Berlin is a wonderfully popular place for expats of all walks of life who are pulled in by the city’s liberal, all-accepting vibe. Unfortunately, living and trying to find work in Berlin are completely separate experiences. Gone are the days when you could find a reasonably priced apartment and a job as a language teacher on day three of your stay in the city. These days, finding a teaching job that actually pays your rent is almost a job in itself.
Despite the local expat boards being filled with discouraging stories about how difficult the life of a foreign-language (especially English) teacher is in Berlin, with a little bit of help, you will hopefully manage to find a stable position in this beloved city. In this, the first part of our two-part guide, we’ll focus on how to hit the ground running, starting from even before you arrive to Berlin.
1. Before You Arrive – Do Your Research
The fact that you are reading this post, is a good sign for this. Hopefully, you’re also doing it before you have actually actually moving to Berlin. The important lesson you’ll most probably end up learning from your research is that Berlin is a pretty complicated city for finding work as a language teacher.
Finding stable, full-time employment will be complicated and you should really only bank on that if you already have lots of experience in teaching or a specialised in teaching a particular skill that is in high demand (more on that later). Other than that, you will most probably be looking at taking several teaching positions in language schools and teaching privately on the side. The wide majority of language teachers (especially if you only teach English) in Berlin are freelancers and this is, most likely, the crowd you will also be joining.
2. Be Certified
These days, being an uncertified teacher in Berlin is just asking for trouble. Especially, if you are looking for a stable position and not simply trying to make a living with private students. With private teaching, you might (but don’t count on it) find students who do not care about your qualifications, as long as you can teach them the language. If you are trying to find a job in a language school, however, a widely recognised certificate is a must. Most professional language schools will not even consider you if you don’t have a widely recognised teaching certificate to show.
English teachers should also note that online TEFL qualifications are often not accepted by any professional agencies. At least a 120-hour practical teaching experience is really the bare minimum you need to have to be considered for most teaching jobs. So, before you arrive, be sure you have a copy of your certification at hand.
So, get your certificate before you set foot in Berlin, or sign up for a teaching course as the first thing when you get in the city and don’t bank on finding a job before you’re qualified. Note that getting qualified will take a fair amount of time, so be prepared to live off of your savings during this period.
3. Create a Target List for Job Hunting
Starting with the research you’ve hopefully done, create a short (or not so short) list of available language schools, academies, international schools, universities, corporations, and anything else you think might want to hire a language teacher. You can start by emailing them even before you arrive, although they probably won’t be very responsive.
The idea is to have your priority targets in order before you arrive in Berlin, so you don’t waste time looking for them when already here. If there are one, or a few, employers that really stand out for you, dig a little deeper on them to find info that might increase your chances of getting hired. For example, if you’re looking into working for corporations, find their company values and try to slip them into the cover letter you will send with your CV.
Hopefully, once you have done your research, are certified, and armed with your target list, arriving in Berlin and starting the actual job hunt will be a lot less stressful. How to actually start approaching potential employers and make it as a language teacher in Berlin, you can read in the second part of this post.