Every year dozens of new people arrive in Budapest hoping to teach English to locals and other foreigners in the city. Whether it’s a long planned decision or a way to extend a backpacking trip, many think it’s a glamorous job, which pays well and offers flexible hours. It seems the perfect option for someone trying to avoid the office 9 to 5 or for getting some paid work while still having time for touristy activities.
But is it really that great? The answer is maybe. Yes English teachers can earn more than many locals and, yes, Budapest is an affordable city with lots to enjoy, but there are some downsides to teaching and some challenges to overcome before you get started. If you’d like to teach English in Budapest it’s important to plan ahead, so we’ve prepared some tips to help.
Being a native English speaker is not considered a qualification. It’s certainly an advantage, but you’ll need a certificate like a TEFL or CELTA. These are the most popular, with CELTA being slightly better regarded by some language schools. With teacher training schools in most cities around the world, you have the option of qualifying before you leave home. If you would fancy getting your training in Budapest (it’s sometimes cheaper) Go Overseas has listings and reviews for popular TEFL courses in Budapest. We recommend choosing the 120 hour course. International House offer CELTA courses.
Can non-natives speakers find work as well? Yes, if you’re qualified and fluent, but you might find it harder to get teaching work at some schools. Marek Kiczkowiak from TEFL Equity Advocates says: “focus on your experience, proficiency and qualifications. Know your strengths and show why you’d be a great addition to the team. Be aware of your weaknesses and let the employer know how you have, and are planning, to develop as a teacher.”
Immigration status is something else you need to consider if you’re hoping to work in Hungary. You can read more about the process here.
The most obvious source of work is language schools. There are lots of them in Budapest and, thanks to high turnover, many are always looking for new teachers. Send your CV along as soon as you can and expect a few weeks of email chasing and phone calls before securing an interview and, if you’re lucky, an invitation to teach a sample lesson. Impress them and you’ll probably find yourself with an offer to teach a few classes.
The other option is teaching private students. But where can you find them? Stick flyers in the various universities and cafes in town and post classifieds on websites like Expat Blog, XpatLoop or Facebook groups for expats like this or this. The other option is to work with a company like Learn English Budapest who will find private students for you.
One teacher from New Zealand, Matt Fejos, who has been in Budapest for more than six months now says finding work at the start wasn’t easy. “I had to get out there and network, build relationships and prove myself. Through working for many language schools and privates I have built a good group of students, who I really enjoy teaching,” he says.
Salary and lifestyle
Teachers report earning anywhere between 2,750 – 4,000 forints per hour working for language schools, while teaching privately can bring you between 3,000 – 4,500 forints per hour. If you’re employed by a school some of this will be lost to tax. Teaching privately you’ll need to complete the tax and admin side of things yourself. You’ll need to look into setting up a Kft. or Bt. company or registering for the KATA self employed scheme in Hungary. Both will take time and incur costs.
While you might only need to teach between 15 – 25 hours per week to survive, remember the non-paid hours spent planning lessons and doing admin. Travel time and other costs (books, printing etc) also need to be factored in. You might find yourself rushing from one side of town to the other several times a day. Teaching can become a full time job with part time pay.
Finally expect the unexpected. Schools might give you four classes one term and then none the next, while private students can cancel or quit with little or no notice. September and January are busy, you’ll fill your schedule quickly, but come summer things can go quiet and unless you have saved some money or planned some summer work, you might find yourself struggling.
Work hard, be smart
But don’t let the challenges put you off! Teaching can be rewarding work and it’s definitely a great way to experience Budapest for a year or two. Just be smart, plan ahead and keep your expectations in check. Work on your professional development and learn new teaching methods. Dedicate a few hours per week to making contacts and finding new work. Attend meet-ups and network with other teachers. If you do all of this, chances are you can succeed and have a great experience as an English teacher in Budapest.