Teaching English in Estonia

Greetings all,

My name is Kevin, a US citizen living in Florida at the moment. Visited Estonia (Tartu and Tallinn) back in December and fell in love with the country. Ever since, I've been devising plans to relocate there for a while, hopefully whilst teaching English. I hold an MA in English (Anglo-Irish) Literature, and will be completing a CELTA certificate next month. What are my prospects like in Estonia (preferably Tartu) at the moment? And what is the best way to secure a job there?

Thanks for any help!

-Kevin P Cullen

Hi there Kevin

I am a South African living in Tallinn at the moment. I moved here with my boyfriend about 2 months ago. I previously worked in the insurance industry, but decided to become an English teacher here. I did a few TEFL courses and hoped that this would help, because I don't have any teaching experience.

I had a whole list of schools and institutions and I sent an e-mail to all attaching my resume. I received a reply from only 2 saying that they don't have vacancies at this moment. I had an interview at an English school for young learners and they were very excited to have a native English speaker applying for a position.

What I have learned through my experiences here are the following:

1. It is better to be here in person when searching for a job. I think it is easier for a US citizen to get a Shengen visa for a longer period of time than what I have, so it might be easier for you. Everybody prefers meeting a candidate in person and finding out if you have the right personality they are looking for.

2. Experience is important. You didn't mention anything about experience, and being a native speaker is one thing, but having experience is almost as important. I think I struggle to get into the teaching industry because I don't have experience.

3. The schools here start in September. Many of them are busy recruiting now. The bad things is you might only find out a month or two before the time whether you have the position or not. I am not a fan of uncertainty, so its a bit frustrating for me.

I am searching for something in and around Tallinn. I am not sure what the possibilities in Tartu are.

I hope I could help you a little. You are welcome to send me more questions if you have any.

Kind regards


Thanks for detailed response Ursula!

I should have mentioned that, yes, I do have experience teaching. I've taught high school in Florida for a total of 6 years (various subjects), 2 of which were spent teaching purely English.

I've actually begun the first part of the process you mentioned -- compiling a list of schools in the area I'd like to teach an emailing them. I've gotten two responses thus far, one informing me they have no vacancies, and one offering me the possibility of a part time position.

I might be able to make it on the ground in Tartu in June. My worry is, though, that all the gumnaasiums will be closed for the summer then. Was is your thoughts on, or experience with applying to schools during the summer months?

Also, do you know much about the rural regions of Estonia? I'm only familiar with the main urban centers -- Tartu, Tallinn, and Parnu -- and was curious about life in Estonia away from the village. I've met a recruiter recently who might be able to help place me in a school in one of these areas, and now I'm wondering if this is my best bet for breaking into the teaching scene in Estonia.

Thanks your all your help!



As you have mentioned, they have a very long summer holiday of 3 months. I am not sure if they still recruit during those months. The feeling I got was that they would prefer to recruit before the holiday starts. Many TEFL websites also warn that recruiting starts in January or February. I really hope for both our sakes that they still recruit during the summer, but somehow I doubt it. Maybe if they know you are coming in June, they might wait with the decision making process untill they meet you in person. They might also have an interview with you over skype if they can't wait for June. I think this might depend on the school, so applying now would be best, then they can tell you when and if they want to meet you in person.

We have visited and stayed in some 'rural' areas here. I personally wouldn't mind teaching there. If you have an option to start teaching there, then I would say go for it! They have very beautiful and charming little villages and towns and I can't think of a reason not to teach there.

Good luck with your searching.


Hi Ursula

You sound like you are really having a great time in Estonia , that is nice .
I am currently living in Nelspruit . My wife and I taught english in South Korea for almost 2 years . We have the experience but no TEFL certificate or teaching qualifications . What are my chances like ?
The other question is skin colour ?
I am indian and from my past experience , especially in asia , it makes a huge difference . Is it similiar over there or different ?
The last bit of info , is it advisable to first do a TEFL course and through which college ?

Sorry to be asking you so many questions .


Hi there Jerome

Although experience is important, I have found that they also want qualifications.

I'm not sure how they feel about skin colour in East Europe. I would think it doesn't matter, but I'm really not sure. If you have the qualifications and experience, I would think then your skin colour is the last thing they will care about. In the TEFT industry its also all about your personality, as I'm sure you know, so I really wouldn't worry about the fact that you are darker than the very fair Eastern Europeans.

If I were you, I would get a TEFL qualification. There are many of them available through the internet. As you already have experience, I would just do an online course. You can search on the internet for a few options and see which will be best for you and your wife. You are welcome to contact me if you are still not sure about which course to do.

I hope I could help you with your questions.

Kind regards


I happen to meet Two beautiful people from Estonia in Hyderabad, India. I understand that out of the 1.4 million population of Estonia, only a very small percentage speak English! I believe that in current times, the best way to Integrate globally on a personal front can happen by learning English. I am keen on visiting Estonia and help them in this process of Global Integration.Estonia is far more than a cheap destination for a weekend getaway. Its position on the borders of the Soviet and Nazi empires led to repeated losses of independence: creating a nation familiar with struggle, but with a strong spirit. There are ample remnants of the Soviet era to see, while the German influence is equally evident in the hearty fodder and the beautiful medieval buildings of Tallinn.

i am from shanghai. i'm in tallinn now

hmm id be really keen to work/live in tallinn for a while. i've heard good things... im only 21 and don't have much experience but i'm going to be finished my business mgt degree in australia soon and would like to travel/work in europe. how is the job market there? it sounds like it would be difficult for me to get an english teaching gig with my lack of qualifications but was wondering about my chances of a minor teaching gig like teaching little kids or a personal tutor for college students maybe. what is the visa process like there? is it an expensive country? cheers

Hi there

There are a few centres here in Estonia that teaches little kids, but they still require the teacher to have some qualification or experience. That market is also very small as I think only a small amount of people feel English from an early age is important. As for a tutor for college students, I'm not sure about that. I think its worth trying! I know English as a subject in college is of a very high standard and I've heard students complaining about it a lot! So I'm sure they will be interested in some help!

I think the visa process depends on where you are from. For me, from South Africa, its a bit inconvenient as my visa is only valid for 3 months. That means I have to go back every 3 months and apply for a new visa.

Property is relatively expensive in Estonia, but I find food in the shops to be cheap. Restaurants again are expensive and so are clothes. So if you are planning to cook for yourself, then its really cheap.

Hope that helps.

I really want to share my teaching experiences with students in any school in extonia.Can you help me get there?

Hi Kevin,
I am an American currently teaching in Turkey and I am also interested in moving to Estonia next year.  Could you let me know where you found your recruiter?


Hello Juliet,

I've been working here for over a decade and I would caution you against using any recruiter.  I have actually never heard of a recruiter working here.  It's better to do your own job search.  It's very difficult to find meaningful work in language schools but it is easier to find a position in one of the state schools.  Unfortunately, you will most likely get paid a local salary or a little more.

Hi and thanks for getting back to me!  Are you American and, if so, did you just move over and find something once there?  Also, my boyfriend and I are both TEFL certified and I have been working as an ESL teacher for 10 years, what will our prospects be like once there?  Finally, what is the visa we need to enter the country without a pre-existing work contract and do we have to do any preparations for it prior to arrival?  Finally, how do you find an apartment there?  We have two dogs we'll be bringing as well, so is it dog friendly???  Sorry about all the questions, your help is much appreciated!

Hi Juliet,
Maybe I can help a little here. I've lived in Estonia for 4 years, and have helped 1 guy find a job here as a teacher, who was American.

I see you are looking for a job as a language or ESL teacher...
To answer your questions.

About english teaching positions:
Available? Yes, where? multiple places, etc.
Theres a number of English teaching positions available in Estonia, BUT, what you get is depending on where you look, and competitively, there are some difficulties, if you look to the main hubs of estonia (namely, Tallinn, Tartu, Parnu). The majority of teaching jobs that have little competition and (well, of course a lower salary) are located in the boonies of Estonia and in rural countryside towns. The advantages to these positions is this: They are hard to fill (because of location) and because salary is not so high, but there is usually less competition for these positions and they typically come with perks like housing for the teacher - free of charge. You won't get that package in the major cities, but you will get a higher salary.

As an American citizen, you don't need a visa to enter the country. You can hop on a plane, they stamp your passport and you can stay for 90 days with no issues. During that time, you can arrange temporary housing, start your application process at politsei ja piirevalveamet (the migration office) and meet with prospective employers. In Estonia, to get a job, an employer is typically required to pay you a salary equivalent to 1174 euros a month minimum, which is on the high side. Teachers don't make this, but then again, the migration office puts no salary requirement on teachers as they are a needed public sector position. If you get a teaching position, an expedited procedure can be arranged to speed up the hiring process and receive a residence permit, which allows you to reside here for the term of your teaching contract. Your contract won't likely be pre-existing, unless you have been previously "invited" to work for a university type based position. In order to present credentials as a certified expert to the Migration office and permit yourself to a job as a teacher, I HIGHLY encourage you to bring a notarized copy of your university degrees. Not only a notarized copy, but each notarized copy should be stamped with an apostille (granted by the issuing university's state-dept of state). This certifies that these documents are legally binding and can be recognized internationally by public institutions outside of the USA. Read up Apostille and Hague Convention.

Finding an apartment is easy. Either find somebody with an extra room on this expat forum, or search city24.ee, kv.ee in order to sort out accommodation. Also, if you plan to bring some pets, the pets need to have an internationally recognized, or EU recognized Pet Passport that ensures they have been vaccinated against all the shots required by the EU for pets to be brought in. This will save you a lot of money and trouble before you even consider bringing them.

The country is pet friendly, but that's going to depend on your landlord. That's usually a matter of luck.

For more information about migration policies, go to www.politsei.ee (that is the issuing department for residency permits), you will need to apply for a residency permit for employment once you get granted a job offer.

If you need help with finding a job in teaching, maybe I can assist you some, so just send a private message


julietblazed wrote:

Hi and thanks for getting back to me!  Are you American and, if so, did you just move over and find something once there?  Also, my boyfriend and I are both TEFL certified and I have been working as an ESL teacher for 10 years, what will our prospects be like once there?  Finally, what is the visa we need to enter the country without a pre-existing work contract and do we have to do any preparations for it prior to arrival?  Finally, how do you find an apartment there?  We have two dogs we'll be bringing as well, so is it dog friendly???  Sorry about all the questions, your help is much appreciated!

Yes, I am American.  I was already living in the region when I decided to move to Estonia.  I flew in on holiday and secured a job before I moved, which made getting my work and residency permit much easier.  A note of caution: If you or your boyfriend lose your job, then whoever does loses their right to be in the country and will have to leave.  The authorities are good at enforcing this rule.  You also cannot work for a company other than the one that sponsors you to make extra money.

Finding an apartment is easy, but most landlords want 3 months up front, so come with some savings.  Whatever salaries you get quoted, count on 22% being deducted (21% flat income tax + 1% unemployment insurance).  Teachers don't get paid terribly well but if both of you get full-time work, you should be okay if you are frugal.  Food prices are quite high compared to US prices and come as a shock to most Americans (the same goes for clothing).  Rent and utilities are much less than back home.

Regarding visas and your pets, see cjacobs86's advice.

Thanks for the update!  How did you go about securing your job prior to arrival?  Did you get a 12 month contract?

julietblazed wrote:

Thanks for the update!  How did you go about securing your job prior to arrival?  Did you get a 12 month contract?

I pounded the pavement and went to places I had researched before I arrived.  Few places will bother to answer an email, especially if the potential employee is abroad.  I got a 12-month contract before I moved.  I don't think any of the language schools offer 12-month contracts but schools do.  This is very important because the schools will give you summer pay even though you do not work for 2 months (from roughly 20 June to 20 August).  You have to have a full-time position to qualify for it though.  Try hard to get one or you'll be on your own financially during the summer and make sure it is in the contract.

Okay, thanks again!  So, you went there first and found a job then moved there?  That's not really going to be an option for us, we're just going to pack up and move.  What city do you live in?  I was told to start sending my cv in the summer, around June or July, to prospective schools so that I could then contact them upon arrival, is this similiar to what you did?  Also, what age do you teach?  I've taught all ages but prefer adult or university students, are there many positions in those areas?  Happy Halloween:)

Happy Halloween to you too!  Who told you to send CVs then?  Most schools have their contracts for the next academic year wrapped up in May (early June at the latest).  Schools are also ghost towns from mid/late June to mid/late August, so there will be pretty much no one to make such decisions around.  I did my research over the winter and came in March for a week and did my thing.  I went back with a contract in hand and was able to move with confidence.  I teach mostly high school and university students with some adults thrown in the mix now and then.  These are the most desired students by teachers so the competition with be fiercer to get positions teaching them than for younger students.

I see!  so when, like what month specifically, did you start sending out cvs and did you then have interviews with these schools when you flew over?  That's something I could possibly do ahead of time, fly there and meet with some schools, but, if we were to just come over in Sept. and send out a bunch of cvs prior to that, would we be able to find work, or is that too late?  I guess I could teach kids for a year til I could find something better, and my boyfriend teaches kindie, so it's no problem for him.  Our contracts here in Turkey don't finish til Aug. 30, so we have to wait to leave til early Sept.

You're going to find it difficult to find work in schools if you are tied to that time frame.  School begins on 1 September and teachers are usually required to actually start one or two weeks earlier for meetings, training seminars, planning, etc.  If you only start your job search around then, you almost certainly won't find much except a few hours here and a few hours there (unless a teacher suddenly gets seriously ill or something like that).  Maybe you try the larger language schools that hire native speakers.  They might be on a different schedule, though I believe they too try to have their new hires wrapped up early in the summer.  At least they expect people to apply by email from abroad, so they won't just delete unsolicited CVs out of hand.

I had a list of schools I wanted to apply to worked out before I came and then I made phone calls when I was already here so I was instantly available in case someone wanted me to come in for an interview.  I had copies of my CV with me to take to the interviews and sent them by email only if I was requested to do so.  The locals are known for not responding to unsolicited emails.  I also walked into a few places I discovered while I was here and introduced myself.

Okay, thanks again for the advice.  I think we're going to look into Italy now instead.  Does anyone on here have experience with moving there?  We have some friends there who are checking out some things for us, but any advice would be much appreciated:)

Hi there!

I'm wanting to move Estonia to teach English. I have no teaching certs, but do have a BFA in Visual Communication. I'm American so if I were to hop on a plane and go to Estonia with my degree and determination what are the chances of landing a job teaching? Can you give me your best guess? I'd be fine looking in the rural, less competitive areas too fyi.

Thanks a ton for your info!

Hello Renee,

I'll be honest.  Your chances are close to zero.  Without qualifications and/or experience, you will have a very hard time finding a place that will employ you to teach.  Even if you do, it will almost certainly be very part-time work, not nearly enough to live on.  Furthermore, if you can't teach effectively, you will be fired pretty quickly.

As an American, you have to right to come here visa free and stay for up to 90 days, but you DO NOT have the right to work.  You will have to apply for permission for that and get a company to 'sponsor' you.  If you leave a job or get fired in such a situation, you lose the right to stay and have to leave.  I wouldn't recommend trying to work on the sly.  If you get caught, and the authorities are pretty good at that sort of thing, you will get fined, deported and likely receive a 5-year ban from the entire EU.  It's not worth it.

What you should do is get certified to teach TEFL (look it up online) and apply to the language schools that hire foreigners (International Language Services (ILS), International House (IH), and InDownTown).  It's the safest route from the legal and economic points of view.


Got it. Thanks for being candid. I will work on all of this. :)

I have an EU passport and a Masters degree in Journalism, some teaching experience at the college level and will have a TESOL certificate this summer. What are my chances of getting a gig in Tallinn? Any suggestions on where to apply? Thanks for your help. Douglas

Thank you Arsula for your kind informtion. I'm Faida an Egyptian teacher of English with 5 yeas experience. Also I'm certified translator.
I would like to relocate in Estonia with my family "my husband and  two young kids".
Currently I'm residing in Turkey and work in an International School; but unfortunately things are not easy here. My kids can't interact with people because of language. Also the income is much less than your expenses.
I wish I can fix things by coming to Estoniaand start new life for me and my kids.
Happy to write your comments.
Best greetings from Turkey.

Desiring to become an English teacher, you've got quite a lot grammar mistakes in your post. No offense...

Moreover, if yout children cannot interact with anyone in Turkey because of the language, why do you think they could interact any better in Estonia (which is a lot more difficult language)? Again, no offense...

Ps. Estonia is a wonderful country, but it might be rather hard to settle in since the government doesn't offer any subsidies to the immigrants like in some other European countries, such as Germany.


I'm sorry for writing to you.
    No offense.
Look at your writing mistakes first then comment on others' writing mistakes.
Again no offense.

As this is an expat forum full of people who are non-native speakers of English we ignore poor grammar - what would be the point in upsetting someone for no reason?
However, if someone wants to become an English teacher, the story is a little different as you could end up damaging your students' English skills.
My little boy's teacher is rubbish and he's picking up her bloody terrible pronunciation and grammar.

I won't bother commenting on the grammar in any given post (I make mistakes as well), but I would encourage potential teachers to consider their own skills and decide if they are going to be good teachers.