TEFL Cheat Sheet: Things to Know Before Teaching in Turkey

Attention all English teachers! If you’re interested in teaching English in Turkey, read this post. It will give you the basics of this hugely, untapped marketed!

DISCLAIMER: The information below is based on my experiences, along with the experiences of other English teachers I know in Ankara and Istanbul. Prospective teachers should use this post to understand the general situation in Turkey. It is not intended to provide up-to-date information about visa rules and regulations. All prospective English teachers should see an official contract to determine the exact expat package (i.e., salary, benefits, housing stipends, etc.) and consult official Turkish government websites (or local Turkish Embassy)  for visa requirements. DO NOT DEPEND ON EXPAT GROUPS OR BLOG POSTS REGARDING IMMIGRATION INFORMATION.

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In Turkey, there are opportunities to teach students of all ages. Turkish citizens usually learn English at school from about the age of 10. This means that elementary and high schools are always on the look out to hire native English teachers. But since the English curriculum is very grammar-based vs. a communicative language learning approach (which basically means that there is a lot of memorizing grammar instead of learning how to speak, listen, read, write and understand) there is a huge demand by adults for English lessons; both through formal schools and via private lessons.


There are many English teaching jobs available in Turkey–especially in the bigger, western cities like Istanbul, Ankara, Izmir and Antalya. Advertised teaching positions are generally sponsored by universities, language school, public and private elementary/secondary schools and by other organizations (i.e., The Turkish-American Association, Turko-British Association, etc.).

Note: Private business may also be looking for native English speakers to teach their employees, but based on my experience working at a language school, oftentimes they sign contracts with language schools who assign one of their native teachers to work with a specific company for the duration of the contract. 


One of the most important questions for any expat is salary. While money shouldn’t be the only reason you choose to teach in Turkey, rest assured that lots of money is allocated for English language learning by businesses, the government and private individuals. Below is a rough estimate of Ankara-based salaries:

Universities & Schools: 2500-5000TL + Housing + Airfare + Daily Transportation
Universities and private schools offer the best expat packages which usually include housing (or a housing stipend), daily transportation to and from work, one-way (or round-trip) airfare as well as other benefits like paying your salary in Turkish Liras and Dollars, etc. This will vary grately on the school/university and city.

Language Schools: 1500-2500TL + Housing Stipend + Airfare
Housing is generally not offered, but in my experience, language schools do offer a housing stipend of a couple of hundred Turkish Liras. You can also try to negotiate a stipend for airfare, but in my experience, language schools don’t typically pay for round-trip airfare. If you’re lucky, they will pay for a one-way ticket.

Private Lessons: 50-100TL
Since the students who can afford private lessons will come from the middle-/and upper-classes, don’t be surprised to receive more than just the agreed upon hourly fee. Of course you shouldn’t expect anything other than a hardworking, dedicated student, but if you’re lucky like I was, you’ll probably experience a bit of the infamous Turkish hospitality.


In Turkey, and probably everywhere in the world, your schedule will greatly depend on your employer. If you secure a teaching position in a traditional university or school, your hours will most likely be from 8-6pm, with the occasional night or weekend. If you work at a language school or secure private lessons, your schedule will probably include working 6 days a week, both nights and weekends–which is when the adults aren’t at work and children aren’t at school).


Although Turkish law changes on a regular basis (three times in the past year), an English teacher in Turkey can expect the following:

VISAs – You school/language school should help you apply for and secure a work visa. They should also offer to pay for at least half of the all fees–including fees for translating your documents (i.e., university diploma, transcripts, etc.) into Turkish. If it’s not explicitly mentioned in your contract, be sure to ask about it.

NOTE: Beware that the legal process for obtaining a work visa for teaching English in Turkey changes frequently so you may be asked to pay fees at various points throughout the visa application process. Ask for a receipt of all payments you make and check with other teachers who have begun the application process at the same time as you. This is important as teachers who began the process a mere 6 months earlier may have been under different rules and regulations.

Lunch – According to Turkish law, all employers must offer lunch to their employees. This means that you’ll either eat at a cafeteria in your school or, like most who work in language schools, you will receive a ticket food card which can be used like a debit card at many cafes and restaurants. The money for the ticket food card is given to you by your employer in addition to your salary.

Health Insurance – Another Turkish law requires all schools/language schools to provide health insurance to all employees. You will receive an insurance card along with a booklet which outlines the hospitals in your network as well as the procedures covered along with the costs (all in Turkish). Your colleagues will be able to give you more information about your coverage as they will be covered under the same policy.

University Degree – If you want to get hired by a university, school or language school, by law, you must have a university degree and be TEFL certified. You may be able to find under-the-table jobs at language schools; however this is illegal and will not include the other benefits listed here like health insurance, ticket restaurant food card, etc.


Depending on where you live in Turkey, the cost of living will vary. For my husband and I, our lifestyle included a lot of domestic travel and less clubbing on the weekends. But on average, this is what we spent during our year teaching in Çayyolu, an upper-middle/upper class suburb of Ankara:

– Efes Beer (at the büfe) – 5TL
– Efes beer (bar) – 9TL
– Loaf of bread – 2TL
– 6 liter water jug – 4TL
– Rent (2BR in Çayyolu,) – 1500 (utilities incl.)
– Dinner (average) – 15-20TL
– Starbucks Coffee (tall, black) – 5TL
– One-way flight between Ankara & Istanbul: 60-150TL
– One-way bus ticket between Ankara & Cappadocia: approx. 35TL

For more information about the cost of living in Turkey, click here.

Turkey has been a great place to work for the past year, and a country we’d be happy to work in again. We were very lucky with our employment situation, housing arrangements and overall experience with the Turkish culture and people.

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What other information would you share with future English teachers in Turkey?

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