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How to become an English teacher in France

How to become an English teacher in France
Teaching in a school is just one of your options. Photo: Patrick KOVARIK / AFP.
Whether you want to pick up a bit of extra income, have ambitions of pursuing a career in education, or just want an excuse to move to France, there are many different ways of becoming an English teacher.

Your options will also depend on whether you or not you have a European passport (sorry, Brits, your prospects are now more limited as a result of Brexit), and whether you already live in France.

Here are the different routes available for teaching English in France.

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Become a language assistant

Every year, France recruits 4,500 young native speakers from 60 countries to help children from primary school to high school age to improve their foreign language skills.

This includes 1,500 Americans who can apply through the Teaching Assistant Program in France (TAPIF) from October. The application process differs from country to country – people in the UK can go through British Council.

Being an assistant usually involves helping the school’s teachers to run their classes, or taking small groups off to do different activities.

READ ALSO How to move to France on an English Teaching Assistant programme

Assistants only teach up to 12 hours per week and are not responsible for grading, so it’s a good opportunity to explore France during your down time. The other side of this is that the net salary is around €785 per month, so it’s not ideal if you’re hoping to save for the future.

In order to apply, you need to be under 35, have a B1 level in French, and have completed at least three years of university education in the US, or two years if you’re applying from the UK or Canada. Most candidates join the programme just after graduating, although for those studying French at a British university, the British Council programme can be undertaken during your year abroad.

Since applicants from abroad often have to back out at the last minute, many académies (regional education authorities) will advertise for these roles, and fill them with English speakers who already live in France, so it is worth checking jobs boards over the summer.

Become a lecteur/lectrice or maître de langue

Like language assistants, lecteurs give students the chance to exchange with native speakers, and they are often recruited from abroad. The difference is lecteurs teach in higher education, and often benefit from agreements with their home university, but you can apply directly to French universities even if you already live in France. Universities will usually sponsor visas, because they are specifically looking to hire native speakers.

A maître de langue performs similar tasks, but earns slightly more money, and the positions are harder to come by. Neither position requires a teaching qualification – a maître de langue needs a full master’s degree, and lecteurs are usually expected to have completed one year of a master’s, but applicants are often accepted with only a bachelor’s degree.

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You will often be asked to lead conversation classes with students from the English department, but you may have the opportunity to give English classes to students from other departments. It’s more responsibility than being an assistant, because you are in charge of evaluating your students at the end of each semester.

You can be a lecteur or maître de langue for a maximum of two years.

Work as a vacataire

Another way to teach university classes is to become a vacataire. These are temporary teachers who are paid an hourly rate of around €40 for the classes they teach, but are not paid for preparation work.

You are only allowed to work as a vacataire if this is alongside another job (a contract for 300 teaching hours per year, or 900 hours if it’s a non-teaching job), if you are studying for a PhD, or if you are registered as a self-employed teacher, so consider this option if you want to gain teaching experience or supplement your income, but not as a career.

A slightly different option is to apply to work as a contractuel (supply teacher). You can apply directly either to the académie for secondary schools, or to a university. The length of your contract and the number of hours you are given will depend on the school’s requirements, but if your contract covers school holidays then you will be paid during your time off.

Take an exam to teach in secondary schools

If you’re sure you want to pursue a career in teaching, a potentially attractive option is to take one of the competitive civil service entrance exams. Most public school teachers in France had to take the CAPES concours, which involves written and oral tasks.

The education ministry is required to place successful candidates in one of their schools, so if you pass you are guaranteed a job in a middle school or high school, but they may decide to send you to a different part of France. The CAPES is only open to French and EU citizens.

There is another concours called the CAFEP, which people of any nationality can apply for. Passing this exam allows you to teach in private schools which are “under contract”, usually Catholic schools which agree to follow the same curriculum as public schools. Teachers with the CAFEP are employed by the state, but do not have access to all the benefits of public school teachers, such as more generous pensions.

You can also take the agrégation, which is considered the more prestigious concours. Teachers who are agrégés are given 15 class hours per week, compared to 18 hours for those who are certifiés (have the CAPES), can teach in middle school, high school, a classe préparatoire for the Grandes Ecoles, or at a university, and have the opportunity to earn more money. However, the entrance exam is very demanding and only open to candidates from an EU or European Economic Area country.

READ ALSO ‘I feel ridiculous’ – Why French people dread speaking English

Work for a language school

Another possibility is to work for a private language school. Wall Street English alone has 60 centres all across France, and there are many other language schools which offer a similar service, although many will ask for a CELTA or TEFL qualification.

This could be an attractive option if you don’t fancy having to manage a group of thirty kids, and prefer to work with adults. But make sure you do your research to know whether your chosen school will sponsor a visa, and whether the salary is really enough to live on.

Give private lessons

If you’re a student or have another job and are looking to teach English to make a bit of extra money, the easiest way is to become a private tutor. You can advertise your services directly on sites like leboncoin or superprof, by offering cours particuliers (private lessons), or by reaching out to parents in your local area.

Alternatively, you can apply to give classes through a company like Acadomia. You will have to pass an interview, and they will take a cut of what you earn, but they will put you in contact with parents and English learners, so you don’t have to worry about finding your own clients.

Jobs in France

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