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Your Guide to ESL Teaching in Portugal

Working as an English as a Second Language (or ESL) teacher in Portugal can be an amazingly rewarding experience, giving you the chance to not only share your knowledge but to also immerse yourself in the fascinating Portuguese culture. 

As an ESL professional, you’ll earn an attractive income, but there’s a lot more to the experience than just financial recompense. You’ll be developing meaningful relationships with local people and discovering the country’s gorgeous scenery and bustling cities too.

An enthusiastic ESL teacher holding a book, representing the start of an enriching career teaching English in Portugal
Embark on a rewarding teaching adventure in Portugal with our essential ESL guide.

With the demand for ESL teachers high in Europe, there’s never been a better time to spread your wings and head to Portugal to enjoy the wonderful work/life balance that this Iberian nation can offer. So, let’s dive a little more deeply into what you might need to know about making this career move!

Why Is There A Demand For ESL Teachers In Portugal?

With its stunning beaches, warm climate, and appealing attractions, it’s not hard to see why Portugal relies on tourism for much of its income these days. As the tourism sector grows, the demand is increasing too for workers with English language skills who can meet incoming visitors’ needs. Yet schools in Portugal are still lagging behind those in other parts of Europe when it comes to teaching students foreign languages.

In fact, only around 7% of upper secondary-age Portuguese pupils study multiple foreign languages in the classroom. That means that the majority are emerging into the workforce with limited skills that are holding them back in the job market. They’re, therefore, having to look to language schools or tutors to help them develop and hone their skills, and that’s where ESL teachers are proving to be so indispensable.

Learning a language isn’t always easy at any age, but adults can find developing English skills especially complicated. That’s why it’s so crucial to find an education professional who doesn’t just have a grasp of the basics of teaching English in Portugal but who also has the right knowledge and expertise to be able to impart their knowledge to learners effectively and in an engaging way. With the right Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) qualifications, you’ll be well-equipped to deliver excellent content and help your learners achieve their goals.

Where Can I Work As An English Teacher In Portugal

There are so many amazing places to base yourself in Portugal that there’s sure to be somewhere to suit everyone. Many of the best positions can be found in the main cities, however, where there is most demand from students.


As the Portuguese capital, Lisbon will always offer a large number of ESL jobs, and often, these will come with the best rates of pay, too. There are several language schools to choose from, and as the center of the country’s business operations, you may also find corporate English teaching opportunities here too. Lisbon has earned a reputation as one of the best places to live and work in Europe thanks to its gorgeous coastal location and its wealth of attractions to discover.


The second biggest city in the country is home to about 1.7 million people, so there are lots of opportunities for English teachers. Having been awarded UNESCO World Heritage status as one of the oldest cities in Europe, Porto is also a historically interesting place to base yourself.

Southern Portugal

The Algarve and its surrounding areas are famous as tourist destinations, boasting glorious beaches, golf courses, and resorts. Here, you can enjoy a more laidback lifestyle in a pleasant Mediterranean climate, tapping into the demand for ESL professionals during the peak summer hiring season.

How Can I Become An ESL Teacher In Portugal?

To work as a teacher in Portugal you will often need a bachelor’s degree in any subject together with a TEFL qualification. You will usually also require some teaching experience too. If you’re a native English speaker, you’ll have a competitive edge, but as long as you’re proficient in the language, you could be considered too. Of course, you’ll also have to have no criminal background as well as legal work authorization in order to obtain a job.

Any non-EU citizen who wants to find a job in Portugal has to obtain the Autorizacao de Trabalho (work permit). You’ll also need a Cartao de Residencia (Residency Card) from the Immigration Office. 

What Is Teaching English In Portugal Really Like?

Your day-to-day work life will depend on where you’re teaching English. If you’re working in a school, you can expect to work Mondays to Fridays with around a 22-hour teaching commitment per week. There’ll be preparation time on top of that, too, and you may be required to assist with extracurricular activities. A single class may range between 45 and 90 minutes.

If you’re working in a language school as an ESL teacher, your schedule will be different. Most classes are on weekends and evenings. You may also be based at multiple schools, not just one, so be prepared to travel between them.

If you’re working as a private tutor, on the other hand, you’ll have a lot more freedom to set your own schedule.

What Can I Expect When Living And Working In Portugal?

While an ESL teacher’s salary in Portugal may not be enormous, with the affordable cost of living in the country, you’ll be able to enjoy a comfortable lifestyle. If you base yourself outside of the major cities, you’ll find that accommodation and food costs drop still further, enabling you to save some money for your adventures and explorations.

You’re sure to love the Portuguese way of life, with delicious and affordable meals, a thriving café culture, and, in most cases, a slower pace of living. You’ll find the locals sociable and friendly too, as they welcome you to their homeland.

While the weather is warm between March and October, don’t expect it to be hot all year round, though. Winters can be chilly in Portugal, so be prepared to pack some sweaters and jackets as well as your beachwear!

There’s never been a better time to discover life as an English teacher in Portugal, so why not live the dream?

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