Teaching English in Turkey

Country Guides

Istanbul Kitty

photo credit: laszlo-photo via cc

Although jobs in State schools in Turkey are possible, most are in the thriving private schools which also usually pay better. With demand outstripping supply, jobs are fairly easy to come by and the private lesson market is booming (although some schools don’t allow this in the contract).

To help cover this growing demand, in 2011 it was announced that Turkey would recruit some 40,000 native English teachers over the next four years to work in state schools alongside Turkish teachers.

Working in Turkey is not going to make you rich, but it’s enough to live on reasonably well with the cost of living being a lot less than the United Kingdom or the USA, especially if you smoke and drink.


The usual basic qualifications are a degree and a TEFL Certificate which are enough to find work in most private language schools in the country.

Many teachers work on a tourist visa, which theoretically means you can only stay for up to 3 months without working. What often happens is that the teacher is required to make a trip outside the country (to Greece for example, next door) every three months so that their passport looks up to date.

However Turkey has changed its immigration law in early 2012 so that it will no longer be possible to stay in the country two consecutive 90 day periods without getting a residence visa. Employers will be able to sponsor teachers once they arrive in the country.

Note also that Turkey is part-way through the process to join the European Union‏‎. This means that when the process is complete it will be difficult for non-EU citizens to go through the bureaucratic visa process.

Although native speakers are preferred, non-native speakers can also find work here if they are well qualified.


IELTS preparation is very popular in big cities like Istanbul. For this if you have a Master’s in any branch of linguistics, you’re likely to get the job over someone with a Celta + Bachelor’s, provided neither candidate has IELTS training. Often, though, if you’ve trained for IELTS you will get the job despite the qualifications of the other candidates.

Pay & Conditions

Many schools will provide basic furnished accommodation, sometimes shared. They should also provide basic health cover but a private insurance‏‎ is also recommended.

Salaries vary but depending on qualifications and experience can be around 2,700 TL which is about <?php $base_curr = USD; $base_amount = 1500; include ‘arathra/currconvert.php’; ?> per month. Sometimes round trip flights are included or partly subsidised.

Cultural Issues

One common concern amongst Turkish people is that foreigners rarely show any knowledge of Turkish culture and history and are surprised when stereotypes are not met, for example that the women don’t all wear headscarves.

A few tips for foreigners are, aside from learning something about the country before going there:

  • don’t chew gum in public
  • don’t talk loudly in public
  • getting drunk is frowned upon
  • shake hands when you meet (men, women and children); it’s not common to shake hands when leaving (only good friends will kiss)
  • when you enter a room, if you are not met by anyone you should greet the oldest or most senior person first
  • courtesy is crucial
  • never point the sole of your shoe or foot towards anyone
  • eye contact is less obvious and muted
  • do not stand and talk to someone with your hands on your hips or in your pockets
  • the Western OK sign is offensive and rude
  • be punctual; eight o’clock means eight o’clock
  • be prepared to eat a lot if invited for dinner; clean your plate and leave the knife and fork beside it when finished
  • if you invite someone to eat then you will be expected to pay the bill and vice versa
  • take a small gift if you’re invited to someone’s home (flowers, chocolates or a bottle if your host drinks – check this as much of the country is Muslim and many do not drink) and, while on the theme, gifts are not usually opened in front of the giver

And of course, learning a few words of Turkish goes a long way to make friends and learn what the country is all about!

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