Where teachers meet and learn

Teaching EFL in Switzerland

Qualifications

In general, quality private language schools require a TEFL/ TESOL Certificate (see below). Some method schools do not require this qualification but may require that you follow their own training course, which sometimes means unpaid teaching hours. The pay rates may be below that offered by schools requiring a TEFL qualification.

State schools require local pedagogical qualifications, (and they really mean local, it is different in every canton). However, on account of the current lack of qualified teachers in state schools there may be a few openings. It is probably worth contacting the Kantonsschule / Gymnasium or Berufsschule / Ecole Professionelle as well as the state supported schools for adult education: the Volkshochschule / Université Populaire in the area you wish to work in. 

Many state schools of further education will accept a bachelors and masters degree as equivalent to a similar level degree from a Swiss teacher training college, but you should get confirmation of this fact.  They require that you speak the local language, but not necessarily at a very high level.

Training

Most respected TEFL courses provide training in different TEFL/TESOL methodologies. They normally involve about 100+ classroom hours and have a practical training component. The certificates indicated below are recognised by most language schools in Switzerland.

Certificate in English Language Teaching to Adults

The most well-known worldwide qualification is the Certificate in English Language Teaching to Adults. It is administered by the University of Cambridge Local Examinations Syndicate in the UK. This certificate program is available through language institutes and British Council offices throughout the world. Their website provides information on the CELTA. For information about CELTA courses in Switzerland, see the most updated version of a paper written by John Potts which explains the CELTA in the Swiss context.

Trinity TESOL certificate

Like the CELTA program, Trinity courses are available around the world, and each adheres to a standard syllabus. The certificate is run by Trinity College London. For more information see their website. (Training courses are currently unavailable in Switzerland.)

International House Certificate in Teaching English as a Foreign Language

For more information on the International House Certificate in Teaching English as a Foreign Language (IHCTEFL) please see their website. (Training courses are currently unavailable in Switzerland.)

SIT Graduate Institute TESOL Certificate

SIT TESOL Certificate is mostly American-based but a few courses are located outside the USA. For more information please see their website (Training courses currently unavailable in Switzerland)

American & Canadian English in the TEFL industry in Switzerland

American English is generally absent in private or public schools. But there are some requests for one-to-ones or for TOEFL preparation courses. Berlitz is also just about everywhere in Europe. Otherwise, if you are agreeable to teaching what is in the British course book, possibly telling students it is different in American English, most schools are more interested in having a qualified and experienced native speaker than in whether they are British or American. 

Finding Work

1. The Market

The English language teaching market in Switzerland is mostly freelance, so positions become available at short notice. A number of private language schools advertise open positions on the ETAS web site, which is known as an excellent way to attract quality applicants.

Many EFL teachers work for several schools in order to have a salary on par with Swiss living standards. Full-time EFL teaching positions are rare and are most often given to teachers who have the RSA DELTA or their master’s (preferably in TESOL), depending on the type of educational institution.

In some cases schools may ask you to give a "demo" lesson or "try" you out with a " wait-and-see-attitude". They may hire CELTA or TESOL certificate holders without experience, depending on market conditions.

Zurich has the greatest number of private language schools, but Basel may offer more opportunities as the many of the pharmaceutical companies are located. Though the majority of language schools in Switzerland are teacher-owned, they remain relatively small. The turnover rate of teachers is also higher than in other branches on account of the flexible timetables and the high mobility of expats.

What qualifies as full-time teaching

Cantons and schools vary in how they define full-time work.  It seems to range from 22 - 33 teaching hours a week.  We recommend checking with the particular institution you work for, or seek to work for, to clarify how they define a 100% position.

2. Work Permits

If you are an expatriate, in order to work in EFL in Switzerland you will need a valid work permit. Not all language schools are prepared to help obtain work permits for their teachers. Before authorities give a permit, the potential employer must prove they cannot find a Swiss citizen to do the job. Barring that, they would then have to prove they cannot get an EU citizen to do the job before finally considering someone from outside the European Union.

You stand a better chance of getting a permit if you live / have a residence permit in a small town. If you are abroad, for more detailed information on residence and work permits, contact the Swiss representation (see link below). Otherwise contact the schools directly.

For more detailed information, contact your local authorities or the Federal Office for Migration (FOM, see link). The immigration authorities themselves are very competent and helpful if you telephone them for advice on employment matters.

Swiss Representation

Federal Office for Migration (FOM)

Living and Working in Switzerland

Registration procedure for short-term work in Switzerland

3. Getting A Job

ETAS Job Board

Check the ETAS Job Board for available positions, people seeking work, or to place an advertisement.

Local papers and their websites

Check the local papers and their job websites (e.g. Stellenanzeiger is a supplement in the Tuesday and Thursday German-speaking "Tages Anzeiger" in Zürich. Check out the English page on the website. Other jobsites are top jobs, stellen, and job click (German only)

Network

Attend events relating to TEFL at ETAS or given by local schools or the Cambridge Examinations Local Secretary in your area, or publishers' book launches as well as going to English bookshops on a regular basis to meet other EFL teachers. Most importantly, tell everyone who will listen, including your friends and family, that you teach EFL and have still got a few hours available. Most employers, including schools within the state system, prefer personal recommendations when hiring.

ETAS printed membership list

Schools are often contacted directly by teachers seeking work. Buy the ETAS printed membership list for CHF 10 (not to be used for commercial purposes). The list includes our School Members (= mostly language schools). NOTE: This is available ONLY for Members. Use the Contact ETAS form to request a copy of our membership list, or order and pay for it when renewing your annual membership.

Telephone Directory

Use the Swiss telephone directory search engine: Local Phone Book or Swiss Telephone Search.

Web Directory

Use the Swiss Web directory: Swiss Search, Swiss Yoodle (German only) or Google Switzerland.

4. Contracts

Because the work is generally part-time, teachers are paid on an hourly rate basis. Long-term (e.g. annual) contracts are relatively rare in private language schools. International schools are more likely to offer a more permanent contract. Schools do not necessarily want to make the effort needed to obtain work permits for their staff.

Health and Accident Insurance

1. Medical Insurance

Health care in Switzerland is obligatory and expensive, and you need to pay monthly premiums for medical insurance to a health insurance provider. You also need to be insured for treatment in case of accident.

2. Accident Insurance

If you are employed, your employer may already cover you for both work-related and non-work related accidents. If you are self-employed or only work a few hours, you may not be covered. Check with your employer and with your health insurance provider.

For people who live in Switzerland this site offers an independent comparison of premiums of various health insurance providers. You have to enter your postcode and your age since where you live in Switzerland and how old you are at the time of joining have an impact on the amount you will have to pay. You will also need to compare the degree of coverage and decide on the amount of deductible (the amount you pay for any claims before the insurance will pay).

If your questions are not answered here, send us an email.

State Pension Scheme

If you receive any payment for work, contributions to the Swiss federal social security scheme (AHV German / AVS French) – also known as the first pillar – is required by most employees. Failure to register will cause problems and you will have to pay interest on late payments. If you have been working already and have not yet registered, do so now. See this page in English for information on the Swiss state and other pensions.

Contributions to the Swiss state pension scheme are obligatory and you need to register if you receive any payment for work. Your own future old age pension also depends on contributions made throughout your working life. The first pillar provides for just the minimum state pension and is generally not sufficient for people to live on comfortably.

Legal Issues

There are many stumbling blocks for the foreign ELT-professional working in Switzerland. See the following links for information in English on some legal issues:

  • This Swiss Confederation webpage offers essential official information regarding living and working in Switzerland in English.
  • Information about the official state (Swiss) pension scheme (BVG/LPP) is available here in German and French.
  • New residents arriving in the Basel area can find some useful tips here in German or in English.
  • One teacher offers her view of settling in Switzerland.

{Revised August 2015}