With beautiful scenery, a rich history and a welcoming population, you could well be tempted to head to the Emerald Isle, says Alannah Kenny, of Marketing English in Ireland
Ireland is a dynamic, lively, modern country with a young population and a successful, tech-oriented economy, but also remains a country steeped in culture and tradition, where music, conversation and making friends matters. It is small island nation, but also a dynamic and open society.
In pre-Covid years, more than 100,000 students from over 120 countries travelled to Ireland to learn English annually. The English language education sector in Ireland has been thriving for 50 years and Ireland has approved courses and programmes to cater for all types of learners and levels.
Ireland’s student demographic is approximately 54% junior students under the age of 18 and 46% adult students. Junior students are predominately from Europe, with Italy and Spain being the two largest markets. The adult market is more divided between EU and non-EU students. Most adult students on short courses are European. The most prominent markets for long-term general English programmes are in Latin America, notably Brazil and Mexico, but long-term adult students also travel from Japan, Korea and Turkey, among other locations.
Teaching in Ireland provides an invaluable opportunity for international teachers seeking a sense of adventure, culture and heritage. Language teachers will also gain unique working experience in high-quality language school environments.
Chris Gooch, a teacher at Marketing English in Ireland (MEI) member language school ACET, in the heart of Cork City, started his language teaching career in 2014 in Costa Rica, but is now settled in Ireland. “I have been an English teacher since 2014,” he says. “I started my journey in Costa Rica and have lived in South Korea, Czech Republic, Spain and Italy before I arrived in sunny Ireland in 2021. I love teaching phrasal verbs in class and my hobbies include travelling, walking in the countryside, watching overrated TV series and going to the pub.”
MEI is the leading and longest-serving association of English language schools in Ireland. The association partners with many ELT groups and organisations around the world to promote excellence in English language teaching in the country. There are 68 English language providers across the Republic of Ireland that are members of MEI.
MEI member English language schools can be found in the bustling towns and cities, scenic coastal towns and stunning countryside, and are recognised around the world as offering world-class facilities and the highest standards of education. MEI member schools are categorised in three distinct regions known as the Wild Atlantic Way, Ireland’s Ancient East and Heartlands, and Ireland’s capital, Dublin.
The Wild Atlantic Way
There are 21 MEI school members located along the 2,500km driving route (one of the longest coastal routes in the world) which passes through nine counties and three provinces, stretching from County Donegal’s Inishowen Peninsula in Ulster to Kinsale, County Cork, in Munster, on the Celtic Sea coast.
Ireland is renowned for its beautiful, unspoiled countryside and scenery. The rugged landscapes and outdoor tourist attractions of the Wild Atlantic Way are perfect for scenic excursions. Some of the most popular sites include the Cliffs of Moher in the mid-west, the Connemara National Park and the Ring of Kerry, among many more. Ireland’s oldest indigenous language is Gaeilge (Irish) and can be heard in conversations in Gaeltacht (Irish speaking) communities in the west of Ireland.
The Wild Atlantic way is also home to three European Cities of Culture – Galway, Cork and Limerick – and many famous Irish towns and villages where you can experience traditional Ireland and its rich heritage of arts, music and food.
This location is an impressive blend of ancient with modern as it’s also a Hollywood movie location with many large productions filmed there, including Star Wars: The Force Awakens, which was filmed on Skellig Michael, an old monastic settlement dating back to the 6th century BC.
Ireland’s Ancient East & Heartlands
Ireland’s Ancient East & Heartlands encompasses 17 counties and has nine MEI member schools. It’s a great starting point for your teaching journey, with most schools being family owned and managed, with vast expertise in language education. Visitors to the region can also immerse themselves in Ireland’s vibrant history through local legends, mythical tales and castles or visits to stunning lakes and beautiful forests.
The region has hundreds of attractions and covers over 5,000 years of Irish history. You’ll find extraordinary repaired and restored castles built between the 11th and 15th centuries, including Kilkenny Castle, Leap Castle in Offaly and Trim Castle in County Meath. Newgrange, in County Meath, is not to be missed – a passage tomb built in 3200BC, predating the ancient pyramids by 400 years and Stonehenge by 1,000 years. Irish culture is steeped in Celtic mythology and tradition, which you can discover first-hand at the Hill of Tara, a place that was once the seat of the High King of Ireland.
Within the Ancient East are lovely picnic and hiking spots, including the green valley of Glendalough, in the garden of Ireland, County Wicklow, and the Irish National Heritage Park in County Wexford.
Dublin City, the capital of Ireland, has a population of 1.5 million and has the largest international airport, so it’s an easy jumping-off point to visit other countries as well.
The city centre is buzzing with culture and has a vibrant and welcoming atmosphere. Unusually for a capital city, Dublin is small enough to get around on foot or by bike, and is surrounded by parks, mountains and coastal seaside villages, all of which are easy to access with public transport. There are 42 MEI member schools here.
There are many beautiful public parks in Dublin, such as St Anne’s Park and Marlay Park, both of which host fantastic family events and concerts. There’s even a National Leprechaun Museum in the city, which provides great Instagram opportunities as you ‘experience the world through the eyes of a leprechaun’, with its rooms filled with giant furniture.
While you’re there, stroll down Temple Bar, one of Ireland’s tourist hotspots, famous for its cobblestone streets, trad music, classic Irish pubs, vintage clothing shops and a general craic (fun) atmosphere.
For more information on English language schools and the opportunity to teach in Ireland head to mei.ie
Ireland is open to foreign teachers from all member states, and of all different ages and experience, as long as they fulfil the qualification requirements It is also worth noting that Ireland is now the only native English-speaking country in the European Union.
If you are an EU or UK citizen, you do not need a visa to enter Ireland. The UK, EU, European Economic Area (EEA) and Swiss nationals are entitled to work in Ireland and be treated the same as an Irish citizen when applying for a job, without an employment permit.
NB: Although the UK is no longer a member of the EU, all British citizens have the right to work in the Republic.
If you are a non-EU citizen, you may need a visa to travel to Ireland, but there is a list of countries outside the EU that are exempt. The full list can be found at irishimmigration.ie
If you’re looking to come for a short-term working holiday, Ireland has working holiday agreements with a number of countries which allows young people to travel there for longer and to work while there to support travel expenses. The length of time that these agreements cover depends on the country. All countries listed can be found at citizensinformation.ie
If you want to come to Ireland for more than three months to study or work, you should apply for a long stay ‘D’ visa, in which case you must also apply for an Irish Residence Permit (IRP). You can apply for these online via the Irish Nationalisation and Immigration Service (INIS). Even those on working visas will need to apply for an IRP.
Employment permit for non-EU citizens
Most non-EEA nationals must have an employment permit to work in Ireland and a visa sponsor. Usually, you apply for the employment permit when you have been offered a job. In most cases, you must get your employment permit before you come to Ireland. You can apply for the employment permit yourself or your employer can apply for you. If you are not sure which permit to apply for, you can use DETE’s application guide, which can be found at enterprise.gov.ie
Teaching in Ireland requires an ordinary bachelor’s degree along with a basic teaching credential. For ESL teaching positions, this means a standard TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) certificate, which requires 120 hours of training. Prior teaching experience can be an advantage, but isn’t necessary.
All applications from teachers who qualified abroad are processed in the same manner, regardless of whether they qualified within or outside the EU.
There is no legal requirement for English language qualifications to work in Ireland, but most language schools would require at least a C1 level of English.
Working terms and conditions
As an employee in Ireland, you’re entitled to sick leave, public holidays, maternity leave and parental leave, and four weeks of paid holiday a year. The national minimum wage for those aged over 20 is €11.30 , as of 1 January 2023.
Your working week should not be greater than 48 hours. You cannot opt out of this right. More information can be found at citizensinformation.ie.
Most EFL teaching work in Ireland is offered part-time (usually 15 hours a week) or full time (usually 30 hours). The hourly rate varies depending on location, but recent job ads suggest that hourly rates range from €18-€23 per hour.
There are a handful of residential EFL summer schools Ireland. If you’re interested in working for one, remember they should not expect you to work more than 48 hours a week and if you have to work on Sundays, under Irish law, you must receive extra benefit for doing so, which is normally extra pay.