Turkey is one of the most unique and fascinating countries on earth. Its largest city, Istanbul, has been one of the great metropolises of the world for millennia and is the only major city in the world to span two continents. Living in Istanbul is living with one foot in Europe and one in Asia, enjoying the best of what both cultures have to offer, in a breathtaking whirlwind of a city.
But of course, it’s not all Istanbul. There’s youthful and forward-facing Ankara, ancient and dignified Izmir, and seaside paradise Antalya. These cities are all markedly different, but they do share something in common: millions of Turkish children, men, and women who are looking to expand their prospects through education.
English is still a highly sought-after skill, meaning there’s plenty of room for teachers in Turkey to come share their knowledge while expanding their horizons.
Most foreign teachers in Turkey teach English since it is difficult to get a job teaching any other subject without fluent Turkish. Demand for English teachers is always increasing as Turkey’s tourist industry booms and young Turks look towards the rest of the world for their career prospects.
This is the most popular and reliable type of work available for English teachers in Turkey. These jobs usually involve teaching adults who are looking to expand their skillset. Bigger, well-established language academies like Berlitz, English Time, and Wall Street English should be your first port of call, but smaller local schools will also have opportunities going.
Teaching at a university is one of the best options. Your job is likely to be salaried rather than hourly and you will probably get more holiday pay, as well as a vibrant and diverse workplace. This can be a difficult world to break into, as university jobs do tend to go to existing staff and alumni, but it’s not unheard of for foreign teachers to get cushy university positions.
Teaching English in a private school is a well-paid and stable job, which also means that it is extremely competitive. It’s definitely worth applying to positions like these if you have a lot of classroom experience in schools, but novice teachers fresh off a TEFL course will have a harder time. That said, it doesn’t hurt to try.
There are plenty of teaching jobs in Turkey. Your main challenge will be identifying a reliable and trustworthy employer that will pay you enough, give you good hours, and support you through the transition. Looking up reviews of institutions online is a good way to sift through the bad job postings.
When to Apply for Jobs in Turkey
For university and school jobs, you should start looking in the summer for the following academic year. However, positions do become available year-long, especially near the beginning of the second term in February.
There is a less of a restriction for language academy jobs since classes run all year long. Start applying a couple of months before you intend to move, but it’s best to remain flexible in case they need you before that.
How to Apply for Jobs in Turkey
The best way to apply for teaching jobs in Turkey is to do it face-to-face. Employers like talking to candidates in person, and a teaching job can usually be secured in a couple of weeks. Bring hard copies of your CV, cover letter, and any teaching qualifications.
Of course, not everyone is able to travel to a country without a guaranteed position and then start looking for work. Online job postings can help you locate opportunities, but you should also get in touch directly with language schools and universities in your chosen city. They will be able to tell you if they are hiring and, if not, when they are likely to be hiring again.
Average Salary of Teaching Jobs in Turkey
Teaching jobs in Turkey pay fairly well but don’t expect to be living like royalty. Teachers can expect to earn between $800 and $1000 a month, enough to live on comfortably and perhaps save up some money for travel.
For most English teaching jobs, you will need a TEFL or TESOL qualification. While it is not impossible to find work with an online course, this is likely to be lower-paid and from a less reputable employer. Investing in a full 120 to 150-hour classroom course is a better idea.
Culturally speaking, Turkey offers a great compromise between Eastern excitement and Western familiarity. There is also a tight-knit population of expats in the country’s major cities, which can help you feel at home and navigate Turkey’s more baffling idiosyncrasies.
Popular Destinations to Teach in Turkey
The most popular destination for teaching in Turkey is Istanbul, as this is where the bulk of English teaching jobs are available. It is also the most comfortable place for a Western expat since it famously represents the meeting point between Turkey’s European and Middle Eastern influences. You get all the wonderful benefits of immersing yourself in an entirely new culture, with the reassurance and familiarity of being in a Western city.
However, there are teaching jobs available in other cities in Turkey, including Ankara, Izmir, and Adana. These are harder to find but may be more rewarding for someone looking for a complete change of pace and scenery. Coastal cities are particularly popular since they tend to be more laid-back and relaxed than the big city.
Visas & Sponsorship
In order to live and work in Turkey, you will need both a resident’s visa and a work visa. If you’re lucky, your employer will take care of the admin and cost of both, but that is not always the case. Make sure you check what they are offering to cover before starting the process yourself.
If you do end up having to pay for your own visas, they can be a bit expensive, but are not necessarily prohibitive -- about $60 a year for the resident’s permit and about $130 a year for the work visa.
Teacher Work Etiquette in Turkey
Teaching in Turkey often involves unreliable hours. Language schools can choose to give you fewer hours during your first few months, or they can decide to give you classes spread across every day of the week. It can be difficult to plan your time around these shifts, but you should seek to remain flexible if you want to continue receiving work. University and school jobs are more likely to be salaried and regular.
You should also bear in mind that you are likely to have significantly less work during the summer and especially during the month of Ramadan.
Classroom Etiquette in Turkey
When working with adults, classroom settings are usually friendly and relaxed. Turkish timekeeping can be a bit lax, so prepare for late arrivals.
Many of your students will hold more conservative values than you are used to, even in Istanbul. For this reason, it is not advised to bring up religion or other potentially controversial subjects. Female teachers may have a hard time being respected by older men, but if this becomes an issue you should bring it up with your employer.
Health & Safety
Make sure you have travel insurance before coming to Turkey, as private healthcare can be expensive. You may be required to pay in cash, so check with your insurance provider what their procedures are in this situation.
Avoid drinking tap water during your time in Turkey. Since you are going to be staying a while, a water filter is a wise investment -- buying bottled water all the time is expensive, impractical, and not very eco-friendly.
A few high-profile bombings and attacks, as well as ongoing conflict on the border with Syria, have made some travelers nervous about visiting Turkey. However, the country is generally safe and most foreigners don't experience any issues with crime. However, protests and marches are best avoided as they often lead to police confrontation.
It is worth noting that while the Western side of Turkey, including Istanbul, is relatively progressive in its attitude towards women, the country as a whole remains generally conservative. Women should dress accordingly, with covered shoulders and legs, if they want to avoid unwanted attention and stares.