Why you should teach English in Germany

For those looking for a career change or to simply experience life in Germany, teaching English may pave the path to success.

Why you should teach English in Germany
Photo: DPA

“If you like teaching, Germany is a really satisfying and dynamic environment to work in,” said Dale Coulter, Chair of The English Language Teachers' Association Berlin-Brandenburg. “You have so much control over what you teach, what hours you want to work and what materials you're developing for your learners.”

“It’s a whole different environment from teaching in a state school where you have lots of syllabi to have to deliver. There's so much more freedom and dynamism in this industry.”

Deborah Cohen an American ex-pat who has been teaching English in Berlin since 1992 and now runs her own English and German Language school in Berlin, Sprachwerk, likes the flexibility that teaching English has provided.

“I could always develop my own materials. The first 14 years I was teaching English for the Abitur and there was no set curriculum,” she told The Local.

“It's important to find your own niche in that large market of English teaching in Germany and to try to find something that suits your own personality and skills,” she added.

Big Business equals Big Opportunities

Germany offers a myriad of English teaching opportunities, from working in a major language school like Berlitz or the Wall Street Institute to teaching children part-time in Kindergartens.

Coulter said: “If you want to get into professional English training or business English training, come to Germany. The country has so many big companies like Siemens, Mercedes and BMW and they all take English training very seriously.”

Aside from major companies, Germany is home to many international companies with staff in need of training. “Many of their departments are willing to pay serious money for English training,” he added.

It Pays to be Qualified

Coulter, who also runs the HR department of an English teaching agency, recommended prospective teachers be CELTA or TESL certified before they begin the job search.

“Make sure that the qualification course you do has an observed teaching practice unit. I don't even look at applications which don’t have an initial qualification of 120 hours,” he said.

And those coming from a specialized background can use that to their advantage when seeking lucrative full-time teaching positions with large businesses.

“If you've worked in finance or marketing, for example, that increases your employability and the chances of being taken on directly by a company as an in-house English trainer,” Coulter said.

He said that as a business English trainer in Berlin, one can expect to earn between €15 and €40 for teaching a 45 minute class.

“Full-time positions are like gold dust in Germany,” said the expert, while noting that most newcomers should expect to begin teaching on a freelance basis.

“Those who do land a full-time gig as an in house trainer can expect to earn a whole lot more, perhaps between €1,500 and €4,500 per month, with the latter figure representing those who are extremely qualified,” he said.

Location, location

While Germany's capital is known for its opportunities in Kindergarten English teaching work, according to Coulter, finding well-paying jobs can be a challenge. “In Berlin, there are hundreds of potential teachers competing for the same jobs,” he said.

He advised looking to other big cities like Frankfurt or Munich, or smaller towns. “Research a small town, and if you know there's industry around there that’s brilliant because you might be one of the only trained language teachers in the area.”

By Sarah Hucal

SEE ALSO: The ten best employers in Germany

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Reader question: Is it ever legally too hot to work from home in Germany?

Germany has regulations on working during a heatwave - but does that also apply to people who work remotely? We take a look.

Reader question: Is it ever legally too hot to work from home in Germany?

The number of people working from home shot up during the Covid pandemic, and though employees no longer have the right to work remotely by law, many have chosen to stick with more flexible arrangements and set up a home office at least part of the week.

This is great news for people who enjoy a lie-in more than a long commute, but there are some downsides. One major issue is that it’s not always clear how Germany’s strict employee protection rules actually apply in a home setting. The rules for working during a heatwave are a good example of this.

How does Germany regulate working in extreme heat? 

By law in Germany, employers are responsible for creating a safe environment for their workers. This means that they should try and keep the temperature below 26C at all times and are legally obliged to take action if the temperature goes above 30C. 

That could include putting blinds on the windows to prevent the glare of the sun, installing air conditioning systems or purchasing fans. In some cases – such as outdoor manual labour – it could also involve starting and finishing earlier in the day. 

And in really high temperatures, employers may simply decide to call the whole thing off and give their employees a ‘hitzefrei’ day – basically a heat-induced day off – to go and cool down in a lake. However, business owners are generally given free rein to decide how hot is too hot in this instance (except in the case of vulnerable workers). 

READ ALSO: Hitzefrei: Is it ever legally too hot to go to work or school in Germany?

Do the heat rules apply to ‘home office?’

Unfortunately not. In most cases in Germany, the company isn’t directly involved in setting up the workspace for an employee that works from home, aside from possibly providing a laptop or phone for remote use. 

“The occupational health and safety regulations regarding room temperature do not apply in this case,” labour law expert Meike Brecklinghaus told German business publication T3N. “This is because the employer does not have direct access to the employee’s workplace and in this respect cannot take remedial action.”

That means that on hot days, it’s the employee’s own responsibility to make sure the environment is suitable for working in. 

woman works from home in Germany

A woman works in her living room at home. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Daniel Naupold

One duty employers do have, however, is to instruct their workers about the best way to set up a healthy work environment at home, for example by giving guidance on how to regulate the temperature. 

“In the end, it is the employee’s responsibility to maintain his or her workplace in a condition in which he or she can perform his or her work without the threat of health impairments,” Brecklinghaus explained.

What can home office workers do in hot weather?

There are plenty of ways to keep flats cooler in the summer months, including purchasing your own fan, keeping curtains or blinds drawn and ventilating the rooms in the evening or early morning when the weather is cooler.

However, if heat is really becoming a problem, it’s a good idea to communicate this to your employer. This is especially important if you have a health condition that makes it more dangerous to work in hot weather. 

In some cases, you might be able to negotiate for the employer to pay for the purchase of a fan or mobile air conditioner as goodwill gesture. If possible, you could also arrange to travel to the office where the temperature should be better regulated.

Another option for early birds or night owls is to arrange more flexible working hours so you can avoid sweltering at your desk in the midday sun, although this of course depends on operational factors. 

READ ASO: Jobs in Germany: Should foreign workers join a union?