What are the options, pros, and cons of teaching English in France?

Two main pathways are available, although they lead to different types of job

Becoming an English teacher is a popular choice for many people from English-speaking countries who move abroad
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Teaching English is popular among English speakers who move to a new country, especially if they have not yet mastered the new language, or cannot continue in their old line of work.

However, it can be difficult to get a job as an English teacher in France. The market is competitive - especially if you do not have prior or high-level experience - so always check your options.

In France, there are two main pathways to becoming a teacher:

  • Privately, with a TEFL certificate 
  • Through the public education system
  • Here is how these options work, along with the pros and cons of each.

    What is it?

    The most common, and easiest, way to teach English in France is with a TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) certificate.

    These can be obtained either through in-person courses, or online, which means you can wait until you are settled in France before taking the course.

    No prior experience is required before taking a course, and many provide teaching experience as part of the package.

    The prices - and quality - of these courses can vary greatly. However, a good course will provide at least 120 hours of teaching, with around 20 hours of in-class prep.

    The courses can be expensive, and there are many ‘fake’ or dubious TEFL providers (the name is just a descriptor of this type of course, and not a specific, regulated qualification).

    What kind of job can I get with a TEFL qualification?

    With a TEFL, you may be able to find a job with private teaching institutions, or in some private schools, but not at a public school.

    Most private institutions teach adults (including online courses), which means that lessons happen all year round and jobs are usually available somewhere.

    What does TEFL pay?

    The field, however, is not particularly lucrative.

    Most positions are temporary contracts, with fairly low pay (sometimes even on an hourly or freelance basis), unless you have experience or have spent several years at the same company.

    The market also sees high turnover, as many people work as an English teacher when first moving to France, before getting a more permanent job once they have settled and improved their French.

    Who might this option be best for?

    A TEFL might be a good choice for a young person moving to France for the first time, or for someone looking for part-time work.

    However, due to the level pay and often rocky career path, it might not be suited to someone considering a change of career.

    Read more: What is a TEFL certificate, do I need this to teach in France?

    The alternative to teaching privately with a TEFL certificate is to teach through the French school system.

    What is it?

    To teach in a public school, you will need to pass a competitive exam called the Capes (Certificat d'aptitude au professorat de l'enseignement du second degré).

    This is required to teach English for ages 11-18 in a state school.

    It is a concours (competitive exam) meaning only the best students are selected (i.e only those with the highest 100 scores are picked, as opposed, for example, to everyone scoring above 80%).

    The exam itself lasts for many hours, and focuses on translation exercises as well as a comparative essay section on English-language texts (which change every year).

    Some positions may be available to teach younger years or university students without the Capes, but these jobs tend to be rare, and often require past experience teaching.

    This means you must study hard for the Capes exam – as one ex-English teacher from Ireland recently found out – and must prepare months in advance.

    In comparison, TEFL training is mostly based on in-practice classroom skills (as well as learning English grammar, something with which many English speakers struggle).

    What kind of job can I get with a Capes qualification?

    If you pass the Capes, you are guaranteed a job with a permanent contract (contrat à durée indeterminée), and are qualified to teach at a public school.

    In addition, as a teacher at a state school, you will be classed as a civil servant (fonctionnaire) in France. This makes certain administrative functions - such as getting a mortgage - easier, because fonctionnaires are seen as having extremely good job security.

    Some schools hire part-time teachers (called contractuel) when they have a temporary shortage of teachers, or as a replacement for someone on maternity leave etc.

    To get a position like this, a Capes is often not required, but prior experience teaching (or a degree in teaching or English) will probably be necessary.

    What is the pay for Capes like?

    The position offers a good level of base salary (between €1,800-€3,000 per month) which will rise with experience in the position. Teachers also have paid time off during the school holiday season.

    These contracts are not permanent, however, and usually only last for a term or single school year.

    Who might this option be best for?

    Taking the Capes and becoming a teacher in the French state education system is a good idea for those who want a career in teaching, and expect to stay in the profession in France for several years.

    Read more: What do you need to teach English in a state school in France?

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