The southernmost of the three Baltic States (the others being Estonia and Latvia) Lithuania is perched between three separate European cultures and for the TEFL teacher offers a wealth of new cultures and experiences.
While slightly more challenging for finding work than its near neighbor, Estonia, Lithuania offers a rewarding stay for those who can successfully negotiate it.
To the north lie the Scandinavian countries, while to the west, the great Central European nations of Poland and Germany exert a tremendous historical influence on their smaller neighbor and to the east Russia. Lithuania itself was under the sway of Moscow from the time it was absorbed into the Soviet Union in 1940 until winning its independence again in 1990.
Modern Lithuania & Teaching Opportunities
Today, Lithuania is a member of both the European Union (though it is not in the Eurozone) and NATO, marking categorically the direction that it, as a modern state, is facing. Its economy has continued growing throughout the global financial crisis, and its non-participation in the euro experiment has meant it can afford to keep exports and tourist prices low which is an added bonus for English teachers spending time working in the country.
With a population of just under three million, over 80% of which are ethnic Lithuanians, and a thriving capital city, Vilnius, opportunities for English teaching in Lithuania are quite high. Having good qualifications though, as well as taking a professional approach, is highly recommended in what is a very competitive market.
Qualifications & Requirements
For a foreigner to teach in Lithuania, an EU passport is virtually always a must; it is very difficult to get a response from a school, never mind the correct work permits, without it. The reasoning is that the school is responsible for the time and cost incurred for their completion and so it makes sense for them to give preference to EU citizens. (For more on this, see this article on Non-EU Teachers in the EU.)
There are a very high number of English teachers of varying quality within the country, so the higher your qualifications and experience, the better. The usual qualifications for finding work in Lithuania are a degree and a TEFL Certificate such as the ICAL TEFL Certificate.
Also bear in mind that first hand reports from teachers who have worked within the Lithuanian system recommend having some knowledge of the language or at least making an attempt to learn upon arrival in the country.
Finding Teaching Work
Opinion is mixed about whether it is better to try and find work before traveling to the country or if applying in person is a better guarantee of success. The obvious approach to take in this instance is to try a mixture of both.
Once decided on Lithuania as a destination, email appropriate institutions or language centers with your TEFL/TESOL CV/Résumé and cover letter, as well as a date of arrival. At best, this could arrive on the right morning and result in a very quick reply and offer of work.
Once in the country, approach the colleges methodically. Get a local number and a map of the city. Mark the schools and colleges where you intend to apply, and then work out the quickest route to visit them all in order to maximize your time. Dress professionally and carry numerous copies of your CV, certificates and/or degrees, plus passport photos (necessary for many institutions). Upon arriving ask to see the principal or director of studies. If they are not available, make an appointment for later.
Teaching Salary & Conditions
Average salaries for English teachers in Lithuania are relatively low, varying from anywhere between €450 ($569 USD, £362) and €750 ($948 USD, £603) a month generally.
With higher qualifications and experience, this could reasonably be expected to rise. Entry to a school or college opens up the possibility of taking students on for private TEFL lessons which can increase a teacher’s take home pay quite significantly. This little bit extra can be very beneficial, as like many other rapidly developing countries, Lithuania’s cost of living has risen for the most part without a corresponding rise in salaries.
As in most countries, the cost of living varies between the capital and the various outlying regions. Generally, a one bedroom apartment in a large city centre will be about €400 ($506 USD, £322) to €500 ($632 USD, £402) a month, whereas a shared three bedroom apartment in the same location should come in at about twice that, making it sensible to share when possible. Looking for accommodation outside the city center makes sense, as rents can be half those mentioned in some places. Food is quite affordable with an ordinary restaurant meal or a McDonalds usually starting at around €4 ($5 USD, £3). Eating in makes sense as essentials like milk, eggs, and bread are very cheap to buy, a euro or two at most, in the supermarkets.
Note that when signing a teaching contract, ensure that it states the school will look after Social Security or else this will be deducted from your wages.