The following is a guest post by Moscow Nightlife Guide
A Guide to Teaching English in Russia – Overview
A lot of guys dream about traveling the world, meeting sexy girls and making some easy money on the side with teaching English. If you’re reading this, you’ve probably thought about that too.
But is it really possible to live the good life only by teaching a language?
In this guide, I’ll tell you my real-life experience how you can (sort of) “make it” as a teacher in Russia. I’ll run you through the skills and requirements you need, which job options you have and how much money you can make.
What you need to know to start teaching English in Russia
Maybe you have already done some research on what requirements you need to meet to teach English abroad. Then you have definitely come across certificates like CELTA, TESOL and probably a ton of other ones.
You have probably also noticed that it’s hard to find out what you actually learn there and whether you really need those certificates. Here’s my answer that is backed up by years of experience from myself and friends that have been teaching English in Russia:
- You don’t need a certificate to get a job.
- You don’t need a certificate to be a good teacher.
- But you will get paid higher rates if you have a certificate.
In Russia, you can get a job as an English teacher just by being a native speaker or speaking really good English. In my personal experience, students do neither check nor really care whether you have a certificate. They care more about having a competent teacher, ideally a native speaker.
Schools, on the other hand, do care about certificates but plenty of them will hire you even without one. The crux is that they’ll often offer you a worse rate if you don’t have one and an even worse rate if you’re not a native speaker. Last but not least, you don’t really need them to become “good” at teaching. If you’re not lazy, you can teach yourself everything that you’ll learn at a 1500$ course from a few good books.
By the way, if you do feel a little bit unsure and want to take a course, I recommend a physical course over an online one. You can’t beat real-life interaction, especially not when it comes to a people-based profession like teaching. No guarantees but I’ve heard the CELTA is overall pretty solid.
Ok, we’ve talked about certificates but what about having experience? After all, even newbies have to start somewhere. My advice is:
The more experience you have the better but you can make it without if you have the balls.
Experience helps you to cut down your preparation time and be more relaxed with students. The more experience you have, the better you’ll be at teaching. But you can start teaching English in Russia even if you have no experience at all. Just as with certificates, schools hire even inexperienced teachers. In this case, you’ll have to put up with a small cut in your rates. It’s ok to tweak your resume a bit and put a year or two of teaching experience on there even if that hasn’t really happened. Students rarely ask for experience but if you are a freelancer, they do check your credentials. The more you have to show for yourself the better.
Other skills you need
If you ask me whether being a teacher is difficult, I’d answer: it depends. If you have a few key skills that you need for being a good teacher, you’ll probably find it pretty easy. In my experience these skills are:
- Being a good communicator
- Being sociable
- Passion for improving others
- Talent for languages
The more of them you have, the easier you’ll find it to become a good teacher.
How to get a job teaching English in Russia
You have four different options if you want to teach English in Russia:
- Teaching at a school/kindergarten
- Teaching corporate clients
- Teaching as a freelancer/private students
- Being a governor
Let’s look at the pros and cons of each of these options:
Teaching English at a school/kindergarten
Especially in Moscow a lot of parents want their children to learn English. That means there’s a lot of demand for English teachers. Getting a job is fairly easy. You have to send in a CV, pass a little interview and you’ll quickly be offered a job. A standard salary for teaching at schools in Moscow is between 70,000 and 150,000 Rubles per month, depending on your qualifications and your workload. Sometimes they also offer visa support and help with finding an accommodation.
- You have a fixed schedule and work regular days and times.
- You don’t need to look for new students.
- It’s an easy option for beginners to break into.
- The salary is pretty poor and doesn’t give you much freedom.
- You don’t have much free time.
- You are not very flexible with your teaching and daily schedule because you have a boss.
My personal recommendation:
This is only good if you want to gain some experience and develop your skills. Teaching at schools isn’t financially worthwhile in Russia
Teaching English to corporate clients
The difference between teaching corporate clients and teaching English at a school is pretty much only the age of your students. The process is the same: send a CV, pass the interview, get the job. You can make between 70,000 and 200,000 Rubles per month in Moscow. If you’re a native speaker with excellent qualifications, there are schools in Moscow that will pay the upper end of that range.
- You still don’t need to look for new students.
- You get paid fairly well and can network with your adult students.
- Adult students are less stressful than kids for a beginner.
- You work mornings and evenings (when your students are free).
- You still don’t have much free time.
- Adult students tend to be lazy and hard to motivate.
My personal recommendation:
Long-term definitely a better option than teaching at a school, also because you will learn some transferable skills. The pay is ok but still not ballin’.
Teaching English to private students/freelancing
If you’re looking to live the good life while teaching as a side hustle, then you’re probably thinking of this. You sign up to a few sites and online language schools, send in your credentials and write a profile, and you’re good to go. The good news is that you can potentially make up to 500,000 Rubles a month teaching. For that, you’ll need a good network of students, high rates and you’ll have to work a lot. The bad news is that for the first few years, you’ll be far away from making that much and “getting out of the sandbox” will be very hard.
- You can potentially make great money and get to set your rates yourself.
- You’re your own boss and have control of your schedule.
- You don’t depend on one school but have different sources where you get students from.
- It’s very hard to get off the ground with private students only.
- You have more responsibility and work with organizing lessons.
- Your students have all the power and can come and go very fast.
My personal recommendation:
This looks very enticing at first glance and you can indeed make it work. If you have savings that can even out the inevitable dry spells then this is the way to go.
Teaching English as a governor
A governor is an English teacher and a nanny for kids from wealthy Moscow families. The richest families in Moscow want their kids to have a top-notch education and someone who pampers them 24/7 while they’re out making money. That’s where you as a governor come in. The children can be from 3 to 16 years old. Depending on their age, your tasks can range from babysitting to playing with them to doing homework with them and teaching them English. You can find these jobs online and only need to pass a few interviews and an initial trial phase with the family. The pay is very good, at least 50$/hour but can go as high as 5000GBP per month.
- The salary is great and you can live a good life with that sort of money.
- If the family and the children are nice, you can barely call it work.
- It’s much easier to get in than you might think.
- They demand total dedication and sometimes the job requires you to live with them.
- Some families and/or children can be a real pain.
- You (again) have little free time, whether you do or don’t live with them.
My personal recommendation:
You can make good money with this but only if you’re ready to sacrifice a lot of your personal time and space. It’s a good option for young guys who want to save up some money and ideally learn Russian on the side.
Final thoughts and personal experience
To answer the initial question, yes you can live the good life teaching English but you won’t have a lot of time for it! If you’re young and have specific goals besides teaching then it can be worthwhile for a few years. Have a specific goal and a timeline in mind. Don’t make the mistake I made and start aimlessly because it will take you a long time to fix your mistakes. Also don’t get into it just for meeting girls or experiencing Russia. You’re better off having a more lucrative job and taking a holiday if you want to do that.
To get even more detailed insight into teaching English in Russia, check out the in-depth version of this guide on my Moscow Nightlife Guide.