Teaching English in Istanbul



I'm an American expat living in Istanbul, Turkey. I teach English at a private university which I commute to intercontinentally by ferry. A commute which is probably the calmest part of my day, where I am able to stare out at the majestic panorama of Ayasofya and all of her historic surroundings. It's the part of my day which gives me a chance to remember why I moved to this chaotic, often very stressful city. I'm an observer, and Istanbul - Turkey - and the complex region as a whole, gives me an amazing opportunity to do just that.  

Here are answers to the questions I get asked the most about teaching English in Istanbul:


Teaching English in Istanbul


What is the field like, for teaching English in Istanbul?

The field for English teaching in Istanbul is pretty vast. There seems to be an ever expanding market of language schools (dershane) scattered about the city. They're probably the most basic and require the least experience. Then there are K-12 schools, both public and private, which usually employ a good handful of foreigner teachers. Then there are the universities, again both public and private, and finally there is contractual work, which is mainly going to companies and teaching Business English. 


What are the requirements?

The language schools require the least amount of experience (sometimes without even a CELTA), but also don't offer any benefits and very little help providing any kind of visa. They are often very disorganized and offer very low wages. That said, there are also some very good and reputable language schools here which are the strong exception.

K-12 schools generally require a few years experience, plus a teaching certification - and the more prestigious ones (such as international schools), require a degree in a related field. The benefits are usually pretty good at these schools and offer work visas, which is a real plus.

Universities, I think always, require at least a B.A., and some an M.A., however, usually what the degree was in isn't THAT important. Private universities generally offer better wages and benefits and always help with a work visa. While public universities often have lower wages and benefits, they usually provide assistance with a work visa and are still pretty good places to work for.


What are the opportunities like (k-12, higher ed, business, etc.)?

Given that it's a huge city, there are a lot of schools and opportunities are pretty high. Turnover is greater in schools offering lower wages of course, but pretty much all schools have at least a few openings each year. 


What cultural issues should teachers be aware of, when teaching English in Istanbul?

Well, it really depends on where you are working. There are more conservative schools and more liberal ones, so where you end up will determine what you need or should be culturally sensitive about. In general, I would say, stay away from discussing politics and religion and as is important everywhere in the world – be respectful of everyone. Those things taken into consideration, you'll be fine. 

Oh, and perhaps be prepared for a fair amount of disorganization, in the smaller schools.


How can educators find a job teaching English in Istanbul?

There's a great website called iti-istanbul.com where you can find a large amount of job postings. Or do a Google search for schools and contact them directly. 



The Spring is the best time to look for jobs in Istanbul, as that's when everyone is hiring for the new school year.

Apply everywhere and really do your research on the school before accepting the job and moving all the way out here. If you're wondering about a specific school – check out the Facebook group called Istanbul English School BLACKLIST – they post schools people have had problems with in the past. 

Do your homework and good luck! Istanbul can be a really fun place to work if you land the right job.

Read my article, Living in Istanbul: Advice from a Local, to get more of a sense of what it's like to live here.


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Fatih Sultan Mehmet Bridge photo courtesy and copyright Emily Johnson