demand for learning English, but you’ll find the EFL industry is strongly divided between either business English or teaching children. However, the competition for jobs is fairly hot. There is a large international community present in the country and to a great extent the demand is met by people from this already present population. There is also a network of qualified and experienced local teachers with an excellent command of English. Although learning from a native speaker is still quite highly prized, it is not as highly valued as it is elsewhere in the world. You will find that a good command of German will also aid your search for work considerably.
The standard of living is high, which is good, of course, but unless you can secure full time teaching hours, it can be difficult to keep up with the cost of living. Indeed, accommodation can amount to around a 1/3 of full time earnings in the big cities such as Vienna. You might wish to think about steering clear of the larger cities, such as Vienna, and heading for the smaller towns where competition for jobs and the cost of living is less.
For a glimpse of Austria (Vienna), Frank Skinner and Lee Mack take in Austria and start floating down the Danube towards Budapest: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eSP20gRtXNA
British Council http://www.britishcouncil.org/
British Council in Austria: http://www.britishcouncil.org/de/austria.htm
Austrian Embassy UK: http://austria.embassyhomepage.com/
Austrian Embassy USA: http://www.austria.org/
Austrian National Tourist Office: www.austria-tourism.at
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Vienna, especially, but Austria as a whole is an expensive place to live. Rent in the capital is very expensive, but there are lots of cheap and interesting ways to spend your time - concerts, operas, theatre tickets etc. can all be had for a song (!!) if you're prepared to wait in a queue for several hours. You can see the best musicians in the world in the most splendid settings for a couple of pounds.
You can also linger over a glass of wine in Heurigen (wine bars selling mainly the new wine) on the outskirts of the city and coffees in smart cafes in the centre of town and watch the world go by. There are basically only 2 seasons - an incredibly long winter, mostly grey with little actual snow in Vienna, and then a scorching summer.
Finding private students should not be a problem - look in the local papers or make yourself known to the British Council, who keep a list of teachers available. The advantage of doing private work is that you have access to some amazing houses around the city - really fascinating! Houses with private ballrooms! I also taught in a hospital, but that was unique, I guess.
You have to take the rough with the smooth when living abroad and overall it was a great experience, which I wouldn't have missed for anything. The biggest bonus is the culture - I went to more than 50 concerts, operas, plays - and you can travel around to lovely places at the weekends.
Since gaining my TESOL qualification, I have continued teaching general and business English (for large and small companies) on a freelance basis, which I have been doing for 11 years. I'm sure that my qualification that I obtained last year has helped in other language schools being interested in my work, especially in respect of working in kindergartens.
From a teaching perspective, I've found it much easier to prepare lessons since doing the course and have often referred back to the material from the TESOL course while planning my lessons. The lesson plan structure has certainly made me more efficient and I definitely think that I have become a better teacher for it and the feedback from my students has been extremely positive.
I enjoy the work a great deal, it is diverse, I travel from company to company and I am always meeting new people. I almost always plan my own course structures and work very independently, a part of the job I enjoy very much.
I'm still in Austria (I have an Austrian husband and two children here!). When I first came here over 10 years ago it wasn't that easy to find out how to get work, but nowadays it is much easier. I usually refer to the career section of www.virtualvienna.net where the majority of language schools and kindergartens post job vacancies. There is quite a big demand for TEFL teachers in Austria, mainly business English. The usual route is to get work freelancing with a language school. There is a list of some (but not every) language school in Vienna on the British Council website, which I found very useful when looking for teaching jobs: http://www.britishcouncil.org/austria-english-courses-in-austria.htm. It is rare to get a permanent contract with a language school and most companies only take freelancers. I don't have too many problems getting work, although most lessons are either early in the morning or late afternoon, which limits me slightly because of my children. There always seems to be work around (sometimes even too much). If you are willing to do summer camps with teenagers, you can work throughout the summer too.
There has recently been a growing demand for kindergarten teachers, especially in lower Austria where each child has 1 hour English per week, preferably with a native speaker - so this is a growing market which needs to be filled.
Travel and Teach
We rarely see advertisements for Austrian EFL positions in the UK or International press, as Austrian employers will normally want to see you before offering any form of contract. This obviously favours the teacher who is prepared to travel and apply for jobs on spec. Initially, for the reasons stated above, it is likely that you will have to survive on part time hours from a variety of schools. If applying to teach business English, be aware that employers generally favour commercial experience over academic credentials alone. Although you are unlikely to be teaching beginners, a knowledge of German will help your application, as will a driving licence and do make sure you highlight any business experience you have. At interview, ‘dress for business’ and ensure you have a professionally prepared and presented CV which highlights your contact with the commercial world. You might find the guide to writing your CV on our site quite helpful here.
Work teaching English to children can be found in the numerous summer camps, which have a lively ‘study-holiday’ atmosphere. In this area of Austrian EFL, experience of working with children and a lively, enthusiastic personality may be more important than degrees and certificates. If arriving on spec, try the Yellow Pages in the big cities, the British Council offices and newspapers such as ‘Austria Today’. Outside of the private sector, you may want to try teaching at one of the adult education and community colleges (Volkshochschulen), although you may need to have some teaching experience in order to do this.
Many teachers do not have a contract that guarantees a fixed number of hours per week. Instead, they freelance for a variety of schools with the teaching day fitted in around business hours. For many this means teaching mornings and evening with big gaps in between. You can expect to be paid around €18 - €25 per hour (possibly more if you are able to work with business English students). If you are one of the lucky ones able to secure a full time contract, you can earn well but you’ll find deductions for tax and social security amounting to around 40%.
In EU countries, reciprocal medical benefits exist when you are paying contributions into the native scheme. However, it may be an idea to take out private medical insurance if you will be freelancing. Keep documentation relating to all deductions. Should you need to claim social security benefit in England after working abroad, for example, all documentation will need to be presented. As with Germany, the layers of bureaucracy are numerous and you’ll need a degree of patience mixed with persistence to get it all sorted.