Everything you need to know about teaching English in Slovakia

 

When Czechoslovakia split, on 1st January, 1993, the amicable divorce led many wondering how the fate of Slovakia would unfold as Czechia was often viewed as the more industrially stronger of the two nations. Fast-forward 26 years, and while it’s true that the Czech Republic has made significant gains economically, it should be noted that Slovakia has too. Slovakia is currently ranked as the fastest-growing developed economy in the world and now is as good a time as ever to choose this Central European nation as your next teaching English destination.

Flag of Slovakia

Where is Slovakia?

Slovakia (officially the Slovak Republic) shares its borders with five other European nations: Austria, Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Ukraine. And with Zuzana Čaputová having recently won the presidential elections – becoming the first female Slovak president – there is optimistic hope in the air that the country’s populist and nationalist politics are now well behind them and that Slovakia’s political future is bright. Slovakia is a country with breathtaking mountains and hospitable locals. Come here now before the crowds do.

To begin to understand this relatively new nation, we need to take a look back in history to see how Slovakia got to where it is today.

 Present-day Slovakia was originally settled in the 6th century by the Slavic Slovaks, who populated mainly the lowland regions of the country where the farming was more conducive to better harvests and where the climate wasn’t so dramatic as it is in the Tatra mountains in the north of the country. After a brief period of time being politically connected with the Moravian Empire, the Magyars – today known as the Hungarians – took over and regained tight control all the way up to the time of the defeat of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. 

It should also be noted here that under the Austro-Hungarian Empire, the Slovaks were considered as being lowly farmers and were not able to enjoy the same full rights which Hungarian citizens enjoyed. So essentially, Hungary had aggressively annexed the Slovak lands. After the collapse of the Austro-Hungarian Empire in 1918 – following the end of World War 1 – Slovakia formed a union with the Czech lands and the nation of Czechoslovakia was formed. After the end of World War 2, when Czechoslovakia was largely liberated by the Soviet army, Slovakia was once again joined at the hip to a centralized, Czech-dominated government. 

In 1989, after nearly 42 years of Russian Communist rule, the Velvet Revolution dissolved Czechoslovakia’s iron curtain and the country waltzed into an open market economy; embracing western politics and ideals. And on January 1st, 1993, Slovakia won independence after so many centuries and proceeded to join the EU and NATO. And (more recently) adopted the Euro as their official currency. 

Slovaks today are fiercely independent, and it is clear to understand why, and I must add kudos to them for voting to leave Czechoslovakia with their Slexit. It would have been much easier to stay connected to the Czech lands, but they placed independence above economic security and as history now shows, it has worked out in their favor.  

Teaching in Bratislava

The capital of Slovakia, Bratislava, has a perfect-love relationship with the Danube river and the city is a strong arm, stone’s throw from both the Austrian and Hungarian borders. It is a wonderful city; surrounded by vineyards, with the Bratislava Castle and its UFO Tower hogging the vista limelight. There is a lot of teaching English work in the capital and the hourly rate of around 20 Euros when teaching for a language school is pretty good, considering the low cost of living here. Bratislava is also just an hour’s drive from Vienna.

Bratislava street view

While teaching work is available year-round, the optimal times for securing teaching contracts are at the start of the new school year, in September. 

The second main hiring season is in January, when schools sign up students for Spring term studies. There is also the option of teaching at summer camps and with this option, you will often find yourself teaching children and teenagers – out in the fresh air of the countryside – and earning around 200 Euros per week, with accommodation and food provided free of charge. 

The vast majority of teachers choose the option of teaching at language schools that link you up with students, provide resources for your lessons and taking a share of your hourly rate as a kind of finder’s fee. The highest wages are definitely to be found in the capital, but the salaries don’t drop off that much when you leave Bratislava and make a smaller city your teaching base. 

Most classes available are teaching adults and a typical working day will have you teaching mornings and late afternoons/early evenings, with the opportunity of enjoying fabulous long lunches 🙂 

It is important to note here that once you have become established and have built up good contacts, you can then begin acquiring private students who are often willing to pay anywhere up to 35 Euros per teaching hour. 

One last important point not to be overlooked here is that we have received some reports of language schools in Bratislava asking teachers to sign teaching contracts which forbid teachers from taking on private students – we think the logic behind this is that the school sees any private student as being their potential client – and if you are asked to sign such a contract, we recommend you politely decline or negotiate. 

Kosice street view

Teaching in Kosice

Kosice is the second largest city and sits pretty, close to the Hungarian border. It’s also not that far from Ukraine and if you do find yourself in Kosice then we do recommend making the trip over to Lviv in Ukraine, and we will cover this city in another article when we look at Ukraine teaching tips. Kosice is a student town – similar in many ways to Brno, in the Czech Republic – and there is a healthy English teaching scene happening here. Expect to earn around 15 Euros per hour and spend approx two thirds of the costs of Bratislava. 

Similarly as you would expect in other European countries, it is always best to look for work while once on the ground in Slovakia as schools rarely recruit from abroad and you will always find the best salaries and conditions when personally visiting schools. 

One of the first things you should do when touching down in Slovakia is to buy a local SIM card, which will demonstrate to the schools you apply for work with that you are indeed here and indeed serious about committing time to teaching English in the area. You can purchase a SIM card for 10 Euros and this will give you a mobile telephone number and 10 Euros worth of sms/calling credit. 

We always recommend emailing your CV/Resume with covering letter to schools and then following up with a follow-up call or personal visit. Always dress smartly and always try to negotiate the terms of any contract which you are given to sign. Contracts are usually signed for 1 year, unless you are just teaching for a few weeks at a summer camp, but can be broken with a couple of month’s notice. 

Please be honest and straight-up when stating how long you plan to be in the country for. You might feel a grudge in knowing that your school creams the top of your salary off every month to build up their business, but you must bear in mind that the school has worked hard to get to the stage where they are able to provide lessons and many schools are actually family-run. If for example you only plan to stick around for the Autumn semester then let them know in advance so they are prepared for their teacher numbers beginning at the start of the Spring semester.

Teaching in Presov

To avoid confusion, both in this article and the article we wrote about teaching english in the Czech Republic, we have chosen to omit the diacritics which form the essential characters of the Slovak language. So while we write ‘Presov’ here, it is actually written ‘Prešov’. Presov is positioned north of Kosice, in the east of Slovakia, and basks in the shadows of the High Tatra Mountains. Presov doesn’t have a huge expat scene by any means, but there is work here and the hourly rate resembles that which you find in Kosice.

Winter view of the city of Presov in Slovakia

Becoming legal to teach English in Slovakia is pretty much the exact same procedure as becoming legal to teach English in the Czech Republic, and you may feel free to read our Czech Republic article if you require that information. 

EU citizens can teach English in Slovakia without the need to apply for a work visa but if you are coming from outside the EU, you will need to jump through a few (relatively easy) hoops in order to set up shop here as a teacher. 

When you arrive, you will be provided with a 90-day Schengen visa and this will provide you with ample time to locate work, arrange your work visa and then begin teaching. Please remember that at tefl online pro we assist all our graduates with ongoing job guidance, advice and help, so if you have decided to teach in Slovakia and need support, please reach out and contact us

It is also worth mentioning here that while it is possible to take an Onsite TEFL course in Europe before you start the hunt for work, we don’t recommend this path. You will need the full three months to arrange your work permit, and by taking an onsite course in the country you will be teaching in, you eat into the first month of your 90-day limit. Yes, we do run Online and Combined international TEFL certification courses and yes, we are biased in the online versus onsite TEFL debate, but it logically stands to reason that in the first few months of your arrival that you will need all the free time you can lay your future teaching English hands on to get all your ducks in a row. 

Zilina castle in Slovakia

Teaching in Zilina

Zilina – Slovakia’s fourth largest city – is located in the north-west of the country, close to both the Czech Republic and Poland. It is an industrial town with a surprising amount of Neoclassical architecture and although some sections of the city were desecrated by the usual examples of Brutalesque Soviet-planned building projects, the majority of the city remains sweet-candy pleasant to the eye. Many language schools have set up shop here and the salaries are only slightly lower than what you can expect to find in the capital.

All that is required to teach English in Slovakia is an internationally recognized TEFL certificate from a reputable school. A college degree is sometimes preferred, but not mandatory. 

We definitely recommend obtaining the Trade License, which will enable you to directly invoice local companies and so provide you with the ability of being able to increase your earning potential. 

We would like to conclude this article with a note about Slovak students. Slovak students are very similar to Czech students, and if you have read our Czech Republic article, you will know that this means they are obsessed with learning grammar. This means that to keep your students happy, you should designate a portion of each lesson to grammar coverage. 

We find Slovaks to be a very warm and hospitable bunch and perhaps one of the attributes which distinguishes them most from their Czech counterparts is that this is a staunchly Catholic country and takes its religion as seriously as either Austria or Poland does. Plus of course with huge parts of the country taken up by high mountains, this has inevitably woven itself into the fabric of the Slovak psyche and if we were to compare Slovaks with another peoples, it would actually be with the Austrians.

Teaching in Nitra

Slovakia’s fifth largest city rests serenely at the foot of Zobor Mountain and nestled in the valley of the Nitra river. As with the other cities on this list, there is a healthy amount of teaching work available here and salaries resemble those you can expect to earn in Zilina. Its location in western Slovakia also makes for a great location for trips to either the mountains, or across the borders into Austria or the Czech Republic and when we visited Nitra we found the city to be full of extremely warm and welcoming locals.

View of the city of Nitra in Slovakia

Read more Teaching English Abroad Country Specifics articles on the tefl online pro Blog

Where will you teach English?