Although not as much as previous years, the majority of expats living in Ukraine are teaching English in one form or another. Learning English from a native speaker is a valued commodity here. In past years Ukraine wasn’t particularly known for its strong level of English. Currently the most recent data suggests that as of 2017 Ukraine ranks around 50th on the English Proficiency Index out of 100 eligible countries. There’s been marked improvement since 2017 but it’s the most recent data available.
Back in 2012 there was a governmental push for the country to learn English ahead of the Euro 2012 games to be hosted in Kyiv later that year. This operation typified most governmental “anything” at that time. Wasted money and incompetence doomed this effort from the beginning and there was no visible increase in English adoptation among the population. Since 2014’s Revolution of Dignity that ousted the Kremlin backed Yanukovych government we’ve seen the adoption of English increasing at a rapid pace. These days English is taught in elementary and high schools, as a secondary language and of course at the University level.
But just as any non-native English speaking country, there are plenty who wish to learn the language for various reasons outside of academia. There is a market for native English speakers to teach in Ukraine, whether it’s through speaking clubs, language schools, or individual tutoring.
What to Expect
If you’re reading this now, you might be one of those interested in finding a job in Ukraine for teaching ESL or any other language for that matter. There are a few things that prospective employees should know before embarking on the job search, to steer you in the right direction.
The first and probably the most important thing to understand is the average salary. Keep in mind that although the salary may be low if compared to Western countries but COST OF LIVING IN UKRAINE IS CHEAP. The money you’ll spend on a day to day basis is far lower than other European countries. To give you a better idea, a ride on public transport is 7-8 Ukrainian Hryvnia, which is the equivalent of $0.30 USD as of 2020. This includes metro trains, city buses, and the infamous taxi bus or “marshutka” rides.
Though the cost of living is cheap in comparison to North America or EU countries, the average salary isn’t that much lower comparatively. Expect a base salary of around $900-$1100 USD per month after taxes. There are some cases in which pay level can be similar to North America, typically these are international schools or embassies that have a larger international budget. These positions typically require applicants to have some higher education such as graduate degrees.
If you’re looking to do private lessons you’ll need to understand that locals need competitive rates in order to obtain clients. For example, a standard general English lesson would cost on average $20 USD (approx. 500 GRN) and this price may be too steep for some. Look to offer group rates so your clients are able to find a friend with whom to split the cost in order to make things more affordable, or offer a discount for bulk lessons purchased.
Some language centers and schools also sponsor your Visa and Temporary Residence Permit (TRP), which are documents needs to officially live and work in Ukraine. They include the cost of this in offers, and if they don’t offer it, the whole process can cost anywhere from $400-$800 out of pocket depending on the lawyer and what kind of permits you want and where you go to get your VISA.
Taper your expectations about the salary ranges here, but $1000 USD a month in Ukraine can go a long way.
Demand for English language teachers and instructors is increasing globally, Ukraine included. Whether you work privately or through a school, native English speakers are more sought out than the local teachers, which gives foreigners a bit of an edge.
In Ukraine, they have several tests that students take while in their traditional school to gain admission to colleges and universities called the ZNO. It is an External Individual Evaluation that students take for a particular subject they would like to study in higher Education, and English language is one of those subjects. ZNO is mandatory in schools for several subjects, but English is one of the most popular ones because with this, they can be admitted to more international programs.
IELTS, TOEFL, and Cambridge Exams (FCE, CAE, CPE) are English language certificates that prove your level of English based on the CEFR (Common European Framework of Reference). These certifications are also very popular in Ukraine, as some of these can be used in lieu of ZNO exams, and double as an English language certificate for traveling or studying abroad.
Lots of parents and teenagers are looking for preparation for these examinations, but there are far and few qualified ESL teachers who can help them with these courses. Test preparation isn’t just teaching them how to speak and write in English, but also how to fully communicate at all levels and within a certain criteria.
There is also a need for both business English and general English courses in Ukraine, mostly for work or travel related English skills. These are more accessible to the average ESL Expat teacher and more common to find.
Through experience and through word-of-mouth, finding an ESL Expat English teaching job can be tedious and unexpectedly frustrating. There are a few ways you can teach: private lessons, full-time at a language center or school, or freelance/part-time, or even online via video lessons.
Language centers and schools can usually offer a full package – a steady monthly salary with a sponsor for your VISA and TRP, or at least a tax number to officially get paid. Language centers find your students for you and you don’t have to arrange the lessons yourself, but you are constrained by the times the school has lessons usually.
Teaching private lessons, freelancing, and part-time positions are a bit more tricky, as they don’t provide you a TRP or valid for a working VISA. To legally find work here and live here, you would have to do some mental gymnastics or hire a lawyer to help your cause. Also, be aware of Ukraine’s travel VISA laws and how many days yours is valid. It can cause quite a headache overstaying.
Finding a teaching job in Ukraine is a bit complicated at first, but knowing what to look for and what to expect can help you navigate these waters. Networking and using your resources can help you as well, there are plenty of expatriates with experience and references that can lead you to a job.
Talk to other English teachers and expats, they can help guide you toward your goals.