Russia is the largest country in the world and is split between the continents of Europe and Asia with the majority of the countries population on the European side. The demand for native English speakers to teach students is high as the country seeks to remain competitive as a major world power.
Overview of Russia
Major Cities: Moscow, Saint Petersburg, Nizhny Novgorod
Capital City: Moscow
Primary Language(s): Russian
Official Currency: Russian Ruble (RUB)
Primary Religion: Russian Orthodox
Working in Russia
There are opportunities for ESL teachers to work at public schools, international schools, private language schools, and universities. However, the vast majority of ESL teachers will be working for a private language school. Many universities in Russia hire exchange students who are native English speakers for part-time work which is usually low paid in comparison to other major ESL markets. There are also opportunities for teachers to work with corporations teaching business English, however, as mentioned the vast majority of teachers will find themselves working at private language schools so this is what we will list.
Private Language Schools
Most English teachers in Russia are employed at private language schools. These schools serve the same function as in other countries of providing students with extra learning opportunities outside of their normal schooling. Private language schools are very popular with first-time teachers in Russia as the number of available jobs coupled with the ease of being hired makes the barrier of entry lower than working at an international school or in a corporate position. Teachers will typically work with students from the kindergarten level all the way to high school and sometimes adults and will usually be working in the evenings and all day on the weekends. Some schools may offer benefits that can help teachers save money such as accommodation.
- Russia is one of a number of countries in the world that it is possible to teach English without a university degree. Teachers will be required in most schools to have a minimum of a 120-hour TEFL certification (blended learning or on-site). Higher end schools will require teachers to have a university degree ( in any field) and a TEFL certification. Teachers with prior experience and full qualifications (degree and TEFL certificate) can command higher salaries than less qualified or less experienced teachers.
- Teachers working for a private language school in Russia can expect to work around 30 hours per week and may work with different levels of students from day-to-day. The average contract for a teacher at a private school in Russia is between 9 and 12 months.
- The average salary for a teacher working at a private language school in Russia is between 63,000 RUB and 76,000+ RUB. It is common for schools to have a trial period for teachers of up to three months, though usually for a month. During this time the pay may be less than the stated pay. This trial period is backed by Russian law and is a common practice to be aware of before you sign any contracts of what will be expected of you. Some schools offer benefits to teachers such as airfare reimbursement, accommodations (many are shared), and insurance. This is dependent on the school and should be in writing before the contract is signed. In past decades, there were problems with private language schools in Russia working teachers long hours and not paying them until the teacher finally left and a new teacher was hired. This practice has largely gone to the wayside as private language schools have become more reputable and enforcement of labor laws has progressed. However, teachers should do their due diligence in checking out a schools reputation before accepting a job.
Increasing Your Chances of Securing a Job
Some of the higher paying schools in Russia are going to be looking for teachers that have past experience at the level they are applying to teach. While this isn’t true for most schools, especially when it comes to private language schools, it is going to hold true for the highest paying jobs in the country. Aside from past experience having a teaching certificate is going to go a long way in helping you to secure a more desirable position. One of the best things you can do to ensure you have an edge over the competition is to become TEFL certified. The higher paying schools will be looking for you to have at the very least a 120-hour blended learning TEFL certification from a reputable institution. Some schools will require a certification but the ones that don’t will certainly look more favorably on you if you do have one. Lastly, you want to make sure that you have everything in order in terms of reference letters, crafting a solid resume, and proper presentation. Remember that appearance is extremely important for any job interview so appearing at your interview wearing a t-shirt and jeans, whether it is in person or through video conference, will almost certainly guarantee you will not have a successful outcome. If you make sure all of these things are in order then you will most certainly have a leg up over the competition assuming they have not made the same preparations.
The complete process for acquiring the proper work visa can take anywhere between 2 to 6 weeks. You will first have to secure employment at a company which will then request a letter of invitation from the proper governing body in Moscow that will include all relevant job details. For this reason, it is advised that you secure a job before entering the country. Passing an HIV test is mandatory for all teachers and is one condition of being granted a visa. You will have to have an HIV test conducted within three months of the date of your application and at your own expense. Upon completing the application for the visa, you will take the results of your HIV test along with the completed application and the letter of recommendation to the nearest embassy or consulate to you. You will need a passport with at least 6-months validity and two pages of free space left as well as three passport-sized photos and a stamped and self-addressed envelope for the return of your visa. All visa applications are to be made in person.
Standard of Living
The standard of living in Russia is lower when compared to other hotspots for ESL teachers such as China, Japan, Korea, or the United Arab Emirates. Due to the cost of living when compared to the average salary a teacher can expect to make, most English teachers in Russia can expect to break even with very little to no savings at the end of their contract. This is not to say that all teachers will have this experience, simply that this will be the norm. Russia is a good place for first-time teachers to get the experience they need to work in higher end markets. While living standards have improved greatly in the past few decades, the high cost of living can be a major factor in bringing down the overall standard of living.
ESL Teacher Salaries
Major Cities 50,000 to 76,000+ $800 - $1,200+
Cost of Living (1 Person)*
Major Cities 88,000 to 113,000 $1,400 to $1,800
*These costs are based on a moderate standard of living and include the cost of a furnished 1 bedroom apartment. Due to the high cost of rent in cities like Moscow and Saint Petersburg, most teachers will find themselves unable to afford such accommodations. Most English teachers in Russia live in shared apartments and rent out a single room which is significantly cheaper and will bring the cost of living in line with typical salary expectations.
Living in Russia
Things to Do
As the largest country in the world teachers should rarely find themselves with nothing to do. Whether in the major cities or in the vast natural landscapes teachers should be able to enjoy the rich history and the scenery during their free times. It should be noted that the summer months are short and the winters can be especially brutal so this should be considered before making the decision to teach English in Russia.
Located just north of the Mongolian border in the vast expanse of Eastern Siberia, Lake Baikal is considered to be the deepest lake in the world as well as the oldest lake in the world. Lake Baikal is thought to be over 25 million years old, formed during the Paleogene Period from the Baikal Rift Zone, and holds almost 25% of all surface fresh water on the earth. The lake can be visited year round and is clearest in the winter months with visibility between 30 and 40 meters and warmest in the summer months with temperatures reaching 50 to 60 degrees Fahrenheit.
The Winter Palace, in Saint Petersburg, was the home of the various Russian monarchs between the mid-17oo’s and the early 1900’s. The palace contains around 1,5oo rooms and is currently part of a larger complex of buildings which form the Hermitage Museum, the second largest museum in the world. Expat English teachers in Russia who wish to visit the palace can do so from Tuesday through Sunday between the hours of 10:30 am and 6:30 pm. The cost to visit the palace and other areas of the museum is 700 RUB (around 11 USD).
The Amber Room was one of the wonders of the world during the 18th century. The current Amber Room is located in the Catherine Palace in Saint Petersburg and is a reconstruction of the original. The room is decorated with panels made from amber and gold leaf backing. The original Amber Room was constructed in Germany in the Berlin Palace but was given as a gift to Tsar Peter the Great in 1716. The room was relocated to Russia where it was reworked. The final room containing over 6 tonnes of amber. During World War II the room was ransacked and stolen by the Army Group North of Nazi Germany and later disappeared completely where it has been unfound to this day. The current reconstruction can be seen at the Catherine Palace between the hours of 10 am and 6 pm daily, except Monday.
Red Square is a public square in Moscow surrounded by numerous historical buildings, a massive shopping complex, and the official residence of the president of Russia. The square is considered to be the center of Moscow and is one of the most iconic destinations in all of Russia. Tourists to the red square can see the state museum, the Kremlin, the GUM store which is a high-end shopping area, the Lenin Mausoleum, and Saint Basil’s Cathedral. The square is a great place to see historical architecture as well as a popular location for events in Moscow such as concerts and parades. Red Square was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1990.
Ostankino TV Tower
For expats who teach English in Russia and want a good view of Moscow for their Instagram page, there is no better place to get a panorama of the city than the Ostankino TV Tower. The tower is the tallest building in Moscow as well as in Europe, at a height of over 500 meters tall. The Ostankino Tower was the tallest freestanding building in the world until the construction of the CN Tower in Canada and remained the second tallest building in the world until the completion of the Burj Khalifa in Dubai in the United Arab Emirates. Visitors can get unparalleled views of Moscow from the observation deck located over 1,000 feet (300 meters) above the city.