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How Much Do English Teachers Make in Portugal?
Learn how much money you can make as a TEFL-certified teacher in Portugal across various job types and explore recommended start-up costs and cost of living expenses.
Written By: Lynda Galea | Updated: June 29, 2023
Written By: Lynda Galea
Updated: June 29, 2023
Its warm climate, low cost of living and crime rate, great healthcare system, and relaxed pace of life make Portugal a desirable destination amongst many. While not as large as Spain, Italy, or Germany, Portugal still offers a good job market, particularly for EU citizens.
In this article, we explore how much money you can make teaching English in Portugal and the expenses you will need to consider both in terms of start-up costs and your monthly cost of living.
Salaries for Teaching English in Portugal
There are several different teaching opportunities available for TEFL-certified teachers in Portugal. ESL (English as a second language) teachers who ultimately spend time teaching English in Portugal do so via one of the following avenues:
- Teaching English at a private language school while studying at a recognized language school or university on a student visa;
- Private tutor in-person while studying at a recognized language school or university on a student visa;
- Teach English online while studying at a recognized language school or university on a student visa;
- Teaching English at a language school with EU citizenship.
Your salary will fluctuate depending on which teaching route you choose to pursue. On average, English teachers in Portugal can expect to make anywhere between $1,300 - $1,850 USD per month from working at a language school with the option to earn additional income through private tutoring ($11-22 USD (10-20€) per hour) and teaching English online ($5-$20 USD per hour).
Let's explore each option and what you can expect to earn from them:
1. Portugal Private Language School Salaries
Securing a teaching job in Portugal requires teachers, who are already able to work there legally, to be in the country on the ground during the peak hiring seasons of September and January. It is recommended to apply and send resumes and cover letters ahead of time, and also important to visit schools directly once in-country. The greatest concentration of language schools is found in Lisbon and Oporto. Fewer opportunities may be found in Coimbra, Braga, and smaller towns like Aveiro and Póvoa do Varzim. Pay will fluctuate depending on where you are located, with teachers in larger cities like Lisbon and Oporto earning more than those teaching in smaller cities and towns. English teachers working at a private language school in Portugal can expect to make anywhere between $1,300 - $1,850 USD per month.
Visas Options for Teaching English in Portugal
Portugal represents a more challenging job market for any teacher who does not already have citizenship from a qualified European Union (EU) nation or working rights in Portugal. Schools are becoming less likely to hire teachers without work papers and are becoming less willing to help obtain them. We highly suggest not counting on getting a legal work permit to teach in Portugal if you are not an EU citizen.
Citizens from the EU with a BA degree and TEFL certification are able to work legally in Portugal without a visa. Typically, your employer will assist you with these matters.
Work Visas for Teaching English in Portugal
This type of visa is very uncommon for non-EU English teachers to receive in Portugal as you need an employer to sponsor you in order to obtain one. The majority of private language schools will not be willing to sponsor English teachers as it is quite an expensive and long process, and they have a large pool of native English-speaking EU citizens from which to choose.
Student Visas for Teaching English in Portugal
Non-EU teachers who plan to study in Portugal at a recognized language school, university, etc. may be eligible to legally work in Portugal while studying by applying for a student visa and a residence permit. A student visa will allow you to legally work in Portugal for up to 20 hours per week and work full-time during holidays or non-study periods.
A student visa can be processed at a Portuguese Embassy or consulate in your home country and must be obtained before traveling to Portugal. The visa application may take anywhere from one to three months to process, so ensure you are allowing yourself a solid window of time to get this sorted.
Additional Reading: The Requirements for Teaching English in Portugal
2. Portugal Private English Tutoring Salaries
Private tutoring ESL students is extremely common amongst English teachers in Portugal. Teachers that choose this route are often:
- Teaching English in Portugal at a private language school (with their EU citizenship) and taking on some private tutoring students to help supplement their income;
- In Portugal on a student visa meaning they are legally able to work for up to 20 hours per week while taking classes at an approved school or university;
- Teaching English online while on their student visa and seeking supplemental income by privately tutoring students in addition to their online teaching job.
Getting clients for private lessons is a marketing exercise, and all the avenues that seem appropriate to your circumstances have to be explored. Here are some ways you can market yourself:
- Post notices in schools and universities, coffee shops, supermarkets, or corner shops;
- Run an advertisement in the local paper;
- Send notices to local public schools, announcing your willingness to work with local students on their English;
- Compile a list of addresses of professionals (lawyers, architects, etc.) who may need English for their work and have the resources to pay for it and then contact them;
- Call on export businesses, distribution companies, perhaps even travel agencies;
- Get ESL business cards made before you leave your home country that has your name, email address, and phone number on them.
How much money can I make private tutoring ESL students in Portugal?
As a private ESL tutor in Portugal, you should expect to charge and make around $11-22 USD (10-20€) per hour for one-on-one lessons. If you are providing private tutoring lessons for small groups (2-3 students at a time), it's possible to increase your rates as your small group of students will be splitting the hourly cost amongst themselves.
Something to keep in mind - a student may only be after a single private tutoring lesson, or a handful, and can withdraw from their lessons with you at any time. As a result, you should be cautious when trying to budget your private tutoring income too far into the future.
3. Portugal Teaching English Online Salaries
Like private ESL tutoring, teaching English online is an extremely popular way for teachers to make money. Many ESL teachers in Portugal teach online as their sole job and income, while others do it to supplement the income they earn from teaching at a school or from private tutoring.
Teaching English online provides TEFL-certified teachers with the opportunity to make money from the comfort of their own home, with most teachers being able to make anywhere from $5-$20 USD per hour. Hours are flexible and it is up to you how much or how little you teach - you are in total control of your schedule.
A key advantage of teaching online is that you can begin teaching and making money before you move to Portugal. This is a great way to help cover the start-up costs of your move and will ensure that you have an income immediately upon your arrival to Portugal.
Additional Reading: To learn more about how much you can earn from online ESL teaching, please read How Much Money Can I Make Teaching English Online? Need help finding an online teaching platform? Check out Non-Chinese ESL Companies to Teach English Online With.
Expenses for Teaching English in Portugal
There are two categories of expenses that need to be taken into consideration for those looking to teach English in Portugal:
- Start-up costs
- Cost of living
Let's explore each of the two in more detail.
1. Start-Up Costs for Teaching English in Portugal
Start-up costs are expenses you will incur from your arrival in Portugal until you receive your first paycheck and may include things like a security deposit and first month's rent, apartment supplies, transport, groceries, getting your new local cell phone number set up, etc.
Start-up costs should be enough to cover your first month of living in Portugal and will range somewhere between $2,300 and $2,900 USD. This is the minimum amount of savings you should have on hand before leaving home and arriving in Portugal. If you have more, great, but if you have less, you may be setting yourself up for failure from the get-go which can cause unnecessary added stress during an already stressful period of adaption and change.
2. Cost of Living for Teaching English in Portugal
Cost of living refers to everyday monthly expenses you will incur during your time in Portugal. The most popular expenses that fall under this category include:
- Monthly rent expenses
- Utilities (electricity, gas, water bills, etc)
- Food and grocery expenses
- Health insurance
- Internet bill
- Cell phone bill
- Transportation (transit card, ride-sharing services, etc)
- Travel/entertainment expenses
Your cost of living expenses can vary drastically based on where in Portugal you are based. For example, those living in larger cities like Lisbon can expect to have a higher cost of living compared to those located in smaller cities or towns. As a general rule of thumb, you should budget $1,300 - $1,700 USD per month to cover your cost of living.
Portugal is very much a break-even country, meaning you can cover your rent and bills, support yourself, live comfortably, and enjoy your life abroad to the fullest, but you shouldn't expect to save money at the end of each month. If you are hustling and taking on private tutoring lessons and/or teaching English online in addition to your regular teaching schedule, you may increase your ability to save and come out on top at the end of each month.
Cost of Living Comparisons Across Cities in Portugal
To provide a clearer picture of what the monthly cost of living may look like in Portugal, here are the expense breakdowns of some of our International TEFL Academy (ITA) alumni that have lived in or are currently living and teaching English in Portugal.
Please note: These snapshots should be used as an example and not an exact representation of what your expenses will look like. Everyone lives a different lifestyle and what is a necessity to one person, may not be to another.
Braga, Portugal Cost of Living
This monthly expense breakdown comes from ITA alumnus, Keith Gissubel. Keith is on a student visa and taking classes at the local university in Braga. He also works for a language school that's based in the university. He is making 22€ (~$27 USD) per hour.
- Rent: 350€ (~$428 USD)
- Utilities: 35€ (~$42 USD)
- Cell: 25€ (~$30 USD)
- Internet and TV: 30€ ($~36 USD)
- Food shopping: 30€/week (~$ 36 USD) for a vegan... you can probably add another 10 if you're not.
Algarve, Portugal Cost of Living
This monthly expense breakdown comes from ITA alumna, Gargie Kerjiwal. Gargie teaches English online with VIPKid and Amazing Talker.
Note: Gargie was teaching with VIPKID before they had to cease their operations within the young learner market in China.
Bonus: Want to check out what a day in Gargie's life is like teaching English in Portugal? Watch her video here.
Go further: Top 5 countries to make the most money teaching English abroad
An accomplished traveler (she's visited 40 countries!), Lynda hails from Melbourne, Australia. Since she joined ITA in 2017, Lynda has become a primary expert on the field of teaching English online. Not only has she published numerous articles on the topic herself, but she has worked with International TEFL Academy alumni around the world to produce an entire library of information and content about teaching English online. Lynda also serves as a primary organizer of ITA's ground-breaking Teach Abroad Film Festival.
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